On Sports

Posted by: on Sep 9, 2011 | No Comments

The latest episode of Radiolab was all about Games, and included a story from Stephen Dubner (co-author of Freakonomics) about growing up as a sports fan. Even as a long-time non-sports fan, I can agree with his very succint summary of Why Sports Matter:

“You can put too much of your emotional life in the hands of people who don’t know you and have no responsibility for you, but I think sports fandom is a fantastic gift with almost immeasurable value. It’s a proxy for real life, but better. It renews itself, it’s constantly happening in real time. There are conflicts that seem to carry real consequences but at the end of the day don’t – it’s war where nobody dies. It’s a proxy for all our emotions and desires and hopes, I mean, heck, what’s not to like about sports?”

A Battle of Grit: Dolly Parton vs Loretta Lynn

Posted by: on Apr 16, 2011 | 2 Comments

Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn are cut from the same cloth. One thing that unites them more than anything else, however, is grit. Whether it’s overcoming an impoverished childhood, sexism in the music industry, hell, sexism in LIFE, an abusive husband or the man-snatching claws of other women, these ladies have triumphed over it all and have brought the whole “not taking shit” thing to a whole new level. I respect that. Is it fair to compare their gumption, their grittiness, when I unconditionally adore them both? No. Is it fun? Yes.

YOUTH

Dolly Parton: Parton’s youth is now the stuff of legend. Raised in a one-room cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains with her 11 siblings, Dolly describes her childhood as “dirt poor”. Her introduction to music came through the church, and she began singing on local radio at nine years old.

Loretta Lynn: Raised “in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler” with her seven brothers and sisters, Lynn was no stranger to poverty either. After she married at 13, she stopped singing publicly to focus on starting a family, picking it up again at 24 when her husband bought her a guitar for their anniversary.

CONTROVERSY

Dolly Parton: Although some of Dolly’s recordings have been ill-received (“Down from Dover” about a pregnant, unwed teen, was banned from some radio stations) her anthology is largely inoffensive. It’s hard to be offended by “Coat of Many Colors”… unless you hate integrated clothing or poor kids being warm in winter.

Loretta Lynn: Much of Lynn’s catalog has raised eyebrows, with some claiming she’s had more banned songs than any artist in country music history. Her most controversial tracks include “The Pill”, about female liberation via birth control and “Rated X”, about the unfair treatment of divorced women.

HOME LIFE

Dolly Parton: Dolly’s personal life is pretty boring. She married her current husband Carl Dean at the age of 20, after meeting him outside a Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville. Though they have no children of their own, the couple has raised some of Dolly’s younger siblings. Much is made about Dean’s complete absence from the public eye, but Parton insists her husband is simply very private.

Loretta Lynn: Considering how young she wed, it’s pretty astounding that Loretta’s marriage lasted until her husband’s death in 1996. The relationship was unstable, however, with Lynn’s husband cheating on her regularly and at one point walking out while she was giving birth. Sounds rocky, but Loretta insists “he never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice.” At least the abuse was dished out equally.

GRITTIEST LINES

Dolly Parton: “So with patches on my breaches and holes in both my shoes / In my coat of many colours, I hurried off to school / Just to find the others laughing and makin’ fun of me / In my coat of many colours, my mamma made for me / Oh, I couldn’t understand it, for I felt I was rich / And I told them of the love my mamma sewed in ever stitch / And I told them all the story, mamma told me while she sewed / And how my coat of many colours is worth more than all their clothes.”

Loretta Lynn: “Come on and tell me what you told my friends if you think you’re brave enough / And I’ll show you what a real woman is since you think you’re hot stuff / You’ll bite off more than you can chew if you get too cute or witty / You better move your feet if you don’t wanna eat a meal that’s called Fist City/ If you don’t wanna go to Fist City / You better detour around my town / Cause I’ll grab you by the hair of the head / And I’ll lift you off the ground.”

