Friday, April 30, 2010

Novelty Treats: Your evidence is compelling

Kids and their tumblrs. They have them for everything these days.  The internet is just one big photo archive where you can never find quite the right photo you're looking for.  This tumblr, though, offers a particularly persuasive photographic argument.  John Goodman, you see, is the Insane Clown Posse's Violent J.  Look at those jowls...it can only be fact.

Two questions: 1. This is the second time I've mentioned Insane Clown Posse between here and Love & Squalor this week.  How have they become an internet thing?  Like, really.  2. Is it totally valid of me to be annoyed that a three post tumblr can get more comments than this blog ever can? What's up with that?

Seen & Heard: Christina Aguilera


Its been awhile since we've seen Christina Aguilera on the charts.  She took a break, and the pop music scene slanted dramatically in the direction of Gaga and away from the ruling coy sexualities of our slowly aging pop tarts.  So, it's no surprise that Aguilera's video return, "Not Myself Tonight" seems to follow from Gaga's brash and unapologetic example.  I won't follow Perez Hilton and call it a 'rip-off'.  That seems unfair, as Gaga herself samples from a bevy of musical influences and both artists owe much to Madonna.  What I will say is that Aguilera and her team of stylists do seem to be attempting to play within the risque costuming vein Gaga works with...but they got it all wrong.  Sorry Xtina, but you have to do more than prance around in provocative lingerie and attempt girl-on-girl shock value to make a music video these days.  You've missed the satirical aspect, the allusions, and the shameless camp of it all, not to mention, it looks like you raided the strip mall Lover's Lane instead of Alexander McQueen.  This comeback lacks bite and feels like a polished up repeat of "Dirrty" only this time you're trying to shirk the married mommy role instead of your girlhood innocence.

I feel meh about this.  What do you think?

Owls. Plain and Simple.

There's an owl that chatters all night on my roof.  Like every night.  This is occasionally annoying but mostly it's awesome because owls are pretty awesome.  That's fifth grade logic, right there, and something you should know.  This is a post that has nothing to do with anything.  It's not even new science (they've totally used this tactic with other animals, condors, for example)!  But, it's very charming.  Three orphan tawny owl chicks are being raised by workers at a hawk rescue center using a puppet "Super Mum" with a tweezer beak in an attempt not to acclimate them to the presence of humans (or wizards).  Cute.  Don't even pretend.  Puppets and owls.  Cute. [source]

Look...more owls.

This little screech owl definitely has opinions on politics. This is the face that it gives you when you're running your mouth on immigration law and national health care using facts you picked up from television talking heads. This screech owl wants to know just where you got those percentages from.

Meanwhile, that owl...the great horned one who's looking at you and saying "and what?" is basically the one that chatters on my roof at all hours of the evening.  I know this because one night he was on another roof pretending to be a gargoyle demon and I looked out the window and stared him down.  It was pretty epic, but ultimately, I closed the shutters and he was still there.  So, really, he won because that's not something I want to mess with. 





Update 5/1: Guys, guess what? You can watch a live feed of a nest of owlets out in California.  It's like going to the zoo, but at your desk. Or, walking outside and getting in an owl mom's face, but at your desk.  Actually, at your desk and not in owl mom's face is probably a really good place to be...
Streaming live video by Ustream

They're Kind of Busy...


Is this what Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye would have been doing if they were in Afghanistan?  Maybe, yes. Also, of course that's a White Christmas reference.  Shut your mouth.  Anyway, this is a video of some US Army guys doing their own version of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video in fatigues.  The youtube description claims this is just a rough cut, and that more scenes are to be added.  Really though, I'm pretty sure this means Kathryn Bigelow needs to go in and reshoot footage for The Hurt Locker so that the barrack brawl scene is replaced with the soldiers doing some dancey dance R&R.  It would make the movie so much better.

James Cameron (wait for it) IN SPACE.

