Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thank you, Rob Thomas.

Fear not, no spoilers here.

I've mentioned my nerdy obsession with Veronica Mars before, but not lately. Here's a little explanation. I'm insanely in love with the first season: the characters and their relationships are vivid and perfectly acted, the writing is uniformly smart and witty and warm, and the central mystery is expanded and resolved in such a thoroughly satisfying manner that it adds up to, in my mind, one of the finest blocks of television I've ever seen.

Season Two is patchy. Things get off on the right foot (that first episode back is one of the best VMs ever), but gets a little wonky by the midpoint. There are so many threads and subplots muddling the new "big mystery" that it turns into a confusing and frustrating ride. It's still compelling, sure, but by the time the big revelations occur, it's a massive letdown. (Am I alone in thinking Season Two's greatest moments are always set to perfectly selected pop songs? My three favorite Season Two moments: Dead body washes ashore [The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?"], Veronica and Logan run from crazy child abusers [Air's "Run"], Prom [M. Doughty's "I Hear the Bells"].)

Rob Thomas and co. tried to remedy this situation in Season Three by creating an initial "big mystery" arc of nine episodes, then two mini-arcs to round-out the season. (At least that was the initial plan. Now it looks like Mr. Thomas might tweak the formula again by finishing the second arc, then running a series of stand alone episodes.) This season hasn't been without its growing pains (really, what was all that bidness with Logan in Mexico? Laura San Giacomo? Really?), but it's been a sturdy run that absolutely killed with the most recent episode. Tuesday's show, which saw the saga of the Hearst Rapist concluded and the introduction of the next mystery, was so twisty-turny-watching-through-your-fingers-brilliant, with a legitimately rewarding payoff, it felt like Season One all over.* Here's hoping it keeps up the momentum. The show's going on hiatus until mid-January, but the first nine episodes will be running in order over the holidays. If you've missed them, fire up that Tivo and get busy. Or add the first two seasons to your Netflix queue. Or use the ITs to catch-up. I dunno. Just don't let this series escape you.

Perhaps my favorite summation of the episode came in an e-mail from Nayiri:
Re: VMars, Keith [her husband] comes home from class in the middle of it, and usually I don't talk to him (aside from maybe saying hello) until it's a commercial break, but Tuesday night I was scampering around the middle room and clutching pillows to my bosoms and yelling at the TV. And then he came in, and then I started frantically telling him everything that he missed (the whole season) and hopping from one foot to the other like I was holding a lot of pee.

Yup. Sounds about right. And one more picture, 'cause the t-shirt is too goood not to:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You know you enthrall me...

My love affair with the 33⅓ series is only getting more intense. LD Beghtol's entry on 69 Love Songs just came in the mail and based on my initial browse, it might just be my favorite entry yet. It's a two part "field guide" to Stephin Merritt's opus; part one is a lexicon of all the major words, phrases and numbers found in the 69 songs. Part two is a song by song guide to the album, identifying the singer(s)/the song's key/BPM/genre, things to look for, and commentary from Stephin, other band members, critics, etc.

It's an insanely thorough and funny read. An example: I've always loved "Reno Dakota" from Volume 1, but I had no effing clue what was going on when Claudia sang "You know you enthrall me/and yet you don't call me/It's making me blue/Pantone 292." So, I flip to the handy lexicon, head to P and voila:
Pantone 292 (n) A rich sky blue, the color of Claudia's hopeless love for filmmaker Reno Dakota. Pantone, Inc. is the proud parent of the Pantone Matching System-- 1,114 standardized ink colors and process-color screen mixes created for graphic-designers and printers. Why shyly murmur "school bus yellow" when one can shout PMS 109, or dream of "Campbell's Soup made with milk" when one can demand PMS 180? According to [the song] Reno Dakota Blue is best approximated by PMS 292.

Yeah, I know there's always the Googles, but isn't it way more fun to have a handy little book all alphabetized and filled with neat anecdotes? (Like when the Bush reelection committee tried to license "Washington D.C." for an ad.) I think so.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Earlier today, my friend Morgan asked me to name--off the top of my head--a pair of consecutive movies that showed an enormous fall from grace for a filmmaker. That is: Film A is considered an unimpeachable masterpiece and was followed by an utterly disasterous Film B. Morgan's example:
  • Schindler's List -> The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2.

