Friday, February 29, 2008

Why You Should(n't) Date A Musician

I am giving up my gushing over various lead singers — Andrew McMahon, Nate Reuss, Hayley Williams, Kris Roe, and Ginger Spice — because my quest is over. Done. Finished. Forever.

My love for Damian Kulash, lead singer of OK Go, has risen like a phoenix from from the ashes.

Kulash was my first rock band crush (except for maybe JT or Lance, because yeah, kinda liked him, too). I was 15. I heard "Get Over It" on the radio and I was hooked. I saw OK Go open for the Donnas at a now non-existent venue in Des Moines. Instead of watching the drunk Donnas slur all over the microphone, my BFF Shannon and I opted to monopolize Damian's attention at the side of the stage. It was magic. We both came away with signed skin. (This was pre-digital camera era, so I can't even put up a picture of our cute, little pre-beer tummies).

I later interviewed Kulash on my 16th birthday. My hand was sweating so much that the recorder fell off the phone while my BFF Shannon tried to listen in on the convo (this was also pre-speaker phone days. Yes, I'm a dinosaur). The interview was exhilarating - it was the first "celeb" I ever chatted with. In true high school journalism form, I ran a full page (in our 8-page paper) on OK Go. No newspeg. Lots of pictures. It was glorious. No one knew who he was.

Today, five years and one Grammy-winning treadmill dance later, I chatted once more with Mr. Kulash. This time, for a story to run in The Daily Iowan in April, previewing the band's 10,000 Hours concert - so get your hours done ASAP ya'll. Everything he said was quotable. Seriously. The boy is a graduate of Brown University with a major in semiotics (yeah, I know. Look it up).

The person you love and the person who loves you are never, ever the same person. (Thanks for that uplifting life advice, Chuck Palahniuk). Read in Damian's own words why you shouldn't date him - originally published in ElleGirl. My heart is breaking.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A slight retraction...

Juno didn't win best pictures so... I guess Diablo Cody's alright. At times. I guess I might want to be her someday — boring yet foundational life at the UI, revelatory job at a Village Voice publication, Oscar for best screenplay (though I'll write a movie probably titled "Not Juno," or "Anchorage," and it'll be much better). Oh, and I forgot... I'll totally be a stripper at some place that welcomes excess hair. Canada, here I come!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


bahahaha. lolcats just kills me.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Okay, two in a row: I (strongly dislike) "Diablo Cody"

                  "I write screenplays! Gargghhhh!"

I was about to head over to our delightful and life-altering radio program (every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. on 89.7, KRUI — listen! please!), when I stumbled across this on

Cody To Wear Million Dollar Shoes to Oscars
Oscar nominee Diablo Cody will look like a million dollars when she steps out on the red carpet at the Academy Awards on Sunday - literally. The Juno writer, a former stripper, has been chosen to wear footwear designer Stuart Weitzman's million dollar shoe to the big event at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The "Retro Rose" shoe features two Kwiat diamond roses, fixed to 1940s-style beige metallic T-strap high heels. More than 1,800 Kwiat diamonds weighing 100 carats were used to make the roses and 400 of them have been incorporated into the design of the shoe, which is worth over $1 million. Shoe mogul Weitzman has also created a ballerina flat with a similar diamond-like design, which Cody will change into after she walks the red carpet and kicks off her high heels. This is the first time Weitzman has created a changeover pair of shoes with a matching design element for use at the Academy Awards. He says, "I think it is great and typically Diablo that she chose to be not just glamorous but also practical in her choice of shoes for this year's Academy Awards."

Typical Diablo, eh? And while we're at it, might as well post Something Awful's pitch-perfect Juno satire: (thanks blogger Anna for the heads-up). This alone makes a pretty compelling argument for why Juno should walk away with the only door prize it should — Best Original Screenplay (though the statue is rightfully Ratatouille's).

Let's pray this year doesn't bring us another Crash-style wreck. Two movies are bafflingly qualified for all the top prizes — No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood — so let's not prove to everyone that the Oscars are are irrelevant as the Grammy's, mmk?


Next Nature: Like the New Coke, but scarier...

Google reader has taken over my life. Two weeks ago I was woefully unaware of what an RSS feed could do for me, and never before have I seen such internet jargon mean something so simple (Real Simple Syndication, in fact). I'd recommend you check it out for your own, potentially beautiful self — it compiles all your earmarked blogs and websites into one, simple to access log and reminds you that you have hundreds of irrelevant tidbits to consume each day. Time wasters — meet ultra-organized time destroyer.

