Posted on October 17, 2005 at 09:47 AM | Permalink
I don't know what's funnier: That, along with fellow displaced (and plenty of freaky) new Angelenos, I attended free Yom Kippur services at the Laugh Factory yesterday* -- only to emerge on Sunset and be told by a cop while crossing the street to stay put before a stunt car comes screeching around the corner. Or how about Jonathan Kiefer's newest Film Flaneur column: a hilarious open letter to movie industry marketeers.
*A sincere thanks to the club, actually: As you probably read in my Larry David post, there aren't too many other places for a casually observant Jew to rock the High Holidays for free.
Posted on October 14, 2005 at 06:51 AM | Permalink
Admit it: You just read Wired for the articles. Right. Uh huh. Well, then, you of all people, Shalloteer, should know deeply this post's sheer lack of necessity. Of what do I speak? Oh, you mean you don't know? Well, in this month's cover story, Variety editor/author Jonathan Bing doesn't just give Peter Jackson and his "King Kong" remake effort the full Wired treatment, replete with active verbs and long-form insight. He applies some of the "philosophy of marketing" magic that he dishes weekly in his column, Hard Sell. The gist? That Jackson's finally got enough power to teach virtual PR seminars to the Hollywood flacks collecting good corporate benefits packages on the assumption that if they simply smile, kiss journalist's asses, and hock one-sheets out of the back of their Beemers, they're doing their jobs. No way, say the online "making of Kong" diaries Jackson posts regularly from Weta, his personal New Zealand movie city. Good PR can actually come from substance, authenticity, enthusiasm, and a little insight about online community-building. Especially when you're dealing with a director like Jackson, whose dutiful fans just need a few regular content feedings to keep them alive and well enough for Kong to hit it big on opening weekend.
Posted on September 30, 2005 at 05:46 AM | Permalink
From Maria Sharapova's revelatory blog, which should, I hasten to say, have been updated post-U.S. Open:
I also listen to my iPod all the time. I love music. The new Coldplay is sooo good. I can’t stop listening to that. Also, I’ve been into a lot of Dance and Club music. It keeps me moving. Sometimes I have to dance on the plane cause I can’t control myself.
What am I reading? Fashion magazines. Lots of them. All that I can get my hands on. After reading a good novel, it’s great to flip through magazines. As everyone knows I love fashion. I can’t get enough of it. It makes me want to go shopping. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Um, yes. But not as fun as reading her take on Tolstoy would be. That, not the new chicklit tome of the month, is what teenage Russian tennis stars built in Florida's Blonde Tennis Star Factory consider good novels, right? Let the gossip start here then. I'm breaking the NDA I signed with Sharapova Enterprises to leak to the world the luminary's newest media move: intellectual. Look for a 3,000 word Sharapova essay on Isaac Babel in an October issue of the The New York Review of Books. And remember, you didn't learn that here. Not unless you want a visit from Yuri and Slava.
Posted on September 13, 2005 at 08:37 AM | Permalink
I was a kid when I first saw Andre Agassi play. He was seven years older than me. He had long hair, denim tennis shorts, and girls throwing themselves at him. But even more exciting to me, he played tennis like a rockstar. He threw himself into his shots and his matches. He wasn't the "Rebel" Canon made him out to be, of course -- he always displayed respect for the game, and improvised on the fundamentals etched into the sport's history. But even then I understood why he was a marketer's dream. He infused youthful, brash life into a sport with cultural stigmas tied to class, age, and race. Today, Agassi drives a minivan, tousles the hair of his four-year-old son, and shares insightful comments with the press about world issues. And so be it. He's allowed. He's an adult now. Yet what I find so hilarious about the currently manic pop-culture tennis marketing machine that began to churn ever slow slowly the day Agassi hit the courts at 15 is that it never inspired a decent youth magazine about the sport.
Posted on September 12, 2005 at 09:13 AM | Permalink
I'm not a fan of obits for people -- or worlds -- that haven't died. When it's time to rebuild, reorganize, and resurrect, a celebration goes a long way. But this month's most inadvertent New Orleans spirit machine may also be one of the year's best documentaries -- and that has nothing to do with its curious timing. In "Make It Funky," which recently opened in L.A. and will appear on VH1 soon, director Michael Murphy, who also lost his New Orleans home, celebrates, with profound humanism, the multigenre gumbo of music that made New Orleans cuture what it is. And that the film's just coming out now could be fate. See it.
Posted on September 10, 2005 at 08:04 AM | Permalink
It's been some time since we contributed an original O.C. political report, and even though it would please us at GS headquarters as much as the next Seth Cohen-wannabe to mock the oh-so-subtle "switch to Cingular" message present in the first ad campaign for Motorola's iTunes phone** (which conveniently ran during The O.C. premiere's first commercial break), we couldn't exactly let all of Josh Schwartz's hidden political messages go. So much has changed, after all, since Seth embodied the Bush presidency's feelings about people who make less than $100,000 a year by announcing to fresh-faced Summer: "I just can't be friends with you!"
Posted on September 08, 2005 at 09:03 PM | Permalink
So everyone's saying Fox's new post-O.C. drama "Reunion" is the next best example of youth culture flashback drama on the flatscreen. That makes sense: Its first few minutes were a direct steal from John Hughes's "The Breakfast Club" complete with an overly expositional voice-over and the soothing sounds of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me." Plagiarism: the new reality TV.