COLLABORATIONS

Dolly Parton: Dolly’s collaborations reach far and wide, including country music royalty such as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers and, of course, Honky Tonk Angels with Loretta Lynn. She’s also worked with contemporary artists like Brad Paisley and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Loretta Lynn: Loretta’s most recent work with Jack White on Van Lear Rose has certainly garnered the most press, but she’s also collaborated with with some of country’s biggest acts, such as Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette.

AND THE GRITTIEST IS: Loretta Lynn. It would be a vast understatement to say this is a tough call. On the one hand you have Dolly, who was brought up in a one-room shack with her parents and 11 siblings (the Paskowitz family may be the only recent brood coming remotely close to this), navigated the music and film industries, creating a media empire around her image, and gave millions back to the impoverished community she came from. On the other, you have Loretta, who married at 13, had six kids, lost her best friend (Patsy Cline), lost her son, and, though she claimed to be suspicious of the women’s lib movement, chose to write songs that advocated for women’s rights while she was at the height of her fame. Both women have demonstrated True Grit (don’t sue me), but Loretta’s life and music are truly the grittiest of all.

Dolly Parton – “Just Because I’m a Woman”

Loretta Lynn – “The Pill”

Imagined Pitch Meetings: Arthur

Posted by: on Apr 11, 2011 | One Comment


I hate to be snarky about “Arthur” since in reality it’s probably something I’d watch if it came on TV, but the reviews have not been kind. Russell Brand is obviously very talented/funny, but this doesn’t really seem like the right vehicle for him. I’m going to sound like Black Cat (above) but I’d like to see him in some kind of period piece about old timey stage comedy. Just saying. Picture it.

Imagined Pitch Meetings is a webcomic about movies, Hollywood and cats.

Imagined Pitch Meetings: Sucker Punch

Posted by: on Mar 29, 2011 | One Comment


There are so many amusing reviews for “Sucker Punch” out there that it’s hard to pick just one. I will, however, suggest io9’s review, since it contains the best summary I’ve read so far:

If you like licking the goo out of a dormitory shower drain, you’re going to love the whack-a-mole subtlety of Snyder’s social critique.

Imagined Pitch Meetings is a webcomic about movies, Hollywood and cats.

Show Review: Destroyer at The Great American Music Hall, 3/21/11

Posted by: on Mar 23, 2011 | 2 Comments

On Monday night, Destroyer took the stage alongside opening band The War on Drugs, for a sold-out show at The Great American Music Hall. This was my first time at GAMH and first time seeing Destroyer, so emotions and expectations were running high.

First off, a little venue information… The Great American Music Hall is breathtaking. It was constructed in 1907 as part of the reconstruction following the ‘06 quake, and was originally christened “Blanco’s” after a Barbary Coast brothel. In the years since it has hosted a wide variety of acts, including burlesque, jazz, and later, rock’n’roll. By mid-century it had been condemned by city building inspectors but was ultimately saved from demolition. It wasn’t renamed until 1972, with Maynard Ferguson as one of the first acts in the newly reborn venue. I love transportive spaces and environments, and you can really feel the history of GAMH when you walk through the door.

As for the show, Destroyer is a fantastic act to see live (even if you’re stuck behind Guy Who Subjects Everyone In His Perimeter To His Erratic Dancing). Singer Dan Bejar was backed by an amazing eight-piece band that included saxophonist and flutist Joseph Shabason, guitarist Nick Bragg, keyboard and vocalist Larissa Loyva, and trumpet player J.P. Carter. Though Bejar is undoubtedly Destroyer’s poster child and star, Shabason and Carter stole the show more than once, (reminding me of Jon Hamm’s “Sergio”), providing some downright mesmerizing performances.

