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Tuesday, January 24, 2006  

Expert from the “John is Fucking Crazy” File #31

American consumer culture depresses me to no-end. I know I’m a helpless participant, and even though I strive to be more rational with any purchases I’m dreadfully caught up in buying things… Most of the time I’m OK with that. I figure that as long as I’m AWARE that what I’m doing is destructive and possibly killing child-laborers in Honduras then I’m better-off than most people. But there are some places where the crushing quilt or fear or anxiety is really just too much for me. One of the biggest offenders isn’t the Mall as one would expect, but rather the toilet paper aisle of Target. My mind recoils in Lovecraftian horror every time I venture there, it just cannot comprehend the towering piles of packages adorned with babies and cartoon ladies and soft baby chickens. How can there be SO many different brands? How can it be so expensive? There was a package of TP that worked out to over $2 per roll! Do you realize what you are going to DO with that? YOU ARE GOING TO WIPE YOUR ASS WITH IT, and then flush it out to sea. Sometimes I wish that these products were just issues to us by the state. That way I wouldn’t have to waste 5 minutes of my life trying to decide what brand of paper I’m going to wipe my ass with. The tooth-care aisle gives me similar feelings. There must be no less than 10 or 20 BILLION permutations of toothbrushes available to purchase in every conceivable color, bristle configuration, handle shape, and magical plaque-busting enchantments. HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO CHOOSE A GOD DAMNED TOOTH BRUSH? It really freaks me out.

posted by JMV | 1/24/2006 04:48:00 PM

Monday, January 23, 2006  

The Final Countdown
The Octy! for Music is always the toughest for me to award. Between there being SO much music that I have liked, so much that I know I would like but didn’t get around to actually listening to, and my personal biases it is a pretty anguishing decision. 2005 was a banner year of sorts for music. I counted over 27 2005 releases added to my iTunes library: 20 of which I’ve listened to enough to feel that I can pas some-sort of judgment. I never gave the critically acclaimed Sufjan Stevens album, or the new Kanye West disk that was produced by Jon Brion much of a listen. The “Inkys” of the bunch are pretty easy to pick-out. The Madonna dance album was only passably interesting and suffered from some painfully bad lyrics and one song that I would rather pour hot-wax in my ears that have to listen to again. Mike Doughty, the front-man of the defunct Soul Coughing, saw an official solo-album not only released by a LABEL but produced by Dave Matthews. And I was so disappointed. Matthews suck all the edge and bite out of Doughty’s sound and replaced it with insipid frat-rock licks and shiny production. The Sheryl Crow album was so generic that I can’t recall a single thing about it. Another example of edge being dulled.

It was all for naught though. There were many bright lights. From Beck’s return to his more funky and electronic roots with Guero to the crisp and earnest sound of Bloc Party I can count 7 albums that I considered for the top-prize. Franz Ferdinand’s sophomore LP just missed the spot. Tori Amos’ “The Bea-e Keeper” is dense and marvelously produced and the we finally got to see her play live in support of it, but it lacked something. It suffers for getting compared to 2002’s “Scarlet’s Walk” which is in my top-5 all-time favorite albums. I’d love to give the Octy to “Get Behind Me Satan” by my beloved White Stripes, and their show at the Greek theater was better than I even hoped it could be, but I can at-best mention it honorably for taking the Stripes’ tried-and-true drums-guitar-vocal formula and filling it out with piano, marimba, and mandolin. Jack just keeps writing awesome fucking songs, and the man can melt-your-fucking-face with his playing.

Just in writing this post I’ve gone back-and-forth on which of my two favorites would get the prize, and I’ve decided to just award an Octy! to both. It is, after all, my party. Anyway, the first Octy! to an album 5-years in the making. An album that was leaked on the internet months before its release in an unfinished form and was adored by fans even in that imperfect version. Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine,” when it was finally released in October, surpassed all expectations. It took everything that made the early Jon Brion sessions so great and turned up the volume. It had all the emotion and pain of Tidal, all the exuberance of “When the Pawn…” but was more refined; more adult. They way she moves from victim to villain, from wistful to brash, and then back on the album is inspired. If you dismissed Fiona after her debut as another singer-songwriter of the Lilith Fair generation I urge to get “Extraordinary Machine” a listen, and I think you’ll discover that she is so much more than that.