Now that James Cameron's ego has expanded to a size the Earth is not capable of accommodating, there's only one place left for him to go.  Space.  The final frontier.  The place where the man who gave us Avatar may be dragging his 3D cameras next.  You read that correctly.  It has been reported that Cameron has met with NASA administrator Charles Bolden to convince him to attach 3D technology to the Mars rover Curiosity, which is slated for launch in 2011.  The Pasadena Star News claims the camera would record 10-frames per second and the goal (aside from a likely documentary) would be to heighten awareness and get folks excited about Mars exploration.  That or Cameron is a space conquistador, and he's been Richard Dreyfussing it out in his mansion making replicas of Devil's Tower and the Martian landscape making desperate phone calls to NASA at 3 AM begging them to launch him towards Mars because he's had more experience with alien politics than anyone this side of the Emperor Palpatine and he sees you.  He sees you NASA, his brothers and he knows you understand that he's already king of this world.   

Sometimes I think that Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) looks an awful lot like an older James Cameron.  I know, I'm a scoun.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh, Bother....

Guys, I'm totally failing miserably for the month of April.  I mean, here it is, the 26th of an already short month, and the number of posts just barely stretches into the double digits.  Epic fail.  I have excuses, sure.  We all know that most 20-something bloggers don't find their income via their internet ramblings, and I've wrapping up a semester on top of that.  Would it help if I revealed that part of the reason April was so short on posts is because I had a 232 page novel to finish and revise?  There you go.  Anyway.  We have important things to talk about.  Not really important, but things have happened and I haven't addressed them.  It's too late to do full posts on a lot of this stuff.  I mean, telling you now that Sex Pistols manager and punk impresario Malcolm McLaren died April 8th of mesothelioma at the too young age of 64 seems a little delayed.  But it happened.  Make note of it.  Tag it with a RIP.  


Past that, the seventh season of Project Runway came to an end and it was so much better than the sixth (handicapped) season it wasn't even funny.  The talent and vision were back up to standards and I had to hand it to each of the designers that made it to New York Fashion Week.  They all belonged.  But, of course (spoiler alert?), my horse still won.  Seth-Aaron Henderson crossed the finish line with a collection inspired by German & Russian military garb of WWII....and, I mean, it didn't even look as cool as the stuff he trashed from his show at the urging of TIm Gunn.  Guys, I don't mean to brag, but I'm on a winning streak with predictions and this show.  No, seriously. I've favored the winner from season 3's Jeffrey Sebelia onward (for season 2, I still think Santino Rice was the most interesting contender).  Anyway, I'm not going to lie, but I was pretty disappointed by runner-up Emilio's display of sore loserdom at the reunion.  Dude, it's not like you didn't get yourself a shit ton of exposure.  And Jay?  Yeah. I'm sorry, you weren't fooling anyone.  Those deep v-neck t-shirts were somehow operating as a signal that you were secretly a catty bitch the whole time.  We knew.  Secret is out.  Blame the models all you want.  We're all sitting her judging.  

Meanwhile, in reality tv land, the less talented, attention grabbing sibling to Project Runway, America's Next Top Model has managed to reach a new level of ridiculous this season.  Everyone on that show right now either became a mom when they were still a teenager or is out to start catfights and cause drama.  Meanwhile, Andre Leon Talley is inventing new words, sitting around in his gigantic caftan, and waving his arms at the screen finding things worthwhile while I just sit there and go...really?  Less than impressed. Less than impressed.  I know there are probably people in the viewing public who totally disagree with me, but with Top Model, finding out the girl is a mom is a serious detractor for me.  No matter what they do I can't bring myself to like them.  This could have something to do with the way they're always crying in the confessionals about missing their infant child.  I don't know.  Apparently I'm really bad at not judging the personal lives of reality tv stars guys.  I'm as bad as Jay.  Krista. I like her.  Raina.  She'll make it up there as well. 


Big new thing today is M.I.A.'s graphically violent, seriously political, definitely NSFW video for her new single "Born Free" (which also, oddly, makes a really intense soundtrack to the chariot race from Ben-Hur. yes. i know this from experience).  It's an epic 9 minutes and features ginger boys being rounded up and executed. What do we make of this?  Discuss.
Additional discussion? South Park scandal.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone have found themselves is Salman Rushdie territory.  I'm not too keen on what this means for freedom of expression within our own country.  I think this shot from the opening credits to last night's episode of The Simpsons is sort of worth more than a thousand words....beginning with 'eek'.  

Meanwhile, and of absolutely no relation, Janelle Monae has an awesome Metropolis crown hat thing.  It's just another reason why she's cooler than you.  Adapt. Resistance is futile.