One of the things that makes Kaputt so entrancing is Sibel Thrasher’s powerful backup vocals, so I was disappointed to see she wouldn’t be providing them live. Larrisa Loyva did an admirable job through songs like “Downtown” and “Blue Eyes”, but her voice was often drowned out by the rest of the band. The setlist was heavily weighted toward Kaputt, with only a few tracks from past albums thrown in, so folks pining for earlier stuff may have been let down. Bejar’s performance was energetic and passionate, coming across somewhat edgier in person. His reliance on lyric sheets may have been off-putting to some, but anyone familiar with Destroyer’s oeuvre knows those songs must be hard to memorize.

Overall an amazing show with a fantastic encore (“Bay of Pigs”). It sounds cheesy, but I really felt like I was witnessing musicians at the top of their craft, who seemed ecstatic to be performing in front of an engaged, supportive crowd.

UPDATE: Huge thanks to Pam Torno for these amazing pics from the show! Pam might have the best named blog currently online. You can see more pics from the Destroyer show on her flickr.
*The setlist:
Chinatown
Downtown
Gonna Take an Airplane
Blue Eyes
Suicide Demo for Kara Walker
Painter in Your Pocket
Song for America
Savage Night at the Opera
3000 Flowers
Encore: Bay of Pigs

*These were the songs as best I can remember them… If you were at the show and have a song or order correction, don’t hesitate to let me know.

“Downtown”:

A Battle of Outlaws: Waylon Jennings vs Willie Nelson

Posted by: on Mar 21, 2011 | One Comment

In a battle of outlaws, only the orneriest will survive. Willie and Waylon have a long history together in the “Outlaw Country” subgenre, but how does their actual cred hold up when pitted against each other?

YOUTH

Waylon Jennings: 
Waylon’s father played guitar in Texas dancehalls, and encouraged his son to pursue music. He started his first band at the age of 10, and was later kicked out of music class for not learning to read notes. At 21 he was asked to play bass in Buddy Holly’s band.

Willie Nelson: 
Willie wrote his first song at 7 and joined a local band at age 9. He began performing in dancehalls and honky tonks as a way to earn money aside from picking cotton. Though he finished high school, his early success in music would pull him away from college and into our outlaw hearts.

INFLUENCES

Waylon Jennings: While working as a DJ, Waylon and friend Buddy Holly were influenced by the Mayfield Brothers of West Texas, as well as other early country and bluegrass acts.

Willie Nelson: Influenced by some of country music’s great forefathers, Willie drew inspiration from musicians like Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Ray Price, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Django Reinhardt.

RUN-INS WITH THE LAW

Waylon Jennings: Despite his dangerous reputation, Waylon’s actual criminal record is limited to a 1977 arrest for cocaine possession that was later dropped. This of course doesn’t mean he never engaged in desperado-esque activities, it just means he never got caught.

Willie Nelson: Willie’s outlaw antics are also thin, with only one recent arrest for marijuana possession. Unfortunately, even this doesn’t impress much when everyone knows you’ve been a pothead throughout your entire career in music. Willie still has a few years left to rob a some trains though… just give him some time.

ORNERIEST LINE

Waylon Jennings: “Bessie was a lovely child from West Tennessee / Leroy was an outlaw hard and mean / One day she saw him starring & it chilled her to the bone / She knew she had to see that look on a child of her own / ‘Cause ladies love outlaws / Like babies love stray dogs / Ladies touch babies like a banker touches gold / Outlaws touch ladies somewhere deep down in their soul.”

Willie Nelson: “Cowboys are special, with their own brand of misery from being alone too long / You could die from the cold in the arms of a nightmare, knowing well that your best days are gone / Picking up hookers instead of my pen, I let the words of my youth fade away / Old worn out saddles and old worn out memories, but no one and no place to stay.”

COLLABORATIONS

Waylon Jennings: While Waylon’s most renowned collaborations are with his competitor in this post, he’s worked with many country greats, including Jerry Reed, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. He also provided his voice to Family Guy shortly before his death.

