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here.

The kid stays in the picture,

-Shady

…to Obama’s speech last night looked as if it were a scripted “Saturday Night Live” sketch!

I was seriously waiting for him to say “Live from New York, it’s ‘Saturday Night!’”

I love it. Republicans are hilarious and should be studied! From Palin to Jindal… what’s next?!? Is Joe Lieberman finally gonna take that full plunge to the Right to serve as Chief Ass Clown of the Grand Ass Clown Party?

God… that would be sweet.

So keep me laughing, conservatives! You’re on one hell of a roll!

Jindal is Kenneth the Page,

-Shady

…four reviews. Go!

BOOKS:

“Chicken and Cat Clean Up” by Sara Varon – When it comes to telling a good story, one of the things I envy most is when someone is able to tell their tale without writing a single word. Of course, being an illustrator and a writer helps, and Sara Varon is lucky to be both. “Chicken and Cat Clean Up” is the picture book follow-up to Varon’s debut Chicken and Cat book (appropriately titled “Chicken and Cat”). What follows is a short and sweet forty-page story about the diligent and hardworking Chicken, his lazy and clumsy best friend Cat, and what happens when they start a housekeeping business together. It’s a fun story for kids (and balding thirty-something men) of all ages. And if your child happens to be illiterate, they can enjoy it, too! Just kidding. It’s like those library posters always read: Reading is fun and mental! Or something like that. And books like “Chicken and Cat Clean Up” prove it. And yes, that’s a compliment.

“Bone: Volume 9 – Crown of Horns” by Jeff Smith – I first got into Jeff Smith’s “Bone” nearly twenty years ago. (Lord, I’m old.) In fact, Smith was one of the first interviews we ever featured in “Tastes Like Chicken,” back when we were copying it on a Xerox machine for our college campus. Collected here is the ninth and final installment of Smith’s work which, even after all these years, still easily holds up as being fun, smart and beautifully crafted. Both the illustration and writing is impeccable, but the brilliance of “Bone” lies in its simplicity and ability to tell a story that both kids and adults can enjoy. It’s storytelling like this that I strive to create. (Well, outside of my serial killer stories, of course.) This last book in the series collects issues #50 thru #55, and wraps up a story that began back in 1991. One of the best aspects of the Scholastic release is the color work that was done by Steve Hamaker. Before these books were released, it was hard to think of “Bone” being done in anything but clean, black-and-white line work. Now, it’s hard to think of them in anything but Hamaker’s beautiful colors. If you own the previous eight books, chances are you’re going to pick this one up. If you don’t own any of them yet, don’t start here! Go back and pick up Book One (“Out From Boneville”) and start reading. Trust me, you’ll get here eventually.

DVDs:

“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” – First, I should mention this is a Blu-ray review, not a DVD review. Now, when it comes to Italian writer/director Dario Argento, I think there are two kinds of people: those who love him and mention him in the same breath as George Romero and Alfred Hitchcock, and those who just don’t get what the fuss is all about. In the past I’ve been more in the latter category than the former, but “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” from 1970 may very well change that. This is Argento’s writing/directing debut, and maybe that’s partly why I feel that he’s at his finest here. The film has balls, and it seems apparent that Argento is making the movie for himself. If other people like it, awesome; but it felt as if he were making it for an audience of one. Telling the story of an American writer who witnesses an attack while living in Rome, “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” is the perfect blend of violent, sometimes masochistic horror, and intense mental torture.

“Videogame Theater” – If you’re a fan of “Crank Yankers” and the like, chances are you’ll like “Videogame Theater.” Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of “Crank Yankers” because I feel it suffers from a cliched gimmick that has been used regularly since Peter Jackson’s “Meet the Feebles” in 1989, and that gimmick is the use of farting and swearing puppets. That alone is not funny, people. It has to go somewhere beyond that to truly be entertaining, and “Videogame Theater” just never gets there. Collected here are thirteen shorts of classic video game characters (in puppet form) immersed in hackneyed “life” situations: Pac-Man is a Ms. Pac-Man-abusing junkie; Lara Croft walks around with her tits hanging out; Mario wants to rape the Princess; Q*Bert is retarded. Yawn. If you’re 13 years old and think a nude drawing of Marge Simpson is hilarious, pick this up. If you’re anyone else (and I mean anyone else), don’t bother.