Posted on September 08, 2005 at 08:14 PM | Permalink
I accept that Dr. Phil exists, and thrives, in an America that can reelect the president it reelected (and don't tell me W.'s approval rating is down -- nothing's more American that electing someone who doesn't deserve it and then getting down on him when you refuse to take responsibility for your choice). And what's more Bush-like, after all, than suggesting a stick-it-out-and-learn-to-love-again-strategy to a loveless married couple of unadventurous scaredy cats that admits they only got together out of convenience in the first place. But what drives me batty about Dr. Phil--and I actually have stopped watching him to nurture my rage; I only ocassionally catch him now when a certain psych Ph.D. forces me to watch with her--is his son, Jay. Jay McGraw, author of books meant to mindfuck teens out of bullying, overeating, and just generally being "Bad," is the Youth Example: the oh-so-hip voice of reason that can speak to kids at their level about how to get through life in this terribly complicated, sense-bereft country that his parents have helped build, you know? The question is: What qualitative behavorial decision has Dr. Phil Jr. made now that we kids should follow? Why don't just get rich and famous off your dad's ability to manipulate red-state America. And don't just marry a Playboy playmate who's latest film appearance was a movie called "Nudity Required." Marry one of a set of identical triplet playmates who apparently don't mind "bad-touching" each other onscreen for money. Who says America's in trouble when you can write a book about child psychology without a Ph.D., ride the coattails of your celebrity father, and then buy yourself a shiny new girl-robot (with two anatomically identical backups to replace her if the first one, um, breaks) with which to indulge all your American Dream fantasies? That, my friends--not a feeling of "warmth" or "wholeness" or "community"--is what stopping the bullyin' and bingin' will get ya. So get on the train. Stop telling Jimmy and Johnny they're fat and stupid. Get writin'. Move to L.A. And by all means, when Hef invites you to the grotto for a little R&R after a gratis "motivation talk," do NOT say no.
Bonus *glassShallot game: Which one of these new toys is Jay's? (Answer below)
(Answer: Does it matter?)
Posted on August 31, 2005 at 09:29 AM | Permalink
The answer may be yes, I'm afraid. Confused? Unaware of the word "baxter"? I was too until recently, when I read my own Radar Magazine discussion about lame American presidents and why bad romantic comedies are good with Michael Showalter ("The State," "Wet Hot American Summer"). Find it on Radar's new Web site, or check the text after the jump.
Posted on August 23, 2005 at 09:20 AM | Permalink
In June, over an entirely routine cross-country phone call, my father told me about a new French film concerning a pianist who works for the mob. Knowing that I often (albeit unsuccessfully) try to avoid films that involve the subject -- music -- that arrested my childhood (a formative musical immersion that continues to haunt me even as I try to write comedy -- or an environmental piece about sharks), dad didn't let up. He persisted in explaining to me that just as I gravitate to the powerful duality in Tony Soprano, I'd find this character study fascinating -- perhaps more. Eventually I broke down -- partly because of parental persuasion (and ok, omniscience), and partly because I couldn't bear to see another forced summer blockbuster in service of trying to "see something light, and just have a good time." What neither my father or I could imagine at the time of this long-distance film chat, however, was how obsessed I would become with this particular movie, its roots, and the idea that pianists work better on film as deviants than any other type of musician -- even that "imagined" guitar-strummer in Gus Van Sant's "Last Days." For its part, the French deviant-pianist film -- it's called "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" by Jacques Audiard, and it's still playing, somewhere -- wasn't just interesting, it was electric. What's more, it was a remake of James Toback's 1978 epic "Fingers," starring Harvey Keitel, which I had to (obviously) rewatch. And rewatch. And rewatch. Thankfully, though, that time in the front of the plasma didn't just result in my nurturing nostalgia for knowing (and loving some) crazy pianists. It resulted in this new LA Times Sunday Calendar piece about why deviant pianists work so well as film characters. A piece which doesn't just discuss other deviant pianist films, my Juilliard-trained parents' thoughts on socializing with pianists, and comments from artists, but my honest, potentially jarring hypothesis: that pianists make better sociopaths than you'd think. Agree? You're clearly as crazy as I am. Disagree? Read my outlandish claims, and write me angry letters about them.
"Ivory Pure? Er, hardly," by Adam Baer.
[P.S. Text follows after the jump (click on the post continuation) for those who can't read articles on newspaper sites, and thanks for reading]
Posted on August 20, 2005 at 08:16 PM | Permalink
According to the Futon Critic, "Criminal Minds," CBS's new Mandy Patinkin show--yes, I did, in fact just alert you to the fact that Mandy ("You Killed My Father") Patinkin will finally expand his repertoire from the touring company of AstraZeneca heartburn-pill TV ads--will, in fact, debut on September 22. And yes, that also means that Papa Can You Hear Me Patinkin will milk even further the increasingly evident bile-producing edge he flaunts in his tummyache ads. For his role in said primetime drama will be one of "lead mind-hunter." You see, apparently, as singing Jews age, they begin to look capable of making invasive explorations into dark depths--stomachs, brains, what have you. Which may account for why my gastroenterologist always appeared to be peering into the subconscious of a serial killer when he returned to me the results of various acid-reflux tests. The real lesson to be learned here? Let your bile work for you. Just because you used to make millions causing with your oh-so-tender voice nice Brooklyn moms to kvell doesn't mean you have to feel bad about your ability to turn that tenderness into the sheer, unadulterated world-hating for which only the role of a "mindhunter" on a "serious" CBS crime drama calls.
Posted on August 05, 2005 at 07:56 AM | Permalink
A couple of days ago, Beeferman sent me a link to a NY Times article that seemed completely in line with a strain of thinking that has had me captivated for years. The piece, "Neuron Goes Awry, and Brain Becomes iPod," is a look at doctors who are researching the nature of musical hallucinations. Of course, it has always seemed like common sense to me that: a) there's a reason you can't get certain tunes or songs out of your head, and that b) there's a reason that certain tunes return to plague your mind at certain times. I always thought it rather Proustian: I would hear some cheesy '80s song by Eddie Money when my brain decided during a college date that I felt about as insecure at that moment as I did when my seventh-grade girlfriend asked me to kiss her on some rickety amusement-park ride that was, indeed, oscillating to the turns of Mr. Money's saccharin melody. Likewise my recent and involuntary obsession with an OutKast song that seems to play in my head whenever I venture into Urth Caffe -- does buying acidic overpriced coffee among wannabe celebrities make me feel hip-hop? (I assume there's no explanation for hearing Ravel on the Upper West Side of Manhattan -- unless I think of how Parisian and Monet-like those views of Riverside Drive in the 100's can seem to someone who has spent too much time looking at impressionist city-scenes).
According to this article, however, current findings on the topic...
"support recent work by neuroscientists indicating that our brains use special networks of neurons to perceive music. When sounds first enter the brain, they activate a region near the ears called the primary auditory cortex that starts processing sounds at their most basic level. The auditory cortex then passes on signals of its own to other regions, which can recognize more complex features of music, like rhythm, key changes and melody."
