Friday, July 30, 2010

How to be an adequate IPod DJ: Part Two

Like I promised before, here are my rules for the "ones and twos", in no particular order:

-Never use shuffle

It’s lazy, it’s impersonal, and it doesn’t quite do the job right. If you just hit shuffle than there is no point in trying to be a kick ass IPod DJ. Plus if your IPod is like mine then there may be some accidents. I doubt anyone at the party wants to drink to a Mitch Hedberg joke or the theme song to Sanford and Son. You need to pick the song for the moment, let inspiration do the picking and not chance.

Sorry Fred.

-Know your IPod

When your IPod gets high up there with thousands of songs it can be hard to keep track all of them. When one truly knows their music selection it isn’t as daunting. People just download whole albums and never really bother exploring them. Yes, it seems like half of the stuff on albums could just be filler to keep the singles from getting lonely but it is important to know your library. It allows you to pick songs better and quicker.

-Have your next song lined up

This goes along with “Know your IPod” rule. You don’t want dead space between songs while you’re fumbling around for the next track. I personally like to stay two songs ahead of the current song playing. That way I don’t get stuck not knowing what to play next in the lineup. Work it out in your head which song flows best into what next song.

-Click wheel OFF

This should be a general rule for IPods. It’s unnecessary and annoying, please turn it off. Don't be that guy.

-Have a few favorites

If you play to the same crowd a lot then you will know who has a favorite song. Be sure to use those songs to the optimal effect. If your friend loves the song “Rock and Roll Queen” by The Subways it would be a good idea to play it. If played at the right moment with the right amount of inebriation it will probably be met with a point of acknowledgement and possibly a hug. Hugs are good.

-Take requests but remember you are the one with the IPod

People know what they want to hear and they will be sure to tell you what song they want to listen to. Be sure to comply with their demands. If you don’t have their song at hand the best course of action is to shrug and go for the closest song to it. Don’t become a slave to the masses though; you are the one in control. Let your ego trip run wild while it can. You are a god with your IPod and music was created for this very moment for your appreciation (or not).

-No repeats

Never play the same band twice in a row. This is a cardinal rule that I follow blindly. Can’t really explain why but I know it’s a good rule. The same rule applies for mix tapes. Also, never play a song more than once. This is a no brainer. Don’t take up time with repeats even if they are party favorites. There is other music out there to take up that time. If you play a song more than once then you might as well put that one song on repeat and hang out somewhere else.

-Vary your music

Don’t play the same genre of music over and over. Vary your types of music. Allow them to contrast and juxtapose with each other. Break up the monotony with rap or rock or even funk. Everyone likes funk.

May I recommend some George Clinton?

- You can never go wrong with Taking Back Sunday

Maybe the band Taking Back Sunday isn’t your kind of thing per se, but there is always that one band or artist that everyone in your group of friends love. For my friends it’s Taking Back Sunday. When it doubt, fall back on them.

-The right joke song or old song can do wonders, 90s jams are your friends

Music can be like a time capsule and allow us into memories of the past. Pick music that can allow this to happen. The old songs we all grew up with can bring the whole party together. If you play Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger and not one person is singing along than you need a new group of friends. It's all about the nostalgia factor. Joke songs can work too. I like to play epic music during beer pong tournaments to liven it up. O Fortuna by Carl Orff or anything by Clint Mansell is amazing in this respect. Your friends will start requesting “that epic song” when it is their turn at pong. Another favorite joke song is “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy. I shouldn’t have to explain this to anyone that has heard it, it’s a badass song.

Best. Record. Ever.

-Towards the end of the party, slow songs are nice

At the end of the party when half the people are passed out and the other half are on their way, it’s good to start playing ballads more. Let the music tempo match the crowd tempo. At least once before the night is over I like to play “Old Man” by Neil Young.