-Shady

"The Book of CLAV"

I went to a private art school for college and back then groups of kids would hang out in these… well, I guess you’d call them “cliques.”

Of course, that term has a terrible negative connotation to it, but I don’t mean it in that way because the types of cliques I’m talking about weren’t obnoxious. It’s not like we had a college basketball clique, or a date rapist clique.

Though we did have a smelly, dirty-hippie drum-circle clique, which is almost as bad as a date rapist clique.

Anyway, like-minded artists would inevitably seek each other out, and the product of that would be these clusters of creative kids; almost like individual art collectives moving around and about each other on campus.

Occasionally, these groups would overlap. Maybe an illustration kid would somehow bleed into a group of fine artists, or a photography kid would fall in with some advertising design geeks. This made it interesting and, especially looking back on it as I type this, I’m extremely nostalgic for those days now.

Back then, I was part of a clique. We were the goofy Chicken kids, and we were in charge of the campus newspaper which, at the time, was called “Chickenhead.”

Another well-known group back then was a collective of kids we always referred to as “The Bucket Kids.”

The Bucket Kids were brilliant. They were musicians and writers and photographers and painters. They did it all. They also had this great bar in their basement/practice space, and I downed quite a few drinks there.

Eventually, and like the Chickens before them, the Buckets grew up, graduated, and moved forward.

But that doesn’t mean they stopped creating great work.

Just as “Chickenhead” would eventually go on to become “Tastes Like Chicken,” the Bucket would go on and become Omnibucket.

Today, Omnibucket exists much as it did years ago: as a creative collective of friends who obviously are having a great time working on new projects together. Over the years, they’ve published a small magazine (“OLOGY”), an illustrated storybook (“God’s Acre: The Ravens & The Rhyme”), a book/CD combo of science fiction and poetry (“Eleventy Billion Miles Away”) and more illustrations, photographs and writing than most art school graduates do in their entire post-college career.

Their newest project (after that lengthy intro) is “The Book of CLAV,” which was just released earlier this year.

Now, of course, “The Book of CLAV” is filled with both great art and brilliant writing, but what makes it stand out as being more than just a collected sketchbook is its concept.

In their own words: “A frustrated artist, in the absence of his muse, finds a series of discarded paintings and becomes an accidental author, detailing the rise of an envied, yet anonymous painter (CLAV).”

It’s the story of a journal of collected art from an unknown artist, as interpreted and told by an anonymous author. It’s an idea Charlie Kaufman himself should envy.

Artist Tyler Landry plays the role of CLAV, and Scott Lambridis’ writing gives life to the anonymous author. Each compliments the other–the art the words, the words the art. A cohesive tone and feel is set from the beginning, and the reader/viewer knows from page one that they’re in for something they’ve never seen before.

The book had a very limited print run of only 75 copies, so grab a copy before they sell out by clicking here. The cost is $30, and it’s worth every nickel.

If $30 is a little steep for you during these crazy economic times (i.e. you’re out of a job) you’re in luck because Omnibucket is offering the entire book online for free. That’s right: free. There’s also a soundtrack you can download and listen to as you view the book online.

Now you have no excuse not to check it out.

If you know me, like me and trust my judgment, you clearly have some issues. But before reality sets in on that thought, hop on over to their site and pick up a copy of “The Book of CLAV.”

Great job, Scott, Angie and the rest of the gang! Congrats! Way to keep that Bucket spirit alive!

The Book of Justin,

-Shady

Really?

Pretzles

This is the sign that hangs above the pretzel aisle at our local grocery store (Albertson’s).