So while stumbling across this wide web (the entrapment language is correct), I found this:

It's a site devoted to the idea that, as they say, "Old nature, in the sense of trees, plants, animals, atoms, or climate, is getting increasingly controlled and governed by man. It has turned into a cultural category. At the same time, products of culture, which used to be in control of man, tend to outgrow us and become autonomous. Our notions of nature and culture seem to be trading places. The ‘natural powers’ shift to another field." Okay, it's a bit heady. But it's also frightening — this idea that technology and marketing has grown to such an extent that, to spin an old Oscar Wilde bit, technology doesn't just imitate life — life imitates technology. Thus this strangely plausible recreation of an organic coke bottle:

Because Coke chemicals are the antidote to Organic culture, this is weird... but goddam if someone doesn't try to market this soon. It's a new world out there, my friends, and I'm puttin' on my brave pants to try to grapple with it.

~Paul "Dystopia" Sorenson

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hayden is hot, his movies are not.

Hold on. What’s that strange, sneaking feeling coming over me? Help, help. I’m feeling underwhelmed.

Jumper could have been so cool. Based on Steven Gould’s novel of the same title, the trailers flashed intense action scenes, Hayden Christensen (my first great love) naturally radiates intensity, and the plot sounded so intriguing; especially after Samuel L. Jackson’s tag line on the previews.

“Only God should have the power to be all places at once.” Snore.

Alas, I’m left at my computer with my bootlegged edition of this “thriller” wishing I’d dozed off halfway through. At least that way I could say that the part I missed was (probably) sweet. I just sat through 90 minutes of cinema, waiting for the movie to climax and praying that there would be another almost enticing sex scene to spice things up.

Somebody draw the requisite question mark above my head. I am puzzled. Why am I feeling so let down?

Let’s run down the basics. David Rice (Christensen) has some sort of biological “defect” that allows him to teleport to any place that he’s ever seen a picture of. (“Defect”? More like gentically kick-ass.) I had just settled in from the previews when I watched our jumper Hayden eat lunch on the head of the Sphinx next to his surfboard, and then I saw him chilling on the face of Big Ben, admiring the view. I was convinced he was going to be some sort of hipster superhero.

Because he robbed a set of banks at age 15 by teleporting into their respective safes, he’s loaded, he hangs out at the Seven World Wonders, and he’s beautiful. David’s got it made.

But trouble is a-brewing in seventh heaven: idyllic lifestyle, meet conflict. Number one: David is being hunted by a tunnel-visioned, pissed-off Samuel Jackson, who wants to electrocute him. Jackson’s ornery character is topped off by the fact that he runs around yelling profound things like, “You think you can go on like this forever? Living like this with no consequences? There are always consequences!” Number two: David’s macking on Rachel Bilson, but he totally doesn’t want her to know about how awesome he is. Shame.

That’s it. Our conflicts are brought in too soon, and the plot develops, um, never. Critical points advance too fast, and it’s never clear why Jackson’s character has such a vested interest in ruining David’s life. Even the movie’s multiple action scenes can’t save the fact that it is shallow and disappointing.

And try as I might, not even Hayden’s pretty face is enough to make me like his character that much. He rarely does anything good with his special power; in fact, he robs banks, breaks into the Coliseum, teleports random strangers into the desert and threatens to drop others off the face of Mt. Everest.

It seems our hero is having problems trying to figure out how to use his peculiar gift. Ah, the classic tale of a blessing that has become a curse and a burden. Must be rough, traveling for free. Granted, I don’t have a grouchy black man and his army of trench coat-clad witch hunters trying to taser me for no reason, but David’s being downright selfish. After meeting fellow-jumper Griffin (Jamie Bell), David more or less forces Griffin to help him save his quasi-girlfriend when it is clear that they’re outnumbered.

High points involved a Mercedes SL teleporting out of a showroom and whooshing into traffic. All the stuff included in the trailer was the best that this picture had to offer, and I can only watch stunt doubles and baffling one-liners for so long.

I’m sorry I’m not sorry, but I should lower the bar for this film for anyone who thought it looked enticing. It had fleeting moments of waning potential, but I’m filing this one with the flameouts.

-Ann, who also happens to wish she was a Spice Girl

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Most Important Oscar Host...Ever

What is it about Jon Stewart that makes a girl weak in the knees? Is it his smile? His graying hair? What about those eyes? For me, the answer lies behind all of that. It's his integrity. For anyone who watches "The Daily Show," it's apparent that he takes pride in what he does, even when it isn't highbrow. Stewart holds the feet of those in power over the fire, and still manages to have fun. Whether doing an intelligent joke about funding for the Iraq War, interviewing a brilliant political mind, or playing the straight man to Stephen Colbert (or any of "The Daily Show"'s correspondents), Stewart commits.