The piece also says that:
"There is no standard procedure for treating musical hallucinations. Some doctors try antipsychotic drugs, and some use cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients understand what's going on in their brains. "Sometimes simple things can be the cure," Dr. Aziz said. "Turning on the radio may be more important than giving medication."
The point, I guess, is that we're all in lots of trouble -- and I'm assuming that if you read this blog, your brain is as much of an iPod as mine is -- now that the digital revolution has made it possible for us to nostalgically revisit so many dark corners of our musical memories on such a regular, consistent basis. The upside, of course, is that for any of us interested in making movies, it will only get easier to produce the ideal soundtracks to the eventual motion pictures we currently call our imaginings.
Posted on July 14, 2005 at 11:05 AM | Permalink
It used to be that a classically trained female musician was expected to settle down to life with a symphony. No longer. See today's LAT piece on three, ground-breaking freelance women playing their so-called "classical" instruments to great acclaim in and around Hollywood.
Los Angeles Times (Photo credit, Béatrice de Géa)
July 10, 2005
"Playing the Field"
By Adam Baer
(Photo credit, Béatrice de Géa)
the great-expectations, high-anxiety bubble that is life at a classical music
conservatory, the last thing a graduating student wants to discuss with her
teacher is the possibility that she may not be entirely fit for the regimented,
full-time life of a symphony orchestra.
" 'So what do you want to do?' my teacher asked me upon graduation," says Sara Schoenbeck, 33, an L.A. bassoonist now known for her solo contributions to contemporary and crossover concert music, the international jazz improvisation scene and Hollywood studios, where she's played on big-budget scores for the "Matrix" trilogy and "Spanglish."
her teacher's chagrin, her reply was, "There have to be other
At just 23, Schoenbeck was rebellious in her confidence but correct in her assessment of how useful to the music and entertainment worlds a classically trained musician — even a bassoonist — can be. A regular participant in the Bay Area's youth orchestra scene, she had studied at the storied San Francisco Conservatory. Never, though, had she wanted to pursue a job in a major orchestra. It just didn't feel right. Instead she graduated and took a different route: moving into Los Angeles' diverse musical community and earning a master's at the California Institute of the Arts, a freer, more interdisciplinary place that encouraged her to study dance, jazz, and new and world music.
"It may sound shocking, but I got studio work from playing contemporary music," Schoenbeck says. "A prominent film composer heard me improvise, which just confirms my belief that if you do what you want artistically, people will notice you. You've got a distinct voice. You take chances."
Schoenbeck is just one member of a small but growing and spirited subculture of young, classically trained female L.A. musicians who have skirted the symphony audition path to play "alternative" musical genres and enjoy eclectic entertainment-industry work now that the Hollywood studios are no longer boys' clubs.
Along with more highfalutin work, the jobs these women get include acting in movies as nonspeaking but pleasant-looking musicians with classical skills, improvising in hip-hop orchestras and playing solos for liquor commercials a few hours before recording Stravinskian jazz riffs for an art project. They may not pull down either the standard symphony income or the generous residuals earned by studio regulars who troll only for "Star Wars"-style scoring sessions. But the impressive range of styles they play provides them with a level of excitement and performance satisfaction that more traditional musicians cannot claim — and they wouldn't have it any other way.
"Of course I had to do some silly things to help make a living at the beginning," says Schoenbeck, referring to a 2000 gig that required her, a bassoonist, to "dress sexy" and mime violin-playing in an all-female string ensemble employed to "back up" one of pop music's ubiquitous boy bands. "But we're in Hollywood, and L.A. is good for musicians like me. In fact, it has made me a better overall musician. I like the challenge of having to transpose and harmonize on the spot, to improvise a fast microtonal scale or play jazz with performers like Anthony Braxton, who I'll collaborate with this summer at Belgium's Middelheim jazz festival. I learned I could do all of that here in L.A., and I know I wouldn't get those chances with a full-time spot in the Phil."
In fact, some of her male colleagues may even be a little jealous. Local violinist Julian Hallmark was a student of Yehudi Menuhin, among others, and has a busy freelance career. But, he says, "If I, as a guy, could get more gigs like that, I'd want them. They pay well and are fun."
'A more flexible lifestyle'
Another talented freelancer with pop backup experience like Schoenbeck's, violinist Melissa Reiner, 31, has found still other ways to use the classical training she received from years of study with "serious" musicians at the San Francisco Conservatory, Aspen Music Festival and Peabody Conservatory. An improvising member of the popular country-rock band Kane and a Hollywood session musician with credits including "The Tonight Show" and the Grammy Awards, Reiner has played in videos for David Lee Roth and P. Diddy while maintaining a schedule of rigorous chamber music and collaborative small-orchestra performances.
"Classical music will always be my first love, and I still play it, but I was driven from the full-time pursuit of major orchestra jobs by the inherent elitism and narrow-mindedness," she says. "I realized as a teenager that I was deeply moved by other forms of music and wanted a more flexible lifestyle. One of the most rewarding parts of any live performance is the immediate positive feedback from the audience — and from one's colleagues sharing the stage. Unfortunately, the nature of classical music — which requires silence and complete attention from everyone — produces a disconnect between performer and audience. When I perform with a rock band, listeners are encouraged to share their appreciation and enthusiasm during the performance. It's much more visceral: not necessarily better, but certainly more primal and immediate."
Reiner, who is recording a solo classical album, credits her traditional training with challenging her to play at the highest level in any, but especially a popular, musical environment. Like Schoenbeck, she seems to epitomize an L.A.-specific open-mindedness that's foreign to many classical musicians with a "conservatory" outlook.
"Some of the most inspiring and gifted musicians I work with in L.A. are nonclassical performers," she says. "They improvise, arrange, think outside the box. And because I both play with and learn from them, I have been able to reach large swaths of listeners when only the most famous of classical violinists, like Itzhak Perlman, can say that. Plus, I actually enjoy the contrast between high culture and pop culture, performing on MTV with Brian McKnight, filming a scene for 'Judging Amy' and recording Prokofiev's Violin Concerto — all in one fiscal year."
Obtaining such an array of assignments requires not only Hollywood business skills but an ability to fulfill the needs of the music and entertainment industries — among them, "miming" female groups, which must exhibit a "look," and true performance groups, with the know-how to expertly lay down the tracks that stream behind the mimers. That kind of ability is also not a standard part of a classical music education. But violinist Daphne Chen, 29, a string contractor and leader for jobs with such pop artists as Destiny's Child and Mariah Carey, says she's thankful for having taken those offers. Otherwise, she says, she wouldn't have gained the knowledge that she uses to successfully pursue a self-run career with many entrepreneurial aspects.
A USC alum and former CalArts graduate student, Chen grew up winning classical concerto competitions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As a young freelancer in Hollywood, however, she began to play with the Latin rock band Quetzal and was soon performing new music for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella series. Currently, she spends a large portion of her time taking studio assignments as a member of The Section Quartet, a group of local, classically trained musicians that also plays live shows of rock hits arranged for an amplified string foursome with a punk-rock spirit.
"Playing as a lead instrument with Quetzal, which is bilingual, multicultural and rock-oriented, taught me there isn't just one kind of music that either me or my instrument is suited for," she says. "It taught me to improvise onstage and arrange scores, the challenges of which I love. Unlike classical playing, these styles of performance dictate that if you make a mistake onstage, you need to, as rock stars say, 'repeat it like you mean it.' Like you 'rule.' "
Though she still considers herself a classical musician and hasn't abandoned the field, Chen believes that many music schools instill a belief in young artists that they have a unique brand of "potential" which can be fulfilled only in a few formulaic ways — mostly, playing in an orchestra or in front of one.
But "my goal is to be happy," she says. "Which isn't necessarily that stuff only. I realize the silliness of the glitz and glam of some nonclassical gigs offered to women, but I'm also honest enough to admit that I get a kick out of some of it. I just need other things in my life along with classical. And I can find all kinds of quality nonclassical work that actually allows me to express my brand of creativity better. I want to get to a point where people want me, not just a violinist."
Chen has used her varied assignments to learn guitar pedal effects, electronic music skills and how to secure a place for the violin in nontraditional arenas by communicating the nature of the instrument to popular musicians — to whom violins may be foreign entities.
The bottom line to all this is partly the bottom line. As violinist Hallmark observes, while there may remain a "classical norm," one restricted to orchestral and chamber work, "only one-half of 1% of us is going to make money like that. The classical world is having a problem bringing in audiences, and if you don't want to be a martyr starving musician, you have to learn how to diversify. You have to be able to both turn on the Tchaikovsky concerto and back up pop musicians you can't stand — and do it well."
Says Chen: "Like a lot of us in this business, I have one mission, and that's to prove that classical instruments aren't just classical, that they can add the missing excitement and desired aggression needed by popular styles of music. The music industry just has to allow a space for them, or give us the chance to show it how to break one open."
Still, during a week in which her schedule boasted a Bach choir concert, a TV recording session, a Go: Organic improvisational orchestral show and the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Schoenbeck summed up what drives her community of pioneering freelance colleagues the most:
"You have two bank accounts, a monetary one and a creative one. If one falls out of whack, your balance is off. Then you're not the truly independent performer you set out to be that day you walked out of classical music school."
To contact the subjects:
Sara Schoenbeck (email@example.com)
Melissa Reiner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daphne Chen (email@example.com)
Posted on July 09, 2005 at 03:56 PM | Permalink
I once worked in a bookstore. Now, I'm speaking at one. No, the giant tell-all novel isn't on the shelves yet, but someone else's is (sort of), and I'm helping out a few film composers he employs to publicly parse out their thoughts on what they do. Curious? Read the following press release which has, I'm told, made its way around the Internet. And come by to say hello -- or watch me sweat at the prospect of speaking in public.
"Commotion Records to host ecclectic evening at Barnes and Nobles in Los Angeles"
Commotion Records Night at Barnes & Noble
The Grove @ Farmer’s Market
Tuesday, June 21
7pm to 9pm
Admission is Free
The evening will feature a panel discussion of the role that music plays in independent film moderated by journalist Adam Baer...
Panelists will include Harold Budd (composer, "Mysterious Skin"), Rolfe Kent (composer, "Sideways", "Mean Girls, "About Schmidt"), Nathan Larsen (composer, "Boys Don’t Cry", "Palindrome", "The Woodsman") and Tracy McKnight (film supervisor for over 70 independent films and co-founder of Commotion Records).
The evening will also showcase a rare musical performance by Nathan Larsen who was a member of the D.C.art-punk band Shudder to Think. And, as a finishing touch, former CBS/Sony CEO and Commotion Records co-founder and CEO Walter Yetnikoff will read excerpts from his critically acclaimed memoir HOWLING AT THE MOON.
Posted on June 17, 2005 at 09:22 AM | Permalink
Nancy Franklin is one of my favorite TV critics -- basically because she isn't a TV critic, but a writer who thinks creatively about television (the business, the content, the social impact). Hence, the excitement that struck me yesterday upon seeing that she had finally taken on J.J. Abrams's "Lost" in her most recent column. Unlike other critiques, Franklin's articulates perfectly the reason "Lost" has its hold on both TV addicts and network detractors. It's a show that toys with itself, at once mocking its inherent absurdity in our "Survivor"-driven, war-on-terror global culture and then, at times, driving headlong through it with absolute conviction.
The characters make up a mini U.N.—in addition to Jack and Kate, who are white Americans, there’s a Korean couple, an African-American father and son, a one-hit British rock musician and heroin addict, an Iraqi communications expert (the show upped its ante considerably by making this character a former member of the Republican Guard).
Another example of Abrams's meta humor is the titling of one of the first season's later episodes "Deus ex machina." It's the show where Locke and Boone, before the latter perishes, find a second plane hanging over a cliff -- a seemingly forced narrative event mocked in the name of its chapter. So, yes, Franklin is surely onto something.
The problem with her article -- and I offer this critique in the most respectable spirit possible -- is that she strays far off course as she ties things up, missing the boat on the show's musical score, a product of composer Michael Giacchino. To wit:
“Lost” relies a little too heavily on shaky-cam effects and bang-on-a-can music for its unsettling quality.
