12.22.2009

ZOOPS Cafe MENU

MENU

ZOOPS Cafe: A Friends' Place


Entrees
Double Cheeser
Macaroni Puzzlers
DURKL™ Melt
Phantom of the Slopra

Breakfast
Flap Attacks
Jo-Jo Puffs
Sme Flakes
Eggs Gibraltar
Bacon Blades

Appetizers
Ketchup Pop-offs
Lice Cakes
Pep-pep's Pepper Poppers

Dessert
Canadian Turnover
My Bloody Blueberry Pie
Brownie Bubbles
Caramelized Glazers

Chef's Specials
Cambridge Noodler
Skipper Bits

Sides
Hungry Hungry Pickles
Potato Blackouts
Uncle Tom's French Fries
Salted Tony
Cat Butter (.75 extra on all dishes)

Drinks
Jeremy Juice
Freight Shake (chocolate, vanilla, or boysenberry)
Admiral's Coffee (with cat butter creamers)
Diet Boke

Kid's Menu
Chicken Dingers
Pizza Sticklers
Fungos™
Tiny Tim's Taco Nibblers
Bugle Blasters (with an herb cat butter spread)

Soup and Salad
Zoop Soup (our secret family recipe)
Cream of Crop Soup
Shep Salad
Burnt Cheese Salad


12.15.2009

Epic Lexicon: The Top 7 Words of 2009

Rejoice, Epic Mailians; 2009 has been a good year. By what metric, you ask? Obviously, we should judge the success of years by the amount of nonsensical references and catchphrases they produce. "But my grandmother died/my car broke down/I failed out of clown college!" Shut your turkey hole, Whiney Tim, it IS a good year because now you have some funny words. Even though they all originated as incredibly arbitrary inside references, I expect these words to pass into the Mailian vernacular. From the mess to the masses.
The Top 7 Words of 2009

7. Surprise Hotel
Astute readers will recognize this phrase from OKAYYYYGUYS's Top 25 Tracks of 2009 list, as it's the title of an excellent Fool's Gold track. Since discovering the song, OKAYYYYGUYS and I have been obsessing over the concept of a surprise hotel, and considering the ways in which someone might conceivably "surprise hoteled." As a catchphrase, though, it only involves yelling "SURPRISE, IT'S A _____" (insert relevant word).
"Dr. Eble, my tooth has really been hurting recently. What's the problem?"
"SURPRISE, IT'S A ROOT CANAL!"

6. OOPS
Not to be mistaken with it's generic cousin, "oops," OOPS must be uttered with a guttural, flamboyant emphasis, preferably accompanied by skyward-facing palms, and following some sort of faux pas or slip up. In the rare instance that OOPS doesn't absolve you of your transgression, it at least gives everyone a good chuckle.

"Dude, did you hook up with my girlfriend?"
"OOOOOOPS"

5. DURKL ©
Yes, that's right, it's everyone's favorite up and coming clothing brand, stitched together right here in Washington, D.C. The clothing itself would be entirely forgettable nu-party-glo-bro wear if DURKL wasn't such a memorably ugly name. As such, DURKL is used in a wider context as a general mark of disdain -- hilarious word, hilarious connotations, a giant ball of irony.
"Wait, do you know this DJ?"
"Yeah, it's DURKL."

4. Brochan
Since we already have a plethora of ways to call one another bro, I remain a firm skeptic when faced with new attempts to crack the genre. But a tip of the hat to my friend Salar who introduced me to my new favorite -- Brochan. There's not any deeper meaning, no abbreviation, no back story that I can establish. Just a simple word, on a simple mission. To address a bro, and to be awesome.
"What are you cooking up, brochan?"
"BROCHAN MADE A PIZZA!"

3. Hackbox (+ Additional Uses of -box Suffix)
Despite its many flaws, you certainly get to meet interesting people on Xbox Live. And OKKAAAYYYGUYS and I met one such person this year during an intense Call of Duty match. He was good -- almost too good, to the point that we suspected him of cheating. And then we saw his name: xxHACKBOXxx, in all of its glory. From this point on, hackboxing became synonymous with cheating, hacking, or manipulating a person, thing, or situation. Though hacking has distinctly digital origins, hackboxing can apply to any object. For example, if you get locked out of your house but use a credit card to get in the backdoor, one might say you "hackboxed" it. The -box suffix can also be attached to any other word to add emphasis without actually saying anything of substance (e.g. mackbox, Keatsbox, computerbox, Davebox, etc...).
Bonus points for my ability to convince a stranger in New York to use the word correctly without explanation:
[Having propped a door open with a sweater] "Oh hey guys, after you go in there, can you just hackbox the door with that sweater? I hackboxed it so that we could get back in."
The bro gave me a brief, puzzled look, until he replied timidly, "Oh, yeah, I'll hackbox it."

2. hoooooOOOOOOhhhOOOOohhh
I realize that it's just about impossible to convey the correct tone through text, but I did my best. This particular "ho" (shortened for ease of typing) is differentiated from a standard greeting "ho" by its higher pitched tones, a longer sustain, and heightened wavering, combining to produce an almost ghost-like howl. This word is useful as a humorous greeting, or as a way to fill silence in an awkward or unfortunate moment (similar to the alternate use of "hey guys", e.g. "Sometimes I just get so frustrated that I want to strangle my mom's cat." "Hey guyssss.....").
::Ring, Ring::
"Hello?"
"hhhOOOOoohhoOOOOHhh"

1. Zoop (+ Derivatives)
I present to you the most important word of the year: zoop. I realize that it doesn't look like much, but it holds this spot for a number of reasons -- elegance, utility, and infectiousness, among others. Zoop's primary meaning is "to go, usually in a speedy manner." For example, "Hey, I think we're going to zoop over to the store." Zoop can also mean "to take." "Would you mind if I zooped some of that lasagna?" Zoop can also mean "have sexual intercourse with." "You've been dating Tandice for a while, have you zooped her yet?" But these uses are merely scratching the surface; zoop's true strength lies in its sheer utility and ease of comprehension. You can replace just about any verb with zoop, and even the most untrained ear will be able to pick up its meaning through contextual clues.

Zoop has also spawned a set of derivative words:
-Zyup
-Znope
-Zokay
-ZOOPS

Unlike zoop, which has a plethora of meanings, each of these words merely replaces its sans-z counterpart, though in a stylish manner. Something about that extra Z just flings these words across your tongue -- faster, sleeker, futuristic. Laugh if you must, but once you begin to use them, it gets under your skin, and it won't be long until you find yourself uttering "Zyup" inadvertently in a board meeting.


I believe we have a visceral connection with zoop, as if we were born to say it, but have yet to fulfill our destiny on a mass scale. I've seen the light. We've seen the light. It's time to zoop into a new year. It's been a long December, and there's reason to believe that this year will zoop the shit out of the last.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
-Nobunny
-Chillwave
-Skipboat
-Scuzz
-Mugdown
-Wallet

2009 IN LISTS: A LIST

See what I did there? What follows is a list of the top 10 most entertaining lists published this year!

