Thursday, June 30, 2011
Many argue that their lyrics are whiny. Prepackaged angst that has never evolved past its initial selling-point. And in a way these concerns are valid. But that's not to say that the music is reserved for those in arrested development. It is this thematic consistency that allows one to rally around Adam Lazzara swinging his microphone around (mics are for singing and swinging). And listening to the harmonies and breakdowns brings the listener back to high school, when Taking Back Sunday had their golden age. And the music forgoes the pretension that has weighed Brand New down with every new album.
With the release of their new, self-titled album on June 28, Taking Back Sunday returns with the classic Tell All Your Friends lineup. News that my friends found very exciting. As I stated before, my friends and I all love Taking Back Sunday, their first two albums to be exact. It takes a special kind of fan to memorize a bands song. Taking it to the next level, my friends and I have gone to memorize two albums worth of songs and sing them any chance we get. Per tradition, while on our annual spring break road trip, New Jersey is devoted entirely to the band we all worship. And by the time we reach Gloucester County, we have all lost our voice singing along as loud as we can.
And when we are all together, and someone is playing the part of ipod DJ (which is, more often than not, myself) there is nothing more gratifying than putting on Cute Without The 'E' and watching thirty people rally around their mutual love of screaming out music we all grew up with. Music that was there for us on bus rides to school, mix tapes for the girl we liked or gatherings we had with our friends. Taking Back Sunday Singalongs aren't just a mutual understanding, it's an institution. And I can't think of any other band or song I've stayed up till 5 a.m. just to sing along with my friends to.
The self-titled album might prove to be a disappointment (as much as I love Interpol, their self-titled left a little to be desired), but the fact remains that Taking Back Sunday takes up an important place in my life. Even with the minor disappointment of 2009's New Again, the fact remains that you can put on Tell All Your Friends and Where You Want To Be on anywhere in (at least) south Jersey and get everyone on board.
Last New Years I spent at an acquaintance's house, mostly not leaving the same corner as my friends. It was fun though, and as midnight approached we crowded the television to watch the ball drop, kissed whoever was next to us and mumbled the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. We celebrated 2011 the same way our parents, their parents, Lieutenant Dan and Forrest Gump have before us. But once the champagne popped and the pomp wore off, we went back to playing beer pong and rang in the new year in our generation's own characteristic way. We had a Taking Back Sunday singalong. And for the next hour everyone at the party, most of which were people I didn't know, sang along to the songs we all loved. And we will continue to love those songs, because they are so dear to us.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Myspace did have its problems. Like all of the internet back then, Myspace was seen as a stalker paradise (which was true for the most part). Hyper-sexualized adolescences who never heard of Lolita put themselves out on their profile pages. But, overall, Myspace was innocent. It was mostly just an over-glorified way to publicize your garage band. It never made any adaptations or advancements in the social network field. Myspace instead sat back and assumed that its reign would be forever. Then Facebook came out and, it just seemed classier. Myspace was too loud. Visiting someone's Myspace was a race to the pause button so you didn't have to listen to their music. Facebook was more streamlined and more mature. All the trappings of Myspace were left out. And individuals such as myself flocked to the relatively new website.
I completely admit to the fact that I owned his first two albums and
memorized most of the jokes.
The Facebook migration was slow to come for many. I wasn't too sure of Facebook at first, so I tried to maintain both accounts. Eventually though, Myspace just lost out. Anybody nowadays that admit to still using the dying network are met with condescension and nostalgia. Its time is over and, like 24/7 Wall St. noted, the brand will probably fade away into obscurity soon. I erased my Myspace in 2010. I stopped using in 2008, but just never bothered to erase it until 2010. The day I erased my Myspace was an important day for me. It was closing a chapter on my previous life. In all honesty, it felt like growing up. It remains to be seen whether Facebook falls for the same trappings as Myspace, but for now Facebook is stronger than ever. The social network is dead, long live the social network.
Consider this a time capsule for the younger, more innocent Myspace days.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Now I should start out by telling you that I am a huge fan of Stewart and his show, The Daily Show. He and Stephen Colbert, to me, are some of the funniest and most brilliant people alive (I will so regret this later if either one has a terrible scandal they could never come back from). So, talking about Stewart in a debate/discussion with one of the kings of Fox News may be a little bias. To ease the bias I will come out and say that even though I am not a big fan a Fox News and their hosts, I have nothing but respect for O’Reilly. I do see him as mightier than all bully who treats people with opposite view point’s like they are lesser beings. But, the man is a legend. He has one of the most successful shows in cable news history, if not the most successful (I did not fact check this, but it is pretty much the tagline of his show so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt). He is a strong opinionated host who asks great questions, brings on different viewpoints and debates his opponents with the ferocity of an animal going after their unprepared pray (Bear comes to mind but that may be because of Colbert). He is a political fixture and when he and Stewart come together it is, in my opinion, amazing.