Willie Nelson: Willie’s collabs are straight out of country music heaven, and include the aforementioned members of the Highwaymen, as well as Bob Dylan, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and of course, Waylon.

AND THE ORNERIEST IS: Are/were Willie and Waylon true outlaws? A cocaine addiction in and of itself is not particularly “outlawish” until it lands you in jail, in which case you’d better pray the charges aren’t dropped due to the DEA’s incompetencies (sorry, Waylon). Getting arrested for marijuana possession is nothing to shake a crusty, outlaw stick at either, unless you’re Willie Nelson and, like Snoop Dogg, you’ve built a cult of personality around your drug addiction. Regardless of their lack of true bad boy credentials like illegal gambling or bank robberies, Waylon and Willie are still two of orneriest outlaws in country music, which is why I’m calling this one… a draw. These boys work better as an outlaw team anyway.

Waylon Jenning’s “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”:

Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River”:

Imagined Pitch Meetings: Limitless

Posted by: on Mar 21, 2011 | One Comment

For some reason hearing “Power” in the Limitless trailer makes the movie look intensely predictable.
Imagined Pitch Meetings is a webcomic about movies, Hollywood and cats.

Dinner and an Album:Lamb with Mint Pesto and Elis Regina’s Como & Porque

Posted by: on Mar 4, 2011 | One Comment

Last week I found myself in possession of a very fancy bottle of zinfandel, and wanted to make something that would serve as a nice pairing. Most foodie experts recommend dark meat to go with zin, and being the lamb fanatic that I am, I decided to expand my repertoire beyond the Moroccan slow-cooked approach.

If you’re not a lamb person (or don’t think you are), this dish might just turn you around. I ended up adapting an Emeril Lagasse recipe for grilled lamb chops with mint pesto, and they were d-e-v-i-n-e. The marinade and pesto managed to transform the chops from a mediocre weeknight dinner into a savory, delectable heap of lamby deliciousness, the likes of which you could find in only the finest of Michelin rated eateries. OK maybe that’s a strength, but if you’re trying to impress someone, this is the recipe that will do it.

Though the ingredients in the marinade and pesto are robust, they weren’t overpowering and definitely did not detract from the subtler flavor of the lamb. In fact, the biggest takeaway I got from this dish was that buying a decent, often pricier cut of meat (from an actual butcher or a Whole Foods-esque establishment) makes a huge difference in tenderness and flavor, especially if you’re grilling rather than slow-cooking. Just bite the bullet and go for the high-end stuff. You’re worth it.

Jump over to Another Freaking Cooking Blog for the recipe.

If you want to push this meal to its full potential and create a real dinner experience, you should pop in Elis Regina’s Como & Porque (Here and Now) whilst savoring your lamb and zinfandel. The compliments from your guests will be ceaseless. “This lamb, it’s positively heavenly! And this music! How can one man/women have such good taste in food AND music?” They’ll be in the palm of your hand.

For the uninitiated, Elis Regina was part of the Brazilian Tropicália movement in music during the 60s and 70s, a stylized mixture of traditional African and Brazilian rhythms with rock and roll and bossa nova. Released in 1969, Como & Porque was Regina’s 12th album, full of light arrangements, smooth rhythms and her clear, at times breathtaking, voice.

The horn, percussion and string arrangements by Roberto Menescal are breezy and joyful, and have a soft stream of consciousness quality that perfectly compliments Regina’s vocals. The malleability of Regina’s sound is striking on this album. In “Casa Forte”, her voice is layered over itself again and again to create a powerful, wordless harmony that connotes a beautiful sadness and longing. In “Canto de Ossanda”, it slithers quietly at first, only to build to a loud, fantastic finish. In “Vera Cruz” it ebbs and flows between a quavering fragility and a powerful intensity.

Aside from her music, Regina was an influential cultural and political figure as well, openly critical of the Brazilian military government and its incarceration of other musicians and leaders of Tropicalismo.