-Play to the crowd

Never forget that you are playing to an audience and they are the ones you have to make happy. You haven’t commandeered the speakers for your own self satisfaction but their satisfaction. Play music the people would actually like. As much as I like Echo and the Bunnymen I wouldn’t play it at a college party. College party music is mostly about rap and dance music. It’s the kind of music that you will get tired of listening to on the radio 6 months from now. When it is more of a chill session with friends you have a lot more freedom. If your friends are more rock oriented, play more rock music, it’s as simple as that. If you are lucky and really do a good job you will be rewarded either by the group singing along to your choice or people asking you about the songs you played.

-Remember, you’re at a party so remember to have fun

Don’t just be that lame kid sitting in the corner. Don’t be THAT guy. Talk to people, enjoy yourself, and have fun. Why go to hang out with friends if you won’t have fun. And if you are lucky you will most likely have at least one person sitting next to you to talk to about music and maybe bum cigarettes off of.

By following these rules you will be able to confidently oversee a kick ass time with your friends. Until I lost heart in being DJ I considered myself pretty good at what I did. So take this advice how you will. If you intend to be a party facilitator than be sure to do a good job at it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to be an adequate IPod DJ: Part One

Music is important to everything.

Life needs a soundtrack. This is a theory that I hold very dear to my heart. For any moment there is at least one song out there that compliments it. Now this may just be my personal justification for leaving my IPod on impolitely when around friends. However, there is a grain of truth in this excuse.

Music helps fill in the missing parts of life. This cannot be proven easier than any party you have ever been to. It’s just not the same when there is no music playing. Without music it’s just a group of people (with a guy to girl ratio of 7:1) standing around a crowded room drinking beer. With music it’s a party and with a strobe light it’s an awesome party.

Cause everything is more fun when it looks slo-mo and has the possibility of giving you a seizure.

Now I’m not saying that when my friends and I hang out to drink it's a party (that would be giving them too much credit). The same rules apply though. Music both creates the tempo of the party and feeds off it. In the hands of a right DJ the party can be elevated from good to great and from great to awesome.

Now I am not saying that I have any influence over how awesome a party can be, but I would like to delude myself into thinking so for a moment.

It started out because I was the only person with a readily available IPod but it wasn’t long before I elected myself the designated IPod DJ for my friends. It is with this experience that I devised a set of rules to ensure anyone can become an excellent IPod DJ.

Don't expect to be on this dude's level though.

The life of an IPod DJ is an exciting one full of fame and fortune. The rock star lifestyle of drugs, women and alcohol can take a toll on a lesser man (or woman, no reason to be sexist). It takes something special to call oneself a real IPod DJ. Any fool can just hit shuffle and leave it be. Stay tuned next post for my important commandments that will ensure you won't ruin the gathering and will impress people with your IPod badassery.

Click here for Part 2.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stallone blames his crappy career on bat-nipples

In a recent Yahoo Movies article, Sylvester Stallone blames the Batman movie from 1989 for destroying 80's action movies. In the article, Stallone states that actors can now "Velcro your muscles on" instead of having to hit the gym. Does this mean you have to hit the gym and be as ripped as Stallone to be a good action hero? Do the muscles make the actor? Does Stallone want to be the next Batman?

I am Batman.

Stallone blaming Michael Keaton as Batman is a cop out and unfair to Batman (89). Yes, Keaton had a Batman suit with more defined muscles then he really had but to say that it ruined the industry of action movies is hyperbole. To blame a Tim Burton film for Stallone making crappy movies makes Stallone look like a baby.

A baby with his mommy.

Basically what Stallone is complaining about is that the good action star roles get taken by actual actors instead of steroid raging foreigners. In reality, it's what an actor does with the role that is important, even if that role is Judge Dredd. Hell, Anthony Hopkins once played a black man in a film but it's Anthony freaking Hopkins so how are you going to tell him differently.

Go ahead, just try and tell AH what to to.

Stallone also complains that the special effects became more important than the individual person. Now while that may be frighteningly semi-true, is it really any different than focusing on stunt work? The action films that Stallone champion aren't any better movies than the ones he hates. Neither kind of movie has any better story or action. Instead of effects the older movies just focused on stunt work and ripping people's throats out.