10. Videogum.com: The Best Viral Videos of 2009. You could've put yourself in a coma machine and this is all you would need to understand the internet in 2009. Very essential.

9. Buzzfeed.com: The 50 Funniest Headlines of 2009. For the cranky old Jay Leno set.

8. This guys knows how to party -- and now you will too!

7. Stereogum.com: 69 Most Anticipated Albums of 2010. Ok, this is mostly just confusing indie hype gobbledigook. But damn if I'm not excited for that Yeasayer album.

6. Rolling Stone's 100 Best Albums of the 2000's. If you are one of the following people, you did pretty well this decade: Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jay-Z, Thom Yorke/Jonny Greenwood, Jack/Meg White.

5. Yepyep: Best Keyboard Cat Videos of 2009. Play me off.

4. NYTimes 10 Best Books of 2009. I may not have read any of these books, but this article is good stuff. Erudition people! It's the way of the future.

3. Gizmodo.com: 40 Gadgets Changed Irrevocably by One Letter. Sometimes all a pun needs is some clever photoshopping and you transform low comedy to high. Or something like that.

2. Boston Globe's Big Picture. The quality of print journalism in this country may be going down the crapper, but photojournalism's still got it!

1. Pitchfork.com P2K Decade in Music. OK, OK, I know, Pitchfork is played out, blah blah, typical passe indie fad, whatever. I don't care if it is. This was one of, if not the most entertaining thing I read on the internet this year. P4k's album reviews are still the best written, if not the most helpful (and lord knows with so much good music out there, we need a lot help). They may jump the shark sooner rather than later, but for my money the good people at this publication did a better job curating the decade in music than any other. And besides, this list is the 2009 ultimate argument starter in my book. I love talking about this stuff, even if I disagree with it heartily. I even wrote a lengthy blog post somewhere else about my choice (sorry, shameless plug). Let's face it, if we are capping off our evening with a sixer of PBR and an argument about Radiohead vs. Daft Punk, this is a good evening and damned if we didn't wish that all evenings ended this way.

12.12.2009

2009 IN POPULAR SONG: A LIST

As promised, here is the first in (I hope) many end-of-year lists.  This list of killer tracks is certainly not intended to be comprehensive.  In fact, it's more a list of the best in two or three relatively minor genres that I know are somewhat distasteful to more than one of my fellow Epic Mailers.  But in any case, this stuff is sweet, even if it makes me look, somewhat surprisingly, like a total pothead.

25.  Black Lips - Starting Over
24.  Box Elders - Stay
23. Weed Diamond - Let's Burn One Down
22. Vega - Well Known Pleasures
21.  Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension
20. The Mantles - Don't Lie
19. Holiday Shores - Phones Don't Feud
18. Lovvers - OCD Go Go Girls
17. The Drums - I Felt Stupid
16. Fool's Gold - Surprise Hotel
15. No Age - Losing Feeling
14. Pearl Harbor - Luv Goon
13. Memory Cassette - Asleep at a Party
12. Real Estate - Fake Blues
11. Toro Y Moi - Talamak
10. Surfer Blood - Swim
9. Wild Nothing - Summer Holiday
8. Washed Out - Feel It All Around
7. Tim & Jean - Come Around
6. Small Black - Despicable Dogs
5. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Higher than the Stars

Just when this band began driving me absolutely nuts by writing the same exact variation on MBV's "Paint a Rainbow" for the 47th time, they hit you with the synth attack.  Now that the early 90's Creation well has run dry, they've decided to get all Sarah Records, which has to be sufficient for another full length.  I hope Teenbeat is next.

4. Neon Indian - Deadbeat Summer

LAID. BACK.  This guy has been cranking out some of the smoothest song titles all year ("Terminally Chill"?!??), and I'm not sure any song all year has me so torn between a compulsion to dance and an urge to recline massively in some kind of sweet hammock setup.  

3. Best Coast - Sun Was High (So Was I)

What does marijuana sound like?  Apparently, it sounds like a girl who sounds like a dude singing into one of those Fisher Price tape recorders.  Which I apparently like.  A lot.

2. Japandroids - Young Hearts Spark Fire

What sealed this for me was some broheim turning to me at a Japandroids show in Williamsburg and actually fist bumping me when this song began.  A tremendous display of  noble virility ensued, which I will not soon forget (fist pumping, yeaaAAAaaAAA singalongs, OH YEAH OH YEAH singalongs, OHHHHHH singalongs).  Actually, any song that can cram all those variations of primal screaming into just over 5 minutes deserves #2, easily.

1. Beach Fossils - Vacation

If you've spent any time with me this year, I'm sure I've forced this song down your throat at least 25 times.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard a song and thought "turn up the tremelo on those vocals, dude."  Finally, someone heard my desperate pleas.  Beach Fossils also heard the desperate pleas of my friends when he played this song 3 TIMES at a Cameo Gallery show.  Favorite song of the year, favorite show of the year, favorite vocal effect maybe ever.


12.09.2009

Kiss On My List

In a truly last-ditch effort to revive some sort of collegial interest in this blog, I'm writing to urge everyone to submit two things:

1. A pop culture list of SOME KIND. That is to say, "Top 10 Singles," "Top 10 Films," "Top 20 Albums," "Top 10 TV Shows," etc. are all perfectly acceptable. Most of us are culture junkies, or at least recreational users, so it's time to share the expertise, in the spirit of Christmas!

2. THE EPIC 10. This was probably my favorite aspect of the blog that once was "Epic Mail," and I'd love to do it again (mostly because several entries of mine will likely infuriate Quilliam, much to my delight).

Anyway, I implore you all to consider my requests. You don't, after all, want to be left with only my own "Epic 10" and something like "Top 20 Songs of 2009 in Which You Can't Tell Whether a Certain Sound is Vocals, Guitar, or Simply Tape Hiss."

Epically mailingly yours,

OKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYGUYS

10.02.2009

Epic Mail Epic List Challenge: The 10 Greatest Decades of this Decade of This Generation


Hey, rest of Epic Mail I'm really happy for you, and imma let the you finish, but Pitchfork has one of the greatest lists of all time. (drops mic).

Not to seem like I'm taking over the joint (shit, I haven't even met with most of you), and I'd also like to avoid Quilliam's likely regrets over letting me in on the game, but sometimes genius strikes and you just gotta crap it out onto the intarwebs. Or just go another round of DOTA. Whichever floats your boat.

