Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How does The Babadook compare to my favorite horror movies of all time?

Many rankings of the best horror films have 2014's The Babadook, which I finally just saw, as one of the best ever. While I don't rank it anywhere near my personal top 10 within the genre, it does feel like there haven't been many scare-fests in recent years that match its levels of psychological thrill.

Its a tale of a woman who lost her husband in a car crash as he drove her to the hospital to have their baby. Seven years later, she takes care of "the boy" (which you don't want to call him) but secretly can't stand him. Lack of sleep, misbehavior at school and on the playground, and social pressures from girlfriends leads to a psychological and murderous mind bend for the mom. And all it takes is a strange child's book character to set off a terrifying, but only mildly bloody, chain of events.

The Babadook doesn't match the horror movies that made the list of my 90 favorite movies of all time, which included:
  • Psycho at #1
  • Jaws at #3
  • Halloween at #40
  • A Clockwork Orange at #43
  • Friday the 13th at #50
  • The Shining at #55
  • Silence of the Lambs at #76
  • No Country for Old Men at #78
  • The Amityville Horror at #84
  • Donnie Darko at #85
I think other ones not in my top 90 that might fall in ahead of The Babadook include:
  • Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
  • Suspiria
  • Phantasm II
  • 28 Days Later
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Poltergeist
  • The Exorcist
  • "Hillbilly horror classics" Wrong Turn, Hills Have Eyes, and Wolf Creek, and
  • The ever-underrated Rob Zombie's terrifying House of 1,000 Corpses and its follow-up The Devil's Rejects.
For more ideas of what to watch, check out the great horror choices on this list.

And next I must see this year's Get Out, which Rotten Tomatoes jaw-droppingly rates as the top horror flick of all time.

Talking about the future of mobility on Tech Pulse TV

I was recently on this Tech Pulse TV show about "the future of mobility."

I believe it aired on Verizon and Comcast channels in Washington D.C. and Boston.

It's a good conversation with Darnell Grisby of the American Public Transportation Association, Russell Brooks of Transportation for America, and Barry Einsig of Cisco about topics such as:

  • Technology shaping transportation
  • The future of mobility
  • Transportation platforms
  • Bikesharing
  • Carsharing, and
  • The sharing economy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Great News and Transparent aren't perfect, but they're worth watching

I've still got shows like The Wire and Game of Thrones to watch. And I'm only in season two of both Breaking Bad and The Sopranos.

But somehow, somehow, I just finished the latest seasons of Transparent and Great News. Both shows have their flaws, but they also have enough to keep me coming back.

Great News just completed its first season and it's returning as part of NBC's Thursday night "Must-See TV" lineup.

The money trifecta is Briga Heelan (who was excellent as the actress girlfriend in Netflix's Love and has serious comic watchability), Andrea Martin (of the famed SCTV comedy troupe and perfectly playing the neurotically wacky New Jersey mother of Heelan), and John Michael Higgins (from Christopher Guest's Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, and here well-cast as a stereotypical newsman).

As with 95 percent of network TV these days, there's a same-y case of over-production sheen with Great News. That hurts its quest for genuineness. Think about The Office. It had a very different feel, production-wise, at the time than most other network sitcoms. Why do they all have such patented style and formatting?

Transparent doesn't have that same problem. It definitely feels different than anything else before. Although, in reality, it's probably not that far off from a prime-time soap melodrama.

Jeffrey Tambor, like in Arrested Development and with his bit roles in Three's Company and The Hangover movies, is just so darn good. The rest of the cast is, frankly, about as annoying as the cast of Girls got to be over time. That said, they're not supposed to be likable, so they get somewhat of a pass.

Not all the storylines work, but the paths they take are never predictable. And that's probably the secret formula causing me to be caught up and ready to watch season four in real time.

Great News: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Transparent: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Musical Find of the Day: Alex Cameron, for fans of Foxygen-like weirdness

I was intrigued by Alex Cameron because his upcoming album, Forced Witness, is co-produced by one of my favorite new musicians, Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.

