Monday, August 25, 2008



(Click picture for full-sized scan of original journal entry.)

March 13th, 2002
So I get Mom to sign my N.H.S. papers, then fucking leave it at home. Thank God XXXXXX covered and picked it up for me. I got five of my six NHS papers out, Mr. XXXX left for a dentist appointment or some shit while I was getting the new packet so I get him tomorrow. Also, fucking Whittenberger Summer Writing Project. Jesus. Mr. XXXXXXXXXX said he couldn't get a letter done before Monday. Fuck. FUCKER. I almost cried. I had to pop out to the bathroom to regain myself. I was all shaing nervous tension for first period, but its okay, Ms. XXXX and Mr. XXXX are writing my two letters. Resume's good as one, got my transcript, all I have to do is write a page on why I likes tah write and prouce a short story or five poems. In one night. No pressure. Oh, today I listened to Talking Heads "Remain in Light" and "Significant Other" by the Limp Bizkit. [Emphasis mine-Ed.]

March 14th, 2002


The crux of this entry is the final sentence: "Oh, today I listened to Talking Heads 'Remain in Light' and 'Significant Other' by the Limp Bizkit." It casually appears in a disconnected way, like a "Now Listening" field on a LiveJournal entry. Only it is written in a notebook. Which means I had to voluntarily write "the Limp Bizkit," even though no one but me would ever read it. Maybe I wasn't listening to them, and it's a metajoke by my past self on my future self. Or maybe I knew it was wrong, and recorded my sins as a cautionary tale.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"If anyone asks who your favorite Beatle is, the right answer is 'John Lennon.'"

My youngest brother Tyler has finally gotten to the age when he's becoming interested in music. I've been waiting years for the opportunity to micromanage his burgeoning taste-precisely the reason I also look forward to having children. He's 13 now, going into 8th grade; right around the same age I was when I found Nirvana and picked up my first CD, Nevermind. My other brother Dane and I have plotted for this occasionally, agreeing that it's necessary to get him started off on the right foot. A few weeks ago, I finally sat down and whipped together a mix for him, and came up with this tracklist:

"Hate to Say I Told You So" by the Hives
"Fell in Love With a Girl" by the White Stripes
"Miles Away" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Doin' the Cockroach" by Modest Mouse
"One-Armed Scissor" by At the Drive-In
"Wolf Like Me" by TV on the Radio
"Song 2" by Blur
"Everlong" by the Foo Fighters
"Buddy Holly" by Weezer
"Devil's Haircut" by Beck
"Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand
"Come As You Are" by Nirvana
"Dream All Day" by the Posies
"Come Together" by the Beatles
"Karma Police" by Radiohead

It sticks pretty close to alternative/indie rock, but that's how I got started, and I figured it'd be the best way to break in for a kid in a small Pennsylvania town where middle schoolers wear their parents' old AC/DC shirts. Maybe some of the choices were too ambitious, but I didn't want to dumb it down or give him mediocre starter bands if he was ready for advanced placement. I even felt bad about limiting it to rock, and had considered a more diverse mix of genres, but settled on themes for each mix CD so I don't stunt his interest in, say, hip-hop by representing it with just one song that he could hate.

His reaction has come slowly. It took at least a week to get him to listen to the whole mix. I have to restrain myself from screaming: "It's only fourteen songs! You spend eight hours a day in front of the computer with headphones on! How long can it possibly take to get around to this?"

Part of my interest in his musical development is the desire to give him opportunities that I never had growing up. As the firstborn, I had no one looking over my shoulder saying "Psst, Follow and Leader and Significant Other seem cool on your 14th birthday, but down the road you'll be too embarrassed to even trade them in."

I feel the obligation to shield him from inferior influences. Alarms go off in my head whenever I see a threat of him getting into lousy music. He seems to run around with a lot of emo girls, He's talking about growing his bangs out. I caught him with a folder of songs by artists including AFI, Hawthorne Heights and Fall Out Boy. He has various musical ringtones for friends, and claims each selection is that person's favorite song. The other day, I heard Panic! at the Disco piping from his Motorolla. Speaking as his eldest brother and protector, that friendship ends now.

Maybe I should be recommending him ringtones instead of records. Part of the probably could be his generation. Is that all songs are to him? Diversions while browsing MySpace? He won a 1-gig MP3 player in a school raffle months ago, but didn't load anything on it until very recently. In my early teens, I was used to spending all my time on online with WinAmp going, but I was already in the habit of purchasing music.

It's possible, in fact, that Tyler may never purchase a CD. Does that mean he'll never understand listening to an album as a whole? As an example, he said Nirvana and Weezer were his favorites on the mix, so I sent him Nevermind and the Blue Album. But he's got MP3s, so he's never listened to an album while thumbing through liner notes and reading lyrics. Even if Nevermind becomes his first favorite album, will he get that same wave of nostalgia that millions do when they see that disc with the wavy blue water line pattern? Will seeing Spencer Elden's junk immediately put the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" riff into his head?

I try to give him guidance, but there's just so much ground to cover. "I know this is hard to understand, but between the blue Weezer and the red Weezer they went from the best band ever to the worst." "I'm not saying bigotry is good, I'm just saying it's okay to be a little emophobic." "If anyone asks who your favorite Beatle is, the right answer is 'John Lennon.'"