All that truly matters is the story. To find the most obvious example; let's look at Christopher Nolan and his movies. Inception had some amazing action scenes and it was still an amazing, mind-blowing movie. And to bring it back full circle, Nolan's work on Batman shows how an action movie should be done right.

We get it Stallone, you're not happy with your career. We can tell just by you making unnecessary sequels to your beloved classics (i.e. Rocky and Rambo). So please, stop trying to draw attention to yourself anymore in your cinematic mid-life crisis.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Atlantic City: Not America's Favorite Playground

Atlantic City has always been the bastard child of America. It’s not even a real metropolitan center. Sidewalks and tall buildings do not make a city, it takes more than that. AC has all of the problems of a city and none of the advantages. The people running this city are not so blind that they cannot see that, or at least I would hope so. That is until I read an article in the Atlantic City Press about raids on the boardwalk.

During the July 4th holiday weekend Moisse Delgado, a councilman at-large, was in a shop on the boardwalk with his son and was disgusted with what he found there. The wide selection of samurai swords and water pipes that are for “tobacco use only” disgusted the poor man. This led to a city-wide crackdown on shops selling contraband on the boards ranging from bb guns to brass knuckles. Shops were closed and owners were arrested. There is one big flaw with this whole plan. How does a councilman from Atlantic City not know about these shops?

Everybody knows that they can find questionable products on the boardwalk; it has been that way since man laid pieces of wood next to bodies of water. Boardwalks are like Chinatown, you can find anything you want if you know where to look and the right questions to ask. Hell if you were so inclined, I bet you could find your very own Mogwai if you look right.

Aren't they adorable?

The people running AC want to improve its image, this is admirable. Setting up photo ops of inspectors holding up prop swords does not make the city any better though. These shops are in the shadow of casinos, epicenters of greed and corruption. The politicians want to make it seem like they are trying to make the city safer by getting rid of these establishments but it’s all a sham. And shop owners are now paying the price for this photo op.

This is what Atlantic City is really like, not quite as adorable.

Atlantic City’s slogan was once “America’s Favorite Playground.” Now with a slogan as gaudy and corny as “Always Turned On” the city worries about its image. It’s all a show and I’m not buying the ticket.

Why Inception is more important than Avatar

I liked Avatar. It was a fun movie that brought you to another world. It had vision and gave the audiences exactly what they wanted. It was groundbreaking and deserves all the recognition and money it made.

However, it’s not the most important blockbuster in recent memory.

Maybe I’m biased because I just saw it. Maybe it’s because I love Christopher Nolan as a director. Maybe I’m just too much of a snob. Nonetheless, Inception has been the movie I’ve been the most excited about in a long time.

Inception and Avatar both take us to another world. It shows us things that cannot be done anywhere else but celluloid. It paints for us a world where we can’t help but be engrossed. Inception did more than that, it blows your mind.

Ever since I was little I considered myself a movie fan. I was a precocious child, if by precocious you mean annoying. I watched a lot of movies growing up but the one real movie defining experience was Donnie Darko. That was the game changer. I know now that Donnie Darko isn’t that good of a movie (it doesn’t even come close to my top 25 now) and I know now that whatever genius the movie had was almost an accident (I’ll get to why Richard Kelly sucks in another article). Nevertheless, it showed me that a movie isn’t just about the journey but it can blow your mind as well. It can force you to think differently about the world and create discussion. The best thing a movie can do is create a conversation after the credits roll. It makes people debate and allows them to converse about what they just saw.

Avatar didn’t do that.

Avatar didn’t create much dialogue afterward. It was a nice self contained story with a message gift wrapped for the audience. It didn’t challenge. It didn’t stimulate. A few days later you weren’t pondering what you just witnessed.

When you boil it down, Avatar was just special effect masturbation by James Cameron. They were amazing special effects but in the end you weren’t better off. You didn’t grow much as a person after seeing it.