Anywhom, I'd like to send out a challenge of sorts that would hopefully increase the chatter on the blog beyond the level of crickets (thems some real google analytics type observations). The challenge being in the vein of the cheapest and laziest form of bad writing: List Making. The theme is, as stated above, the 10 Greatest Decades of this Decade of This Generation. Make of it what you will, but you better damn well be justified. One might complete the task with an unimpeachable list of the 10 Greatest Decades, or the 10 Greatest Generations (WWII=Kid A, amirite?). A real sorcerer (or saucier, your choice), might try and conjure the true meaning of the task, and produce the 10 Greatest Decades that have occurred within either or both of the current decade (whose end is nigh) and the current generation (whose beginning and end is somewhere in the nexus of X, Y and i). What might define such a decade is of course up to you, or empirical science, whomsoever bribes you best.

Have at you.

8.12.2009

Is This Sweet? 48 Gallons of Mayo and 80 Pounds of Butter

Of course not! Unless it is the spread on the world's largest BLT! Then, I think indubitably, the answer is yes. The residents of South St. Louis recently wrapped up their Tomato Festival by constructing a 179-ft. BLT. Pat Buchanon better rekognize*. That's 500 pounds of bacon! It turns out, however, that the world record was all a cover. The real operation is that the folks at Iron Barley Restaurant have recently acquired flamethrowers. And what better opportunity to make legal use of a flamethrower in public than to toast the world largest bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich?
*It is the opinion of this blogger that in fact it is worth fighting a war over sandwiches, especially if said sandwich is a BLT.

6.25.2009

WHOA. YEAH. A Retrospective

Hey Guys,

I gratefully accept the invitation to write for this esteemed publication. Now, I provide a salvo, if you will, a retrospective look at WHOA and YEAH as perhaps the ultimate, essential linguistic element in our popular music and culture. I hope it is enjoyable enough for you to poop on.

It has occurred to me lately that over the past calendar year we have seen a new creative renaissance for WHOA (and its cousin, OOH, which I will address later). The WHOA Renaissance in my opinion began early last year when Beyonce decided it was time to hold a musical seance with Janet Jackson to produce this dance smash:

Beyonce - Single ladies from morespace.webs.com on Vimeo.


Undoubtedly, this marks a point where the wizards behind big "P" pop music decided it was acceptable to bring back the onomatopoeia into the fold. It also is what sparks the necessity for this retrospective, as it beckons the eternal question "did 'WHOA' ever leave?".



In the Beginning - What is a WHOA? A YEAH? AN OOH?



At the outset here it is important to establish exactly what WHOA, YEAH and OOH are meant to stand for. Of the three I believe WHOA to be the most basic. WHOA is an expressive sound with no explicit meaning. That is to say I am distinguishing it clearly from the word 'wow', which when sung may sometimes sound similar but is almost always differentiated on the lyric sheet. It is a sound, not a word. OOH is very closely related to WHOA in that it is sometimes used to convey similar expressions, indeed often times WHOA and OOH are indistinguishable. It is these times where it is indistinguishable from WHOA that I will be addressing (it's other use, to which we can refer to as simply 'oh', is more of a tool of poetic apostrophe).

Now we turn to YEAH, which is a little trickier to define. YEAH undeniably carries an affirmative meaning and its use in popular music has a very particular corner. For the purposes of this retrospective, let's limit ourselves to the study of YEAH as it exists to concretely affirm the more vague implications of WHOA and OOH, as demonstrated nicely in the lead single off Jenny Lewis' newest album:


At the root of popular music there are two neatly defined uses of these expressive sounds, and it so happens that they fall neatly into styles of music that were segregated until the early 1950's. From what I can tell, the entirety of high-class continental music from the Italian renaissance through the 1930's was entirely dependent on the syllable "WHOA", and it didn't even know it. See this :57 of this clip from Verdi's Il Travatore as exhibit A:




In this example we see the simple, utilitarian necessity of WHOA in Western music. Also this in many ways shows how WHOA (and it's bastard brother OOH) did in fact predate YEAH in a musically expressive context. The utility of WHOA should be apparent, and its language universal, but it is indeed something different in the classical Western canon than it is in the African-American context to which we will now turn.

Where Pavorroti is pushed towards WHOA because there is no real discernible syllable that could more adequately achieve that impressive pitch, African-American Blues reached for WHOA to express emotions too big for the English language. WHOA became in blues the way to vocally approximate the emotive nature of their instruments (primarily the guitar). While its use was a little more reserved during the Prewar era, the Chess Records set had certainly incorporated it into what we now consider to be the canonical Blues music as evidenced by this clip from Little Walter:



Now the groundwork is laid for the confluence of the continental syllabic utility and Afro-American expressiveness better known to the young folk as Rock N' Roll.

Rock N' Roll Music - This is your Daddy's WHOA

This confluence was definitely a gradual one, it is hard to pinpoint the first recording where both uses are at hand, but I think we can get a good ballpark date. An important moment is the introduction of the classic Afro-American use of WHOA into Caucasian adaptation of Rock N' Roll, which I don't think happened any earlier than Jerry Lee Lewis' recording of "Great Balls of Fire", see the 1:25 mark of this clip:



This recording is from 1957, but it is still a classic Afro-American use of WHOA, in this case to emphasize the rollicking tempo and pitch that precedes the last verse of the song. In fact, it may not have been until the Beatles that we saw a solidified example of WHOA or OOH being blended between continental and Afro-American usage. The lead single and title track of Please Please Me (1963) is really the first time we see it all come together, the use of a WHOA YEAH to both express a certain (though perhaps at the time, unspeakable) desire attached to the ambiguous request that is the song's title as well as accommodating a pleasing, useful melodic construct. Observe:



Here is where things really get rolling. From what I can tell it took American music about a year and half to two years to really catch up from a songwriting standpoint, but one band was able to pick up WHOA, take it to new expressive heights as well as properly introducing YEAH as a standalone musical point; that band was the Kingsmen and the recording was their rendition of Richard Berry's tune 'Louie Louie' from later in 1963. Seriously, WHOA and YEAH are the two most important lyrics in this song:



It's also worth mentioning that YEAH is introduced here not quite as a standalone, but as a triptych of YEAH's. From this recording on, YEAH is established not only as an expressive syllable, but as a rhythmic vocalization as well. From 'Louie Louie' we can also being to trace WHOA and YEAH to the style of music that would become its main residence for the better part of 30 years, Hard Rock. The recklessness of the Kingsmen surely influenced the slowly burgeoning Hard Rock scene, and WHOA was along for the ride. We see in this clip from the Yardbirds, a supergroup which featured hard rock legends Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, WHOA converging with a new 'eastern' vibe and the earliest recorded use of a fuzz box:



Whole Lotta WHOA - Hard Rock and Psychedelia

The late 60's and into the 70's Hard Rock and Psychedelia became the demonstrative champions of WHOA and YEAH. Truly this is where WHOA and YEAH reached their apex in popular music. Both the hippie set and the new fangled metal-heads took WHOA and YEAH to places it hadn't gone before and would really never go again. The distinctive lack of polish and precision lathered over well worn but well constructed blues and funk grooves lent delivered WHOA and YEAH to their home as truly interjectory expressions, appearing wherever the singer felt they should appear. From the hippie side, the true champion of WHOA and YEAH actually comes from Janis Joplin, who never admitted to using psychotropic drugs (she refferred to herself as a 'drunkadelic'), but nonetheless was a hippie hero and 'Piece of My Heart' is a canonical WHOA and YEAH song:



It was all over the place and it was sloppy, but in ways that just feel right. A balance that many after her would try, and fail at matching.