His quick wit and biting quips are one of the reasons this nation isn't fully in the gutter. Studies have said that members of my age group (18-25) are more likely to get their news from "The Daily Show" than traditional newscasts. Well, maybe that's because we don't connect with Brian Williams, and we don't care about Katie Couric. When I watch "The Daily Show," I feel like the real questions are getting asked (even if they aren't being answered), and someone is mocking the hypocrisy of authority figures. Watching "The Daily Show" is like sitting in the cheap seats of a White House press conference, with your favorite grade-school troublemaker.

Jon Stewart may have struck comic gold as America's favorite anti-anchor, but he has had a long career before taking over for Craig Kilborn at "The Daily Show" in 1999. He hosted shows on MTV, had his own syndicated talk show, and has acted in films like Big Daddy and Playing By Heart. Why now? Why the success after years of pounding Hollywood's pavement?

The answer should shock and frighten: Because we need him. In an age where journalists are too afraid to be controversial, and most political satirists risk losing their jobs for telling the truth, (see Bill Maher and ABC's "Politically Incorrect") this country needs a television newscast who fights the power, lays it plain, and never fails to see how ridiculous our nation's government can be. America needs this from a newscast, even if it isn't real.

The whole reason I bring up Stewart's talent is because "The Daily Show" is back, after the Writers' Strike, and are having a field day with the presidential race, which is basically the most twisted horse race in recent memory. Even after a few days with writers, Stewart (who held his own without his writing team, which he leads) was back at 100% and I can already smell the stench of burning flesh in Washington.

Stewart will be on "Larry King Live" this Wednesday night (at 8 p.m.) presumably to talk about his second time hosting the Oscars (this Sunday, in case you live under a rock). Hopefully King will bring that satirical spirit out, and we'll get Jon's unfiltered views on life in 2008's America.

No one is a bigger fan than I am of UI professor Frank Durham, but if Jon ever wants to step away from the news desk, he should consider coming to Iowa City in March to moderate the rescheduled Karl Rove lecture. I imagine it would go something like this:

-Meryn, who thinks you should click on this post's title if you want to read more about her love of all things Stewart.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

my love, my life, my sin, my soul

I dislike most things. I have almost no favorites. Typically, for me, books, foods, people, places, and so forth fall into categories of: things I am forced to acknowledge are good (New York City) or things that offend the soul of Art (Steven King), but ever since the summer of 2003, David Bazan (of the now late Pedro the Lion) has had my heart. I love David Bazan with an unshakeable love. Every time he writes a song about an unhappy marriage, I cross my fingers to hear that he's finally divorced (hasn't happened.) In my book of very few praises, no one writes better lyrics than David Bazan. The fact that he's a total sweetheart in concert puts the whole thing over the top. I love David Bazan FOREVER.

So, best thing to happen to me all week: 6 new songs available for download at .

Best thing to happen next week? He's playing at Grinnell for FREE.


what i really, really want... to be the sixth Spice Girl (see earlier post on the amazingness of the dance to "Stop" for further proof).

Last weekend, I traveled with three other fabulous Daily Iowan editors to Chicago to witness one of the greatest moments in music today: The Spice Girls reunion tour, one of 15 concerts on their North American rendezvous.

The concert itself doesn't really need much explanation: It was exactly how one would picture it — lots of costume changes, occasional dancing, and plenty of girl power (with the male dancers crawling on leashes, no less).

What made it so great was that the sold-out show at The United Center represented everything the music industry used to be — and never will be again. Even though the concert was infused with life and passion, it also was evidence of a dying formula.
Spice Girls made it big with the manufactured radio single "Wannabe." Millions of 10-year-old girls bought the album, making the quartet a hit in both Britain and the U.S. Probably every girl there could recount when they bought Spice World (and for many, it was probably the first CD they ever bought).

Selling albums isn't enough to make money in music anymore. With the prevalence of downloading, artists must go out and tour to cultivate a fan base. That's not a bad thing; in fact, for fans, it's good. I'm happy with downloading music and then paying to see the band live, even if that means higher ticket prices (our tickets were $100, the most expensive hit $350, and tickets sold on eBay for upwards of $900). For most, however, the live scene will move to smaller venues (with more reasonable ticket prices), more intimate crowds, and bands that appeal to only a section of the population. The "popular artist," in a sense, is dead. Our generation killed it. This concert was simply the eulogy.

What artist recording today could sell-out the United Center? Kanye West is the only one coming to mind. The other acts there are either reunions or past greats that continue to tour (think Elton John or Mariah Carey). When these radio artists die out, big arena shows will fall, too.

