Friday, September 25, 2009

At the Bijou this week, cinema is truth twenty-four times a second

The French New Wave is in rare form this week at the Bijou. Hitting the silver screen are the previously unavailable Jean-Luc Godard films, *Made in U.S.A* and *Two or Three Things I Know About Her* as a double feature. *Made in U.S.A.* was loosely adapted from a Donald E. Westlake book, *The Jugger*, and because neither Godard nor his producers paid for the rights, the film only recently became accessible in the United States.

Jean-Luc Godard is most closely associated with the cinematic movement entitled the French New Wave. Godard is known as a prolific French filmmaker who infused his love of the cinema and his political leanings into all of his films. While he is credited with being a dissenter in relation to the classic filmmaking style of Golden Hollywood, he often makes reference to American films.

*Made in U.S.A.’s* Paula Nelson, played by Godard’s ex-wife Anna Karina, has been described as the female Humphrey Bogart circa *The Big Sleep*. Paula plays the gum shoe detective after discovering that her lover, Richard P…(we are unsure of his last name, as it is constantly smothered by ringing phones and car horns) has been murdered. The film is set in a French suburb named Atlantic City and the story unfurls amid reference to massive political events, such as the Kennedy assassination and the ‘disappearance’ of Ben Barka.

The narrative becomes almost illegible and is colored by characters named Inspector Aldrich, Richard Nixon and Robert McNamara, some of who sport bathrobes and “Kiss Me, I’m Italian” buttons. The violence is cartoonish. However, the narrative at the center of this film is not of much importance, rather what exists in the periphery.

*Made in U.S.A.* is a criticism on truth. We see his characters as caricatures but they feel they are accurately representing themselves. It comments on violence in 1950 Hollywood cinema. We are constantly aware that we are sitting in a theater, watching a film. It remarks on the political left’s inability to communicate. In classic Godard fashion, this is much more than a film.

*Two or Three Things I know About Her* is a remarkably appropriate film considering the economic mess this country is in at present. Though it was filmed in 1966, simultaneously with *Made in U.S.A.*, *Two or Three Things…* comments on western society’s adherence to consumerism.

The film centers on two “hers.” We follow a day in the life of Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady), a suburban housewife in her thirties. She is consumed by the need for things and routinely works as a prostitute to pay for her upper middle class lifestyle. Godard also looks at the changing landscape of Paris, our second “her.” He blames Janson’s capitalist environment for her situation.

At one point Jason describes her condition, “You go on using gas and water and electricity without giving a thought to the end of the month when the bills have to be paid… Either it is no money to pay the rent or no telly. Or else we keep the telly but no car. Or a washing machine but no holiday. Therefore in no way a normal life.”

*Two or Three Things…* focuses on the lengths people will go to for an unnecessarily high standard of living, propagated by the government at the American dream. Janson has “no hesitation between the wish and its fulfillment.” Our current situation in the U.S. echoes the sentiments of this film.

Politics and social comment abound in the double feature this week at the Bijou

- Greta H.R.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2 Cents To Play #5: Sports Games and Male Bonding

My earliest video game memory comes from when I found an old Intellivision in my grandparents basement. Despite its archaic graphics, I was able to convince my parents to let me take it home with us. There were only two games left with the system; a space invaders rip-off and a baseball game. The latter of which lived in the system. My dad and I spent hours in our den adding to the bitter rivalry between the Red Team and the Blue Team. It became more about the bonding experience than anything else.

Sports and video games are a perfect marriage. Both feature competition and add to the traditional gamer demographic – the adolescent male. Furthermore, they allow sports fans to live out fantasies beyond their skill level which makes it a no brainer that the Madden series is not only the most popular sports game series but also one of the most popular franchises period. If you don't believe me check out this brilliant piece of marketing:

Link: Madden 08 'Field Generals' TV Ad

It's amazing these games cause players to look past any socio-economic differences. Unfortunately, other sports games get left under the radar, namely EA Sports’ NHL series. Some of this is due to Hockey’s status as one of the least popular sports in the U.S., behind only soccer. However, there isn’t one gamer over 18 who doesn’t have fond memories of late night marathon sessions of NHL ’94-’97. The series is a staple in guy culture, it’s even made appearances in male oriented comedies like Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Swingers.

Last year’s NHL 09 is one of, if not the, best sports game ever made. It is the one game I can say I played with my roommates from the its release last year, to last Monday night, less than 8 before the 2010 version came out. This is just subjective experience either. The game garnered twelve “Sports Game of the Year” awards, according the NHL 10 box; a feat any current generation Madden entry has yet to accomplish.

What’s more is these games are a great way to introduce gamers to sports they wouldn’t seek out otherwise. During the 2006 World Cup, my friends and I started playing FIFA World Cup 2006. We then followed the real life tournament with more interest as we knew at least one player from all the major countries. On the same note, I wouldn’t be able to name more than two Chicago Blackhawks if it wasn’t for NHL 10.

