Friday, April 30, 2010

Kick Ass!

Kick Ass - I had this film pegged as a sort of cute kids become superheroes who kick some adult butt all the while saying cutsie things for a good, wholesome laugh. Soooooo, why was this film Rated R? I had to find out. Well, this movie went above and beyond my expectations. Kick Ass is the nerdy superhero alter-ego of Dave Lizewski played by actor Aaron Johnson. When you go to see a movie entitled Batman, you expect Batman to be the badass of the show. Same for Superman. Well, Kick Ass is nowhere close. The character known as Hit-Girl, played by Chole Moretz, ABSOLUTELY steals the show. This pint-sized, potty-mouthed, vigilante is one of the most memorable characters I've seen in quite some time. Step aside Uma Thurman, Hit-Girl is the real deal! Excellent movie!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pop Tarts

An ascendant star in the entertainment industry is eventually going to be met with some sort of backlash. And is there any star in the universe bigger than Lady Gaga at this point? Hardly. Why it took as long as it did is a mystery to me, but earlier this month, M.I.A. took off the gloves in regards to the whole Lady Gaga phenomenon:
"People say we're similar, that we mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same! None of the music's reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She's the industry's last stab at making itself important - saying, 'You need our money behind you, the endorsements, the stadiums.' Respect to her, she's keeping a hundred thousand people in work, but my belief is: Do it yourself."

I would argue that you do need the industry's money behind you. Does anyone honestly believe that Lady Gaga would have moved up the music food chain as fast as she did without it? Would M.I.A. have broke into the mainstream without signing to Interscope Records? Possible, yes, but highly unlikely.

My issue with Lady Gaga is that I'm just not into her music. Her video for "Telephone" is one of the most absurd product placement vehicles I've ever seen. And I realize that sex sells, but trying to court controversy through sexuality is somewhat boring to me. What can you honestly do for shock value that Madonna hasn't already covered? I suppose I should give her points for not being a manufactured pop star in the same vein as Brittany Spears but, again, I'm just not into her music. With that said, I must add that, in defense of Lady Gaga, I don't exactly fit Gaga demographics. This music isn't made for me. I'm older. I want an artist's soul or anger to bleed out of my speakers. I want authenticity. Entertainment and shock value are not enough for me anymore.

But should I really be mining the pop landscape for the next Bob Dylan? No, but I've come pretty damn close to it in Marina and the Diamonds, a 24-year-old solo act whose real name is Marina Lambrini Diamandis(the Diamonds, she says, are her fans). And while it's unfair to compare Marina to Bob Dylan, she does possess the same "beyond her years" wisdom that Dylan did in the 60's - a hyper-awareness of cultural expectations and values against the reality of everyday life. There's a depth to her music that requires much more than the drive-through listening experience that has come to define the internet generation. Will Marina ever be as big as Lady Gaga? Absolutely not. She refuses to play the role that is required of her in this genre of music and, for that, she should be bigger than Lady Gaga. Marina is the reluctant middle finger of pop music.

Marina and the Diamonds' The Family Jewels will be released in America on May 25, 2010

The Trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi

In 2004, Syed Fahad Hashmi allowed a friend of his, Mohammed Junaid Babar, to stay at his apartment for two weeks. The contents of Babar's luggage, which was stored at Hashmi's apartment, were raincoats and waterproof socks. Babar eventually handed this suitcase containing "military equipment" off to a high ranking Al-Qaida operative. The U.S. government claims that Hashmi knew the contents of the luggage and their destination, therefore he knowingly aided terrorists. Who would've guessed that Al-Qaida operatives, who have laptops, GPS systems, and other such modern devices - have a devil of a time getting their hands on raincoats.

Despite the fact that he is not accused of any direct connection with Al-Qaida, Hashmi faces 70 years in prison and is currently locked up in the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan where he has been housed since 2007. According to Slate writer, Jeanne Theoharis(Hashmi was a student of hers at Brooklyn College), Hashimi's conditions are deplorable:
Hashmi is allowed contact only with his lawyers and his immediate family—one visit by one family member every other week for one and a half hours. His cell is electronically monitored 24 hours a day, so he showers and relieves himself in view of the camera. He cannot receive or send mail except with his immediate family. He cannot talk to other prisoners through the walls or take part in group prayer. He is allowed one hour of exercise a day, in a solitary cage without fresh air. These conditions have degraded his health—in pre-trial hearings, he appears increasingly withdrawn and less focused—and have interfered with his ability to participate in his own defense.

How fair will Hashimi's trial be? Well, consider that most of the evidence against Hashimi cannot be viewed by him or revealed by his attorney, Sean Maher. Why? Because much of the evidence is "sensitive" and could threaten national security. Therefore, Hasimi can't argue in his own defense. But who cares, right? His name is Syed Fahad Hasmi and he's a Muslim - he must be guilty.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tracey Thorn

Most musicians, whether they want to admit it or not, would kill for an international #1 hit single that makes them tons of money. The downside, however, is that it can sometimes define your career and overshadow your other musical achievements.

In 1995, the remixed version of the song "Missing" by the pop duo Everything But The Girl was released and went on to achieve huge commercial success, but it was only one piece of the musical puzzle for EBTG's Tracey Thorn whose first band, Marine Girls, would adopt the DIY aesthetic of the early 80's post-punk era and create a lounge-y accoustic sound that was as unique then as it is today.

What does this all have to do with the present? Well, Tracey Thorn's latest album Love And Its Opposite will be released next month on Strange Feeling Records and if it comes anywhere close to Marine Girls or Thorne's hugely underrated first solo album A Distant Shore(1982), it will be worth listening to.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


"I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver/And I'm reading James Joyce
Some people tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice."
-Bob Dylan("I Feel A Change Comin' On")

In 2007, one of the most underrated country musicians ever, Billie Joe Shaver, was on his way to a gig in Houston when he decided to stop off at a bar in Lorena. While inside, Shaver said that a man by the name of Billy Coker pulled a knife and asked him to go outside. "I wanted to scare him...beat him to the punch. I feared he was going to kill me," Shaver said. So they went outside and Billy Joe shot Coker in the face with a 22-caliber pistol. Coker lived but the bullet is still lodged in his neck. During the trial in Waco last week, of which Shaver was found not guilty, the prosecutor asked Shaver if he was jealous because Coker was talking to his wife Wanda. "I get more women than a passenger train can haul. I'm not jealous," replied Shaver.

In the courtroom to support his pal was none other than Willie Nelson who is in a bit of a pickle himself. While Billy Joe's trial was going on, North Carolina prosecutor, Dewey Hudson, gave a press conference stating that substances seized from Willie's tour bus back in January are being tested at the state lab in Raleigh. This isn't the first time that "substances" have been seized from Willie's bus. In 2006, Louisiana state police found 1 1/2 lbs. of marijuana and about three ounces of "narcotic mushrooms."

The genre of music that Wille and Billy Joe fall under is often termed "outlaw country." Need I say more?