Check out “Canto de Ossanda”:

Imagined Pitch Meetings: Beastly

Posted by: on Mar 4, 2011 | 2 Comments

The early reviews of Beastly are in, and it’s already a hot contender for more than a few Razzies. It’s kind of a shame Neil Patrick Harris and Peter Krause got dragged into it, but maybe they were suckered into thinking it was the next Twilight. Or maybe they needed the money. Or maybe they were blackmailed.
Imagined Pitch Meetings is a webcomic about movies, Hollywood and cats.

A Battle of Funkiness: George Clinton vs Sly Stone

Posted by: on Mar 3, 2011 | 2 Comments

I should preface this by saying I really love both of these musicians and comparing an arbitrary, completely subjective quality like “funkiness” is not even possible. Unless you had some kind of funkometer… Even then, the results would be highly speculative. Anyway, since George Clinton and Sly Stone are two heavyweights of the funk genre, I thought a side by side was in order…

George Clinton

Sly StoneYOUTH[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]In 1955, he formed “The Parliaments” in the back room of a New Jersey barbershop at age 15. The doo wop quintet would later turn into Parliament-Funkadelic. What were you doing at 15?[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Sly mastered guitar, bass, drums and keyboards by age 11, and joined The Viscaynes in high school, an integrated doo wop group. The band’s diversity gave Sly the idea for The Family Stone’s multicultural, multiracial lineup.[/column]

INFLUENCES[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]James Brown was obviously Clinton’s main squeeze, but he was also heavily influenced by Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC-5, as well as acid culture and psychedelic bands like Vanilla Fudge and Cream.[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Sly’s religious upbringing had a large influence on the church revival sound of The Family Stone, but he also drew upon musicians like Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Arthur Lee, Lloyd Price and the Beatles for inspiration.[/column]

DRUG USE & ABUSE[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]As the fearless leader of P-Funk, Clinton had his hands full keeping fellow band members Eddie Hazel and Tiki Fulwood sober enough to play and record, and kicking out guitarist Tawl Ross for his LSD-fueled truancies.[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″] No stranger to the drug culture of the 60s and 70s, it’s said that Sly traveled with a violin case packed with illegal drugs like PCP and cocaine. A former bodyguard described him as the “Cocaine King”.[/column]

FUNKIEST LINE[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]”Microbiologically speaking / When I start churnin’, burnin’ and turnin’ / I’ll make your atoms move so fast / Expandin’ your molecules / Causing a friction fire / Burnin’ you on your neutron / Causing you to scream / ‘Hit me in the proton, BABY!'”[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]”Step off’n the collar / Slugged me in the face / Chit chat chatter trying / Shoved me in the place / Thank you for the party / But I could never stay / Many things are on my mind / Words in the way / I want to thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”.[/column]

COLLABORATIONS[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Between Snoop Dogg, Bootsy Collins, Prince, Sly Stone, Outkast and Wu Tang (among others), GC’s down ‘n dirty collabs are what funky dreams are made of.[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Sly has worked with Bobby Womack, The Time, The Bar-Kays, Earth, Wind and Fire, as well as Phunk Phamily Affair… a Sly & the Family Stone tribute band.
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[/column]

AND THE FUNKIEST IS: It was a close race, with both candidates having large, funky oeuvres that have influenced countless musicians since, but there can only be one. And that one is… George Clinton. Can anyone really be funkier than the King of Interplanetary Funkmanship, the Prime Minister of Funk, Dr. Funkenstein himself? Probably not. I mean I think it’s physically impossible. GC sleeps, breathes and eats funk. For him it goes beyond just the music: Funk is a lifestyle and a philosophy. He explains: “Funk is fun. And it’s also a state of mind… But it’s all the ramifications of that state of mind. Once you’ve done the best you can, funk it!”

Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That”:

Sly and the Family Stone’s “A Family Affair”: