After having seen numerous shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade theaters in both NY and LA, I have to say, it's pretty sad knowing that Amy Poehler, one of the founders, is so far along in her career, and that the other three guys, who can be funny, aren't. One of the things that strikes you when you first see a UCB long-form improv show--especially a free one--is how many very young college kids come out for it. And how well, these aging middle agers--the three guys who founded the troupe with Amy--play to them (Amy is always somewhere else, though I have caught her a number of times, and she's delivered the goods, ratcheting up a performance as long as coked up Seth Myers isn't a guest, or worse, the unfunny Horacio Sanz). Now, from Joystiq, however, is a video from the chief UCB man-child Matt Besser, doing shtick on gamers. I'm not offended. I'm not a gamer. But Besser, man, come on: You don't have to keep skewing young to get a laugh. As the sharpest tool in the UCB box, it should be evident that hitting the right comedic note by now is no longer just indulging the USC freshmen. Hell, look at Conan. He's found a way to stay college-funny but age, brilliantly. For now, that is.
Justin Davidson, over at Noise, has a fantastic report about Hamburg's forthcoming music hall. Writing about structures built to deliver sound is absolutely his bag, so have a look. My only thought is to try not to stay staunch on his statement that: "Isn't there something inherently decadent about taking the means of
production and transforming into the means of consumption for the
bourgeoisie?" Call me me, but I kind of love that decadence as long as it works. And let's be hopeful: Not all music lovers will be members of the bourgeoisie, someday.
"Somewhere between the perfectly curated iPod playlist—which, let's face
it, can be a pain in the ass to create—and the unwelcome randomness of
radio lies the new Slacker music service. After collecting your
preferences, the aptly named outfit does the heavy lifting for you,
predicting other tunes you'd appreciate to create a "station" just for
you. Don't like what you hear? You can skip up to six unwanted songs
per hour (or you can spend $7.50 a month and pass over as many as you
want). A Web-only version went beta earlier this month, but a nicely
designed handheld device—features include Wi-Fi, a four-inch video
screen, and a car kit—is on its way this summer. Thanks to that
wireless capability, it'll keep adding new choices and constantly
update itself based on your preferences: Skip the Whitesnake tune that
brings back all those bad memories once and you should be spared
similar torment in the future. Naturally, anything this custom-tailored
would need to have quite a library, and the service delivers. It's
partnered with three of the world's top music companies (Sony/BMG,
Universal, and Warner) in addition to several indie labels, so it's
already primed with two million songs. Sounds like the hardest-working
slacker in the business."
What intrigues me about all of this is how to actually get people to use services like this--will my short posts do it? The more I podcast my favorite radio shows, and the closer I get to filling my 80GB iPod, the more I realize that I really would just love someone else to help me through a few hours of music programming. No one loves supervising a cinematic moment with tunes more than me, but some good surprises are arriving less and less frequently, and now options exist to help when KCRW is broadcasting depressing news. Listen up, yo.
Iron Chef America was kind of fun at the beginning, but how about kicking things up a notch and actually, you know, filming it the way it's supposedly filmed: With a guest chef randomly picking an Iron Chef to challenge, with both chefs learning of their secret ingredient one minute later, and with having to create dishes on the spot without prior knowledge of the so-called secret ingredient and a cast of sous chefs. Seriously, I think a few of the chefs--say, Mario Batali and Morimoto--could do it. And then the show would actually be exciting. Alas, this is reality TV.
"Until now, you couldn't get a surfer's body on land. With OSIM's uSurf,
a wave-action exerciser, you can stand, squat, twist and rock yourself
into a Kelly Slater replica. The sturdy board swerves, bops and
pitches, causing your calves, quads and hamstrings to make waves of
their own. Spend 15 minutes a day balancing at home and you'll start to
feel a full-on surfer's burn. $399. Go to www.brookstone.com." ADAM BAER
One might ask: Why blog this? My answer? Writing is reality. And the reality is I tested this thing for a month, both to strengthen my ankles, which needed it, and to write this story, because establishing a connection at the Times Style magazine has to start somewhere. Anyone who is embarrassed by short, service-y assignments should look hard at how freelance writers, no matter how well-established, have to move about the publishing world, fishlike, looking for food, and yes, the possibility of a big, nourishing bite, someday.
I love today's Post story about how restaurant mogul Jeffrey Chodorow has banned NYT food critic Frank Bruni from all 29 of his restaurants. I used to spend a good chunk of my working writer time as a newspaper critic, and I still ocassionally review this or that--especially on this blog. But I have also long felt that a lot of the culture critcrap that happens in our media environment is mildly unfair. Especially in small or even medium-sized markets (take Baltimore's classical music scene) where only one or two major critics work in one field, or in extremely large markets where one critic holds most of the power (say, Bruni in New York's food world--despite the presence of New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Zagat, etc.). In large cultural markets, or in cities that think they are large markets, it gets so crazy that critics critique each other (often the most crazy, low, and stupid of the bunch, but still). This, while the subject remains silent. I always admired Chodorow for his take-no-bullshit savvy, just as I admire the violinist Lara St. John who has written back to her critics about what she thinks of their often ridiculous reviews. Criticism is about being a part of a dialogue, so let the subjects fight back if it's gonna get ugly. It's a lot more pleasant than reading self-important, passive-aggressive critics scared of their own physical shadows write about each other, and it brings real guts into a high-stakes game, one that has always influenced the subject's subsequent financial success but in words has felt way too removed from human emotion and reality. As USC students write to teachers in e-mails, Fight On, Chodorow.