I don’t expect a religious experience after seeing every movie out there but nothing can top that feeling you get as you walk out of the theater with the credits music blaring and your stride in sync with the soundtrack. And as you walk out what do you realize? You realize that you are smiling and you don’t know why exactly. You have just seen a magic trick on celluloid and it will take that out of the theater with you into your car. And on the way home you will talk to your friends about how you felt about the movie and debate and argue. Film then becomes a social experience.

Avatar was shallow. The movie industry milks the 3-D craze that was popularized recently by Avatar but it does not respect the film. The 82nd Academy Awards is a perfect example of how the industry feels about Avatar. The fact that Avatar did not win for Best Picture was not a slap in the face so much as an admonishment. The Academy instead picked The Hurt Locker as their best picture of the year. It was an act that shows what is important in movies. The Hurt Locker, an indie with a relatively simple story set in a place drenched in reality.


Now back to Inception. Inception is not altogether original. I’m not saying that it is a rip off of anything because it isn’t. I’m saying that Inception has its roots in the mind bending movies from the turn of the last millennium. I am of course talking about Dark City, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich (I admit I had to look up Malkovich's spelling) and even Nolan’s own Memento. It is not unfamiliar territory. What Inception is though is a blockbuster. It is a blockbuster with an independent film's sensibility. Avatar may change the technical rules but it is Inception that may rewrite the rules on what you can challenge an audience with. I doubt many people have seen Dark City and The Matrix has been too diluted by sequels and its own self importance to really do any good. With Inception the blockbuster can mean something for once. It can give the audience something more than images on a screen. It can stay with them afterward and a week later still they will be chewing it over.

Maybe I’m just too optimistic but Nolan is in an important position. He is a bankable director who is talented and doesn’t treat his audiences like children. Audiences may finally have films that can allow them to piece together themselves and debate over. Create dialogue and allow people to rally around the movie. I hope that people are still going to be debating this movie in the future and trying to figure out what the ending means exactly. Just don’t go looking for Christopher Nolan for answers.

The man is either a genius or a prick that likes messing with us. I vote for the former.

Nolan’s big breakthrough was the thriller Memento. It was about a man with memory loss that is trying to find his wife’s killer. The film has no mercy for its audience, challenging them to figure out for themselves what the message is and how the plot all fits together. Memento came out in 2000 and the debate still goes on about the movie. Nolan even recorded different commentary tracks for the commentary on the limited edition DVD of Memento to fool the watcher into thinking about the movie one way or another. With a history of coyly winking at the audience and daring them to figure out his films, Nolan won’t allow an audience to sit idly and watch his films.

We should be so lucky.

Blog Preamble

I feel like the last person on Earth who doesn’t have a blog. I swore I would never be THAT guy. I swore that I don’t need one, that I was too good for it.

Yeah right.

So I finally crumbled. Here it is; my blog. I want to promise that I will update it religiously but I also promised myself I would jump rope religiously this summer. I think it’s fair to say that doing things religiously isn’t my thing. But now it’s time to take the plunge. The big question though is, what shall I write about? The answer is the only thing I know truly well, the only thing I can have a worthwhile debate in, my favorite Trivial Pursuit category and my hobby (if you can call it that): Pop Culture.

Pop culture is really a catch all term for anything I want to write about to be honest. A bit of a copout I know but I hope to make it worth your while because it’s something I truly know. I can confidently say that I am probably the most knowledgeable person pop culture wise in the room. This may sound conceited but I promise you it is the only conceited thing I care to admit of and for good reason. I’ve only ever been beaten in Scene It? once, and they cheated.

But that’s not important. What’s important is that I am here to entertain you and hopefully hit you with some knowledge. All you people who may be friends of mine or any poor soul that may have ended up here by accidentally clicking around; I will try my best to be your guide to life, the universe and everything.

-Don Woods

P.S. Apologizes for the passive voice, it is a habit.