Speaking of the Bar Mitzvah set making music videos...
Ken Levine got in on the TV theme song meme, and I must add my two cents, given that I come from the younger generation and that I'm not, I hope, a moron. My one addition is that I'm going to include TV theme music, which sometimes isn't a song but just absolute instrumental sound. (Keep in mind, this isn't exclusively TV score music, so the sounds from "Lost" won't be on this list.)
Alas, my 10 picks for TV music openers:
1. Magnum, P.I.
2. The Sopranos
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (not available online, but this bad ringtone is funny)
4. Diff'rent Strokes
5. Knight Rider
7. Love Boat
10. The Jeffersons
Posted on January 26, 2006 at 10:30 AM | Permalink
Seeing this lovely girl's Bar Mitzvah Web site and learning of her rock-star video, I am taken back to the year 1989, when as a 12-year-old swinger-in-training, I wore my first tacky double-breasted blazer, drank my first Shirley Temple, and attended my first giant simcha. The young man doing the deed will remain nameless (perhaps you know who you are). But if you knew me back in the day, you know what party I'm talking about. Because this party would be the first time I made my appearance as the lead singer of Def Leppard, Nassau County Edition. Yes, I made a music video too. At 12 years old. As the head rocker of "Pour Some Sugar On Me," dressed in lame 80's formalwear, holding a plastic guitar, and screeching my head off. With plenty of early MTV video effects. Do I have pictures of this doughy young rock God in action? No, but I have a VHS video. And after years of keeping my closest friends from seeing it, I intend in the next few months to grab hold of the thing, digitize it, and rock it strong in cyberspace. So stay tuned. And to those Bar Mitzvah kids makin' your own rock videos now, all I can say is I'm sorry, bubbelahs. You will upstaged.
P.S. I also dropped a fly remix of Rob Bass's "It Takes Two" later at a 1990 Bar Mitzvah fit with its own recording studio. Start anticipating the delivery of your new favorite MP3. You know you want it.
Posted on January 26, 2006 at 08:17 AM | Permalink
It's true: I am sort of out of important things to blog about today. But what the hell: Has anyone else in this sphere heard about how Angelina Jolie arranged for People magazine to get a shot of her "bump" if only they would pay $600,000 to Wyclef Jean's charity devoted to empower the Haitian diaspora? Are other shots we see in celebrity magazines sold on similar conditions? If not, perhaps they should be. Talk about a new star-fucking gawk mag paradigm. Just think: In three to five months, after this strategy becomes the rage, US Weekly could turn out to be the most charitable organization we know. And you thought laughing at Lindsay Lohan's latest crash-and-burn escape was a "guilty" pleasure.
Posted on January 25, 2006 at 08:05 AM | Permalink
Not that long ago, satellite radio seemed like a solution in search of a problem: why get it for free when you can pay? But, with names like Stern, Snoop, and Dylan now available only via satellite -- not to mention the slow death of quality broadcast radio, thanks to behemoths like Clear Channel—$13 a month is pretty damn reasonable. If you're interested in trying to make a decision about which network is right for you -- or if you're curious about how set up your new satellite radio life -- I've got a casual guide up at the GQ/Details site, Men.style.com. Check out the FAQ (sadly, it contains references to bodily functions I didn't write), and then take a look at the radios you may want to invest in. My one tip is to forget the entire enterprise if you're interested in finding quality classical music that rivals what terrestrial has to offer. Both networks are sadly behind the curve (unless, of course, you can't get NPR where you live) mostly because they're invested in trying to make money and gain more subscribers from different pools of people. Sad but true.
Posted on January 23, 2006 at 06:15 PM | Permalink
In 1961, when Dmitri Shostakovich decided to put together five poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and write his 13th symphony around them, he was pretty intent on music's power to fight human, political battles. The piece he wrote, "Babi Yar," begins by telling the story of how Nazis slaughtered 33,000 Soviet Jews and left them in a ravine -- a massacre the Soviet government ignored, hence solidifying their obvious anti-Semitism (and please don't think for a second that this piece is simply a historical record of one government condoning inhuman acts; something tells me this piece isn't on W.'s iPod playlist).