In fact, Giacchino's music, as you may have read in these pages, follows religiously the witty "meta" attitude that renders "Lost" so delicious to Franklin. His music can be enjoyed for it surface virtues: a Dr. Moreau-ian antidote to stranded-island drama tunes made of Bach-quality chorales, low harp plucks, and atonal clusters. But it is also never too quick to take itself and its show too seriously, life-lovingly employing ponticello tremolos and jaggedly beat drums to thoroughly locate the drama in its genre -- in a decades-long dialogue about what genre means. It is this perpetually written orchestral score, indeed, that gives the show much of the flavor Franklin enjoys, even if she isn't consciously aware of this. Without it, "Lost" would have to work much harder to both provide the narrative escapism we love and tartly skewer its existence. (P.S. The phrase "Bang On A Can" also isn't an insult anymore...)
Posted on May 17, 2005 at 10:53 AM | Permalink
The writer Ken Foster (The Kind I'm Likely to Get, The KGB Bar Reader, Dog Culture) has an unusually interesting discussion with Aimee Mann (pictured above) in today's Westchester Journal News -- and one detour finds the literary songstress naming F. Scott Fitzgerald as one of her influences. Read more.
Posted on May 15, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink
Reason #311 to pursue that Pulitzer Prize with merciless determination: Your employer will eventually let you write poems about German luxury cars -- in the newspaper! The L.A. Times's Bard of Cars Dan Neil on Mercedes's new SLK350:
Attend me well, lords and ladies,
And my song of brave Mercedes,
A company that's struggled a bit, of late,
With reliability most unfortunate.
Though recent reports from J.D. Power
Have been as depressing as Schopenhauer,
One thing our fathers found,
You can't keep a German in a lab coat down.
Posted on April 27, 2005 at 05:03 PM | Permalink
The crazy cult-leaderish devil wasn't acting: "Scientologist Vampire Laps Up the Last Drop of Dawson's Creek Innocence Left in the Culture" (a.k.a., "Cruise Bags Katie Holmes")
Posted on April 27, 2005 at 04:53 PM | Permalink
Posted on April 26, 2005 at 09:41 AM | Permalink
How interesting it is when certain (morally, ethically, grammatically) inconsistent media outlets align themselves with qualitative journalists to provide themselves instant street cred in their own pages. To wit: Gawker's claim that L.A. Weekly's super-principled Hollywood columnist Nikki Finke is its "Sister-in-Ink." Sure, Gawker published a great exchange between Finke and a GQ magazine editor who represents her image of what's wrong with the entertainment media. But was Finke consulted on her new sibling-adoption by the King of All Blog Media? And if not, how does she feel about it? I can't imagine -- and keep in mind, I'm just wondering aloud -- that she looks upon Gawker any kinder than she does Graydon and VF. Clearly, she shouldn't.
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 11:53 AM | Permalink
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 10:26 AM | Permalink
From Nikki Finke's latest Deadline Hollywood column about the ridiculous perks offered to the jokers who run our consumer-entertainment culture: "Wanna hurl? ... [consider the] the profligacy of a public company shameless enough to reimburse Les Moonves, who lives in Los Angeles but also has a New York apartment, $105,000 for the period he stayed in New York at his apartment instead of at a hotel, or Tom Freston, who is based in New York but also has a residence in Los Angeles, $43,100 for the time he spent staying at his L.A. home instead of a hotel. ... Talk about chutzpah: This is paying these guys to live in their own homes."
Posted on April 21, 2005 at 11:32 AM | Permalink
Confession: I often feel forgotten, lost -- and thirsty! -- in this world of custom celebrity branded beverages. It’s just so hard being an issue-driven indie film chick in this Krunk-juice-drinking boys club called Hollywood. So what if your dad made The Godfather? So what if James Cameron haunts your local Trader Joe’s in search of a deal on your family’s brand-name merlot? So what if you won an Oscar for a “sparse” (read: vacantly routine and already forgotten) coming-of-age screenplay that wouldn’t have been given the time of day if your dad, Bill Murray, Sonic Youth, and Wes Anderson hadn’t passed it around with rubber-stamp props. After a while plugging along, it takes some serious cajones to make it in this biz. And after a long day of dressing yourself to look unconcerned about clothes, taking meetings about taking meetings at Urth Caffe, and later joining Quentin down at Cinespace for a Russ Meyer retrospective before a late-night Silverlake patio party teeming with chevre-stuffed mushrooms, you need something to simultaneously take the edge off and remind you that you could do it ALL again. You need something that’s yours -- NOT Daddy’s! And so that’s why I’m proud to be releasing (releasing, inspiring - what's the difference?) Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs. (No, it’s not a car. Though aren’t those little buggers cute?! Maybe I should get myself one. Nah, too commercial.) No, Sofia Mini is it’s own thing. It’s not wine, it’s not beer, it’s not Bartles and James (mmm, don’t tell anyone I like Bartles and James, ok?). Sofia Mini is the sparkling wine-product the underground, thinking girl wants. The bouquet? Pear, honeysuckle, passion fruit. The body? Apple, melon, tangerine. The finish? Lemon and honey (what else?). Sporting an expert Monterey-grape balance of 70% Pinot Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 10% Muscat Cannelli -- oh, and did I mention it's served cold in its own cute lil’ red bullet can? -- Sofia Mini is Independence. That’s why I branded it “a distinctive blend as unconventional as the woman who inspired it.” Mini -- and you can call it that too -- is for “the impromptu, impetuous, live passionately-for-the-moment kind of person. The kind of person who lives like there is no tomorrow!” Because, like, that’s the kinda woman I am, yo. I make personal, independent movies. I push the envelope. And I expect nothing less from what I drink. Touché, Spike!
Posted on April 19, 2005 at 05:26 PM | Permalink
Ok, I love the South -- I admit it. The humidity, the okra, the Jew-hating: these are a few of my favorite things. Still, I can't (I mean, don't want to) believe the reality of E!'s recent ubiquitous list show, 50 Steamiest Southern Stars. Sure Hollywood has always embraced sexy southerners. But never before has being a drawling fake blonde with two first names (wink, wink, Jamie Lynn, you're next!) been a prerequisite for getting your own bad WB teen drama, a pop record deal, and eventually your own line of edible makeup. I mean, Maryiln Monroe changed her name from, not to, Norma Jean. It's the reddening of the states -- the Bushification of our country -- that's producing this abnormally gluttonous hunger for simple-life stars devoid of sophistication*. And now we've got an unoriginal celebrity TV-news network finding 50 examples of it. Happy Monday.