Simply put: I don't think there will ever be another group to reach the success Spice Girls had in the late 1990s. What music will the next generation (ha.ha.get it?) love? In ten years, will the Pussycat Dolls reunion be as momentous as Spice Girls was? Maybe Miley Cyrus has a chance. Maybe. The death of the major label means the death of superstar concerts and shared experiences.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing (I certainly will cringe if "Buttons" becomes the next "Say You'll Be There"). But watching thousands of twenty-something girls decked out in glitter and pumps was bittersweet; perhaps this will be truly the last time we all come together to celebrate a defining cultural movement. Thank God for us that adolescent zeitgeist was girl power — something that continues to spark emotion even now. After all, Spice Girls have sold-out arenas to prove it.

Susan Spice

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guitar Hero IV/Aerosmith

That's right, you've heard correctly. Guitar Hero IV will strictly be based on the life and times of of the five skinniest and oldest men in rock 'n roll (alright, Iggy, you can be counted too).

According to Keith Richards (Captain Jack Sparrow's dad for all you young 'uns), he came home and saw his kid playing guitar hero. Not only did he dig it, but he was left wondering why there wasn't any wailing guitar from his hits like Sweet Emotion and Janie's Got a Gun.

Instead of getting mad or even, Richards did what any all-time classic rocker would do: strike up a deal. In the interest of their new album and overall record sales, Jagger and the crew will hit Wii, PS 2 & 3, and Xbox in a bold attempt to transcend mediums. Playing as Richards at their first concert all the way up until his 2001 Superbowl performance, gamers will play songs that range from the 70's up until today.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Winehouse Hoax (Prepare your tinfoil hats, its time for Cole's conspiracy theory)

Alright ladies and gentleman. We have each seen our share of celebrity comebacks with people like Dave Chappelle, the Spice Girls, and Bobby Jones (its a stretch, but the guy almost beat a computer before he went crazy). With the current press coverage of Winehouse, her return to the stage is seemingly no different.

One minor feature that characterizes these artists and alienates Winehouse is that they don't smoke crack. That's right, either Bobby Jones can keep a low profile or he didn't indulge. After her hit song "Rehab", Winehouse seemingly fell into a life of "drugs and disparity" out of necessity; necessity to please the public's demand for controversy. Paparazzi flocked around Winehouse, revealing shot-after-shot of her demise into a bleached-blond 90-pound train wreck. All held together by an alleged glue of crack and heroin.

As the Grammys approached, the press was even more curious and speculation raged the likelihood of Winehouse's appearance. Even during the show itself, the commentator expressed doubt as to her ability to perform at the end of the show. Then, in a wonderfully well choreographed performance, Winehouse gave a grand finale and acted drugged-out enough to seem legit in the eyes of the younger generation, while still thanking her mom solemnly to appease the older generations wish for her to be set straight.

Here comes the conspiracy theory. Winehouse made a 360-degree turn around with two weeks. The pictures above take her from a cracked-out mess to a sexy and cute London girl with a few problems. Modern make-up can do wonders, but this whole scene was to well set-up. The pit of despair followed by a dramatic Grammy turn-around fits too well and will defiantly provide for some solid record sales. Justify it to yourself: A record producer tells you that if you can get caught with some pot in an airport and bleach your hair, you will appeal to the hearts of millions. Hearts with MasterCards capable of buying $12.99 records. Would you do it.

Don't ask me twice.


Ziggy and Odie: turns out all you need is love after all

In honor of St. Valentine's Day, I would like to tell the world about the most amazing couple in the world, my best friend's cat Ziggy and his stuffed dog, Odie.

When Ziggy was neutered, I thought for sure that his all-night romps with Odie were over, but no: somehow, without his testicles, Ziggy still manages to make love to his squeaky little dog.

No, you don't need testicles, just someone to pin down on the pillows.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

i see arizona stars from here

I'm sorry I'm not sorry for all my self-righteous posts lately, but I just have to write about the Dear Jack trailer. Of all my ridiculous crushes, I've fallen hardest for this one. My parasocial relationship with Andrew McMahon, the pianist/singer for Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate, is off the charts. My roommate calls him "McMahonie" whenever she wants to mock my love, which is always (she's just jealous I like him more than her). We look pretty cute together, right?

McMahon performed in Iowa City twice in the past two years with Jack's Mannequin, notably last April as the 10K band. Here's a link to the story I wrote (because, umm, I ruled the Andrew McMahon beat) for The Daily Iowan previewing that concert.

In 2005, McMahon was wrapping up writing his first solo album, Everything In Transit. The CD itself could be considered a product of a personal awakening, but shit really hit the fan when he was diagnosed with leukemia and spent the next year battling the cancer. (Spoiler alert: He's now healthy and got married in December. I know what you're thinking: WHY NOT ME?) The release date is still TBA.

I'm planning a Glass Passenger release party in April.
Wanna come?

