Saturday, October 18, 2008

Letter To NBC

Dear SNL,

Sarah Palin better fucking make another appearance tonight. Seriously. This was worse than Britney at the VMAs. If the polls are accurate, then Lord knows she needs to do more than just show up.

Thanks,
Everyone Who's Not a Conservative

(-Josh)

P.S. Yes, the rap was great. Too bad Palin herself didn't deliver any of it. Not even a single line!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Josh's Favorite Videos



I was too young to appreciate the early 90s; any nostalgia I feel for that era is false. But that doesn't stop me for pining after that wonderful time, when grunge was revolutionary and America was in a good place, having just won the Persian Gulf War and entering the relative prosperity of the Clinton administration.

What I miss most about the early 90s (and by "miss" I mean "wish I could have experienced) was the sincere silliness. Artists could successfully get away with gimmicky songs (also see: Weird Al) and make brilliantly frivolous music videos to match.

The best example of this is Green Jellö's 1993 hit "Three Little Pigs" (it entered the Billboard Hot 100 top twenty!) and the (now) old-school claymation video single that accompanied it. Released on videotape before becoming an EP, it's, well...a heavy metal version of the story of the three little pigs, complete with a "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!" chorus. It's just a great little video to enjoy, from a band smart enough to poke fun at both the quaintness of the fable and the melodrama of the heavy metal genre. Watch it, laugh, and then rifle through your closet for those Tommy Hilfiger jeans I know you've kept hidden behind that stack of Pete & Pete DVDs.

-Josh

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Jess and Josh's Baby Would Look Like



Thanks, um, Volkswagen.

-Josh

Josh's Favorite Videos



Wait, what? Yeah, bet you weren't seeing this one coming. Hype Williams is definitely the Stanley Kubrick of music videos: prolific, revolutionary, and weird. Back before the days of "Touch It," Busta was the court jester of the hip-hop kingdom, and his rhymes on songs like this one proved it. He was funny and talented, charismatic and forceful, a joy to listen to. His earliest videos reflected that; here, for instance, he goes all Coming to America on us, only Hype turns it up a notch, and gives us crazy elephant rapping and under-the-blacklight dancing and sped-up dance moves all these other awesome visual moments that add up to provide a portrait of a rapper very much the master of his own great, goofy domain. (PS--Watch this when you're stoned. Trust me.)

Most importantly, and standing in contrast with the pimp posturing of modern hip-hop videos, it looks like Busta, along with everyone else involved, is having a lot of fun. The dancers, the fantastically costumed women, the guys having the stick fight: everyone looks like they really enjoyed working on this project, and put a lot of time and passion into it.

It also doesn't hurt that Busta's got mad flow. "Fuck that! Look at shorty, she a little cutie, yo, / The way she shake it make me wanna get all in the booty, yo." I mean, can you beat that?

-Josh

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Facebook Has Surpassed Its Ridiculousness Allowance

Josh's Favorite Videos

I'm going to make this a new feature. Kind of filling the musical void since Guilty Pleasure, you know? Each week I'll talk about one of my favorite music videos. I mean, this won't go on forever or anything, but I've got a few in mind that I'd like to share. So without further ado, here's part one, dedicated to my favorite fifty-year-old singer from Michigan:




So much of art is just, well, artificial, of filtering experience through a medium and presenting that finished product to a consumer aware that it's not the real thing. The entire Music album presents this thesis; for all its talk of how music makes the people come together, listen to a sound like "Paradise (Not For Me)" and you'll be hearing a lot of stuff that isn't really music. "Don't Tell Me" is another example of this idea; it takes American country music, already a form of art and therefore once removed from real life, and puts it through another filter. The result is chopped-up country pop, with a dash of techno in the beat.

The video perfectly captures the sound of the song and turns that feeling into something visual. It's Madonna, fully aware of her Western stereotyping, reveling in the mechanized remnants of the glamorized American West. The camera pauses and fast-forwards; it looks at first like she's walking along a highway, but she's really on a moving platform in front of a screen projecting an highway; she rides a mechanical bull; she covers her lap with sand; she dances with hot guys decked out as cowboys; she wears chaps over her jeans. It's the perfect video for this song; totally artificial, totally produced, and totally loving it. Also, her designer-cowgirl look is my all-time favorite. (Thanks, DSquared!)