*And that's the implied definition of Southern according to Hollywood and E! I'm not saying there's anything intrinsically wrong with being from the South. Hell, my Great Uncle Sy-Shlomo Rosensweig was the hottest thing Deep South Warsaw ever saw shirtless. Yowza (if only back-hair was in again...).
Posted on April 18, 2005 at 09:03 AM | Permalink
Evany Thomas's "'80s [Music] Lineups That Read Like Tabloid Headlines" reminds me of what, on a good day, I might have done with my Refrigerator Poetry.
Posted on April 10, 2005 at 06:00 AM | Permalink
Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2005
Calendar Desk; Part E; Pg. 5
"Musician has big dreams for small screen"
By Adam Baer
A plane has crashed on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. The ominous pluck of a low harp captures the sense of doom as survivors inspect the fuselage, searching for a radio. Violins tremble. Suddenly, alarm. Syncopated beats erupt like the plane's walls struck by a frantic timpanist. A monster is hunting the castaways, and it won't take no for an answer.
Such is life on the ABC series "Lost," the brainchild of J.J. Abrams ("Alias," "Felicity") currently reviving the redemptive virtues of well-crafted fictional television.
But while the quickly beloved serial drama has drawn acclaim for its spellbinding narrative, it is also among only a handful of shows resurrecting the use of strong original scores and live orchestras, under the hand of rising composer Michael Giacchino.
For film and television music aficionados, Giacchino, 37, a boyish young man with a friendly demeanor, may well be the next John Williams, the dean of Hollywood composers responsible for iconic scores to "Jaws," "Star Wars" and "Superman." Except, in addition to scoring blockbuster films like "The Incredibles," Giacchino brings his music into living rooms on the small screen -- each week.
Posted on April 06, 2005 at 09:17 PM | Permalink
Tomorrow my review of Jonathan Lethem's "The Disappointment Artist" will run in the S.F. Chronicle Book Review. You can read it now by clicking on the above link. I just did, and I'm surprised, as I often am, to see a record of what I thought about a piece of cultural writing. In my review I hint at how Lethem really helps establish the personal culture essay as a pulsing, worthy form, and though the argument arrives in passing, I'd say it's the most important part of the thought process Lethem's book inspired in me. Where can you read personal culture essays anymore? You can read critical reviews written in a literary manner (oh, if I had just another $.50/word for the amount of times an editor had stricken my personal experiences from a piece about a work of art). You can certainly read personal essays about life experiences in all types in magazines (though even they are becoming more and more rare). But seldom now is it that you can find an essay about a writer interested in examining him or herself through the culture he or she consumes, studies, enjoys. The revelation makes me sad, for that's in part what I wanted to do with my writing from the get-go.
Posted on March 26, 2005 at 10:39 AM | Permalink
The Sony PSP is out. You've undoubtedly read about it in your local newspaper. It's a video iPod-cum-tiny Playstation built on the Nintendo Gameboy mold, spread wide. And it's Sony's one shot to win back some street cred among people who actually choose to spend their money on middlebrow gadgetry. You see, Sony's electronics division hasn't been doing so well (surprise). The company's frighteningly overpriced Vaio laptops don't really provide anything unique -- and by now only sway style whores who fear the Mac switch. The Network Walkman, Sony's answer to the iPod, isn't selling, mostly because it requires users to sign onto converting their music to the company's proprietary ATRAC audio file format. Even Sony's Cyber-shot digital cameras -- one of which I recently purchased on the recommendation of a professional paparazzo -- force you to spend more on recordable media (its Memory Stick duos cost way more than proletarian CompactFlash cards). And let's not forget that our beloved Sony innovators (from Japan) are trying to adapt to a new CEO, Howard Stringer, a Brit. So you can see why the PSP has so much riding on it. Sony isn't going to lower its prices. It's going to try to use a handheld gadget to power the conglomerate through its tough times -- much in the same way Apple used its iPod. The problem? The PSP isn't an iPod. For one thing, it requires you to buy new games *and* movies recorded on a proprietary Sony format (yes, the company would hate it if you could actually use its products in conjunction with other brands -- especially since it owns the rights to so many films). More damning, the product isn't unique. Sure it can surf the wireless internet, sure it's cooler than the Texas-Instruments calculater-chic Nintendo DS. The problem, though, is that it forces you to adapt to it -- as opposed to the iPod, which *invited* you to try it out. On top of this, Sony is marketing the thing with perhaps the most overplayed anthem of the year, Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out." I suppose we are supposed to listen to the youthful hipness of the song, the message of its lyrics, and associate it with this lifestyle-changing object the way others have associated U2's "Vertigo" with the discombobulating brilliance of the iPod. But here, too, Sony has tried to hard and thought too little. "Take Me Out" can't be a new anthem. It's already been played between scenes in the staid NBC "Friends" spinoff "Joey" (to name just one common place it's everpresent). It's already the soundtrack to the bridge-and-tunnel Friday night parties that happen in has-been clubs. It's already commercial. It's devoid of originality, and that's antithetical to a product promising to revamp one's life. Sony, what are you doing? With all your resources you're making a mockery of yourself. It's well-intentioned of course. But if a 28-year-old pajama-wearing writer who has never worked in either the consumer electronics or entertainment business can figure out your weaknesses, that's got to be a sign that signing a new CEO should just be the beginning for you.