It made me stop for a moment and ask myself: Should I really be buying the food I put into my body from a store that can’t spell “pretzels” correctly?

The answer: Yes. Because they’re a shitload cheaper than Ralph’s.

Still, kinda funny.

Choking on pretzles with Bush,

-Shady

…a friend of mine was directing an eight-piece orchestra in the basement of an art gallery (POVevolving) in Chinatown. He created and composed all of the music himself; truly a brilliant talent.

His name is Ali Helnwein, and you should definitely check out his website.

On the way back to our car we passed another gallery, the David Salow Gallery, and standing in the front window staring back at me was my dirty laundry.

Or, more accurately, the work of artist Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor.

Actually, let me show you exactly what I saw. I took this picture with my cell phone:

Elisabeth Higgins O'Connor

O’Connor is responsible for these enormous creatures made out of discarded clothing and bed sheets and afghans and comforters. They look as if a pile of your dirty laundry–you know, the one you disregard for weeks as it sits in the corner of your bedroom–all of a sudden were to stand up and look you dead in the eye.

And they just stand there, hovering above you, staring you down; somehow managing to be both soft and cuddly, and intimidating as fuck all at once.

The gallery was closed by the time we left so I didn’t have a chance to walk in and get face-to-face with one of these monsters, but I’ll definitely make an effort to get back down there before the show closes at the end of the month.

For whatever reason, her work really struck a chord with me. To learn more about Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, visit her website here.

They remind me of Henson creatures,

-Shady

here!

Stains,

-Shady

You’re not going to believe this, but I got ten CDs sent to me for review and I love them all! If you know me, you know this is a pretty rare occurrence.

I also have a HUGE stack of music to review after this batch, so I’m going to try and keep these as short as humanly possible. Because, you know, I sometimes have a tendency to go on and on.

Like this one time, when I–

Just kidding. Let’s go!

Tone-Loc “Loc-ed After Dark: 20th Anniversary Edition” – Tone-Loc is back?!? Get the Loc out of here! Okay, so he’s not really back. They’ve just gone ahead and released a remastered version of his rap classic that is now… twenty years old? THIS ALBUM IS TWENTY FUCKING YEARS OLD?!? Oh my God… that makes me… OLD! Yeah, the album is both cheesy and camp-tastic, but that’s what makes it great. Oddly enough, Young MC (of “Bust A Move” fame) wrote most of Loc’s most popular hits, including “Funky Cold Medina” and “Wild Thing.” The entire original album is here, along with a few remixes and B-sides thrown in for good measure. You won’t be able to find this in stores or on Amazon (it’s a digital-only release), but download this oldie-but-a-goodie and relive all of those awkward middle school dances.

Dude, I’m doing a shitty job of keeping these short.

N.A.S.A. “The Spirit of Apollo” – Every once in a great while, an album comes along that nearly everyone can connect with. In the past, bands like Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz and OutKast released albums that did just that. And now, mark my words: Three months from today, everyone is going to be listening to “The Spirit of Apollo.” They’re gonna be playing it on TV commercials; it will be put into heavy rotation during sporting event halftimes; even your grandma will be spinning it (in the background, as she gets nailed by your grandfather). The brainchild of Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel, also known as the younger brother of director Spike Jonze) and DJ Zegon (Ze Gonzales), this dynamic duo somehow managed to record an album that features every musician ever known to man. No, seriously. Their debut features guest appearances from: Chuck D, Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, Z-Trip, David Byrne, DJ Swamp, Method Man, John Frusciante, RZA, KRS-One, Fatlip, Slim Kid Tre, Karen O, Tom Waits, Kool Keith, Kanye West, Santogold, George Clinton, Lovefoxxx, Spank Rock, M.I.A., DJ Qbert, DJ AM, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Ghostface Killah. And guess what?!? I DIDN’T EVEN NAME EVERY GUEST ON THE ALBUM! Even though I love all of the albums I’m reviewing here today, this one should be at the top of your purchase list.