This is the intentionally blurred cover of the May issue of the Elle UK.  That's Kylie Minogue but what it really is is arty and different and eye catching.  No clutter, no headlines, just an image.  Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure that Anna Wintour and the rest of the crew at American Vogue have totally given up on making their cover shots unique. Month after month it's red, white, and black all over with super safe glamor and uninspiring photography. Not good.  Here's what I demand: Anna, step aside, all your covers are now belong to Grace.  She'll style them, she'll choose the final shot, she'll bring back the models.  Is that clear?  Good.  Also, give me a job.  K? Thanks.


BTW, Kylie has an album coming out.  I know that made like five of you run around doing a deranged happy dance.










Also: Tilda Swinton.  She's what you need, American Vogue.  Court her.  Don't leave her for W.  You need more avant garde street cred.

Once, long ago, I read the book Morvern Callar.  This week, I watched Lynne Ramsay's film adaptation.  Uhhh....guys, I'd seen Ratcatcher and was at least a little familiar with Ramsay's work. Ratcatcher was good, but didn't do much for me.  This one, though, was completely unexpected.  A completely gorgeous cinematographic experience.  Morvern was Ramsay's last effort, and that was way back in 2002.  This year, however, we can expect a Ramsay resurgence with We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring John C. Reilly and (yep) Tilda Swinton as the parents of the titular boy; a teenager responsible for a school massacre. The tough subject matter, combined with the post-Bigelow-Oscar craze for female directors, could usher in some serious accolades this side of the pond for the talented ms. Ramsay.   
What else, what else...oh, in her new memoir, Pam Grier says she had a case of cocaine vagina:



He said, "Pam, I want to tell you about an epidemic that's prevalent in Beverly Hills right now. It's a buildup of cocaine residue around the cervix and in the vagina. You have it. Are you doing drugs?"
"No," I said, astonished.
"Well, it's really dangerous," he went on. "Is your partner putting cocaine on his penis to sustain his erection?"
"No," I said, "not that I know of. It's not like he has a pile of cocaine next to the bed and he dips his penis in it before we have sex." I had a nauseating flash of one of Richard's famous lines: Even my dick has a cocaine jones.
"Are you sure he isn't doing it in the bathroom before he comes to bed?" the doctor asked.
"That's a possibility," I said. "You know, I am dating Richard Pryor."
"Oh, my God," he said. "We have a serious problem here. If he's not putting it on his skin directly, then it's worse because the coke is in his seminal fluid.""
Jezebel has consulted with physicians.  They say this is pretty unlikely.  But, we all know that non-fiction relies more on individual memory of the experience than fact.  If Foxy Brown says Richard Prior gave her cocaine vagina, I'm not going to call her a liar.  You don't mess with Foxy.

That about sums it up, I think.  Boring boring boring. I keep having visions of basically just living in a swimming pool.  Or, I could live next to one.  Sydney, anyone?  Or, at least Vegas.  I need a vacation.  For reals. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: Kick-Ass


Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves.  Kick-Ass is now playing in every theater near you.  It's threatening your morals and values, being an affront to your taste level, shaming you when you find it amusing, and attracting the children to its candy colored, high octane, profanity peppered orgy of blood.  It's dividing critics into camps of those patently offended and those reluctantly waving their fanboy freak flags.   And it will most certainly be featured with commentators deriding it as a negative influence and cause of violence in America on some Fox News evening report with a red faced talking head yelling about how outrageous it is and how Hollywood is a contemporary Gomorrah.  More importantly, however, maybe most importantly, as the characters in the film might tell you, Kick-Ass is f#@!*$g awesome, a smartly crafted whirlwind action comedy that skimps on neither part and slams its viewer with ethical questions that have never been more fun to address.  Yes, I belong to the league of disaffected youth who think playing Grand Theft Auto is a blast.  Take my commentary and slant it with that in mind... (blogger is being weird and not letting me end with the little flourish...so, read more here: http://www.blogandsqualor.com/2010/04/love-kick-ass.html)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Music: Scissor Sisters



I'm enjoying "Invisible Light", the first track from the return of the Scissor Sisters.  If the song, moving towards a darker sound rooted in the music of New Order and Soft Cell (I'm thinking "Sex Dwarf", not "Tainted Love"), is any indication, with their album Night Work the group seems to have moved out of a 70's Elton John influence and deeply into the 80's.  The Sisters describe their third studio album as "supersexual and sleazy" and I'm digging it down to the Robert Mapplethorpe cover art and Ian McKellan voiced segue (4:01).   I quite enjoyed their self-titled first record, but I mean...I could love this.  I'm not at all ashamed to admit it.