XOXO, Susan (not to be confused with Konstantine)

If You Believe, They Put A Man On The Moon

Get pumped for the fourteenth album by America's Best Band (so anointed by Rolling Stone magazine). R.E.M.'s next album, Accelerate, will be released on April 1st, and I can't wait. Here's the album's first single, "Supernatural Superserious."

This song sounds like it might be the comeback the boys from Athens need.

-Meryn, who can sing any and every R.E.M. lyric, and if you ask her to, she will.

Monday, February 11, 2008

You Let Go, and I Let Go Too

The best thing about a break-up is make up sex, right? Maybe that argument is misguided, but there's two groups in Hollywood who are about to have a hard time fighting that statement without being called hypocrites. The AMPTP and WGA (also known as the Academy of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Writers' Guild of America) are about to realize the love they have for each other and share it with the world. Word on the street is the Writers' Strike is about to end, as early as this week. This will put an end to almost four months of negotiating and nitpicking between Hollywood's writers and producers.

Santa didn't come through for TV fans, but it looks like Cupid's going to pick up his slack.

There's lots of good news to come from this strike, so let's start small and let the love grow. First, a lot of great TV shows will be able to return to production in time for at least a few more shows in the 2007-2008 seasons. That means we won't have to wait until September to find out how Jan's lawsuit against Dunder Mifflin turns out!

Also, studios and writers will be able to salvage next season. One of the major concerns for networks was that the strike would throw off development season (AKA the time when pilots are shot and selected by networks as prospective series). It looks like if everyone keeps their noses to the grindstone, we could have some semblance of a normal television season, complete with debuting series, this fall.

The return of the writers means the return of the Masturbating Bear on Conan and Bill Maher's New Rules. "A Daily Show" can now be "The Daily Show," just as God intended it to be.

Finally, and most importantly, a resolution to this strike means that the Writers' Guild will finally be somewhere in the realm of fair compensation for the entertainment they provide to us, regardless of the medium. No longer will studios get a free pass on digitally downloaded movies or shows streamed on the Internet (or Interweb, as the hopefully-returning Tracy Jordan of "30 Rock" would say). I won't have to feel guilty watching (ok, or re-watching) episodes of "The Office" on The deal between the Writers' Guild and the AMPTP paves the way for the Screen Actors Guild (the union representing all of your favorite actors, like John "Big Tuna" Krasinski and Paul Dano, for example) to get an equally fair deal when its contract with the AMPTP runs out this summer.

Oh, and I guess it will be nice to have a star-studded audience when Juno sweeps the Oscars. Because, mark my words, NOTHING is worth losing the possibility of seeing Jason Bateman in a tuxedo. NOTHING. (Check out pictures from the Grammys if you don't believe me.)

Norma Rae has left the Arts blog (hopefully).

-Meryn, who knows no strike can resurrect "Arrested Development."

don't you ever say an unkind word about the time!

While initially I wanted to write a big scathing post about the lameness of the final 40 minutes or so of last night's Grammy Awards--the part with all the old rockers and the ridiculous Herbie Hancock win for Album of the Year--this is not that post.

Honestly, I've been so angered by a lot of the nominations (or lack thereof) this season that I almost considered not watching the show, 50th anniversary or not. Thankfully, though, I did. And I really think it was one of the most exciting Grammy nights I've seen in years.

In theory, the show wasn't really all that different than it has been--lots of performances, lots of producer-created mash-ups/collaborations. Not to be frustratingly vague about it, but everything was just better last night.

I'm more of a performance girl than listening to all the acceptance speeches (though, seriously--Kanye's was amazing, and Vince Gill's jab at 'Ye was equally so), so here are some links to my favorites of the night.

Carrie Underwood--"Before He Cheats"
I swear to god she's been playing this song for like five years, and I still have yet to tire of it. This is an especially fierce rendition, due in equal parts to the cast of Stomp! appearing behind her and that fantastic Nancy Sinatra/Barbarella look she's got going here.

The Time and Rihanna--"Jungle Love"/"Umbrella"/"Don't Stop The Music"
So, what's almost as cool as mothereffin' Prince showing up in all his fabulous, 5'2 glory to present (and win himself, in the Male R&B Vocal category)? How about THE TIME REUNITING? Hell yes. And if there's one thing I love (almost) as much as Morris Day and Jerome, it's Rihanna. This number brought a number of my favorite things together--the only way it could have been awesomer was if Michael Jackson had been lowered by crane during the sample of "Wanna Be Starting Something."

Beyoncé and Tina Turner--"What's Love Got To Do With It"/"Better Be Good To Me"/"Proud Mary"
Mmmhmm. It's like a convention of the legs. Love it.