At any rate, I recently heard this work performed by the LA Phil, James Conlon, and the important new baritone Nmon Ford. I won't spoil you whatever virtues reading my LA Times review of the show can offer (see a text version after the jump). But I will introduce this short review -- a piece that didn't offer me the room to discuss the following issue -- by saying that even if violinist Hillary Hahn had launched the concert with Sibelius and nothing interesting to follow her, it would have been a bland night.
Hahn recieves amazing reviews from critics around the globe, and if you close your eyes when she plays, you will hear CD-quality musicmaking. But compared to Greek violin innovator Leonidas Kavakos and the Sibelius performance he offered at Disney last year, Hahn simply plays too traditionally, too polished, and seems way too uninterested in her role. Saturday night, she bopped her head a bit to the sounds of the full-orchestra passages, but she seemed rather like a young Stepford Wife trying to chair-dance at a fundraiser.
I don't like to be mean, and Hahn does make beautiful, if predictable, sounds (and lots of money for classical music). But I wonder if her performance Saturday night just wasn't something she wanted to do -- or if she's just not quite as connected to her heart in a life-and-death way as other violinists who put more on the line. Or willing to share it. The question, I guess, is: Would the LA Phil have been able to fill Disney hall with only Babi Yar on the program? Unlikely. The LAT review after the jump...
Posted on January 23, 2006 at 08:28 AM | Permalink
Still down on the James Frey story? Of course, not. You've moved on. Well, remember this as you trounce back to a world where we all believe the best new authors will always be found.
January 4, 2006
Rejected by the Publishers
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER, The New York Times
Submitted to 20 publishers and agents, the typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of two books were assumed to be the work of aspiring novelists. Of 21 replies, all but one were rejections. Sent by The Sunday Times of London, the manuscripts were the opening chapters of novels that won Booker Prizes in the 1970's. One was "Holiday," by Stanley Middleton; the other was "In a Free State," by Sir V. S. Naipaul, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature. Mr. Middleton said he wasn't surprised. "People don't seem to know what a good novel is nowadays," he said. Mr. Naipaul said: "To see something is well written and appetizingly written takes a lot of talent, and there is not a great deal of that around. With all the other forms of entertainment today, there are very few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is."
Posted on January 21, 2006 at 08:16 AM | Permalink
Meeting film composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, who won the Oscar for "Finding Neverland" and is building Poland's equivalent of Sundance, it became evident to me just how much personality has to do with success in a creative endeavor. You can be the most inventive, pioneering artist, but if you don't like to breathe, look at the world, play, improvise, jump into situations and see how you can fit into them, you're definitely missing something. Jan's interview was also unique for me, because there was no hurry. I've conducted interviews with other people in which both parties enjoy the conversation and it doesn't feel rushed. But this conversation was perhaps one of the most natural and limitless. If, in fact, I hadn't had to run home and write the piece, we might have spoken longer. Jan's directors echo this sentiment. They told me they like to work with him because he's always happy to open another door and see where it takes him. Read the LA Times profile from this Sunday's Calendar section--it's copied as text after the jump if the LAT link doesn't work--and see how a talented film composer can weather Hollywood politicking and actually stay true to the vision that brought him here.
Posted on January 14, 2006 at 08:21 AM | Permalink
So, while Sirius has yet to add Howard Stern to its online stream--someone upstairs must be worried about BitTorrent fanatics capturing and sharing all the overhyped Stern crap going on on two whole new Sirius channels--there exists a population of old-school FM pirates pulling a switcheroo on the satellite jocks and sending Stern out over the r-a-d-i-o. Who would have thunk it? You can leave terrestrial radio technology, but you can't shake it. P.S. Stay tuned for some officially published words from me on our new satellite radio landscape. Should appear in a week or so...
Posted on January 13, 2006 at 06:39 PM | Permalink
Ken Levine agrees with me on Match Point, and I really appreciate his blog's accessible tone, to say nothing of all the helpful info he offers on crafting good film/tv. Of course, no one respects Woody Allen more than me, but I'll almost go so far as to say that I didn't believe he had lost his gift UNTIL Match Point. I could endure all the surface-y screwball comedies of the last few years (ok, not Anything Else, or Melinda Melinda). But when he deigned to plagiarize his own movie--and my second favorite of his ouvre (Crimes and Misdemeanors: see it)--he really proved to me that he is out of things to say and, at least with this film, only interested in repurposing his most stirring moral drama so he can finally make some money with it via that little cash vessel known as Scarlett. Celebrate Woody Allen, I say. He's worth celebrating, just like a great writer from the '70s and '80s who has retired. But let's not say this shallow film with pretty actors and a very predictable plot is phenomenal when all it is is a return--and a forgettable, merely average one--to the plots of Woody Past.