The same year, Led Zeppelin released II. While it would be two more records before they were cemented as the greatest hard rock band of all time, this record unleashed "Whole Lotta Love". The second half of this track dropped the pretenses that were behind the WHOA YEAH in "Please Please Me", understood the utility of an inflexive WHOA or OOH much the way Verdi did, and was pushed by its surroundings to a bigger, more emotive place.



There is very little that is careful about Robert Plant's vocal track on this song, yet he seems to have consumed the utility of the continental canon of WHOA and allowed it to flow naturally out of him in places that clearly mark it as Afro-American influenced. Truly, these were WHOA's and OOH's and YEAH's that you could lose yourself in. They were intended to make your head swim, and I'd say they more than achieved that goal.

Yet, Zeppelin and Joplin were meddling in a dark art of sorts. Quite quickly, this artful sloppiness got way, way out of hand and lent itself almost too easily to parody and laziness began to take over. That and there was disco. Disco nearly fucking killed WHOA and YEAH.

Part IV - The Part Where Disco Nearly Fucking Killed WHOA and YEAH

I can't say it enough, I would blame cocaine for all of this, but that would be an insult to cocaine.

Oh Thank God, Or How the Boss and the Godfather saved WHOA and YEAH

Seriously, disco was some pretty bad shit, people. ABBA? The Bee Gees? I want to kill myself and I wasn't even around then. But thank the Lord for African Americans and working class white folk from New Jersey. There were two acts that carried the torch for WHOA and YEAH through the 70's once Hard Rock went off the deep end and the disco abomination started. Those two men were James Brown and Bruce Springsteen.

For Brown, while at this time there wasn't much innovative about his WHOA and YEAH, carried the torch for the funk interpretation of WHOA and YEAH (also GOOD GOD and ALRIGHT, but I digress) throughout the decade, most prevalently releasing "Get Up... Sex Machine" in 1970 and "Get Up Offa That Thing" in 1975.



The Boss, however, was able to do something special. With the support of the E Street Band, Springsteen was able to recapture the youthful innocence of the early years of rock while incorporating a lot of the unhinged vocal stylings berthed by hard rock. The seminal example being the 1975 cut "Born to Run" at the :37, 1:25 and 3:28 marks here:



In truth, this recording is like a sun bursting out its last rays before it goes cold.

The Eighties - Where WHOA and YEAH Head to the Desert

If the late sixties and early seventies were the apex of WHOA and YEAH in popular music, the eighties represented the nadir. Glam metal gave WHOA and YEAH a pretty bad name, but to their credit they were really the only ones keeping it going. WHOA and YEAH were replaced in Pop by Michael Jackson's HEE-HEE's, and the scrubbed, squeaky clean production values of most of the Pop field didn't really allow for vocals with a lot of fat to them (and that was probably for the best). That said, some cream had to rise to the top, right?

Picking up where Led Zeppelin left off, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen took Zeppelin's attitude to the logical extreme and WHOA and YEAH went along for the ride. DLR may be infamous for incredibly fatty, ugly, abuses to WHOA and YEAH, but those standalone vocal tracks are admittedly a little unfair. By the release of "1984" Van Halen embodied what 80's music was for most people - fun. Sure, it's vapid, essentially meaningless, indulgently silly and an almost irresponsible waste of time and money, but if you didn't spend at least an afternoon as a child rockin' along to "Panama", you never lived:



Again, WHOA and YEAH lack all art in this music, but it is nonetheless true to some basic principles of expression that were championed a decade earlier by Plant and Zeppelin.

Now it should be mentioned that underground music did not disregard WHOA and YEAH in totality. On a whole it simply regressed to its more archaic, poetic roots like the subtle apostrophe of the opening line of "Losing My Religion" by REM. It was even more prevalent in the avante-garde and African-influenced music. A great reference point for this comes in the breakdown (2:09) of the Talking Heads' "And She Was" (1985):



The odd thing about this sort of avant-garde use of WHOA or YEAH is that it pretty much disappears after these artists leave the scene, only to return again over the last year or so.

WHOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA AYE AYE AYE AYE AYE, OR When Grunge Happened

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana may have instigated the Grunge revolution, but in terms of WHOA and YEAH the resurgence in Grunge has the other two guys (Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell) to thank for rescuing them from the vacuous, emotionless pit that was Glam Metal.

Truly this is as heavy as WHOA ever got. In its later incarnations, the Grunge WHOA frequently drowned in its own self-seriousness, but early on Pearl Jam's Ten was the kick in the pants popular music needed to remember that WHOA must not be taken lightly. The Eighties were fun and all, but WHOA can go to more places than just evocations of the coital pleasures. The 4:17 mark of the soon-to-be classic rock staple "Jeremy" proves this point:



Chris Cornell, regardless of his reputation, has a voice that was made for hard rock and grunge. I don't think he knows how to do anything else (he certainly isn't very good at pop music). That lent itself to many a great wail but for some reason, it didn't really come through on record.

I'd be remiss if I went through the history of WHOA and YEAH in the 90's if I also didn't point you to the 2:26 point of this clip:



Really this is a point where the Grunge WHOA seemed to be crossing over into rapcore, but then again, the Beastie's always straddled that line between genre's.

The nineties also marks a point where it becomes very difficult to chart WHOA and YEAH. With recording and releasing records becoming exponentially cheaper and easier, its hard to say where the trends really were or to cover all of the bases. I could dig deep into the birth of indie here, but I'm reserving that for the last section. As Grunge imploded on itself, popular music was begat first to a new strain of garage rock heralded by Weezer (who put WHOA and OOH to excellent use on "Buddy Holly"), but the lack of output over the course of the late nineties allowed their influence to be spent on emo. Much like Van Halen and Weezer, Emo bands took Pearl Jam's emotive, brooding, self-serious WHOA and YEAH and took it to its ugly conclusion. All subtelty was lost and what was left was a bunch of whining brats and power chords.

The Modern Day: Beyonce, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and the WHOA YEAH Resurgence

Now to my real point. In the last year or so we have seen a renaissance in WHOA and YEAH. Tracing back through history we haven't seen WHOA and YEAH in this sort of prevalence across so many styles since the mid to late sixties. And to top it off, none of it is bland and all of it is cognizant of both the utility and the emotion that can come with WHOA and YEAH.