Amy Winehouse--"You Know I'm No Good"/"Rehab"
The performance that was hyped all night actually halfway living up to it? Huh. Needless to say, being across the pond or not, the lyrics to both songs rang a little truer than before last night. The girl can barely stand (and her backup dancers only make her look even frailer in comparison), but she brought it home. Not stellar, but memorable for sure.

Feel free to look up the other performances (the lame Beatles tribute, the always-incredible gospel medley featuring Aretha, the high-energy "Pretender" show from the Foo Fighters with an unnecessary and mildly distracting orchestra, etc.) for yourself. There was hardly a letdown in the night--except for, of course.

For me, though, this was the performance of the night:

Yes. Yes, Kanye, it WAS what I was waiting for. And thanks for ripping out my heart with that second song.

-Anna, whose life goals include seeing a Daft Punk show before she dies.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

i slept right through the international dateline

Kris Roe is coming to The Picador in March. My high school heart is flipping out.

The lead singer of The Ataris will be performing a solo, acoustic show, rumored to be the entirety of Blue Skies, Broken Hearts. I'm not sure how to take this — perhaps a smaller, more intimate crowd, but far less dancing. Hmm... Here's the link to the video for "San Dimas High School Football Rules" — look how young they look. If that doesn't stir a little teen-angst nostalgia, nothing will. But how will that translate acoustically? I guess we'll find out.

Listening to The Ataris makes me want to destroy something. No? Watch the crowd in this video for "Takeoffs and Landings" from So Long Astoria. Does that not look like the most fun ever?

OK guys, who wants to come with me?? Yeah, yeah? There's no place I'd rather be.

— Susan

the worst trailer ever?

I have no clue what this movie is...I suspect that it's been put out by an independent, probably religious producer. It's kind of like when all my friends expected me to know anything and everything about this movie, and considered me a failure when all I could say was that the hot guy from "Popular" (and, more recently, "Ugly Betty") was in it.


If nothing else, let this be an inspiration to all you aspiring trailer-makers out there. With some crappy music pirated from the Hallmark channel, a bizarre emphasis on numbers (what is this, LOST?), and a whole bunch of soft-focus, you too can make a living.

-Anna, who is 20, and will be 21 in 36 days, and never wanted to stop seeing you in the first place.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ira Glass is at it again

National Public Radio fans rejoice!

Drone-voiced host Ira Glass has announced big plans to make his weekly show, "This American Life" a cinematic event. After turning his weekly show - which featured 4 different humanity stories that either humored, depressed or enlightened fans - into a show on Showtime, him and his staff are looking to extend their mediums. In the same style as the New York Met and Garth Brooks (are you kidding me?), "This American Life" would be filmed live and them sent over satellite to thousands of movie theaters for fans to watch.

Ira says it best-

"We're planning a This American Life stage show that would be filmed and sent live—live!—via satellite to movie theaters across the country. It would include Ira performing a radio piece, never-before-seen stories and outtakes from the second season of our TV series, audience Q&A, and more."

Here's a look at a trailer for the finished 1st season

Go to to get the podcast via itunes.

Go to to get the podcast with everything else.

ALSO: 1 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays on WSUI 910 AM

Here is a link to tell Ira what you think of his plan (tell him hells ya for me)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

i made a wish, but the match never lit

Before you begin reading, allow me to apologize for two things that likely will impact the quality and clarity of this post:
1. I am in a fragile emotional state.
2. I am unable to see the forest from the trees when it comes to loving these songs.

OK - we're now ready to embark on the emotional roller-coaster. If you haven't heard (and if you haven't heard by now, we're obviously not close friends), The Format broke up yesterday. Let's pause for a moment of silence.

I could now go into the band's background; how the duo formed in Arizona, released Interventions and Lullabies, created their own record label, Vanity, to release their second album Dog Problems, and toured with a number of high-profile bands while supposedly working on their new album (LIES, all lies). But why bother when you can head over to The Daily Iowan's website and read the article co-written by myself and the fabulous Anna Wiegenstein (shameless website plug, check!) prior to the band's last appearance in Iowa City back in September (the above picture was taken at The Picador during that show).

Now into the good stuff: The music. That's the only thing that matters anyway, right?

The Format have the ability to tap into each end the emotional spectrum — from the crazy high of falling in love (try "Janet") to the crippling regret of a break-up that you initiated ("Dead End") — without ever becoming cliche. Lyricist Nate Ruess is able to express perfectly the most complicated emotions and Sam Means was able to put those sentiments to music — often a bopping pop number accentuated with horn flares and pounding keyboard. The heartbreaking lyrics juxtaposed with joyous melody created a semblance of reality few bands ever come close to. Hiding your true feelings — that's real. Don't most people expect the response "good" when they ask someone how they're doing? What if you said, with a smile on your face, "I couldn't get out of bed this morning, and tonight I'm going to drink until I can't feel feelings." (No, only me?) But that's closer to reality — and The Format's music is able to capture that fake version of happiness most of us walk around with.