Night Work is slated for a June 28th release.   

Review: Date Night

Last Saturday, you'd have been better off throwing down the money for a late night movie ticket to Date Night than watching Tina Fey host SNL.  The SNL was a festival of awkward invested too heavily in spotlighting Fey, prodding young Justin Bieber, and the success of the predictable Sarah Palin sketch.  That's what happens lately on the show, they get a real comedian and the cast and host seem to be locked in some sort of power struggle in which nobody really wins.  So, Fey winds up unfortunately sinking on SNL and shining alongside Steve Carell in silly rom-com buddy action flick Date Night.  Who would have thought? The film revolves around a simple, fluffy premise; boring couple Claire & Phil Foster (Fey and Carell) from New Jersey tries to spice up their predictable, vanilla marriage by stealing someone else's dinner reservation at a Manhattan hot spot and suffer a case of mistaken identity that sees them pursued by a big time mobster (Ray Liotta) and wrapped up in political scandal.  It's a frothy story with a relatively blase script, nothing you haven't seen before and nothing you won't see again.  Yet, as you watch Fey and Carell dodge bullets, awkwardly pole dance, and engage in grand theft auto, something magical happens: you like them, you really like them....



Seriously? Bad Decisions All Around.

Alright, I'm going to go ahead and just say that I have absolutely no idea why Dreamworks thought this would ever be a good idea.  Then I'm going to follow it and wonder why the hell men's mag Vman would ever want to use these animated characters in a photo spread.  Seriously.  There's little that screams 'fashion' or 'iconic' about Shrek & co., and now Dreamworks and Paramount are left with what the Hollywood Reporter calls "serious regrets" about allowing the magazine to use the characters in a photo shoot for a summer issue. Apparently, what they expected was a more "reverential treatment of [their] most valuable characters", one akin to the Harper's Bazaar integration of Simpsons characters clad in Chanel, Versace, et al prior to the release of The Simpsons Movie.  If I were expecting that, yeah, I'd be disappointed too.  What they got was ladies in lingerie leaning up against Donkey, some awful Photoshop integration, and a whole lot of super tacky nonsense.  More embarrassing for Dreamworks or Vman?  I can't decide.  It's a "fashion" equivalent of a photo shoot conducted standing next to cardboard cutouts aimed at 8-year olds.  WTFs abound.  Pretty sad.

Hollywood Sign Hotel

The Hollywood sign itself may be owned by the city of Los Angeles, but the land around it belongs to private investors.  The Daily News reports that young architect Christian Bay-Jorgensen, fearing the obstruction of the iconic sign by private homes, has proposed building up the sign and transforming it into a boutique hotel.  Each 45-foot plywood letter would be enlarged to double the size and built up from behind so that visitors would be able to stay within the sign itself. Jorgensen acknowledges how far-fetched his concept and his toying with the landmark is:
"I know people are scared," he said. "I know they are afraid this idea will turn it into Disneyland."
But when tourists from other countries come to see the sign, they imagine a majestic structure. Instead, they see "plywood and white paint."
"This area should be more public," he said. "I think this could be something that could improve the experience of the LA resident, to let them see the sign in a new way." (source)
I think the idea is an interesting one, though not one people should expect to develop anytime soon.  Cara Rule, from the board of Hollywood United Neighborhood Council and Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust (the group in charge of maintaining the sign), both tell the News it's not going to happen.   The general conclusion from officials in the city of celluloid?  That idea is just too far-fetched.