The second Octy! recipient for 2005 makes history as the first cartoon band to win the award. At first I was weary of the Gorillaz “Demon Days,” since they had lost many of the original collaborators including Dan the Automator and Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. But the sophomore album cemented the concept of the virtual-band as a revolving-door of personalities behind the group, and addition of Dangermouse as producer to Fill Del the Funky Homosapien’s shows was brilliant. The www.allmusic.com review makes a comparison to Frankenstein at one point, and I think this is a particularly adroit observation. As any crazy doctor with a hacksaw, a suture kit, and the head for grave digging could sew-together a hodgepodge of parts, it took a genius and a bit of magic to create life from dead parts. “Demon Days” is that one in a million 2nd lighting strike. The Gorillaz’ first album dropped in April of 2001 and was a sort-of soundtrack to that summer. It meshed perfectly with the kind of heady optimism that prevailed during the Californian summer. 5 months later everything had changed, and the world was a much darker place. “Demon Days” echoes how I feel about living in world torn by strife, war, and sickness, it doesn’t shy away from the darkness but neither does it dwell in it. It takes a step into the shadows, but only so that it might dispel the fear of what lurks there. It is the quintessential optimist album; it’s all about finding the happiness even when it seems there is no point in being happy. It also sounds fucking AWESOME. Pop-y and electronic at times, rock-y at other. Folk, hip-hop, and garage tossed with mash-ups and killer hooks that burrow deep into your sub-brain and sit there humming. and it features a spoken-word story/poem/song performed by Dennis Hopper that doesn’t come off cheesy or silly. It is a breathtaking album by a cadre of brilliant musical minds and colossal personalities.

So there you go. Sorry it was so long in the making.

posted by JMV | 1/23/2006 12:51:00 PM

Thursday, January 19, 2006  

Last night my awesome co-worked Adam helped me score a pair of tickets for the AFI @ the Arclight series, “100 Years, 100 Quotes” screening of one of my all-time favorite films (and I mean Top-3. My very favorite comedy of all time): Dr Strangelove! I had seen the film projected from a Laser Disc way back in film school, but Julie and I missed our last chance to see a film print on the big screen (back during the very dawn or our relationship when we only made it 6-hours in during the nickelodeon 24-hour movie marathon.) I was extremely excited to finally see a celluloid projection of one of the most biting and hysterical films ever made (a film that hasn’t lost an ounce of relevance I might add. Just substitute all instances of “commie” with “Muslim.”)

If you now me even a little you know that I love technology, but nothing out there can yet come close to the experience of seeing a film print project on a big screen with an audience. And the Strangelove print they screened last night was literally pristine. It had come out of the archives at sony and had NEVER BEEN SCREENED BEFORE. It was a glory to behold. There is something magical about seeing such a classic film in the way it was meant to be seen. It was funny too because there was a server-glitch that resulted in all the reserved seating information for the show (have I mentioned that the Arclight is the best theater ever) being lost, and they had to run the screening first-come-first-served. “Just like the old days!” someone in the crowed shouted when the AFI Programming director apologized for the third time. But it really did feel like an event. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where my home-viewing experience can equal the joy of going out to the movies!

The screening was wonderful, and I was even able to catch some details that I have missed before. Plus all the performances seemed more vibrant and nuanced. Stuff really does get lost in translation when you watch these classics on DVD.

posted by JMV | 1/19/2006 05:06:00 PM

Monday, January 16, 2006  

Onward With the Octys!
I’m going to squeeze two in today, and I’m going to be quick about it again.
First up: Videogames. I’m not even sure if I should be awarding the category anymore as I played so few videogames in 2005… And my favorite was an update to last year’s Octy winner Burn Out 3. In the interest of keeping things fresh I’ll give Burn Out Revenge only the runner-up prize, even though it is better than BO3 in nearly everyway it didn’t consume our lives in quite the same way.
And thinking of consuming our lives, the Octy! In videogames goes to: We Love Katamari or whatever the official name is for the sequel to Katamri Damancy. I enjoyed the first game like a meth-addict enjoys disassembling bicycles. Which is to say I felt an irresistible urge to play it compulsively and it tended to infect all of my thoughts for days-on-end. It also often left me with a headache and the feeling that if only I could look past the pretty colors, acid-trip “story,” and utterly bizarre and wholly Japanese concept I would be shown the unspeakable secrets to the universe, but instead I just felt kina empty. This year’s sequel takes that and makes it into a more-fun game complete with goals, and missions, and giraffe hats! Julie has been doing ALL of the actual playing, but I’ve had more fun WATCHING her roll-up stuff while commenting on all the random Gomi that she picks up. For those who don’t know Katamari and are utterly confused as to what I’m talking about, sorry but I cannot offer an explanation. Google it and try to wrap your feeble American heads around what I am too lazy to get into.