The topic that brought them together was a controversy about Common, a rapper [by the way misspelled rapper originally by forgetting the second p (or, if you choose, the first p) which makes the sentence completely different] was invited to a poetry reading at the White House. Fox News did a lot of segments on the controversy saying he was not the type of person who should be invited to the White House. O’Reilly himself was unhappy about it because Common wrote lyrics about two convicted cop killers. Stewart and the folks at the Daily Show decided that all the attention on this issue was ridicules and did what they do best. If you haven’t seen the two segments you should.
Now probably hundreds of people wrote on this subject and my approach is probably not that original. I thought that I would take this opportunity to bring up how impressive these two men were in the debate. Stewart and O’Reilly possesses an amazing wit during this or any of their other debates. This is because, in my opinion, they respect the hell out of each other. They come from different backgrounds and different views, which would make them complete enemies. Yet, these two understand why the other is so successful and admires each other for different reasons. O’Reilly admires Stewart because he does not just sit behind his Comedy Central desk and make fun and judge from afar. He will go anywhere and defend what he said or believes (Crossfire and Tucker Carlson learned that the hard way when his appearance helped hammer the nail in the coffin of its cancellation). Stewart seems to respect O’Reilly because of his success and same attitude. I do not know either of these two men but I am pretty sure that any type of respect they have do not go to many other people with different viewpoints. O’Reilly does not have respect for Colbert or Keith Olberman, and Stewart does not have respect for people like Beck and Sean Hannity. It is the respect factor that makes this a good debate and fun to watch in my opinion. You can check it out for yourself here.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
“Hi, I’m Johnny Knoxville. Welcome to Jackass.”
Thus began the Jackass phenomenon. These immortal words ushered in a whole new world of painful opportunities. The MTV show that redefined the phrase “Don’t try this at home” is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a new film, Jackass 3-D.
The Jackass crew has been a part of growing up for many people of this generation. Their wild antics have entertained impressionable audiences for years. Some stunts were violent, some disgusting and others just plain fun to watch. In a world where you can’t count on much, it’s nice to depend on Jackass for its patented mindless fun. No matter how bad a mood someone is in, seeing a person get hit below the belt in creative ways is always pleasant to watch.
Ever since the first Jackass movie, the skits have been getting more extreme. Without having to worry about offending television audiences, Knoxville and his associates have the freedom to film new and creative ways of hurting themselves. The first film is relatively tame compared to the sequel. While the first Jackass film contained destruction and toy-car tomfoolery, the second one seemed downright suicidal.
Now that a third film is coming out this week with the now-overused 3-D gimmick, the antics can only be more insane. Each film, television show and project has gone further than the last. It will be safe to assume that the filmmakers will make the most out of the special effects and do things in 3-D that have never been seen before (and probably shouldn’t be seen at all).
While some may have been misguided enough to replicate some of the activities from Jackass, even a single iota of survival instinct should have prevented that. In the films, thankfully, the scenarios become more elaborate and less easy to replicate. Watching those idiots on the big screen should make for an enjoyable movie experience. The whole audience can laugh and groan together, uniting the packed theater in the spectacle that is Jackass.
Jackass is not high art. There is no artistic merit or deeper meaning. What the series stands for is the fun in stupidity. By performing these stunts, the crass entertain us and put their lives and souls on the line so viewers don’t have to try it at home.
Watching a semi-professional getting hurt is a lot better than peer-pressuring some kid from the neighborhood to try out homemade rocket skates. In a way, they are doing us a favor. They are angels of stupidity and self-inflicted harm.
Jackass 3-D premieres in theaters Oct. 15.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
5. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) in Taken
Liam Neeson takes this spot through sheer badassery. Not only does he save his daughter from being trapped in a sex ring, but he also sets her up to meet her favorite pop star. Neeson's character may not be the greatest of fathers, but it's hard not to see a one-man war against France as a dedication of his love. Plus did I mention Neeson is awesome is everything he's in?
4. Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney and Victor Garber) in Annie
2. Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne) in Boyz n the Hood
1. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in To Kill a Mockingbird
Happy Father's Day
Friday, June 17, 2011
5. Trainspotting (1996)
Trainspotting is the kind of film that changes cinema. People argue that Tarantino brought style back to movies in the 90s, but Danny Boyle made it look much more effortless. And though I have no desire to even think about heroin, I find this story of Scottish heroin addicts addicting (see what I did there?). My brother lambasted the film for not having much of a plot, but that's where I found it refreshing. It does more than tell a story or give you a moral to take home, it shows you into the lives of some major screw-ups. I can pop the DVD in anytime I want and still be entertained. Also the book was enjoyable too. As I was reading it I liked to hand the book to my friends at the lunch table and see if they could look past the dialect. It's a charming story of characteristically uncharming people.
4. The Graduate (1967)
3. Network (1976)
Such a good flick.