To start with the aforementioned clip from Beyonce. In "Single Ladies" Beyonce puts WHOA OOH through a workout that coalesces the rhythmic and demonstrative emotion. She is simultaneously sassing you about not proposing and letting you know exactly how to shake your ass. It sounds simple, but putting those two together doesn't happen enough.

In underground and indie music, Fleet Foxes got the ball rolling early last year. Hey four guys who can sing really well in harmony? Thats about all you need these days. They have a way of putting an acapella WHOA right at the beginning of a song such that it punches you in face and you're immediately transported back in time to a Brueghel painting or the woods of Lothlorian, whichever your pleasure. The best example of this is the track "Ragged Wood":



But really, they put WHOA to use in a lot of different ways and none of them feel indulgent!

Consequently, the two Album of the Year competitors from this year so far are also connoisseurs of the WHOA. Grizzly Bear has gotten as close to Pet Sounds as any band has since the Beach Boys almost did that one time. The lead track "Two Weeks" relies heavily on a well built and at times circuitous WHOA pattern that is aided by Victoria LeGrande of Beach House:



Whhoooooooaaaaaa OOOOOOOOHHHHhhhhOOOOhhhh WHHHHAAAAAAAaaaaaaAAAA. Seriously guys, this is the jam.

Remember how I said that the Talking Head's knowledge of WHOA went underground? Well the Dirty Projectors dug it up! Hooray! Dave Longstreth's compositional strengths are really evident, but this record isn't nearly as great with out those lovely ladies he's recruited. The intricate, innovative WHOA's and OOH's make the lead single "Stillness is the Move" and they'll certainly be talked about for a long time:



Alright guys, that's pretty much it. The long story behind this summers totally sweeeeeet jamzzzzzz. WHOA. YEAH.

6.11.2009

Professor Bromford's Laboratory: Lesson 1

Professor Harold Legume Bromford’s Laboratory
Lesson 1:

“Taking it to the Max,” vs. “Bringing it to the Next Level”



Introductory Words

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first installment of my lecture series, “Bromford’s Laboratory.” Supposing you cretins couldn’t have guessed, my name is Professor H.L. Bromford, and you are all about to take a transformational journey into the core of science.

As an eminently extreme human being, I make it a point to push limits, blow minds, and generally exude “badass.” Skeptics need not look further than the list of courses I’ve taught for proof. Come to think of it, I recognize some of you morons from my “Chainsaw Racing” class last semester.

Despite my mastery of all things, I sometimes have difficulty finding the right words to describe my lifestyle. It’s as if the English language struggles to match my pace. After a long search for the perfect phrase, I’ve whittled down the competition to two possibilities, though each with their flaws: “Taking it to the max,” and “Bringing it to the next level.”

Prima Facie Analysis
Diagram A
Let’s begin our analysis at surface level. Diagram A neatly provides a visualization of both phrases. “Taking it to the max” involves two premises: first, that a discrete maximum exists, and second, that we have arrived at that maximum. “Bringing it to the next level” involves two similar premises: first, that we’re on a level, and second, that we have brought ourselves to the next, higher level, one that is more extreme by some undefined measure.

At this level of detail, “taking it to the max” dominates the field as the more powerful statement. While “bringing it to the next level” is satisfactory, it remains a descriptor of a single unit -- one step. By contrast, “taking it to the max” allows for the possibility of multiple steps in one motion. In fact, it implies that we skip all intermediate steps leading up to the max. In this sense, “taking it to the max” encompasses “bringing it to the next level” and then some.

The Hamburgler routinely steals single hamburgers. I’ve seen it. Last Tuesday he decided to bring it to the next level, and stole two hamburgers – impressive. But the next day, he said, “fuck it, I’m taking this to the max,” and backed a military transport truck through the concrete siding of the McDonald’s regional beef shipping facility, moments later to abscond with two tons of processed hamburgers. It was huge. The local news ate it up. He’s now serving six years in a state penitentiary. Regardless, he demonstrates that the sweetness of taking it to the max renders an incremental, level-based approach foolish. The max makes headlines.

Taking it to the Max

It’s tempting to leave it at that, and I’m sure many of you would rather quit now and still catch the matinee showing of, “I Love You Man” than attempt anything rigorous. But there’s more to discover, and Diagram A is misleadingly simple. If you idiots could stop masturbating long enough to lean closer to your monitors, you would see that Diagram B gets into the fun stuff.

Diagram B
We can break down “taking it to the max” into two fundamental components: the max axis, represented by the dotted line, and the “where we’re taking it vector” (WWTI for short), represented by the arrow. These two measures can be roughly compared to the X and Y axes of a graph, where the X axis is the max, and the Y axis is our trajectory towards the max.

The act of “taking it to the max” is consummated at the intercept between these two axes, called the “Düsseldorf Point” (after the venerable Italian mathematician Mario Düsseldorf, whose name caused endless confusion amongst the German scientific community every time he published an article. Düsseldorf’s 1973 opus Le Leggi Naturali di Massimo, in which he lays out the principles of his max-point theory, received mixed reviews and prompted New Yorker columnist Timothy Bruille to famously quip, “Düsseldorf is oblivious to the astounding irony of his discovery, as Italians have never taken anything to the max, ever.” Incidentally, Dusseldorf was best known for his research on time travel, although once it became apparent that his sole ambition was to send a pizza sauce recipe back in time, his work quickly became the straw man of the emerging field.). At the Düsseldorf Point, we have successfully taken it to the max; we and the max are one.

So far, our notion of “taking it the max” has relied heavily on the existence of a discrete max within a bounded universe, while snubbing the concept of infinity. But can we ever be positive that we’re at the max? Couldn’t there always be something higher? Is our “max axis” little more than a theoretical Maginot Line? Is our Düsseldorf Point an unreachable phantom?

We represent this uncertainty in Diagram B by changing the max axis from a solid line to a dotted line, above which lies the theoretical maxosphere – or, “that which is more max than the max.” It remains theoretical, of course, since observing it is beyond our meager human capabilities. But since I’ve received no fewer than thirteen emails from a pathetic student on the subject: yes, a 200-foot robot whose mouth shoots out bits of Kurt Cobain’s corpse would probably fall into this category. Does the possibility of a maxosphere doom our entire endeavor of taking it to the max? Before we answer this question, let’s turn to our other phrase.

Bringing it to the Next Level
Diagram C
While our first representation of “bringing it to the next level” is both simple and accurate, we must never forget the golden rule of levels: you can ALWAYS bring it to the next level. Even though we can move only one unit at a time, the process can be repeated ad infinitum, taking us to more and more extreme levels. Welcome to the maxosphere. No shirt? No shoes? No limits? No problem.