At least he's interested. He says he likes Nevermind more than the Blue Album, though he doesn't yet have the musical vocabulary to express why ("The music appeals to me more." No shit, kid!) He even stunned me by coming back from back-to-school clothes shopping with a Nirvana t-shirt in tow, which got me thinking about generational differences again. As I named the members for him - that's Kurt, he's dead; that's Dave, he's in the Foo Fighters now; that's Krist, he hasn't done anything worthwhile since this photo was taken - I realized he didn't seem to know anything about the band's history. And where would he? He's into music fairly passively, and I haven't noticed him reading about music online. Again, by contrast, allmusic was practically my homepage. My playlist. He did make a MySpace playlist out of the mix, though, which the best I can gauge means I'm on the right track. I'll just have to remind myself that some musical growing pains are inevitable, and fight the urge to disown him over that "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" ringtone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No. 1 Single Reviews: "Disturbia" by Rihanna

Rihanna is a definite step up after Katy Perry (why did I launch my reviews during "I Kissed a Girl"'s inexplicable seven-week stranglehold on that No. 1 spot?), but "Disturbia" seems more like some record exec's pitch for a blockbuster single than something deserving of the spot.

It probably started its life that way; "Disturbia," like Rihanna's previous No. 1 "Take a Bow," was added as an extra track to a re-release of her blockbuster Good Girl Gone Bad. It might not be fair to downgrade these songs because they have gotten greater play than more deserving singles on the actual album if the songs didn't feel and sound so tacked-on. Like "Take a Bow," a mismatch of playful kiss-off lyrics to a guy with a melodramatic R&B ballad performance, "Disturbia" goes off in too many directions at once to have any emotional center.

"Disturbia" feels more like an excuse for a horror-movie themed video with a dozen costume changes than an actual tune. It's one of those songs where layers of vocals effects and a thick arrangement overwhelm the artist; you know, the kind where faceless back-up singers handle the melody while the star kind of dances around it with meandering melismas. This is most distracting with the "bum bum be-dum" hook, especially Rihanna's song-ending blowout. ("Bum ba da dee da DAAAAAAAAA-aaaaaa-aaaaaahhhhh oooooOoOoOoOooah oh-oh-oh-OH-OH-OH ooooooaaaaaAaAaAahhhh.")

Maybe it is fair to compare "Disturbia" to "Shut Up and Drive" or "Don't Stop the Music" after all. The album was re-released to include it, so why not? That makes "Disturbia" the sixth single off an album that's already been mined clean.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Film Review: Pineapple Express

Like Knocked Up and Superbad, Pineapple Express infuses a less-than-serious premise with genuine warmth without sacrificing the slightest bit of absurdity or humor. Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) inadvertently gets caught witnessing a murder while high, and can only think to turn to his pot dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco), for help. The widely-watched red band trailer gives the essence of the plot - stoner comedy meets action flick parody - but conceals just how ridiculous the movie is going to get. (The censored green band trailer, a friend observed, makes all weed references so oblique that Denton and Silver just seem retarded.)

The main draw is the unlikely pairing of stoner comedy and action flick parody, although transition is a little ragged. The first half definitely contains some pure pothead comedy that might be lost on those with no knowledge of drug culture. Sure, Franco's been sporting dimmed eyes his whole career (it may even be method acting, as anyone who's seen this interview can attest,) but he also perfectly hits all the stoner tropes. Saul's cross-joint is the pinnacle of stoner engineering by those who've smoked so much they look for increasingly complicated ways to toke. Dale's bit about the psuedo-friendship between customer and dealer is perfectly articulated in Saul's desperate guilt-tripping to get Dale to linger after the deal - "We could watch some crazy videos on the Internet!" - is spot on. Especially great is Saul's off-the-cuff listing of his favorite civil engineers. Pineapple Express, like Harold and Kumar, is fully aware that stoners can be doctors and scientists, not just slackers and dropouts.

But while Dale and Saul stumble through the second and third act blazed, sure, Pineapple Express does seem to lose sight of its aesthetic when it trades hot-boxing for Hot Fuzz. It's the chemistry between Rogen and Franco, reunited onscreen for the first time since Freaks and Geeks, at the heart of the film, not the plot. They're funnier on the run from the bad guys speculating than they are in the climactic gun battle, which works on a different level because it's structured exactly like a real action movie's finale would be: at a hideout, with all the characters combining to fight, and the baddies getting picked off one-by-one. On that note, special mention should be made of the hitman Matheson (Craig Robinson, best known as Darryl on the Office,) the only funny villain by both script and Robinson's performance.

It's also possible that some might point to gaps in logic in the story, but most of them are nods to shoot-em-up screenplay structure. Dale's subplot with his high school girlfriend makes as much sense as any tacked-on romance in an action flick, and her complete absence from the denouement points out how arbitrary that role is. It also leads to one of the film's best silly jokes, when Dale hurries her family into their car and suggest they check into a motel under a fake name, pauses, looks around himself, and comes up with "Garagely." Saul may even top this with the world's best drug dealing aliases: "Santiago and Dunbar."

But in the end, the film closes not with an explosion, a kiss, or a celebration, but with guys sitting at breakfast, recounting the tale and vowing to be best friends, and their relationship buoys the action. The black-and-white introductory flashback scene, which details secreet military testing on marijuana and an unscientific reason why it have have been banned, is cute, but feels ultimately pointless without Dale or Saul. The brief period when they are separated is also less entertaining. Pineapple Express is funniest when the dialogue is something that you'd hear from a zozzled friend while lounging on the living room couch.