And Cameron has the same amount of weirdo, quirkiness as Foxygen, which I saw in concert earlier this year and can confirm the weirdness. The two artists specialize in awkward dance moves that it is very difficult to stop watching.

To kick it up a level, Cameron released the first video for his upcoming release (see YouTube, the dude likes videos) and it features beautiful backing vocals from Angel Olsen and the afore-mentioned awkward dance moves by none other than Jemima Kirk from HBO's Girls (who also directs the video).

I'm not that sold yet on Cameron's older music, but I want to hear more. He sometimes sounds kind of like Meatloaf smushed into Depeche Mode, which isn't very enticing, but, perhaps because of the presence of Foxygen and these other contributing artists, as well as some clearly exceptional character-driven songwriting, there's an opportunity for this song and all of Cameron's work to be a slow grower.

And those dance moves!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Glen Campbell was always in the background, he's worth rediscovering

There are just some artists from my childhood that seemed really great back then. They faded away for years as I migrated to much "cooler" bands from genres like metal, indie rock, and hip-hop. But they've rushed back from time to time in my adulthood to various degrees of rediscovery.

Sonny and Cher, Donnie and Marie, the Jackson 5, the Archies, to name a few. And there was Glen Campbell. His country-pop music was so good. He even became cool over the years, so cool that in 2011 he covered "Hold On Hope," a classic song by my second-favorite band of all time, Guided By Voices.

Those songs from the last decade of his life are just heartbreaking. I defy anyone listen to "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," an ode to his wife, and not get choked up.

His classic songs are too many to rank in any kind of order. But any greatest hits collection would have to feature classics like "Wichita Lineman," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Gentle on My Mind," "Galveston," and "Rhinestone Cowboy," which I love to play on guitar.

Here's a quick medley:

Glen Campbell died today in Nashville, after a life filled with battles, mostly alcohol- and drug-related. But his last battle was the one he couldn't beat - Alzheimer's. He was 81, and he left enough music for all of us to keep discovering for many more years.

A few notable nuggets about him include:
  • He toured with the Beach Boys.
  • He actually didn't write his own songs.
  • And he couldn't read music, but could play just about any string instrument with ease.
Also check out my review from last year of the CNN special (4 out of 5 stars) about Campbell, called I'll Be Me.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Best Magazine Reads: 10 things I learned about Gregg Allman in Rolling Stone's tribute

Although blues and Southern rock have never been my top musical genres, I always really liked and respected the Allman Brothers. It's strange that I think of those as relatively joyful tunes (perhaps because I listened to them a lot in my care-free early 20s), when in fact leader Gregg Allman was a sorrowful, walking ghost for basically his entire life.

Personal details beyond the death of his bandmate and brother Duane in 1971 and his marriage to Cher have always been sparse. But the always-great Mikal Gilmore grabs some good ones in his tribute, "The Last Brother," in the June 29 issue of Rolling Stone.
  1. Referring to Duane, Gilmore writes: "In the early Seventies, following one of the Allman Brothers Band's legendary three-hour shows, Gregg watched horror movies with the sound off, keeping an empty chair nearby. He maintained that a spirit sat in that chair. Into the last years of his life, he said he still heard from that ghost every night."
  2. Gregg's father fought at Normandy in World War II and returned home with what would today be called post-traumatic stress. He was murdered on county road by a man who stole his car.
  3. He couldn't stand racism or the Vietnam War, and he shot himself in the foot to get out of going.
  4. After a falling out, and before Duane and Gregg got back together to form the Allman Brothers, Gregg was stuck playing out a contract with a pop band he hated in Los Angeles and even considered suicide while Duane had great success as a session musician back home in the south.
  5. The band picked its name in a blind poll and it was unanimously the Allman Brothers.
  6. Gregg hated that the last thing he ever said to Duane before his brother died in a motorcycle crash was a lie, denying that he had stolen Duane's cocaine when he really had.
  7. The Allmans held a benefit concert to help their friend Jimmy Carter withstand the costs of the 1974 primaries. He probably made it to the presidency because of the band, and Gregg ate with Carter at his first meal in the White House.
  8. Gregg met Cher in 1975 at the Troubadour in L.A. and thought she smelled like a mermaid would smell. On her singing though, he thought she was bad. The couple released what most would say was his worst album, as Allman and Woman.
  9. The couple's tour didn't work, Gregg passed out in a plate of spaghetti, and they got divorced.
  10. Despite the success of 1986's "I'm No Angel" and the 1989 reformation and tour of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg hit his most rock bottom of drinking, until he gave a poor speech when being elected to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, and decided to quit drinking for good.