Imagine the following dialogue between Chazzie and Dan:

Dan: “What perfect skimboarding weather. Check out this sweet move. I’m going to take it to the max.”
Chazzie: “Oh yeah? Well I’m also going to take it to the max… AND THEN I’M GOING TO BRING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL.”
[Chazzie pulls a twisted 1080 herringbone sloucher.]
Dan: “Dag.”

Chazzie, living up to his extreme name, has just made an utter fool of Dan. Dag, indeed, you poor soul. Make a note of this in your copybooks.

Despite embracing the infinite, “bringing it to the next level” is weighted with the problem of uncertainty. Who defines the boundaries of a level? Returning to our fictitious bro Chazzie, let’s say he jumps three feet in the air on his skimboard. In his next jump, he could reach a height of three feet and one nanometer, and would technically reach the next level, although the end result is fairly meaningless, and certainly not extreme.

Addressing the Infinite

And so it seems that infinity is the trump card. Unless we can find a way to unshackle “taking it to the max” from a finite max, “bringing it to the next level” will emerge the victor. I propose two possible ways of doing this.

First, we could contextualize our max. While the universe is infinite, our circumstances are not. As mortals subject to the laws of physics, we remain fatally bound by our contextual limits. In “taking it to the max,” then, we are being as extreme as our situation allows. In this new paradigm, our max axis becomes more of a “situational max.” Second, we could emphasize the act of “taking” more than the “max” itself. We shift the emphasis from a discrete max to the zeal with which we approach the task (i.e. “fuck levels, I’m going to roll as hard as I possibly can").

A Call to Arms

Ultimately, I’m still uneasy about picking the best phrase. Each seems to require the other, to some extent, like the yin and yang of extreme metrics. And so, improbably, I’m going to turn the discussion over to the snot-nosed masses – what do you think?

5.05.2009

Epic Meme: Play Me Off, Keyboard Cat

Today at work I followed a link Quilliam had posted, and it led me to the Keyboard Cat. I'm not sure where this internet sensation came from, but it has truly enlivened my day. Here are some of my favorites; Keyboard Cat's Greatest Hits:



And another,


This one made me feel bad, but the comedic timing is spot on:


And finally, there is my favorite. As you may have noticed, the Keyboard Cat videos follow a particular pattern: Popular viral video of a "fail" + Keyboard Cat, with Keyboard Cat interspersed with slow motion clips of the "fail." This last selection eschews the standard formula, and instead inserts a family argument and, as a final stroke of genius, no slow motion "fail" clips- just Keyboard Cat playing away, heightening the tension.


See Also: Garfield

Austin Bitty Limits: When Reality TV Becomes Reality


Ok. I already posted something about this on my facebook profile but it's too good, too epic to pass up. Right now, this very moment, I am sitting in the exact same cafe in Austin where two years ago a nervous group of boys became men. Yes. Your instincts are correct. I'm sitting in the same location as a day challenge for vh1's The Pick-Up Artist season 1.

A bit of back -story. I'm currently in Austin, TX looking for an apartment. I'm done for the day after finding a place. I'm staying with my friend Anne but she is currently in class. She suggested I check out a cafe called The Spider House. It sounded great. They serve beer. The have free WiFi. All the things I need to pass the time until she gets out of class.

I walk down Guadalupe Street. I arrive at the Spider House. I walk into what appears to be a hip outdoor cafe. After two seconds it suddenly hits me: I've been here before. Except I know I haven't. My mind goes back and forth, paralyzed by the cognitive dissonance. Why is this so familiar. Three seconds later I suddenly understand. I remember a day challenge. I remember trying to open sets of women, hopelessly hoping that one of them, even an ugly one, will give me an IOI (Indicator of Interest) which will give me the confidence to attempt a number close, enabling me to hold my head high in front of the master, the guru, the ultimate goggle-wearing pick-up artist... Mystery. I remember how this challenge was different. It was during the day. Things move slower. Slow down. Be cool. Relax. You don't have the little dog to help you out because you were terrible last night in the club challenge. It's alright, though. The fat guy who had the dog blew it only minutes ago. You're fine. Make eye contact. Don't look desperate. Don't look creepy. A waitress approaches me.

"Need a place sit?"

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Oh no. I'm going to die alone.......

Thankfully, I summoned the courage to indicate that, yes, I desire to be seated. I've just ordered a Brooklyn Lager on tap. I see a two-set a few tables over. I'm in Austin. I'm a new man, right? Tabula Rasa? I can't disappoint Mystery this time.

5.02.2009

Is Beyonce the Anti Christ?

Is Sasha Fierce an anagram for Satan? Are single ladies the first demographic to be brainwashed on the anti-Christ's rise to power? Or perhaps we should look to all "'yes or 'ays" as agents of the anti-Christ - Beyonce, Kanye, Ray J, OJ, Jimmy Ray? Well, prepare your hearts and minds, say your prayers, and consider:



And, don't miss part II:



So, what have we learned? "SEX YOU UP" WAS BLESSED BY A WARLOCK AND ANIMAL SACRIFICE IN ORDER TO GET YOUNG GIRLS TO LOSE THEIR VIRGINITY.

4.22.2009

5 Reasons Matt Should See 'Adventureland'


5. It's full of late 1980s post-graduate angst.
4. The field of Semiotics is mentioned 2 minutes into the movie.
3. The main love interest, Kristen Stewart, frequently dons a black Lou Reed T-shirt. ***
2. "I'm In Love With a Girl" by Big Star plays in the background during the first romantic encounter.
1. The movie opens and ends with the Replacements; "Bastards of Young" and "Unsatisfied", respectively.

Ok, so first I need to make clear that while I really enjoyed 'Adventureland,' I would never defend it as a great film. All it really is is a fairly humorous portrait of a guy kind of like me - he's just out of college, hoping to go to graduate school, working a shitty job in the meantime, all while living at his parents' house. It's not a must-see. I'd give it 3.5 stars on Netflix if I rented it. I hadn't even planned on seeing it. I stumbled into the theater after originally wanting to see 'Earth' and realizing 20 min in that it was just Planet Earth redux sans David Attenborough (replaced by James Earl Jones...). I will say, however, that 'Adventureland' was a pleasant surprise.

First off, the soundtrack is killer. Yo La Tengo chose all the tracks and the picked a perfect mixed tape soundtrack for this 1987 period movie: The Replacements, Big Star, Crowded House, Velvet Underground (Ok, so not the 80s but it works). The music evokes late-night summer in the eighties, making you nostalgic for a time you never experienced in the same way 'Sandlot' did for us when we were kids. And that's another surprising aspect of the movie: it lets you know that it's set in the 1980s. For some reason I though this was another Judd Apatow film so the setting (and tone) really threw me off. While there are a few scenes with Reagan on the television talking about Iran-Contra that might cause you to make a Forrest Gump cringe, the movie's dedication to its setting doesn't detract from the overall viewing experience. So it's not a movie ABOUT the 1980s but it's also not 2009 humor tranplanted and thrown into a 1987 costume. It really just lets you experience the sweetness of the late eighties. Lastly, it is not Juno-fied, a direction it could have easily have taken. It really tries to be earnest instead of throwing clever but ultimately meaningless catch phrases at you with the hopes of reminding you "how cool is this movie?".