If football wasn’t as popular as it is, the Madden series wouldn’t be the pop culture phenomenon that it is. Football games make for a slower experience than hockey, and if you’ve ever gone back to a Madden entry on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, you’ll see what I mean. On the other hand, any NHL game from the same era still holds up as well today as it did upon its release.

As the new Madden 10 faces less than spectacular sales, gamers are clearly looking for new sports to fix the twitch in their thumbs.

-Tyler Lyon

P.S. if you haven’t seen Game 6 of the 1986 World Series on RBI Baseball you need to check it out:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johannsson Break Up Review

Break Up
Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson

For those wondering what happened to the Pete Yorn from his debut album, Musicforthemorningafter, take a listen to his new album Break Up which he recorded with Scarlett Johansson back in 2006. While the title suggests the two are singing about a failed relationship, the majority of the songs are filled with the pop hooks that made him one of the top up and coming artists back in 2001.

The album sets its tone with the opening track, “Relator,” which opens with Yorn on the guitar, and some horns for good measure. It’s a simple song and will be on adult contemporary stations in no time.

However, it’s in the song “Blackie’s Dead,” where echos of Yorns first album are most evident. The song has the perfect combination Yorn’s voice with his skills on the acoustic guitar that made 2001's “For Nancy (Cos It Already Is),” so damn infectious.

People looking for something to showcase any of Johansson’s vocal talents will be disappointed as she serves as back-up for a large part of the album. This is reversed in a psuedo acoustic cover of Chris Bell’s “I am the Cosmos.” This is the best of the tracks which Johannson is the lead singer on and which is due to source material.

Johannson isn’t a terrible singer by any means and her deep voice certainly can sustain the album but most of her songs (with the exception of “Cosmos”) are the records low points.
It’s great to see Yorn hasn’t forgotten the pop sensibilities that fans have been asking for ever since his songs became much more moody, hopefully he will stick around longer this time.

Tyler’s Picks: “Relator,” “Blackie’s Dead,” “Wear and Tear,” "I Am the Cosmos"
— by Tyler Lyon

Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't Call It a Comeback...

In my quest to become the de facto (or default) Arts staff late-night critic, I'm here to live blog what should be an interesting night in primetime/late-night television. Let's strap in for some crit, wit and maybe a little bullshit courtesy of "The Jay Leno Show."

9:01 p.m. The theme song sounds the same as the Jay's "Tonight Show" theme. Maybe it's because the band members haven't changed.

9:02 p.m. Well, judging by the Obama/Kanye/Taylor Swift "root beer" summit joke, Jay's humor is still the same.

9:05 p.m. Oh, look, something visual. Jay knows he's not trying to reach a new audience. And certainly not a more erudite audience.

9:07 p.m. Jay's talking about an unscripted show he did that he's embarrassed about. Jay, don't be so hard on yourself, sometimes "The Tonight Show" was OK.

9:09 p.m. I know it's only the first commercial break, but for as different as Jay Leno promised his new show would be in his unbearable Bataan Death March of a press blitz, it seems like more of the same. Nothing wrong with that, because let's be honest, NBC hasn't taken chances in years. Plus, they didn't hire Leno to do something different.

9:12 p.m. I don't get why Jay is pretending the show is going to be a departure from "The Tonight Show." Probably because his core audience is naive enough to believe him. Sorry, people over 60, that crack was rude. Put your teeth back in and tell me.

9:14 p.m. Dan Finnerty and The Dan Band are a welcome addition to this episode. I want the Dan Band to play my wedding, Old School-style. Provided they all live to see the next century, and provided live music is still a viable means of entertainment.

9:14 p.m. You've earned a break. Check this out:

9:16 p.m. I just noticed the screen bug in the bottom left corner. Seriously Jay? Who's the programming wizard who came up with that? As if the peacock is too threatening at this hour, or too much of a reminder of "The Tonight Show."

9:17 p.m. I appreciate the effort, but this bit is dragging. No love lost for Dan though. Still think he's awesome.

9:19 p.m. If I didn't love him enough, I just found out another reason why Dan Finnerty rocks: He's married to Kathy Najimy. SWEET. Wait, why am I thinking about him when it's Jay's debut? Ah, a diversion. Pretty sneaky, sis.

9:23 p.m Jerry will make this worth it. He's never led me astray. Well, except for with Michael Richards, but that's not even Jerry's fault.

9:24 p.m. Jerry just called Jay and Conan out for their faux-farewells. And in doing so proves why he's comedy's gold standard.

9:26 p.m Jay couldn't get Oprah on the show? Because her heart belongs to David Letterman. And so does mine.

9:26 p.m. And then Oprah showed up. Traitor.

9:27 p.m. My love for Oprah is no secret, but the Jay Leno timeslot jokes are already wearing as thin as Kate Gosselin's patience. SERIOUSLY.

9:28 p.m. Watching this show makes me feel like a kid at a bad magic show: I see the false-bottom in the trunk. I see the strings and your lips are moving while the dummy talks. Stop trying to fool me with the missing desk and the single guest and the new set, I KNOW I'M WATCHING "THE TONIGHT SHOW." And I'm guessing everyone else does too. It's like if Megan Fox played the same character in every movie but tried to tell audiences the films were different...sorry, bad example.

9:32 p.m. The This Is It trailer is the most entertaining part of "The Jay Leno Show" experience.

9:37 p.m. A mock Obama interview. More of that signature "Tonight Show" comedy. Pay no attention to the bland behind the curtain, Dorothy.

9:38 p.m. I wish this was Conan and he was doing the Clutch Cargo lips routine. Take a look:

9:39 p.m. I guess I should come clean with this tidbit: I never worshipped Jay Leno or his "Tonight Show." That's probably why I'm not enjoying the primetime incarnation.

9:41 p.m. Kanye, Rihanna and Jay-Z can't appear soon enough. This should tide us over:

9:42 p.m. NBC just hyped late night, with explicit references to it as a different entity and Conan's "Tonight Show." Wise move.

9:44 p.m. Yay for 'Ye. This is going to be amazing, or maudlin. Don't disappoint me, Mr. West.

9:44 p.m. Kanye pretending to be an altruist makes me a little sad. You're cocky, that's what we love about you!

9:45 p.m. Good thing the camera's on 'Ye, so you can't see Leno's giant erection. He's ecstatic at his luck regarding the West-Swift VMA situation and Mr. West's booking on the show.

9:46 p.m. Vague and sincere. And sad about his mom. Awkward. Jay took away 'Ye's swagger. I understand, but what a downer.

9:49 p.m. I'm wondering if Lil Mama is going to jump on stage. And will that give 'Ye something ELSE to apologize for?

9:50 p.m. It's just redundant to criticize Rihanna's clothing at this point, but she's continuing her Patty Hearst homage with that blonde hair.

9:52 p.m. You wonder why Kanye behaves the way he does? Because he can do THAT.

9:52 p.m. Still feels like "The Tonight Show" with Jay awkwardly thanking guests too cool to care.

9:54 p.m. "Headlines!" Yet another radical departure from "The Tonight Show." Staying on the cutting age, eh Jay?

9:56 p.m. I respect Jay a lot, and I think he's the best at what he does, like Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin. But I don't respect what he does. I don't like "big tent" entertainment, especially when it's pretending to be something different. Just admit you wanted to keep your job so you took the next best thing to stick it to everyone.

9:58 p.m. I appreciate "Headlines." It's just so EASY though. They're empty laughs and not particularly satisfying.

9:59 p.m. There's Jay plugging the affiliates. They got him "The Tonight Show" and he's hoping they'll help him keep "The Jay Leno Show."

So I wasn't impressed.

I smiled but didn't laugh.

But I didn't fall asleep. And I'm anxiously awaiting Conan.

I think Jay did what he does best: He played to the middle and pleased the lowest common denominator. Tonight's debut of "The Jay Leno Show" is a success because Leno brought his sensibility to the prime time audience. I think he'll continue to succeed because he doesn't have to change. Hawkeye fans should understand this: Whether a football game starts at 11 a.m. or 7 p.m., the field is still the same length and touchdowns are still worth the same amount. Just the same, Jay Leno still has to make people laugh. All he has to do is as much as he's always done. And while the venue has changed, just as in football there are home and away games, the fundamentals still remain.

Keep checking "D-(eye) On Arts" for the full-length diatribe I'll post later this week.

-Meryn, who just wants more 'Ye and less Jay.

2 Cents To Play: Music games. What's Next?

The music/rhythm genre is getting older than Keith Richards. And like Mr. Richards, the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series won’t go away as long as there is money to be had.

Every year, we can look forward to at least one entry in both Activision and Harmonix’s respective Guitar Hero and Rock Band series but have to deal with an oversaturated market. Since June 2008 Activision released five console games in its series while Harmonix put out two. When Harmonix announced the recently released The Beatles Rock Band would replace a third entry in their series, I applauded there stand against this problem. Alas, I spoke too soon as a Lego Rock Band will come out later this year.

It hurts to see Harmonix not pushing the same innovation when they released the first Guitar Hero entry and were the first to add drums and vocals to the mix. This winter, Activision will release DJ Hero in an attempt to put some fire back in the genre but players don’t need more plastic instruments collecting dust in their living rooms, they need the songs they want.

Block rock aside, it appears Harmonix understands that the genre has become so repetitive it’s all about the songs, which is why they have made it a point to release new songs every week for purchase. I even rented Guitar Hero: World Tour just so I could play Springsteen’s “Born To Run” and “My Lucky Day” for five days and I did the same for the Beatles game.