2. Brazil (1985)
Brazil is distinctly Gilliam in both style and substance. The battle between reality and imagination is always interesting. And as a young Orwell fan, the 1984-like setting was inspired. Brazil even out Orwelled the previous year's adaption of 1984. However, just like all other Gilliam films, Brazil is uneven and unwieldy. But, to me, that only gives it charm. And the story is a perfect blend of paranoia and liberation.
1. The Third Man (1949)
To call Carol Reed's masterpiece a noir film is not doing Third Man justice. In actuality, it's quite funny. Not only is it funny but it's also suspenseful, ponderous, whimsical and depressing. Just like Network, Third Man was ahead of its time. One can't watch the film without being amazed at how modern it is. And not just because of its pioneering camera angles, but also with its story about loyalty and morality. And it doesn't hurt that the film hinges on Orson Welles during his most charming years. Free from having to direct, Welles is almost weightless as the endlessly endearing Harry Lime. Welles makes his character both lovable and despicable. Not just Welles, but every cast member and facade of this under-appreciated masterpiece shines brightly as each year goes by. Third Man is my favorite movie of all time, and I will fight anyone that doesn't agree with its perfection.
Friday, June 10, 2011
The jury is still out on Ultimate Marvel's impact.
But what does it really matter? Comic books are know for their cyclical nature and changes rarely stay the same. Superheros come back from the dead and stories are revised, but never to such a degree as what DC is attempting. Even previous reboots (such as the Zero Hour event in the 90s and Crisis on Infinite Earths) have never seemed this brazen. In the end, DC just wants to sell more comics, and what's a bigger seller than a first issue?
Thursday, June 9, 2011
For those of you who don’t know me, I am Donny’s awesome brother Shaun. For those of you who do know me, what’s good? I am here to talk to you about a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Hockey has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, going all the way back to Super Nintendo’s Blades of Steel. I could go on forever about my love, but I decided to do this blog post on one hockey topic in particular: the Stanley Cup. In my opinion, the Stanley Cup is, by far, the greatest single trophy in all of sports. The Stanley Cup is one of the few things in the world that make grown men cry. If you don’t agree with me (I honestly don’t know how it’s possible that you don’t), I will give you reasons why I feel it is. And please, excuse the rambling.
The road to the Stanley Cup
Hockey is, arguably, the most grueling season in sports. The NHL training camp starts in September and the playoffs end in June. An 82 game regular season is tough enough, but once you make it to the playoffs you still have to play for another 2 months of even more demanding hockey then that of the regular season. This makes a single season of hockey one of the most physically demanding sports in the world, which alone makes Lord Stanley's cup one of the hardest trophies to win.
Ray Bourque waited 22 seasons before he lifted the Cup.
What do the MLB, NBA and NFL trophies all have in common? They make a new one every year. Notice something missing from that list? Oh yea, the NHL. That’s because there is only one. trophy ONE. The Stanley Cup has been around since 1892 (And no, that’s not a typo). And since then, hockey has been passing around the same single trophy for over 100 years. I don’t really need to go any further than that. Every other professional sports trophy in the US is made annually by Tiffany & Company. If you are looking for any single reason why the Stanley Cup is better than every other trophy, this is it.
Lord freakin' Stanley, Earl of Derby?
If you took a poll of the greatest thing about winning the Stanley Cup I guarantee almost every player will tell you the same thing; getting your name engraved on it. The Stanley Cup is unique in that it is the only trophy that engraves the names of every single player on the championship team. Let’s be real, how awesome is that? The Stanley Cup has 5 rings on it each holding 13 previous championship teams and all of the players, which for the lazy or dumb means that you can read the names of every player that won the Stanley Cup all the way back to the 1940s. One look at the present Stanley Cup and you can find the names of some of the greatest players to ever play the game, and that is a chilling experience I am sure.
Sometimes there are mistakes, like when Eric Staal found an extra "a" engraved in his name.
Once you win the Stanley Cup, you get one day to do whatever you please with it. There have been hundreds of crazy stories that have happened with a player's day with the Cup, but I won’t get sidetracked by it. So if you are interested I definitely suggest you look them up. Another unwritten tradition for players is that they can never touch the Stanley Cup without winning it. The Stanley Cup must be earned. Some players will not go near the Stanley Cup for fear of jinxing yourself (This is true for fans as well, myself included. I'd refuse to go anywhere near the Stanley Cup until the Flyers win it). On a smaller scale, teams have made it a point to never touch the conference championship trophies, with the thought process being that they are playing for the Stanley Cup and all other trophies are meaningless (I wholeheartedly agree and I hate seeing divison/conference/etc memorabilia. You play for the championship, that’s the only thing that should be celebrated).
Size (Apparently it does matter)
The Stanley Cup is a very large trophy. It is 3 feet tall and weighs 35 pounds. This is another of the points I use mainly when arguing why the Stanley Cup is the best. When you win a championship, something you’ve been working your whole life for; do you want to pick up a little ass trophy with one hand? That’s not rewarding at all. Kids everywhere dream of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup (I still hope to one day), there is no better feeling in the world I am sure. And it's no fun hoisting up a baby trophy.