Matt - I really wish that you could enjoy this movie. And maybe you can. If you can toss off your recently acquired cinematic sensibilities and summon your inner 1980s romantic then perhaps you can appreciate the experience of watching this film. I'm hesitant to make the comparison to Whit Stillman's films (Metropolitan in particular) because I know how highly you regard those. I'll put it this way: it gets as close as Hollywood can to that aesthetic. The movie definitely has its flaws. Jesse Eisenberg's character is a dweeb and a bit too Michael Cera-ish at times. The plot can be formulaic, the dialogue bordering on prosaic. Ryan Reynolds is in it.

Part of me hopes you don't see it because I'm 80% sure that the following scenario will occur. You will read this post and think "Wow, maybe I should see it." You'll go see it, hate it, and then call me and give me shit for telling you to see it. I'll have to hear your film studies bullshit for a half hour while trying to defend the really sweet parts of the movie - parts that I KNOW you thought were totally sweet but can't completely admit to liking. But I have to give it a shot. I had to write this post.

Did I mention that the movie opens with "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements?

***I remembered this morning that there is an addition reason you should see this movie, Matt. Right before Kristen Stewart is about to get it on with Ryan Reynolds, she puts the acoustic version of "Taste of Cindy" by Jesus and Mary Chain on the record player. Totally. Sweet.

4.19.2009

Ian Curtis Will Tear The Fragile Psyche of Hyperactive Adolescents Apart


Brian Gibson - Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division Cover) from Johnny Internets on Vimeo

While we here at Epic Mail are never ones to stifle the creative output of adolescents (our blog wouldn't be here otherwise), the only thing more harrowing than realizing your child is strung out beyond the reach of modern medicine on Kidz Bop techno (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0tXBqSJAek) is realizing the latent Ian Curtis parallels of such expression.

4.16.2009

4.09.2009

Sail Free or Die Hard: the American Response to Piracy


So the first American-run ship was hijacked by Somali pirates yesterday and instead of allowing the pirates to run rough-shod over them and ransom the ship and its cargo, the American crew managed to disable the ship, forcing the pirates to flee with only one hostage: the ship's selfless captain.

Now I know a few months ago we were all asking ourselves, "Are these pirates sweet?" and many of us concluded that "Yes, yes they are." However, a new question has arisen in response to this new pirate attack on the American vessel: are our guys sweeter?

In short, I believe the superior sweetness of our guys is undeniable. Not only did our guys kick the pirates off of the ship without the use of any firearms, but they also managed to live out every American action movie ever made, reinforcing our national worship of the take charge-no bull shit American hero who is simultaneously a selfless martyr willing to sacrifice for his fellow man.

Let's consider the crew's decision to disable the ship. Did anyone else immediately think of Harrison Ford in Air Force One? Now it's true we could think of the passengers of Flight 93 but I'm trying to write a light-hearted piece and I'm not interested in getting bogged down in that. Back to American cinema. Imagine being a crew member. You have no weapons and the Somalis have boarded your ship. You look to your shipmate and say, "They're not taking our ship." You hatch a plan with those on board to sabotage the ship. I would be very surprised if at least one crew member didn't think to him or herself that when they had successfully foiled the pirates' plans and were about to throw them off the ship that he or she would take advantage of this unbelievably sweet moment and say to the pirate "Get off my ship!!!" I'm sure many of the crewmembers thought that it was their responsibility as representatives of the US of A to do what sailors of other nations did not have the courage to do... to say "No" to the piracy and kick some ass.

While the crew's plan worked, the captain of the ship was unable to save himself and, at least from what I heard on NPR this morning, agreed to go with the pirates as a hostage to secure the well-being of his men. There's almost too many examples of this to mention but because of the title of my post I have to bring up the most recent Die Hard. The final scene in this ridiculous action movie perfectly captures the spirit of sacrifice we demand from our uniquely American heroes. Bruce Willis is being held hostage by the villain who is standing directly behind him with a gun to Willis' head. Willis' character pulls his partner's gun (who is standing in front of the pair) to his shoulder, effectively shooting the bad guy standing behind him by allowing the bullet to first pass through his body. I'm not sure there's been a sweeter scene in an action movie in a long, long time.

I'm not interested in dissecting WHY we have created this particular idea of what it means to be an American hero; I'm merely pointing out that this recent pirate incident is a particularly sweet example of it being acted out in real life. My thoughts obviously go out to the captain who, as of now, is still on board the small vessel with the pirates. The tiny boat is being closely followed by an American destroyer but they are unable to really take any action at this point. Now there's another distinctly American image: the biggest and best technology a country can build rendered impotent by a few desperate criminals on a speed boat.

4.03.2009

The Welcomed Return of Suburban Rock

note: This post will soon be followed by a more general "blog-conscious" post about the state of our blog and a call for revitalization/re-conceptualization of Epic Mail.


Maybe I've just been back in my hometown for too long and am currently being pulled out to sea by the riptide of high school nostalgia. Maybe I've gotten burned out on all the disco-infused music I listened to in college and no longer want to listen to music with "This would be so sweet to dance to at the party tonight" in mind. Or maybe I just miss my epic bros (but not enough to go see "I Love You, Man", Dana Stevens). Whatever the reason(s), I'm currently loving the new and perhaps brief resurgence of slacker-rock that allows me to relive the glory days of late night driving/screaming to Pavement, Weezer (ugh), Built to Spill, and Modest Mouse. I can only listen to that collection of albums so much before I feel anachronistic and trapped by my musical past.

The new slacker-rockers I'm referring to are Cymbals Eat Guitars and Suckers. Both bands have been all over Pitchfork et al, and they both are living up to the hype. I don't know their back stories that well and honestly I don't really care that much. CEG (sorry, I'm only capable of typing that awful name once) have an unbelievable album out now in digital form called "Why There Are Mountains." All nine tracks perfectly synthesize the cosmic guitars of BTS, the jangle and rambling of Pavement, and the grit both vocally and production-wise of Modest Mouse but without sounding merely derivative; itt plays like a lost gem of the mid-nineties. The other band, Suckers, from Brooklyn, are releasing an EP this Spring and seem to have a similar musical approach. "It Gets Your Body Movin'" has plenty of desperate group vocals that would allow a car full of bros to, in a slight revision of Ari from Entourage, "yell it out."