Despite convincing me to dust off my plastic Fender Stratocaster, I realized the inclusion of the fab four should be the end of the music genre. Other than my personal favorites, there isn’t any other act I’m itching to play as. Activision shares this sentiment as their next game will focus on mash-ups, rather than other artists. However the original innovators need to figure out their next play as the mass market will soon come to this realization as well.

by Tyler Lyon

Sunday, September 13, 2009


In which your intrepid reporter, Tommy Morgan Jr., watches and recaps the ridiculousness that is the MTV Video Music Awards for your pleasure and amusement.

6:30: The VMAs don't start for another hour and a half, but I'm ready to go. Blog is ready, and I've got my MTV-approved VMAs cheat sheet, a healthy sense of sarcasm, and no respect for the sanctity of my weekends. I've even gone through the trouble of purposely disheveling my hair Russell Brand-style*. Let's do this.

6:39: I've come to realize that Blogger is not LiveBlog friendly. Looks like I'm going to have to manually load the post each time I want to update. Get on this, Google.

6:50: With details about Lady GaGa's VMA performance "on super-duper secret lockdown" according to MTV, I'm expecting, and really really really hoping for, a meltdown rivaling that of Britney's performance two years ago. A man can dream, can't he?

Let's review every cringe inducing moment:

Ah...painful. And yet somehow glorious. It's Britney, bitch!

-Also, nominees here. With the possible exception of Eminem, I'm pretty sure all of the Video of the Year nominess are robots. Just sayin'.

7:05: Wow. A Michael Phelps hash joke. Glad I'm listening to the pre-show from the other room instead of watching it. If that's what I hear, I don't want to know what I'd see.

7:13: P!nk rides in on a fire truck, and Lady GaGa wears the absolute ugliest, most godawful, your-mother-can't-even-love-you-after-wearing-that monstrosity of a--I don't even want to call it an outfit, so--thing I've ever laid eyes on. Should have stayed in the other room. I think I'm going to go return DVDs now.

7:30 DVDs returned--without an extra day of Redbox fees!--snacks acquired, 15 minutes of pre-show dodged. Thanks to the Kum and Go on the Burlington/Gilbert corner for making dreams come true.

7:50: Ten minutes until go time. Time to move this operation into the living room and actually watch. Goodbye, eyes, I knew you well.

7:58: Sneaking MTV. Trying to give out an award behind my back. The Beastie Boys win the "Video that Wasn't Good Enough to Win the First Time Around." No one cares, not even the Beasties.

8:00: Is Madonna still relevant? I mean, outside of her job as the host of Tales from the Crypt. (Sorry, Louis)

8:03: How many people actually care about Madonna's play-date with Michael Jackson?

8:05: Already looking forward to the Emmys next week. If only NPH were here to save us now.

Pictured: NPH showing us the red zone belonging to Madonna and Lady GaGa on the Hot/Crazy scale.

8:13: All told, that was a really good tribute. Like, I have nothing bad to say about it good. Except for the part with Janet Jackson where she did whatever the hell you call that was.**

8:15: I always wondered if Joe Perry and Katy Perry were related. Turns out they're still not.

8:20: Russell Brand: the next Betty Friedan? Nope, just trying to get in Lady GaGa's pants.

8:22: It's betting time. Which will happen more: references to Lady GaGa's bisexuality, or Russell Brand's erection? The over/under on each is 12.

8:24: Taylor Swift wins Best Female Video. Probably because she was the only one who made an actual video, as opposed to danced like a Cyborg (Beyonce).
-And Kanye West ruins her acceptance to get more of the spotlight for himself, under the guise of claiming that Beyonce was cheated. Kanye, that video kind of sucked. Sorry.
-Oh well. Good to know that the VMAs are getting awkward early. That means it will only go downhill from here.

8:33: Russell Brand: always there to defeat awkwardness with innuendo. I love it.
-And we have our first plug of the night. Remember when Jack Black used to be funny?

8:39: Still pretty certain that Green Day stole that hook from Mott the Hoople.
-Also pretty sure that Miranda Cosgrove is a liar. That feed isn't live. Taylor Swift isn't crying and asking her bodyguards to beat up Kanye West.
-Gonna stop blogging for a quick few minutes, unless something absurd happens. I'm not trying to write War and Peace here, but I might if I continue at this pace.

8:41: One more quick note re: this Taylor Swift performance. I'm still calling taped.

8:51: Lady Gaga looks crazy. Not hot crazy, like she's going for, but crazy like she's going to eat my soul through the television. For reference, think this:
only blonde.

8:54: The whole blood thing wasn't cool, or crazy, or even interesting . Just overplayed and dumb. As such, it will probably be considered the top highlight of the whole show. I know she was trying to make that point, and I understand what that point was, but it was still stupid.