For those unfamiliar with The Format,
I've prepared a handy dandy listening guide:

Songs available on The Format's purevolume page:

The Compromise
The song that officially led Atlantic to drop The Format. After presenting an early version of Dog Problems, the label execs felt there needed to be a surefire radio hit on the album. Ruess went back and penned "The Compromise" — it's a pretty harsh look at the music industry. Oops.

Ruess penned Dog Problems after his relationship with his long-time girlfriend fell apart (the couple bought a dog every time they hit a rocky patch to bring them closer together. Guess it didn't work). Needless to say, it's a bit more desperate than Interventions and Lullabies. I thought this was the only bona-fide "happy" song on Dog Problems, until I read an interview Ruess did with Alternative Press about writing the album. He began writing the lyrics to get over this girl and move on — using the music as a ramshackle form of therapy, in essence. When he was almost finished, Ruess realized he was still miserable, and thought maybe writing songs about this girl actually had the opposite affect — thinking about the failed relationship all the time was actually making the pain more real. He challenged himself to write this "happy" song (while lying in bed with a bottle of whiskey, no less) in hopes it would make him feel better. No surprise, it's one of the weaker tracks.

I challenge you to find cuter lyrics than "I love waking up to your laugh."

Songs available on The Format's site

Dead End
Asking me to name my favorite Format song would be like asking my mom which child is her favorite (umm, me. duh). I can't even attempt to write objectively about these lyrics; if they don't break your heart, you clearly don't have one. "She lays crossed upon the bed / We are puzzles making shapes with our hands / I take my finger, turn into a pen / Then I run my hand down your spine / You guess I wrote something profound / something like: "our love will last 'til we die" / I say "you're good at this game" / But what I really wrote is: "how I've yet to be saved""

She Doesn't Get It
This dance-inducing little number was the second single off Dog Problems. The video is presented as a junior high musical — it's adorable, and worth checking out just to see the cute little boy that gets to play the wood block. But once again, it ends sad, with Ruess simply stating "I was the only one that got burned."

Tune Out
Sadly, this is the only song from Interventions and Lullabies available on either website. It's not representative of the genius of that first album, which had a slightly more acoustic, alt-country bent to it than the heavily produced, instrumental Dog Problems.

If you like what you hear, I'd suggest downloading the following: "Time Bomb," "Oceans," "Sore Thumb," "Give Up," and "Dog Problems." If you don't like what you hear, don't tell me. I'm not sure we could still be friends then.

— Susan

PS - I'm currently accepting applications for a new favorite band.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hot Chip's Staying Hot with Made in the Dark

Four Stars Out of Five Stars

The new wave of electronica dance beats combines squealing computers, synthesizers, electric guitars and distorted vocals. And British rockers Hot Chip inventive pop rock welds all of it together in their latest Made in the Dark.

But by far over any other Brit ban, Hot Chip’s musical layering has become the electro-pop foursome’s signature move along with body rocking club thumping.

Their latest record Made in the Dark hits U.S. stores tomorrow, but was leaked January 18 and has been available for listens on the Clash Magazine Website for the last week.

After having gained much stamina since their 2000 debut, and now having three studio albums including Coming on Strong, released in 2004, The Warning, in 2006 and Made in the Dark to add to the record books, *Hot Chip*’s inventive style makes them a valid listen.

Even before Made in the Dark dropped onto shelves, the 13-song album already claims UK dance music magazine Mixmag’s album of the month in their January 2008 issue.

The album focuses primarily on being dance party friendly with catchy songs like “Ready for the Floor,” which reached the UK’s #6 spot last month.Yet, the group’s greatest triumph is “One Pure Thought,” which combines their pop sensibilities with lyrics that go beyond the typical clubbin’ throw down found in lyrics like “She hit the floor, next thing ya know, shorty got low, low, low."

Instead Hot Chip sandwiches the electric guitar in between repetitive lyrics “I won’t be on my way,” keyboards and synthesizers and the tapping of what sounds like the top of a garbage can.

Without a doubt the title track, “Made in the Dark,” a close second.

The quietly whimsical ballad flows delicately with lyrics like “Since I stole this song we have made a new start/My premonition hits hard as our start is apart/Every night the motion must be fixed by glue/But babe, be careful, what's fixed as one breaks in two”

Hot Chip’s foot-tapping, shoulder-shimmying, catchy-lyric-singing Made in the Dark will have anyone humming along in no time.


Listen to it here!

Sheryl Crows, We Listen

Riding in the car with my father over Winter Break this year, Sheryl Crow's new single, "Love Is Free," came on the radio.