-Josh

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Freebird

I have no words.

-Josh

Living the Dream

Hunter flew for free to Amsterdam and got paid to write this article. Dream job much? My own Amsterdam trip is in 6 weeks!

-Jess

Monday, October 13, 2008

Your Coke Is Not Cut With Baby Laxatives

But is cut with "a bunch of other shit."

An interview with someone I actually care about: someone's coke dealer.

"I never heard about fucking baby laxatives."

Thanks to Matt for the tip.

-Jess

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On "American Life"


Being a Madonna fan my age--and, relevancy be damned, there are many of us--is strange. We grew up and became musically aware in her era of Kabbalah and children, having completely missed her Material eighties days and too young at the time to understand the voguing, sex books, and dalliances with the likes of Warren Beatty and Dennis Rodman that defined her early-90s persona.

The earliest Madonna record I remember is 1998's Ray of Light. I gave the album standard middle-school treatment, listening to the singles on repeat while ignoring the other songs. (Frankly, they still don't impress me much, but that's another story.) I fell in love with the title track--its dizzying array of synthesizers and Eastern mysticism took my breath away--and learned the words to Nothing Really Matters and Power Of Goodbye by heart. My unequivocal favorite song, though, was Frozen, and as I play it now I'm reminded of the solemn, heartbreaking impression it left on me. It was the rawest I'd ever heard her; here was this legend, this musical icon of my time, sounding not just sad but hurt. It also spoke to me on a different level: "If I could melt your heart" became Madonna's personal plea to me, to shed the flimsy heterosexual skin I'd grown and finally reveal "the key." That sounds silly now, but back then, the ominous strings and stabbing synth lines sounded just as threatening as they were beautiful.

In 2000, Music came out, but it's an album I'd only come to appreciate years later. I was too busy getting into her older stuff, listening curiously to the untrained pluckiness of her Borderline-era voice and reveling in the naive lust found in songs like Into the Groove. I had no time for fake techno or brooding, careerist ruminations; if Madonna wanted to tell me what it felt like for a girl, it would have to wait.

I was also getting into--and it pains me to put it this way--indie music. I was just discovering bands like The Shins and Of Montreal, listening to the aching pleas of Morrissey like a student hearing an admirable, experienced professor, and pretending I understood the melancholic humor of Tigermilk. Madonna was falling out of my favor; her manufactured dance-pop held an increasingly small place in my ears and in my heart.

But then something happened. That something was American Life, Madonna's critically panned and commercially ignored album of dissent. Here was the most un-Madonna of Madonna albums; chopped guitars, introspective lyrics, and some of the catchiest tunes I'd ever heard (seriously, that into to "Mother And Father" gets me every time.)

And Madonna herself sounded more real than she did even on "Frozen." "There was a time I was happy in my life," the aforementioned "Mother And Father" begins, and she goes on to tell her father that "No one else I guess could hurt me like you did." I was intrigued, fascinated, and--most importantly--absolutely enamored. I listened to American Life almost exclusively for the next few months; it came out in April of 2003, and I was still listening to it every day on the daily bus rides to and from summer camp.

And how could I not? Madonna had indie-fied herself, willing to take artistic risks and truly open her heart (to me.) The album begins with self-doubt--"Do I have to change my name?"--and then that first synth line of the title track answers as an affirmative. Clipped guitars give way to melodramatic springs as Madonna condemns the modern American dream, and my fifteen-year-old self couldn't agree more. I was just beginning to directly address my homosexuality, but the world--or at least my central-New-Jersey world--didn't seem accepting of me at all. Yet, sadly, it was "the best thing I've seen" and "not just a dream."

"Hollywood" comes next on the album, and it's a fine song, only notable for Madonna's creepy vocal descent into husky masculinity in the track's final moments (thanks, postmodern production values!) The third song on the album, "I'm So Stupid," has only grown more relevant to me with time, and when Madonna says that she "wanted to be like all the pretty people," well, there's a basement of a club on the western edge of SoHo that I can't help but think of. But back in 2003, the "pretty pictures all around me" seemed to me to reference everyone I knew, happily going about their heterosexual business, excluding me without even--or despite--knowing it. And God, did I try to fit in, but even the baggiest of Abercrombie jeans couldn't hide my shame. "Stupider and stupid," indeed.