9:02: ...and Russell Brand makes a joke about roofie-ing Megan Fox. Not smooth. Not smooth.

9:03 One hour. Three awards. Oscars, eat your heart out.
-As someone who follows the same scene that Cobra Starship's music supposedly belongs to, I'm glad people are starting to recognize it as pop, and not rock. I loved the Movielife, but this particular Gabe Saporta project is nothing more than modern day Huey Louis. Maybe Ray Parker, Jr. steal one of their songs and turn it into a movie theme, too.
-Where's Kanye West to claim Beyonce got screwed on that one? I mean, the award went to Britney Spears, so everyone did, but I don't see him complaining now.

9:06: Best way to make it known your guitar playing adds nothing to the music: use a wireless mic and hold it in your hand for most of the performance while your guitar just hangs there.. See Armstrong, Billy Joe.

9:11: Award for best video made with Rock Band: The World's Lonliest Moonman.

That's right: I'm bringing it back.

9:16: OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG NEW MOON!!!!!!11!!!!!1!!!!!!!wtfrofl!!!!!

9:20: Hmm. New Moon doesn't look as shitty as the first one. Granted, that's like comparing Dude, Where's My Car? to Ishtar, but still.***

9:23: I have to give Beyonce props for not even trying to mouth along to the track. Keeps the lip-syncing claims to a minimum when you don't even bother to lip-sync.
-Also, advance to props to anyone who can explain that stupid fucking thing Beyonce wears on her wrist. Is it a leftover piece of armor from Lord of the Rings?

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

9:26: I was going to include a relevant video here, but I think the world needs to see this more (and it's actually vaguely relevant, and a damn catchy song).

I'm not sure that even Joe Jonas will be able to keep a girlfriend after that.****

9:31: This crowd now reacts to Kanye's name like the words "health care" at a town hall meeting. Love it.

9:33: I was hoping for a live feed where T.I. accepts the award from jail. Would have made my night, and made MTV's less of a train wreck.

9:40: I have nothing witty to say. Muse is fucking awesome. Even Stephanie Meyer can't make me hate them.

9:41: I'm going to take this commercial break to say one thing: If Asher Roth ever wins anything, from anyone, ever, the world has no soul.

9:48: This whole night might have been worth it just to see The All-American Rejects' Tyson Ritter doing his best "Soy Bomb" impression.
not pictured: dignity, self-respect

9:59: Lady GaGa arguable deserved that award. This doesn't change the fact that her outfits are ungodly ugly. She doesn't look fashionable, she looks like a fucking idiot.

10:01: And now P!ink (I refuse to spell it any other way--she needs to live with her shame) is doing it too. Is blind "in" all of the sudden? Also, you cannot pull off the Lil' Kim outfit, honey. Sorry. The acrobatics are decent, though.

10:13: I still don't like him, but Kanye now has a point. How does Beyonce's video win Best Video and not Best Female video? This confuses me. (sidenote: Lady GaGa is wearing a bird's nest. A fucking bird's nest. On. Her. Face.)

-And Beyonce essentially tells Kanye to go fuck himself by having Taylor Swift come out on stage to give her speech. Good for Beyonce, but, sadly, I'm now forced to guess that this was at least partly staged.

10:16: How to tell your award show sucks. You give out the biggest award, and there's 15 minutes of stuff left.

10:26: Jay-Z turns in the best performance of the night, only to have it ruined by them again removing all appearances of actual performance when Alicia Keys stops playing piano to join him on stage, while the piano still plays on.

10:28: Pretty sure "This Is It," despite coming out late, will be the highest grossing movie in America this year. I'm calling it now.

10:30: How did this thing last 2 1/2 hours? They gave out maybe five awards.*****

10:37: Okay, I'm out. It's time to sort out my hate/casual indifference relationship with Lady GaGa. This one might take therapy. Then again, watching the VMAs always does.


-Tommy Morgan Jr.

Notes, footnotes, and general ennui:
* - Read: I took a nap.
** - I call it the "2007 Britney Spears"
*** - In other news, Robert Pattinson still looks constantly stoned, and I continue to have a completely inexplicable attraction to Kristen Stewart. Maybe it's that dead look in her eyes. It makes me all a twitter.
**** - Actually, he probably will. Beautiful bastard.
***** - Okay, seven.

There's NOTHING Ironic About Show Choir!

Let's talk "Glee."

It's my new favorite show, from one of my favorite TV masterminds, Ryan Murphy (the man behind cult-classic "Popular" and FX hit "Nip/Tuck"). I know that a lot of people have a lot of criticisms, many of which are valid ("The lip-synching is bad. Like High School Musical-bad") and some of which are not ("The show is too provocative"). Rather than a boring review, I'm going to give you some "Glee" Cliff's Notes, rather appropriate for a show about high school, no?