These reviews are ridiculously long. For realsies.

Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion” – I first got into Animal Collective when they released the four-song single “Prospect Hummer” back in 2005. I think Animal Collective is similar to bands like Yo La Tengo in that people either love them deeply or forget them immediately. I’m more the former, though this album did hit a few cold spots along the way. I prefer my Animal Collective a little more experimental and out there, but at times “Merriweather Post Pavilion” felt almost too rehearsed. Still, I’d say about 80% of the disc is solid, and that’s more than you’re gonna get from most bands out there today.

Pete Doherty “Grace/Wastelands” – Pete Doherty is one sad motherfucker, and “Grace/Wastelands” sounds like his suicide note to the world. I never got into The Libertines, of which Doherty was a member of, but this disc is a far cry from the punk-driven sound of his musical alma mater. Instead of standard “fuck the man” punk anthems, we’re given stripped-down singer/songwriter gems that leave us feeling like total and utter shit. So the next time it’s gray outside and you want to cry, put this disc on! Just be sure to hide your knives first.

The Five Corners Quintet “Hot Corner” – The Five Corners Quintet is a Helsinki-based jazz five-piece. Read that again: They play jazz! In Finland! And somehow, though I’m not exactly sure how, they manage to capture all of the nuances of early American jazz and then twist it and mash it into becoming its own thing. It’s as if the old innocent standards were slipped a mickey and then quickly bent over by an abusive and demanding postmodern jazz. Does that make any sense? Because it does to me, and I heard the disc. I think you’ll just have to pick it up to see if I’m spot-on or just silly drunk. (But keep in mind that I could be both.)

Bibio “Vignetting the Compost” – I love this disc. Unfortunately, it’s so different from anything else out there that I’m having a hard time explaining what it sounds like. Still, let me try: Bibio creates old-timey, scratch- and hiss-filled tunes that blend the simple sounds of yesterday with the technical studio know-how of today. It’s like if you were to find an old pair of those huge headphones from the early seventies, and then put them on and only hear sounds from the turn of the century. That is Bibio. How could it get more impressive? Like this: Bibio is one man, a fellow named Stephen James Wilkinson. And this is his third full-length release. Looks like I’ve got some CD-bin digging to do at Amoeba.

Q-Tip “The Renaissance” – This came out awhile ago, but I want to point out how good of an album it is. The Abstract is back, and in classic Tribe fashion. I know he lost a few listeners with his “harder” and more pop-driven solo release “Amplified” back in 1999, but “The Renaissance” returns to the roots of what made Q-Tip the member of A Tribe Called Quest. From the first beat to the last break, Q dishes out new rhymes with an old sound that are sure to become instant classics. Be sure to pay close attention to “We Fight/We Love” (featuring guest vocalist Raphael Saadiq), and “Life Is Better” (with guest Norah Jones).

Various Artists “Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement” – I’ve been reviewing CDs for ten years now (Christ!), and over the years I’ve become a fan of many of the compilations that Time Life has released. This three-disc set is no exception. “Let Freedom Sing” collects nearly 60 songs that were created for or inspired by the history of the Civil Rights Movement. From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” in 1939 to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in 1971, this set documents the decades-long journey of African-Americans as they transform their hopes and fears into beats and lyrics. Sure, I own most of these songs already on other discs, but the strength of the set isn’t one or two individual songs. Instead, its strength lies in its numbers and the story it tells. It also features a set introduction by Chuck D, and comes in a nice book-like case. A nice addition to one’s already-respectable music collection. And by “one’s” I mean “my.”

-Shady

…and hopefully after checking out these vintage clips of them in action, you will be, too.

-Shady

Yep, I’m a Disney nerd. A Disnerd, if you will.

The movies, eh, I’m not that big on. But when it comes the world of theme parks, in my opinion, there is none higher.

So a little part of me freaked out with the rest of my fellow Disnerds last year when Disneyland announced it was “reworking” their It’s a Small World attraction to squeeze in a few trade characters.