"Love Profusion" is just a gorgeous love song, and "Nobody Knows Me" is the kind of song I imaged I'd live by if I one day became famous. I could go on and on about this album, but I'll glide over most of the rest and just briefly mention a couple other songs. "Nothing Fails" isn't just, as some charge, a pale imitation of "Like a Prayer," it is like a prayer, only of a more tempered and world-weary sort; Madonna has traded her naivete for a red string bracelet, and wants to share her revelation with us. "Easy Ride" was my quiet anthem in high school. "What I want is to work for it," that "it" at the time being a host of things: college, acceptance, a boyfriend, getting out of East Brunswick.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but instead I'll kindly direct the rest of your attention to "X-Static Process," the eighth track on the album. It is beautiful. The only backing instruments are a quiet guitar, an occasional muffled piano note (a high C, if you're wondering), and Madonna's own harmonized voice. Sometimes, she sings two different verses at the same time, but rather than sounding cluttered it accomplishes just what the song wants to achieve: that loss of identity, that feeling of being "not myself," that dubiety of whether to even care. Eight songs in, and Madonna still doesn't know if she has to change her name. It is my favorite song off the album, and one of my favorite songs of all time (truthfully, I included "Love Profusion" on my top-20-songs list instead only because I figured it would be a more accessible introduction to the album.)

Back then, hearing someone else say that "I forgot that I was special too" meant the world to me. I needed someone else to acknowledge that feeling of hopelessness, of never knowing whether you could be true to yourself and others; Madonna not only did that, but she also offered salvation. Hard work, tears, and love would get me through my mess of an adolescence, and I eventually found those three things: I busted my ass to get As in high school, cried my way through lonely Saturday nights, and when I came out to my parents and realized they loved me just the same, I couldn't believe I'd ever doubted them. Stupider and stupid.

Most Madonna fans I know skip over this album; they don't sing its lyrics with the same passion they reserve for, say, Like a Prayer or even Confessions. Dear reader, I implore you: give this album another chance. I can honestly say that it changed my life, and it's still a great listen, tremendous relief from the matronly emptiness of Hard Candy and a touching reminder of Madonna's power, talent, and artistic concern. And if you've never heard it before, then buy (or download) it; while far from perfect, I promise that it's worth your money and time.

-Josh

Obama

There have been a slew of Sarah Palin impersonators, and now here come to Obama ones. This guy sounds just like Obama, down to the funny phrasing ("cooky and spooky") and verbal pauses at awkward phrasal intervals.



-Jess

The Mac Dictionary Can Be Used as a Psychic


So I just came up with a new game and by “game” I mean “yet another useless yet time consuming ritual to contribute to my subtly worsening OCD” (lol I didn’t think it could get worse).

The game goes like this: I’ve been getting super nervous and anxious recently, to the point of wringing my hands/shaking for no reason and actually becoming one of those psychos who says to herself out loud in the elevator, “You need to calm the fuck down.” So one of the things that helps to either exacerbate or lessen my anxiety is when I put my dithering, fretful life into the hands of things I can’t control. This only works after I have taken Xanax. Basically I open up the Mac Dictionary and treat it like a Psychic.

First I hit a random key. The other night “K” came up. Then I scroll through all the K entries with my eyes closed and quickly pick one. I do this 3 times because 3 is my magic number and I have to do everything in sets of 3 like knock on wood when anyone makes a “sweeping statement” or fold my napkin three times while on a date with a cute guy who doesn’t understand that my rituals are a serious thing and god this is awkward.

The first entry was “keep it up.”
The second one was “keep.”
And the third one was “keyboard.”

I could go into this whole tangent about how those could either be the stuff of life-affirming inspiration or terrifying foreshadowing depending on whether or not I’m high while I read them; but I’ll save you the misery, as it is certainly a miserable task owning this brain (this would be when Josh inserts the “=/” face).

I will say that I decided to pick one more letter and one more entry for good luck because sometimes I do that if I think my three time rituals need a little extra help: I feel comfortable telling you that the final entry that I drew was “taco chip,” and on that note I think I am going to relax and spend the day in a French park, because how could a word like that foreshadow anything?

-Jess