Posted on March 24, 2005 at 07:54 PM | Permalink
Last night, I saw on MTV News (and no, I didn't just fall upon the broadcast; I had been watching the last episode of the Real World -- in the name of journalistic research, I swear!) that The Hysterics, a young high-school-aged band in Brooklyn, is about to make it big because their teacher took a liking to their music and blogged about it on Music for Robots. Talk about undermining the politics of culture. Since when were schoolteachers grassroots advocates for emo indie rock? Apparently Music for Robots is partly run by one J.P. Connolly, a science teacher at St. Ann's School, with a discerning ear and activist's computer keyboard. I am now starting to feel old. As I glide into my 28th year, there are apparently numerous schoolteachers who are both way younger and hipper than me. I actually remember the day when a teacher supporting your musical life meant that you could leave A.P. Bio a whole five minutes early so you wouldn't be late to your violin lesson across town. "Baer," my lovably sadistic and seemingly ancient Mr. B. would say, "Go play your violin in Carnegie Hall. We'll do some real work here and sign your name to it. Ha!" Those would be what Bruce Springsteen refers to as "glory days," no?
Posted on March 09, 2005 at 07:36 AM | Permalink
So I've observed all the intriguing and hilarious random movie quotes from "About Last Night's" Our Girl In Chicago and "The Rest Is Noise's" Alex Ross, and now I have a new game: Let's quote our five favorite TV quotes that come to mind without thinking. Here are mine (please keep in mind each springs to life five or more from the same source, but I'm only choosing one from each show for reasons of diversity). Read 'em after the jump. Respect.
Posted on March 05, 2005 at 01:30 PM | Permalink
Maybe one day I'll realize my deep-seeded dreams of writing for Page Six. Until then I can anonymously contribute my Hollywood celebrity-sighting dispatches to Defamer.com. (Note: I shall ask you to guess which two items are mine. If you dare.)
Posted on March 02, 2005 at 02:22 PM | Permalink
1. On Chris Rock and his oh-so-hard-hitting political humor: Um, it wasn't. And how was it going to be? How many censors and sponsors had to read it over with a comb before giving the OK? And why would a comedian who's generally regarded as the funniest working stand-up in America (one with terrible box-office sales and no acting talent) fuck with our oh-so-openminded nation and the Hollywood schlock-producers who feed it (and him)? Rock's monologue was safe (insert his stretch of a joke about how if W. worked at the Gap his register would be short, and that he'd start a war with Banana Republic), and that's the end of it. Apparently -- hold onto your seats! -- America wears khakis and won't be offended if you make mild jokes about the president that relate to our daily hunt-and-gathering sessions in the mall. Holla.
2. Best song? Why is there a category called "Best Song"? Why has it existed all these years except to make more money for Hollywood and the music industry? I may have only taken a few years of film classes, but since when does writing a song to be placed in the middle of a movie have anything to do with, you know, movie making production standards? Is it me, or have some movies just incorporated songs from time to time? I.E. Those produced by Disney or Pixar execs who decide to hire Sting or Celine Dion (or now lovely Beyonce) to cant about love over smooth synthesized love melodies ("A whole new world...") that will play at big-hair Staten Island weddings next year. Next year, let's ax "Best Song" and include a category for "Best Soundtrack." If original movie music is in as much of a slump as it is, why not also honor the art of picking and mixing pre-produced music to speak for your film's emotional climate?
3. And on the issue of movie music: Why was the evertalented composer Michael Giacchino of "The Incredibles" (as well as "Lost" and "Alias") robbed of a nomination? So John Williams could score yet another unwinnable nominee appearance with tunes for an unoriginal sequel (i.e. the latest incarnation of Harry Potter)?
4. Scorcese, and I love him, shouldn't fret. Did he really think that those eyebrows were cute enough to woo Hollywood hardliners away from tall, steely Clint and his General Motors pickup trucks? Also, the Aviator may have deserved Best Picture from a technical standpoint, but even Marty admitted in the NY Times that it wasn't a labor of love project but merely an assignment.
5. Swankified: If I hear one more comment about a trailer-trash girl making good, I'm going to absolutely lose it. Fine the girl can act but she snarls. Why -- despite her red-state appeal -- is she so beloved by Hollywood? (Ok, maybe yet another hypothetical question wasn't the best way to state this.)
6. I won my Oscar pool because I picked smartly in the categories of Best Documentary and Short Film (live action), among other things. I didn't see any of the movies but how could a movie about sex slaves ("Born Into Brothels") and one called "Wasp" not intrigue the valueriffic Academy?
7. Scarlett Johanssen (and, yes, she is a gorgeous ditz) hosted the science and technical awards. No, really! Watch the madness here and see why she already beat SNL to the punch. No parodies necessary here. Has anyone ever thought of casting her highness in something comedic?
Posted on February 28, 2005 at 08:30 AM | Permalink
"Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter, who famously used his
show-biz friendships to benefit himself financially, has been calling his
Hollywood pals “scumbags” behind their backs in these weeks leading up to his
magazine’s annual Oscar night party, L.A. Weekly has learned."
Posted on February 17, 2005 at 07:50 PM | Permalink
I had been in Hollywood far too long not to have somehow ended up in the Capitol Records Building already. It finally happened yesterday, however, and under the best of circumstances. I had been invited to observe a recording session for a hit TV show that shall remain nameless until I publish the assignment that won me access. And what a pleasure to be there, and not because I'm a huge fan of the show, or an ooh-ahh oggler of Hollywood movie-music magic (and I tend to be both from time to time). No, my reaction to the experience was colored more by the working relationships I observed -- the working environment that the musicians and control room personnel (from composers and orchestrators to editors and producers) enjoy. A musician friend in the band is, like me, a product of the tightly wound classical conservatory environment. But as we would later discuss over a post-session salad, playing in the Hollywood studios is anything but tense. The control room is full of jokesters who seem to work better under pressure when relaxed (and there's a lot of pressure on you when you have three hours, and three hours only, to record newly composed music for a weekly show on a budget of $16,000). The conductor -- and he could do a lot more than keep time, believe me -- kept lightening moods to get the best out of his musicians. And the only mildly tense people in the place where some of the (younger) players -- perhaps because as my friend and I would agree, it's just pretty damn hard to take the conservatory out of the conservatory musician. Loyalty -- a foreign ideal to people who pay the bills writing for glossy magazines, trading stocks, or marketing cellphones like Topher Grace in his pat new feel-good flick seducing audiences to endure its hammy dialogue day after day -- is still a part of the Hollywood movie music process. People still get hired because, well, they're nice. And in the end the results are pretty damn good. So good I send this call out to any seriously trained young musicians feeling boxed in or trapped by the orchestral audition route. If you're interested in freelancing -- if you're friendly; if you're openminded to new, expressive ways to use your instrument; if you won't give yourself a terminal anxiety attack about the fact that by your particular age you should be playing Mahler in the third chair of a second-tier American orchestra, etc. -- maybe you should think about playing music for the entertainment industry. It's not easy to break into, but by all acounts it's not as crazy-hard as it seems, and there's definitely a resurgence of original score-writing that's necessitating qualified musicians. What's more, the people I know who do it feel satisfied -- both musically and financially. Yes, I said financially. Shocked? Read about union residuals -- old-schoolers get yearly checks for over $200K -- and stay tuned for more reports from the Hollywood TV and movie music scene as I delve deeper.