"You hear this song, and it's hard to believe it came from the woman who sang 'Leaving Las Vegas,'" he said to me.

While my dad may have a legitimate axe to grind with the lovely Miss Crow, I think he failed to realize that variety has always been essential to her career. Sheryl Crow may have a distinct sound, but she certainly doesn't stick within any genre. "Love Is Free" is just her latest experiment.

The single is a cut from Crow's new album Detours which will be released on February 5. While it may not pack the emotional punch of much of her earlier work, it's a strong single. Crow didn't outlast (and outpace) virtually all of her contemporaries by adhering to a formula.

Crow is the rare artist who can play pop, rock, and country, without seeming false. She effortlessly straddles genres and collaborates with legends while still holding her own.

Crow's pop songs are sheer fun. They're meant to be blasted in convertibles as they speed down the highway. They're hand-crafted singalongs. Maybe "Soak Up The Sun" was a little too far pop for even the most rabid Crow fans, but "All I Wanna Do" is just the right amount of pop with a splash of honky-tonk, and the tune kicked of Crow's career almost fifteen years ago.

Not only is she comfortable in the presence of music greatness (after all, she dated Eric Clapton) but she can cover a great song and do it justice. She's Keith Richards-approved, and holds her own next to Mick Jagger.

On her own, covering a great song like Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Crow shows off her great vocal and guitar abilities.

Crow, a vocal Democrat and global warming activist, crossed both musical and political lines to duet with Kid Rock on "Picture," a hit that gave her an entirely new audience.

Nothing tops Crow's sad songs. She shepherded in a generation of female singer-songwriters who had an entirely new vocabulary about love, age, life, career and family. Crow wrote about the difficulties of being a career woman, the fear she may never get married, or have children (though she recently adopted a baby boy named Wyatt). She worried about her life passing her by. This is all personified in "Home."

Crow's strongest trait, ultimately, is not her good looks or charm. It's her songwriting. She can match music to lyrics in a way that those she's often compared to or mentioned with (Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan) never could. Her songs are nothing without the emotion she infuses with her writing. Crow showcased this gift on her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, and it's final song, "I Shall Believe."

Sheryl Crow has survived questions of her credibility, a slew of sound-alikes, and changes in trends. She's back with a new album, which she's called her most personal, and hopefully it won't disappoint. But even if it does, something tells me she'll be okay.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Miss Independent To Rock Kinnick

Those of us who like to complain about the lack of big name performers on campus were given some crow to eat (or maybe a bit of meat to appease the wolves) on Friday when the University of Iowa announced that the original American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, will be playing Kinnick Stadium on April 18. The concert is scheduled to coincide with the annual Hawkeye Football Spring Scrimmage and is part of a larger event called Gridiron Bash.

While I appreciate the presence of a Grammy Award winning multi-platinum selling artist on the UI campus, I can't help but be reminded of past heartbreaks involving U2, Kanye West and the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers debacle. Each of these deserving acts wanted to play the UI but were denied because of various reasons (many argue the UI Athletic Department was at fault). Hopefully the Clarkson concert ushers in a new era of unity between arts entertainment and athletics here in Iowa City, if that's the case.

But it doesn't seem to be that simple. Tickets to hear classics like "Since U Been Gone" and "Because of You" live are priced at $35-$40. The cost is considerably cheaper than seats for most big-name tours, but this is still a college town. Kelly Clarkson has outlasted all of her "Idol" competitors and is one of the most successful stars to come from the show (in terms of album sales and popularity). But her last album's sales dropped off significantly from those of her previous full-length efforts, and it's fair to say that college students aren't her main audience. She's not exactly Dave Matthews, and it's hard to say that a bunch of twenty-somethings will plunk down their drinking money to hear "A Moment Like This."

The event is also being marketed to Hawkeye alumni and fans of all ages, which makes sense, it's in line with American Idol's demographics. But a family of four may not want to spend $160 for a concert, no matter how inoffensive it may be.

All of this evidence points to the UI being between a rock and a hard place, with Clarkson in the middle. She isn't a "wrong" or "poor" choice by any means, and isn't as out-of-step as Cher or Wayne Newton, but Bono she ain't. It's also easy to forget, in Hawkeye Country, how tough it is to fill Kinnick. It's a big stadium, and at $40 a pop, it won't be easy. It wouldn't be easy for even the biggest of stars. Especially with an act who isn't necessarily in her niche in Iowa City. The event is the first concert at Kinnick, so it's hard to predict just how many people will pack the stadium for something other than football.

If the event is a success, hopefully it will lead to more big names coming to the UI, names that won't be in an awkward spot trying to find an audience here. Maybe there are just enough fourteen-year-old girls willing to come from all around and belt along to "Behind These Hazel Eyes."


Saturday, February 2, 2008