Five Unranked Reasons Why "Glee" Is My New Favorite Show

1. Ryan Murphy's Song Choices
Murphy writes, executive produces and also serves as the Executive Music Producer behind "Glee." And so far he has excelled in choosing great pop-cultural gems to score his latest series. I love anyone who incorporates rap into a show choir's repertoire, and isn't it about time the lil' 'uns learned about Salt & Pepa?

2. Jayma Mays.
Homegirl had a strike against her for perpetuating the popularity of those awful spoof movies because of her role in Epic Movie. But as Emma Pillsbury, William McKinley High School's guidance counselor, Mays is just neurotic enough to be endearing. Her crush on glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison, we'll get to him later) is entertaining, sensual and heartbreaking without being maudlin or superficial. Plus, she has bops (as evidenced in the above video). Below, watch her be cute without activating your gag reflex.

3. Matthew Morrison.
Looking at him in the promos didn't really jump my engine, but sure enough, now that I'm hooked into the show, I can't stop falling in love with him. He plays Mr. Schue with such earnestness, especially in the face of his thundercunt of a wife Terri, he's hard to dismiss. As the straight man, he anchors "Glee," which is even more impressive given the strong personalities that populate the cast. Plus, he's got rhythm.

4. Mercedes Jones.
I want to be her. I love a diva, especially one with a real voice and an attitude to match. She's not just a token one-dimensional black character, present to shuck, jive and lob the best zingers. Mercedes also has heart, which we'll see in the show's third episode. The actress who plays her, Amber Riley, seems pretty great too. (Disclaimer: I was this girl in high school, minus the confidence and talent. So I guess I really wasn't anything like her.)

5. Jane Lynch.
She is fantastically bitchy and egomaniacal as the school's cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. Lynch seems to be Murphy's muse, and as such, she gets the best non-sequiturs. Emmy voters. take note now.

There about a million more things I could list (the fame-driven eyes of star Lea Michele as Rachel Berry come to mind first), but we'll get there in future posts. For those of you still not convinced to start watching or who are ready to give up in spite of the first two episodes, I still encourage you to hold on. Maybe the cast will get better at lip-synching (or the producers will be convinced to drop the lip-synching altogether). I hope soon even I'll get over the fact that Cory Monteith, who plays quarterback and bari-tenor Finn, looks WAY too old to be in high school (he's 27). And so much has happened with storylines in the first two episodes, any plot elements you aren't crazy about aren't guaranteed to last. Until then, I'll be practicing my vocal runs.
-Meryn, who would give anything to go back in time and transfer to a school with a show choir.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's afraid of the big, bad, vampire?

I have an unhealthy obsession with HBO's "True Blood". By that I mean, I ordered "TruBlood" the drink, and it'll be here later today. I also get pee-my-pants excited when 8 p.m. on Sunday's roll around. Sadly, or not, it's the highlight of my week. Indeed, the popularity of the show seems to imply there is a "fang-banger" in all of us waiting to get out.With the season finale airing on Sunday, I started to think critically about the show, and the themes within. Besides just the sex and gore, there are serious social issues imbedded within the context of the series. These include religious fanatacism, homophobia and fear of "the other". What I find most interesting about this mix is the way in which the characters represent the fears and prejudices that are harbored within all of us. Though the show is centered around vampires "coming out of the coffin" and assimilating (successfully or not) into modern society, it's inevitably also about relationships between the "normal" and "un-normal". This is where the concept of "the other" comes into play. Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Freud on you, but just stay with me.
At the end of the first season, viewers learned about Maryann, the seemingly kind-hearted philanthorpist acting like a one-woman Salvation Army, was instead a crazy bitch of still unknown proportions. We also learned that the seemingly "normal" Sam Merlotte was anything but. So what does this mean within the context of "the other"? It seems to me that the second season has turned Freud's theory of "the other" on it's ass. If no one is "normal", even those who look as though they are (i.e. everyone who isn't of the undead persuasion), then what does that say about fears of the perceived "enemy"?
As season two has pointed out, fear and prejudice bring out the worst in all of us. What has Jessica ever done to Mrs. Fortenberry to deserve her scorn? The obvious answer to this is pure hatred and ignorance. Even though this is just a television show, it is also a striking social commentary on the irrational fears many posess. To my knowledge, there are no vampires living in Iowa City, but there are many in the community who deal with the stigma of their births, abilities or orientations everyday.
Modern works such as "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" clearly point out the enemy by showing the monster as something inherently different than your average Joe on the street. This is how they are recognized and defeated. Their physical appearance and attributes are obvious, making them easily identifiable. What "True Blood" has done is turn the seeming "other" into a normal looking person (Maryann, Sookie, Sam, Daphne). Because of this, the characters seem either more frightening or powerful because of their ability to blend into society, unlike the vampires who are a dead (ha) giveaway with their milk-white skin and fangs.
The question I pose is whether it is better to be able to identify the un-normal and know the "enemy", or live among shape-shifters and telepaths, unaware of their abilities, in blissful ignorance. What is it that we are all so scared of? Is it the big, bad vampire that lurks in the night, or the idea that there are those around us, the seemingly "normal", that we should be frightened of? Could it be that we are scared of "the other" or just afraid of finding "the other" within ourselves?