Eight: O



iamamiwhoami's identity has been all but officially revealed (it's Jonna Lee), but the act has begun to release singles on iTunes (under iamamiwhoami) and has a new full-length music video out titled "O".  It's a solid track , one that we heard muted strains of in earlier viral videos and that hints at some of the electronic-based influences folks had guessed at (a little bit of Bat for Lashes, a touch of Fever Ray), but also one that stands easily on its own.  Consider this mystery basically solved.  The reveal may have been a bit anticlimactic, but at least it's led to something high quality.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Seen & Heard: Janelle Monae Walks the "Tightrope"



Remember last March when I went crazy for Janelle Monae and then subsequently put her songs "Violet Stars Happy Hunting" and "Many Moons" on nearly every playlist I made in 2009?  Maybe you don't, but if you weren't paying attention then, it's time to wise up.  Monae's full-length studio album The ArchAndroid is finally dropping on May 18th, and she's been prepping the planet Earth for her arrival with features in every culture rag from Nylon to Vogue, bringing in the men's wear trend full force, playing small venues in cities all over the country, and throwing down the video for the album's single "Tightrope" featuring Big Boi.  I went to check out Monae's concert at Schuba's in Chicago a couple weeks back, and I can tell you she's not to be missed live.  She's an artist with a vision, and she's carrying it out in a way that pays homage to a cavalcade of influences while simultaneously building a sound that matches the funk bent of her on-stage narrative (unlike, for example, the somewhat similar sci-fi fashion bent of another image conscious pop star: Lady Gaga...no, I'm not hating, merely repeating that I don't think her sound has caught up to the maturity of her vision).  All that and she dances, too, as the video for "Tightrope" will prove.  This is high energy, high intensity music to run around like a fool to and I'm officially ranking this as one of the most anticipated albums of 2010.  Check out the video and tell me you're not ready to invest in a pair of tuxedo pants. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Novelty Treats: Bye Bye Birdie


If you watch Mad Men, you'll remember the season three episode in which the Sterling-Cooper gang tries to capitalize of the success of Bye Bye Birdie's opening Ann-Margret sequence in a television ad for Patio, Pepsi's short lived diet cola.  This video is not that, but captures the cast and crew of the show performing their own renditions of the musical's title number.  Jon Hamm dancing, Elisabeth Moss texting, John Slattery in a wig, Rich Sommer missing his clothes, I don't know why this happened, but for some reason am amused enough to send it along to you.  If you're like me and just caught up with the third season on DVD, this may appease the bitterness you felt when you discovered that the supposed 'musical' episode was not so much a musical as just featuring a few random, contextually integrated musically themed sequences.  Bah. 

Trailer: I Am Love

Magnolia Pictures released a new stateside trailer for I Am Love, a film that (much like A Single Man) I've been dying to see (I missed out on the Chicago EU Fest premiere at the Siskel Center, and am still kicking myself).  Directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Tilda Swinton, I Am Love is reported to be a gorgeously luxe melodrama centered around a wealthy Italian family in the midst of turmoil.  While the family patriarch prepares to hand over the reins of his industrial company and begin anew, his wife enters into an affair with a chef.  Centered, as so many standout art films are, around food, sex, and family, I Am Love has thus far played to rave reviews at screenings and festivals.  We all know that I'll watch Swinton in just about anything, she's a phenomenal actress with a pretty impressive track record when it comes to picking her starring roles, lucky for me (and you), she has yet to fall into the trap of so many supporting Oscar winners.  I Am Love opens this weekend in the UK, but you can look for it to appear in limited release on June 18th in the US.

The Lollapalooza line-up was announced yesterday, and though I saw it first thing in the AM on Tuesday, I'm a day late in posting.  I know, I know, I fail...but if it helps, I've been literally running about flailing out of control like a hawk without tailfeathers. 

The Chicago fest's lineup may have an absence of Chicago bands, but it does stay true to the Lolla formula. The necessary smattering of eclecticism is accounted for: a couple big reunions (Soundgarden, The Strokes), some noteworthy vets (Devo, Jimmy Cliff), the big crowd pleasers (Lady Gaga, Green Day), and a heaping helping of indie rock and electronic. 

I bought my tickets about a week after last year's festival, so in spite of some scheduling conflicts (already! can you believe it?) I'll be accounted for at this year's Lolla.  My gut reactions are pretty mixed.  Overall, the lineup feels incomplete.  The number of bands feels smaller than previous years, and I have to hope they'll continue to add second and third tier acts beneath the headliners.  I'm also a tad disappointed they weren't able to snag recently reunited acts like Massive Attack, Blur, and Pavement, some of the touring acts included in lineups for fests like Coachella (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Miike Snow, The Gossip), or some repeat/cancelled artists from years prior (La Roux, Passion Pit). 

Check out the lineup and send me your feedback.  

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