Posted on January 25, 2005 at 07:27 AM | Permalink
After I read that, like me, Alex Ross had fallen sway to J.J. Abrams mania, I got in touch with him about our affliction. I explained both that "Lost" has such a hold on me that it's affecting my sleep, and that I'm really happy that the music, written by Michael Giacchino, is blissfully written and recorded weekly -- a virtue for Hollywood studio musicians swallowing the reality TV tsunami. Alex countered by reminding me that it's the music that's probably inspiring my entertainingly cinematic nightmares, and I've got to say now after a thorough night of dream-logging that he's right. What's even more great about "Lost," though, is that it beats reality TV at its own game. It nods sarcastically in the direction of castaway copycats like "Survivor" and proves that fictional televison and the dramatic music that drives it wins in the end. Real life just ain't as exciting as what John Locke may be up to. Sad, perhaps, but true.
Posted on January 14, 2005 at 09:44 AM | Permalink
Multi-media cultural critiques that chart how culture or entertainment behaves differently on different platforms -- from iPods to plasma televisions and everything in between -- are what initially got me into technology. That's why this latest piece for Cargo -- about the best movies, SACDs, and DVD-As for your home theater -- was so natural for me to write. I got to discuss how cultural content influences and works with technology and vice versa. Granted I couldn't get very detailed, and I also picked some movies to appeal to a broad audience (although, I might also argue that in these formats they're more appealing). Still, I didn't compromise on audio or video quality -- and I tested nearly every surround-sound release. The point: that if you're into home theaters, confused by the aforementioned media formats, or just generally curious about new ways to enjoy (and hopefully deconstruct the meaning of) music and movies at home, you'll hopefuly find the roundup worth your time. Thanks for reading, as always.
[Image via Cargomag.com]
Posted on January 10, 2005 at 06:58 PM | Permalink
According to the trusted folks over at Engadget, President George W. Bush owns an iPod. Is this a joke or will liberal-leaning iLifers have to reconsider the statement their hardware makes about them? (Click through the great B&W photo gallery until you see W. prepping his white cube -- God, to just imagine what's on it! -- for his bike ride around the district.)
Posted on January 10, 2005 at 04:34 PM | Permalink
CES is so ridiculously large that it proved impossible for someone covering the show (me) to make it into Bill Gates's Microsoft press event. How disappointing because lo and behold, as I learned on CES TV (which streams right into my Westin hotel TV, thank god!), Conan O'Brien had been installed to interview the leader of America's technocracy. I'm not suprised. Conan shares a fascination with geekdom, and I was equally interested in getting to see Gates (meeting him here would have been a crazily unrealistic proposition). But upon watching the faux interview on CES TV, I've got to say: Conan didn't seem too comfortable feeding Gates the leading questions they had probably worked out beforehand. It looked like he felt a bit bought. As he should have. Otherwise the convention is pretty conventional: wonky salesmen trying to do their best imitations of Trump's aggro Apprentice contestants, hot Vegas blondes decked out in tight-fitting outfits in order to entrap press and buyers (at one booth, a California theme found one middle aged tech rep taking pictures on a surfboard with a bikini-clad Korean girl who, I surmise, we were supposed to imagine was Polynesian). I also skipped a porn party at the Hard Rock last night in trade for some much-needed rest. I hear the two conventions merge more casually later this weekend, and I'm curious to see the results. No doubt I'll have some bawdy company on my flight back to Burbank Sunday night (Burbank, if you're new to Cali geography, is the the San Fernando Valley's premiere landing strip). Cheers for now.
P.S. See my new product finds at Cargomag.com.
Posted on January 07, 2005 at 08:38 AM | Permalink
As if we haven't had enough Apprenticeship, NBC has released both bios and photos of the newest Apprentice 3 cast. Which is helpful since it's obvious no one is going on the show anymore because they actually want to work for Trump instead of leading a life of high-paying speaking engagements, bad get-rich-quick book contracts, and production company upstarts. My favorite bio?
Angie, 41, is a single mother who grew up in Miami. She opened the first Curves for Women health club in Los Angeles and currently owns two of them. Her most impressive business achievement thus far has been turning a $40,000 investment into $1.5 million market value within three years. Angie is also a professional cabaret singer and songwriter. She has made many national appearances and currently is publishing her own book of original songs.
My ears can hardly wait. (But wait: there's an interesting twist. This season, none of the college degreed "booksmarts" will have attended any Ivy or superifically Ivy-caliber university. Guess market research showed that Trump's outdated obsession with asking Harvard Law School graduates whether or not they feel they are "better" than West Point alums fell flat among his viewers. What, you don't find that a fascinating, time-worthy question to spend half the season pondering?)
Posted on December 23, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink
Hats off to New York's North Indian classical musician extraordinaire Andrew Mendelsohn. Not only did the witty sitar prodigy bag New York's grippy hold on our lives and trek off to India to win the country's most prestigious music competition; he made a compelling documentary about the experience and has found a way to mobilize serious support for it. Get on the bandwagon by visiting A Cricket in the Court of Akbar's Web site, viewing the trailer, and then dropping a few bills in the deserving man's change purse. If we don't support strong and gutsy music and film efforts like these, we don't deserve to have our projects realized.
[My knowledge of this effort is due only to proudly belonging to the social network of sketch comedian/monologue maven Negin Farsad. She will crack your shit up.]
Posted on December 21, 2004 at 08:13 AM | Permalink