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Wiener Sausage: The Podcast!" Episode #5 Show Notes: July is the Best Month!

PicturePerfect reading for July.
(These are show notes from my short-lived and perhaps ill-fated podcast with Dan Sullivan. May it always at least live on here. Sigh.)

1:55 - Thought for the day: July overtakes October as Paul's favorite month. Mostly for water-related reasons. And crab-related ones as well. Although Dan has been fighting organizations of various repute throughout the month, he too is fairly keen on the year's middle time. The only months that can cause distress for Dan are August and February, largely because "many people die" during those months.

7:45 - In case you forgot, Dan explains just exactly what this podcast is about. Well, our original musical, Wiener Sausage: the Musical! was a smorgasbord of music and comedy and life, so this is a continuation of that in podcast form.

10:00 - In the name of the DC Capital Fringe theater festival, which is currently underway, and where our musical was staged to sellout crowds in 2008, we start a reading of the script, which will be an ongoing story you will want to follow each week. Kinda like a South American telenovela. It begins with Guy Williams, who is based on a character that Dan created as part of the bedtime stories he would tell his little brother when they were kids and which they termed "Master Pervert Theater."

12:30 - Act One, Prelude of Wiener Sausage: The Musical! An all-knowing, Star Wars-like voice sets the scene. And Guy Williams takes the stage only to ramble a bit before he realizes there's an audience in front of him. Then he sings the opening absurd pop nugget titled "It Starts With a Love Between a Boy and a Girl."

17:30 - Dan and Paul discuss how a business storyline courses through the musical and that it fits pretty well in the current climate, in relation to how we have a CEO In Chief in the White House. Does our audience have any good ideas to add to Wiener Sausage: The Rock Opera? Dan suggests any rewrites should incorporate more music, ala the wildly successful Hamilton.

22:20 - A word from our latest sponsor, Coco Loko! Wildly exciting! Mildly offensive!! Debatably addictive!!!

23:00 - The duo pontificates again on British culture; fittingly, in this the month of our British independence.

26:30 - The magic moment arrives! Dan snorts a thick line of Coco Loko.Dan reveals that he is reclining in his comfortable bed as he does the podcast and snorts a line. Paul says he would never advise such posture during either activity. But Dan interrupts him to report that the energy buzz is kicking in, live, in the middle of the podcast. Quality entertainment!

37:30 - Pop Culture Wiener Sausage News Central Headline of the Week! From the country of Georgia, Nazis attack a vegan cafe by throwing meat around. The story makes very little sense. However, Dan's explanation of some of Hitler's behavior helps explain things, and ...

45:00 - So does the EXCLUSIVE interview that Paul conducts from an undisclosed location, forced to wear a blindfold. He talks with Morty Von Hammenheim, a member of the group, who initially makes Paul quite nervous. But as the interview goes along, Von Hammenheim surprisingly turns out to be a rather sympathetic character claiming his group is simply misunderstood. He just wants cigarette smoking to flower again in full and for there to be "meat in every corner" and "around your neck."

56:45 - Paul and Dan recall the story of the Washington DC Smoking Man, who used to try to get everyone to boycott DC bars and go to nearby Arlington because, at that point, Arlington still allowed people to smoke in bars.

58:00 - Finally, a Pop Culture Wiener Sausage News Update on Carl Edward Cunningham, whom we interviewed in the last podcast and has since pleaded guilty to stealing his buddy's Star Wars action figures, facing four years in prison when sentenced this fall. Dan calls for him to be imprisoned for much longer.

1:00:15 - A phrase to take us out on ... Paul offers, "Go get your Boba Fett figures at the Super Safe Mega Valu Mart."

Perfect eating for July.