Ugh, right?

Well… maybe.

First, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the ride. It’s a long ride with an even longer theme song, and it’s not the most thrilling fifteen minutes you’ll spend in the park. Still, I’m able to enjoy it because A) it’s one of the few rides left that Walt actually had a hand in designing, and B) I love the work of the true architect of the ride, artist Mary Blair.

But just because I’m not a huge Small World fan doesn’t mean I want some marketing morons going in and screwing it up by plastering Mickey’s face all over the place. The park already has enough of that in every nook and cranny, and it definitely doesn’t need more of it inside its rides.

I was able to ride the new version of It’s a Small World three days after it re-opened and, I have to admit, I was fearing the absolute worst. But the truth is, it’s not that bad.

Some of the new characters stick out like a sore thumb, while others are blended in so well that I had to have our friend Ryan (who works in the park) point them out to me.

So let’s go in the order that you’d see them appear on the ride. I’m pretty sure I got all of them, but my apologies if I missed a shot or two.

Alice and the White Rabbit
Alice and the White Rabbit

Not bad. Both characters are stylized enough, yet maintain a nod of acknowledgment to the overall design of the ride. Although, they were right outside of the boat. They could have been pushed back into the set a little more.

Cinderella
Cinderella

Great. I never would have noticed this one without Ryan. Blending in as it should.

Pinocchio
Pinocchio

Another good example of working something in rather than forcing it in. This wasn’t as obvious as previous ones because it was higher than eye level; although, the lights around it do guide the viewer right to it.

Aladdin and Jasmine
Aladdin and Jasmine

Hanging above the boats, and done in typical Mary Blair style. If the flying carpet had been different, I never would have thought twice about this being Aladdin.

Simba and Pumba
Simba and Pumba

Teetering that fine line between “fitting in” and “standing out.” It’s not perfect, but it definitely could have been worse. For example…

The Three Caballeros
The Three Caballeros

…like this. Donald Duck is the only “classic” Disney character incorporated into the ride and they absolutely should have left him out. This isn’t some Small World take on Donald Duck; this is Donald Duck thrown into Small World. The most successful additions are the humans because that’s what the bulk of the ride features. Throwing a Mariachi Donald Duck into the mix is just distracting.

Ariel
Ariel

I’m not sure what kind of “people” live under the sea, but who cares about that when you can throw a mermaid into the ride? After all, you can kill two birds with one stone because if you work in Ariel that means you can also easily work in…

Dori and Nemo
Dori and Nemo

…Dori and Nemo. Yeah, these last two should have been left out. They’re too obvious, too much their own thing.

Lilo and Stitch
Lilo and Stitch

This one I’m 50/50 on. I can accept Lilo, but Stitch is a stretch. At least Hawaii is a part of Earth. Space? Not so much.

Woody and Jessie from "Toy Story"
Woody and Jessie from “Toy Story”

And finally, the brand-new Tribute to America room. I also have mixed feelings on these characters because they can work as “humans” if need be, but I just can’t come to grips with the reality of a Tribute to America room! Even though I think they look pretty good, I’d be willing to lose the characters if it meant we could get rid of the new room entirely.

Jessie from "Toy Story"
Jessie from “Toy Story”
Woody from "Toy Story"
Woody from “Toy Story”

And finally, I want to leave you with my favorite (and a classic) character from the original ride.

My favorite
My favorite

Before the overhaul, the Tribute to America room was the Rainforest room. They managed to keep the Rainforest room–albeit a more crammed and condensed version of what it once was–and save the umbrella-holding alligator in the process. Hey, it’s not perfect by any means, but at least he’s still there.

So that’s the rundown, folks. I have to admit, it’s not as terrible as I had feared. In fact, it’s kind of cool in parts.

Just get rid of that Tribute to America room. For the love of all that is holy. Please.

A world of hopes and a world of fears,

-Shady

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