By Dana Judas

Apple: It really is like 1984

An important speech was given yesterday...and then President Obama spoke later that night. Yes, the man who took the bite out of the apple, Steve Jobs spoke yesterday giving millions insights as to how they could drop another $400 dollars for what they pretty much already own.

It's amazing how Apple has gone from the computers that were only in our elementary schools lab, to being in every hipsters messenger bag and their iPods in everyone's pocket and being able to charge a minimum of $1200 for a desktop computer. Furthermore, almost all of the great software they put out is buy Apple and they leave very little room for creativity that doesn't flow with their mentality, they don't give the user much options from in compatibility. If you've seen Ridley Scott's excellent Apple commercial from 1984, you know this is a far cry from what they were originally marketed as:

The Simpsons hilarious take on the Apple of today:

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to install iTunes 9.

-by Tyler Lyon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You Make Me Say (You're an Asshole)

So I guess I'm a little late with the discovery of the song "I Make Her Say (Poke Her Face)" By Kid CuDi... But that's probably for the best, seeing as I am so thoroughly disgusted by the song that I lost concentration from my enticing ICON reading.

This is probably the worst that comes to mind since Lil Wayne's "Lollipop"
OMG, Kid CuDi: You're just way too cool with your ironic plastic Burger King Watch and your carcinogens!

I guess I should count on this blatantly misogynist swine to continue polluting the radio airways? Yeah I'm sure the radio version is a 'clean version', but the intimations are clear.
Just an example of the Cudi's infinitely eloquent flow:
"And fuck them otha bitches cuz she down for the trickin
I'm hoping she a rider
When it's said and done she will spit it up and swallow"
...a 21st century Lothario!

The second thing that struck me about the 'song' was its utter lack of creativity. Rappers have been borrowing from rap since the dawn of time (30 years ago), but I feel like this song has exemplified that it's gotten out of hand. Besides the obvious sample from Lady Gaga, I caught references from T.I., whoever sings that 'blame it on the alcohol' song (another beast), Kid CuDi himself, Asher Roth, and a failure of a VH-1 reality series.

I was really disappointed with the collaborative efforts of both Kanye and Common on this track, two rappers that,although no saints themselves, I consider very talented and more conscious than others--Common aims to prove that very point in the song with the suave lines:
"But they say you be on the conscious tip
get your head right and get up on this conscious dick"
Lyrical master.

The video itself is not of the expected scantily clad women participating in some barnyard apple-bobbing festival while CuDi smokes a cigar or something... but some attempt at artsiness, with double screen shots and balloons. Does this compensate? Answer (No).

Embedding of all "Poke Her Face" videos were 'disabled by request' (wonder why?) But can be viewed here.

Phew, after all that you must be exhausted and angry! Here's a little something to cheer you up:
^be sure to read about her in the DI tomorrow ;)

-By Bri LaPelusa

Smooth Criminal

Heard any good Michael Jackson jokes lately?

Seems like an insensitive question, right? Especially in light of the L.A. County coroner ruling the King of Pop's death a homicide. What an ironic end for an iconic man, one who spent the last two decades of his life known more as a go-to punchline than a musical genius.

As I flipped through a recent Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week (cover story: what really broke up The Beatles, and no, the question isn't answered by a Yoko Ono centerfold), another legendary act diverted my attention. I read the charts section and discovered that nine of the week's top ten pop catalogue albums were Michael Jackson or Jackson 5 works. As I'm sure everyone is now aware, Jackson's sales are through the roof, leading many to conclude he's worth more in death than he was alive.

Undoubtedly that much is true to the people directly tied to his fortune. A Jacksons reality series is much more compelling and has received much more press and intrigue as a result of the passing of the family's prodigal son and breadwinner. News specials remind us that Jackson's unpublished song catalogue will ensure (or insure) a financial foundation for Paris, Prince and apparently Macaulay's progeny Blanket for years to come. Even the tandem releases of the Beatles Rock Band and the Fab Four's remastered discography comes with mentions of Jackson's stake in the band's publishing rights. I guess even post-mortem it's still all about the Benjamins.