As far as Tech and Gadgets, I don’t have much this year… 2005 really seemed to be the year that Web 2.0 has started to emerge and cross over the average user threshold. So yeah, lets give the runner up to Flickr, Del.icio.us, and all the other emergent Web 2.0 apps that are doing cool things. But the Octy! for 2006 goes to Google. They get more useful (nay, more CRUCIAL) every year, and with Google Maps, Google Local, Google Earth, Movie-times, Weather and all the other additions to the suite of services offered by Serge’s band of web-warriors I find it harder-and-harder to imagine life without Google at my side. And although Google doesn’t make us Omniscient (yet) it DOES give us access to almost-everything that we need to know on a day-to-day basis.
NASA and the folks at JPL and Kennedy get an Honorable Mention for keeping the dreams of space alive though a lot of difficulties and strife. For me Space and the blackness symbolize hope and limitless potential and every time we spend millions of dollars to shoot an insanely complex piece of machinery into the nothing/something of space it makes me happy.

posted by JMV | 1/16/2006 02:16:00 PM

Wednesday, January 11, 2006  

Lots of drama going on right now… SO I figured I’d try to sneak-in the Movies Octy! While I had a free moment. Forgive my brevity.
The runner-up for this year is undoubtedly Serenity, which was not only an awesome Sci-Fi flick, a great gift to fans of Firefly, and a really fun ride, it was also broke some Cinematic ground.
The Octy! Goes, predictably to King Kong.
And, an honorable mention to Batman, as Christopher Nolan achieved what I thought was impossible and re-adapted the Batman myth for the screen and equaled the greatness of the original Burton film.

posted by JMV | 1/11/2006 05:39:00 PM

Friday, January 06, 2006  

Behold The 3rd Annual Octy Awards!
Here is a quick refresher on how this works: Over the next week(s) I’ll be awarding the prestigious “Octy!” to stuff in different catagoris. In past years these have been movies, music, TV, and videogames, though this year I might mix things up a bit. In each category I not only award an Octy! But also a “runner-up” award for whatever just-missed the #1 spot, as well as an “Honorable Mention” for something that I think deserves recognition. Lets get this show on the road!

The 2006 Octy! For Best in Television!
This is the easiest Octy decision I’ve ever made. The Runner-up goes to the 4th season of 24. 24 is an amazing and ground-breaking show that was awarded the very first Octy! For TV, and the 4th season changed things. No other show on TV gets me on the edge of the couch like 24, and there were a couple of episodes in this season where I actually jumped OFF the couch and cheered. Season 5 starts in a week, even if you’ve never watched an episode you need to tune-in this season. Trust me, and trust Jack.

This years Octy! Goes to the single best show that Television has seen in a decade. A show that breaks all the rules, that is so smart, and funny, and aware that it was doomed to fail. It has been cut-down just as it has peaked, and like Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix the passing is sad, but only momentarily, as the works left behind are so incredible you feel lucky that they were ever created in the first place. I’m talking of course about Arrested Development. I’m not sure what else I can say that I haven’t previously, or even what I need to say. Arrested Development does everything right, except, of course, find an audience. But I’m over bitching about its demise, and bitching about FOX’s handling of the show because the show is just that good. I’m thankful we got the episodes that we did, and I know that in its death, AD will live-on as the talent behind the show move on to new projects.

I forgot to honorably mention Lost. We missed it when it first aired, but watched the season one DVDs a couple of months ago, and I have to say it really surpassed my expectations. Individual episodes are hit-and-miss, some revealing major plot points and featuring top-notch character development, while other episodes have neither. But there are certainly more good episodes that ho-hum ones, and there are enough F’ing awesome episodes to really get behind. The show is over-all well acted, and I haven’t had this much fun theorizing and trying to figure out all the clues since the heyday of the X-Files.

posted by JMV | 1/06/2006 09:58:00 AM

Wednesday, January 04, 2006  

Hard (octo)Hat
The week between xmas and New Years was spent moving my companies Office from Hollywood to JAG* LA, and since the building we moved INTO was (and still is) very-much under construction we haven't had Internet until this afternoon. I've also been moving heavy things, building my very own warehouse and shipping/receiving facility and other labor-intensive organizational tasks. As a result I've been too beat to blog when I get home after my three-times-longer commute. The 3rd Annual Octys! Are on-their way though, so don't loose interest in me just yet...

*Just-Above Ghetto

posted by JMV | 1/04/2006 05:55:00 PM
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