One last bit: I realize these bands both have horrible names. The only thing I can say to that is that their predecessors have equally stupid names when you think about them for more than two seconds. Pavement? I can't even think of a humorous situation in which bandmates might arrive at such a name. Modest Mouse? I even reMEMber thinking that was "raaaaaandom" in middle school. My point is that they're in good company and soon we'll get used to the poor choice of names... that is if they don't follow the debut album boom and bust trend of the myspace era.

So get on hypemachine, download their stuff, gather up some bros, choose a driver, and spend the night singing these guys' songs at the top of your lungs. And give me a call - I've had to pull an Alanis Morisette and imagine copies of myself in the car with me.

4.02.2009

20 Gs

This 'party pic' has got to be the strangest thing to ever come out of an international economic meeting:


And this has to be the greatest:


20 gs

3.30.2009

Dance Party Fodder

I have a request.

Can someone who knows what they're doing please make a crazy, synthed-out remix of this yeah yeah yeahs song? It's already so fucking danceable it's ridiculous, but it has virtually unlimited potential. And the hypemachines of the world are letting me down.

Andy, I'm looking at you.

3.13.2009

Most Worthy Matron

My town has a local masonic temple. For the first time today, I took notice of the sign out front, and then took a picture. I'm not sure what kind of cabal they run, but sign me up for the cryptic council, please.


3.12.2009

Frank Miller's Charlie Brown



Higher resolution here.

3.09.2009

2.19.2009

OK, no, seriously -- Is This Sweet?

This may be the most random (but somehow maybe possibly great?) super-group of all time:
According to Billboard.com, there's a new band that exists on earth called Tinted Windows featuring former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, handsome Hanson brother Taylor, and Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger.

[...]


Apparently, the band have already recorded their debut album in New York and are set to make their big time live splash at Billboard's SXSW showcase March 20 in Austin.
Maybe it's just that I'm exceedingly happy to see news involving an ex-Smashing Pumpkin that doesn't make me want to stab Billy Corgan in the face, but I see reason to be cautiously optimistic about this.


--James Iha -- despite looking like a stoned asian space alien -- was always cool.
--Cheap Trick is Cheap Trick
--Taylor Hanson is a cutie. And he did that cover of Radiohead's "Optimistic" once.
--Fountains of Wayne -- I've been informed by multiple sources -- are not nearly as reprehensible as "Stacy's Mom" once had me believe.

PS: What is it about bizarre super-groups that causes them to choose the shittiest, most generic names names ever? I mean, Tinted Windows is bad... but what about Velvet Revolver? Or the time the dudes in a band called fucking Rage Against The Machine couldn't come up with anything better than Audioslave?

PPS: For Brandon.

2.17.2009

I'm Not Impressed: Getting angry at "getting" Dylan.

I've spent the last week or so digesting the Film I'm Not There, a self-proclaimed biopic of Bob Dylan. I've approached from several standpoints. A 'meta' reading, wherein this film is as much a commentary on the ability to capture a life as it is about Dylan. A view through director Todd Haynes' ideal of the refractionary reflection on a life. I've even brushed up on my Dylan, thinking that maybe I just didn't "get it" enough. Perhaps if I listened to a few records and read a Wikipedia page or two, the entirety of this film would open itself to me. A sweet delicious onion. I am inevitably left however, with my immediate feeling upon finishing the film.

This movie is a giant, steaming pile of shit.

I'd like to defend this statement first by saying that I'm not against having several actors play a single role, or even portray several different roles intended, when in combination, to represent a larger whole. American Splendor? Love it. I'm also not against super-meta bullshit. I love super-meta bullshit. Day for Night? Great. Last Action Hero? Yes, please. What I cannot stand, what I will not tolerate, is this guy.
This jerk (Arthur Rimbaud [Ben Wishaw]) is, in one character, the sum of my hatred for this abysmal film school thesis project. This character's only purpose seems to be to answer questions in a manner that is equal parts glib and obtuse. If one thing annoys me [and several things do], it's some prick trying to be as cool as Bob Dylan [or Elvis Costello, or Lou Reed, or insert good musician who has inspired assholery]. Shut this prick up, and cut back to one of the three story lines I didn't mind so much.

The two super-close Dylan characters, Jack Rollins [Christian Bale] and Jude Quinn [Cate Blanchett], and the biopic-self-referencing [because Haynes' can't get enough of that] Robbie Clark [Heath Ledger]. Though I have problems here as well.

Much of Jack and Judes' part in this is pulled from actual Dylan footage. First up, Christian Bale. I really only remember him dropping the N-bomb. Did Dylan drop the N-bomb? Anyway, much of it is shot-for-shot from news footage, etc. Clever. The scene where he plays "Hattie Carol" for a bunch of hillbillies is pretty sweet though. His Pastor John thing is a terrible reach for refractionary biography. Hey, Dylan became super Christian for a while, what if this character becomes super Christian? Brilliant! And the actors name is Christian. Meta-Brilliant!

As for Cate Blanchett, if I wanted to watch Don't Look Back, I damn well would have watched Don't Look Back. Though the send-up to Hard Days' Night was a good bit of fun. Otherwise, watching Blanchett is like watching Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. Sure she can do a great amphetamine-era Dylan, but why? At least they didn't add an unnecessary masturbation sequence.

Heath Ledger, semi-Freewheelin' to messy divorce Dylan. Fine. An actor who plays an actor who played Jack Rollins, a fictional version of a facet of Bob Dylan, played by a different actor. We get it, synthesizing a life for the screen requires synthesis. Move on.

As for the Woody Guthrie [Marcus Carl Franklin] character. If anything comes close to the biopic I expected, it was this guy. Little black kid representing Dylan's early influences, rambling nature, and the social need to "sing about [his] own time." Not terribly amazing, but good enough. Had more things been like this, maybe a little more thought out, I would have thought it adequate. Then they brought in Richard Gere.

What the hell? Why is this happening on the screen? Why is Richard Gere Billy the Kid? Call back to Riddle, MO, fine. Call back to the guitar case, fine. Is that a black guy with an American flag painted on his face? Is that the My Morning Jacket guy with his face painted white? Is that a Giraffe? That's a giraffe. Come on. If I wasn't thinking this collection of Kubrik-tracking-rip-off shots was awful, I'm way over the edge now.
The nail in the coffin for me was Haynes' own view of this film. "The minute you try to grab hold of Dylan, he's no longer where he was. He's like a flame: If you try to hold him in your hand you'll surely get burned." This whole film is an exercise for Todd to show us how much he "gets Dylan." He's every cultural studies student with a leather jacket with a picture of Lou Reed on the back that says "My Week Beats Your Year." I'm spoon fed enough pretentious film crap to say "Enough." I don't care if hardcore Dylan fans love finding all the little obscure tie-ins. It's one artsy prick's attempt to show just how cool he is. Haynes said, "I didn't want to make a movie that was about anything. I wanted to make a movie that is something." Well it is something.

It's a shitty movie.

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