After a seemingly endless odyssey involving permits, publicity and parental wishes, we finally buried the King of Pop last week. But the media's trumpets only blared louder, with questions about Neverland's fate (will they turn it into Graceland?) and Conrad Murray's legal future (do they give Elvis doctors the chair?). Janet Jackson and a host of lauded choreographer/dancers are scheduled to perform a tribute to MJ at MTV's Video Music Awards this Sunday, and Janet is also scheduled to be Harper's Bazaar's next cover girl. In an age of Obama-fatigue, Michael Jackson's death is the story that won't die. No one snorts at Orly Taitz and her second fake Obama birth certificate, and in the wake of Oligarhy-gate, Glenn Beck's brand of crazy elicits yawns. But damned if we aren't all drooling at Jackson news like caged hungry dogs within whiffing distance of a meat packing plant.

People actually turned off President Obama's school speech this week. The biggest celebrity in the world was silenced this week by the world's biggest pop star, and all he had to do was stay dead. Michael Jackson couldn't buy this kind of media dominance. Don't forget, he tried: Eight years ago, Sony spent tens of millions to promote Jackson's last original album, Invincible, efforts that didn't translate into earth-shattering sales or coverage. But now, Jackson isn't lifting a finger and yet is surrounded by a bigger media tsunami than ever before. He is the ultimate omniscient narrator.

So earlier, I rudely asked if you'd heard any good Michael Jackson jokes lately. And my answer is: only the one he's playing on all of us now.

--Meryn, who almost can't believe it herself.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Davenport's Figge Art Museum to host gallery talks

Since the flood hit in 2008, the UI’s arts have been drenched in facility problems. The university’s long standing connection with the Figge Art Museum, in Davenport, Iowa, has toasted the University’s watery woes affably by beginning a series of gallery talks throughout the school year.

The talks, which began earlier this summer, will be held every Thursday and will usually consist of an open dialogue about one particular piece of art work. The discussions are aimed at having a dialogue about how one approaches art, and the things that go into understanding a piece of art work.

Beginning at 5 p.m. and ending at 9 the gallery talks include a live band on the first and third Thursday of every month, an open bar, and tapas. The talks themselves last 30 minutes, proving to be great for community members of all ages.

The strong community tie that the university has to the Figge Art Museum, through staff contributors and local alumni, has proven to be the key and endearing motive. The atmosphere champions this idea in the gallery talks and personality of those that attend them.

“The community has responded wonderfully,” Dan McNeil, from the Figge, said. “We’ve had a great summer and we’re looking forward to a great fall.”

Both the university’s collection and the Figge’s collection will be on display in the Figge’s state of the art facility.

A trip to the Figge is not only an artistic endeavor, but also a display of the environment of neighborhood bonds that have only grown stronger in the face of adversity. Art from Eastern Iowa will never be the same.
—by Colin Doherty

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

These United States turns me into Zack Morris


Do you remember that Saved by the Bell where Zack, Slater, and Screech jam on brooms in their underwear in the living room? Well, indie-rockers These United States need to use that idea for their next music video. Only a few tracks in, I was on top of my coffee table in my living room — in my underwear and sunglasses.

The groups third studio release, Everything Touches Everything, is classic TUS. Carrying a poppy and punchy groove, the album bleeds rock 'n' roll. The title track bounces as lead singer Jesse Elliot sings "this song is smashing everything" as a choir of "oh's" echo behind him, and makes 22 year olds everywhere jump.

One of the strongest parts of the album is the youthful, fresh sound. These United States has not fallen into monotony or indie-rock stereotypes, which is impressive considering this is their third release. The band is still managing to pump out new, and impressive material, which not only shows maturity in musicianship, but as artists.

A local favorite — with Iowa City roots — delivers. Give me a broom, I'll take off my pants, and let's dance.

**** out of *****

-Eric S.

The Second Iowa Metal Guild Exhibition

"The Second Iowa Metal Guild Exhibition: A Riveting Experience" will be at the Figge Museum of Art in Davenport, IA. The exhibition opens September 7th, 2009 with free admission. Following the opening will be a public reception September 10th from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

This exhibition is centered around commemorating the diverse metalwork in the Iowa arts community. Only artists currently residing, have taught, or have received their education in Iowa will be featured. Work was juried by Tom Muir, Professor at Bowling Green State University; Joe Muench, Professor at Iowa State University; and Robert Coogan, Professor and Head of the Metalsmithing Department at the Tenessee Technological University.

An estimated 44 artists with over 80 pieces of artwork will be on display. The process for entering the Iowa Metal Guild included the selected jurors analyzing images of the artwork and determining the level of creativity, aesthetics, and innovation. Two out of the three jurors had to approve the artwork before it could be entered into the exhibition.

"[The artwork to be exhibited] ranges from really fine craft jewelry artwork to objects including furniture", said Kee-Ho Yuen, acting President of the Iowa Metal Guild.

The goal of the Iowa Metal Guild is to promote relationships between artists and the public about the field of metalsmithing. Workshops, lectures, and more will be available to all who are interested. Those willing to be made a member of the Guild will also be given the opportunity to join.

-Hanna Rosman