Posted on January 11, 2006 at 06:00 PM | Permalink
Read from my former Sun colleague Adam Kirsch the smartest take on what has happened since the Smoking Gun declared James Frey a fake and rumors began to fly that Random House would offer refunds. Too often in this consumer-driven market do writers cower in the face of editors who seem to want something marketable that simply doesn't exist. And too often does the commercial book world--and that's a different place than the literary world--force people to choose fiction or non. Kirsch's point is well-taken: If Frey lived 50 years ago, he would have just written his book with different cultural references, called it a novel, and been a pop author with hardly decent sales. As he should be. When I was in grad school, the celebrated creative non-fictionist Vivian Gornick, who taught me a class, admitting to fudging facts. She wasn't alone then, and she isn't alone now. Many famous New Yorker writers, from Alastair Reed to others I can't ethically mention here (for fear of some powerful ex-mentors flipping out all over me), have had similar crises. Of course, these are true literary figures, and their writing holds up, true or untrue. I guess that's the issue. That, and the fact that their works didn't sell--or, rather, attempt to sell--like Frey's did, which cashed its checks on its portrayal of a real story. Hell: Let's just start a new "creative non-fiction" category for everyone, throw pop and literary works into it, force dollar-happy publishers who sell it all to fact-check everything (i.e. if we can't trust the New York Times anymore, who's stupid enough to have ever trusted profit-hungry Random House?), and stop this nonsense once and for all. All the chips will fall where they should, reputations will last or they won't, and life will go on. Trust me.
And P.S. If, for some reason, you liked Frey's book, who cares if it's true or not? Sure, he's a lying shmuck, but the book is still a book, and you liked it. So keep on liking it. You're you, and that's fine.
Posted on January 11, 2006 at 02:15 PM | Permalink
So I made the mistake of landing on the Critics' Choice Awards last night, after more than a week of non-blogging (and hence not giving much attention to the side of my brain that critiques stuff). Yet after landing on the frighteningly intimate show--like the Globes, it had some of the biggest stars sitting close together at cocktail tables--I couldn't quite change the channel. It was sort of fascinating to watch the stars take everything so nonchalantly. To be sure, it's exciting to be given an award from the people who critique your work all year. But let we forget, Anthony Lane, J. Hoberman, and Andrew Sarris aren't exactly the reviewers doling out the prizes. The Critics' Choice Awards, as one might have surmised by morning show lightweight Joel Siegel enjoying the honor of presenting the Best Picture award, is governed by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Which means, essentially, that Joel Siegel was likely the most adept critical mind on the panel, as anyone who has ever watched a review of a movie on their local TV news will agree. It was pretty funny to watch, in fact: One could sense Mr. Siegel's awareness that everyone really knows he's a mental lightweight--with Spielberg, Clooney, Ang Lee, Paul Haggis, and Jim Mangold in the room, it was finally the star's chance to feel intellectually superior. And as each accepted his or her award, it was as if he or she was acting excited--if not terribly casual. Clooney's speech--he received some sort of Freedom Award for the important work he's contributed over the last year--was strikingly articulate, humble, and off-the-cuff (and he's the son of a newsman). Of course, as Mssr. Siegel reminded his audience, five of the past six winners of the Critics' Choice award for best picture have won the Best Picture Oscar. (Does that mean the Academy watches their local news reports too much?) Still, it was hard to escape sensations that the stars knew the broadcast critics only matter insofar as they promote ticket sales. "I love critics!" exclaimed Reese Witherspoon, who then went on to qualify her statement saying that that's at least how she felt this year--well, one half of this year. I just wish the camerapeople would have cut-away from the stage more. It would have been interesting to see Clooney and Spielberg chatting about an NYT Op-Ed one of them was reading on his smartphone. Next year, how about the real critics get together to dole out awards? Then we might get to see how Hollywood creatives feel about the critical voices that matter.
Posted on January 10, 2006 at 08:47 AM | Permalink