I guess I have Altman on the brain (sigh) as my first thought was:
  • Short Cuts -> Prêt-à-Porter.

Tim's contribution:
  • sex, lies, and videotape -> Kafka.

Kinda fun, no? Your picks in the comment section. (And I'm opening it up to... whatever. It doesn't have to be a director; musicians, authors, actors, etc. are all fair game.)

Quote of the day.

"I like Bobby Fischer. I read his book and his story. I like him because his life is like a hip-hop life: a person who comes out, finds himself, gotta rock the world, and then the government is against him. You know the government took all his shit from him, right? Exiled his ass. This nigga ain't crazy, son. This nigga's a genius."
--The RZA, Stop Smiling No. 28.

Extraordinary update.

I know, I know, the saga over the various versions of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine is so 2005. But the good folks over at fairfax ave. unearthed this great piece of dirt interesting tidbit from EM 2.0's "co-producer" Brian Kehew and it's too good to ignore. A sample:

I had no power - they had someone else mix the record - who charged 40k PLUS points (I was not taking mixing points) and who smashed the hell out of all the beauitful dynamics we had created. As importantly, he completely missed some of the most important tracks we had in our arragements, which makes me realize the "other producer" probably wasn't even at the mixes - or paying attention. Personally, I think it's cookie-cutter mixing by someone who is not that talented - smash everything so you don't have to worry about levels changing. I don't even listen to the CD now - although our engineer's roughs (Hey - I'm an engineer, but I didn't try to control that, did I?) sound great and I still isten to them. MUCH better music, with all the intended tracks.

Then, when the album comes out, my credit has dropped further. It now says "Produced by XX" and underneath this, "Co-produced by Brian Kehew". Totally an unrealistic credit, because if I had shared the work of something, so had the other person shared and been "co-producer". Certainly as the person who got the artist to work (she had no intention to work again with Jon Brion) and hired the studio and chose the set of tracks to use, then worked daily to make a record...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Delayed response.

Back from the holidays. A few things that I really should've blogged about ages ago:

  1. Josh sent me an e-mail with that image attached. He was concerned that the joke might be wearing thin. Nope.

  2. Let me jump on the blogger-cliche bandwagon (again): Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" is fantastic. I'm not the biggest B-supporter, but I can whole-heartedly get behind this shit. The simple drum programming and acoustic strum... the way she tentatively hits those high notes when she sings "I could have another you in a minute..." Yup, that works nicely. (The remix with Ghostface is even sicker. Hurry over to Rich Fourfour's place and snag it.)

  3. Yes, Casino Royale is as a fun as you've heard. Afer the first hour it sags a little, but I dare you to deny it. And, yes, I feel a little dead inside for enjoying something that has Paul Haggis's name attached to it.

  4. Ever since he left Slate, I've been really bad about keeping up with David Edelstein. I really should try to keep up with him because he's not only insightful, he makes me laugh. From his review of The Fountain:
    "The movie would be more bearable without the unyielding score by Clint Mansell, which somehow melds the worst of Minimalism, art rock, and New Age music. It's what you'd hear if your massage therapist wanted to induce a stroke."

  5. Speaking of Slate: thank you, Bryan Curtis.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Everything you need to know about Twyla Tharp's The Times They Are A-Changin'.

  1. Tharp has taken Bob Dylan's musical catalogue and turned it into a Broadway show.

  2. Joan Acocella, in the pages of The New Yorker (11/6/2006), summarizes it thusly:
    In [Tharp's] show, the owner and ringmaster of the circus is Captain Ahrab (Thom Sesma), an evil tyrant who abuses his innocent son, Coyote (Michael Arden); his kind, worse-for-the-wear girlfriend, Cleo (Lisa Brescia); and everyone else in his vicinity—namely, six Pierrot-like clowns and Cleo’s dog, whom he eventually garrotes. Then the times, they change. Coyote pairs off with Cleo, and the clowns kill Ahrab. (Or I think he died—it was hard to tell, because the scene was lit only by flashlights, but he didn’t reappear after that.) Coyote takes over the circus, which now becomes a democratic organization: everyone gets ringmaster wear. They all sing “Forever Young,” and the curtain comes down.

That is all.