Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday video - Pavement

The first track off of the best rock album released this side of Nevermind*, Pavement's "Summer Babe" is so much more than the seemingly thrown-together, simple-chord patterend, noise-and-slacker-nerd rock** that it embodies on the surface.

I love this band so very much -- even some of its more inaccessible stuff (i.e. a bunch of Wowee Zowee).  I discovered them in my second year of law school and have not looked back since. 

*  Or Ten.  Or Exile in Guyville.  Or OK Computer.  Or Trace.  Alright I get it.  Lots of glorious albums in the 1990's.  But Slanted and Enchanted is Top Five.  Easy. 
**  Is it possible to be a "slacker-nerd"?  Not usually, although I think that Pavement is the answer that proves the question.  Or something like that.

The Incredible Shrinking HillcrestBlogger and weekend plans

Did I say seventeen?

Try nineteen (as of this morning) :)

In other news, its been a busy day so far, with work and then, once home, a house totally in disarray thanks to being in the middle of a minor-major kitchen remodel (new countertop, sink, etc., and other minor updates) as well as gearing up for the children's clothes consignment sale by Duck Duck Goose, which my wife and I are going to participate in next weekend*.  So, sufficed to say, I don't have a lot of time to dedicate tonight to writing posts.  And tomorrow is the first Razorback game of the year for War Memorial Stadium, which means the undeniable Greatest Tailgating Scene in America**, so the odds of a post tomorrow are also quite large.  And Sunday brings both the NFL's first weekend of games, plus my own soccer team's game.  I guess what I'm getting at is that whatever I can muster here before I crash out for the night is probably what you're going to get for the weekend.  We shall see.

*  Yes, you read that correctly.  When my boss said she made $450.00 selling her own kid's outgrown clothing at the last Rhea Lana consignment sale (a different, but very similar consignment business), I was sold.  No pun intended.  Let's see, clear out closet and storage space PLUS make not-insignificant money?  Oh yes.
**  Including you, Oxford, Miss.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Red banana update

As you, dear reader*, might have remembered, I've been posting about some red bananas I recently bought at my local Kroger.  I tried one last Friday and it was terrible!  Well, after letting them ripen up some more, I bravely peeled one this morning for breakfast and am now very pleased to let you know that it was pretty good.  I would recommend them, as long as you let them get a little smooshy first and not just dive right in and try to eat them when they're hard and chalky.  Just give them a little time to mature, that's all :)

Oh, and just in case you think I'm just telling you that I ate one and it was good to try to save face and didn't instead just chunk the whole batch, here's photographic proof:

So that should put an end to all the banana blogging.  I hope you are not disappointed :)

*  All, what, four of you? ;)

Thursday video - Boston

Yesterday I did 80's hair metal and today I'm going back another decade to 1970's stadium rock.  Specifically, the song that I would vote as the #1 All-Time Summer Rock Anthem of All-Time -- Boston's "More Than a Feeling."

I mean, you cannot argue with me about that.  The album from which the song came was released on July 25, 1976, which was our nation's Bicentennial and the album went on to sell, by 2003, 17 million copies.  Every single person in America has since 1976 listened to this song over the car radio with the windows rolled down, or perhaps while lounging 1) poolside, 2) lakeside, 3) riverside, or 4) on a boat, or maybe they heard a cover version by a local band at the State Fair.  Or maybe even at the State Fair by Boston itself!  Every aspiring guitar player learns the opening lick within a week of picking up his or her instrument.  And every guy wants to grow a mustache like Brad Delp.*  As far as it being a summer anthem, there is no arguing here.  There is no debate.  When you think of this song, you do not think of fall, or winter, or even spring (well, OK, maybe late spring).  It is summer, all the way.**  

There is one enduring mystery, however, for which I still have not seen a satisfactory answer.  How did "More Than a Feeling" not make it into the soundtrack for Dazed and Confused, the essential period piece for former and wanna-be post-hippies?  It was the movie that defined a generation!***  I mean, it was set in 1976!  The year Boston's first record**** was released!!  Should it not stand to reason that this huge hit would have dominated the soundtrack of every American teenager that summer?  The fact that "More Than a Feeling" didn't make it on to the soundtrack is a miscarriage of justice.  There should be an investigation.  What a travesty!***** 

*  Well, maybe that's just me.
**  And, ironically, I really hate summer.  Especially our recent global-warming summers.  Since I graduated from the last of my educational institutions and recognized that "summer vacation" didn't carry over into the grown-up universe, summer has no longer held any appeal to me.  It is just too freaking hot and humid here in the South.  This is a testament of how much "More Than a Feeling" trumps all other summer anthems: that it represents the season I like the very least, yet still I love it so.
***  Even though it was released in 1993.  At least the director, Richard Linklater, was 16 years old in 1976, so he had some point of reference.
****  For those kids out there, this is what a record is.
*****  Aha!  Trick question!  I totally smoked you, dude!.  I win, one-to-zero!  Ha ha!  See, D&C was about the last day of school in 1976 and if you had been reading this blog post closely, you would have noticed that I noted the day the record was released, which was in late-July!  Yep, you see it now, homie?  Its all about chronology!  The annoying guy Ben Affleck played and McConaughey's pervy dude and that Ukrainian chick would not have known about "More Than a Feeling" yet because it wasn't in record stores yet on the last day of school of 1976.  So there you go.  Mystery solved!

Movie Review - The Debt

Last weekend, Mrs. HillcrestBlogger and I were able to go out to the cinema and watch a picture, which, coupled with our dinner at local eatery The House, constituted a real-life date!  Lest you ask how our daughter, who we did not take with us, fared on her own in an empty house full of knives and poison, rest assured dear reader -- my wife's sister was with her, acting as a parent proxy, also known in these parts as a babysitter.

So after a well-above-average meal (paid with by a magic gift card), my wife and I sat down to enjoy a romantic movie, "The Debt," the title of which I assumed referred to some "debt" that a girl owes a guy over some first date silliness or some wacky miscommunication involving Hugh Grant and his charming accent.  Which takes place in hip Manhattan, with not-as-attractive-but-sarcastically-witty best friend.  With a heart of gold!  And, who knows, maybe Sandra Bullock is in it also?  No, I meant Reece Witherspoon!  Maybe?! Perhaps!  My wife picked out the movie so I went in fully expecting the complete Hollywood RomCom experience.


First sign something was amiss.  Helen Mirren.  Didn't she win an Oscar for some serious role?  I don't think she's ever been in a movie with Sandra Bullock.  OK, so this might not be so light-hearted.

Second sign.  Nazis.  Uh oh.

Yep, nothing says romance some good ol' Jewish Revenge!

Of course, the movie was actually quite good, especially the flashback scenes, which (without giving too much away) involved Mossad agents operating in mid-60's East Berlin.  The protagonist, played alternately by Jessica Chastain (when the character was younger) and Mirren (when the character was older) was compelling.  So was the Avatar guy (or should now be the Clash-of-the-Titans guy?*).  And the dude who looks a little like Javier Bardem.  He played tempermental quite well.  You know, they were all pretty good performances.  And the plot definitely had some suspense and was well played out.  So, I would recommend the movie as a theater-going experience if espionage and intrigue is your thing.  And I think it is a definite Netflix movie.  So there you go.

One minor quibble I'd have to note, however.  Frankly, the scar on Mirren's face was a little distracting.  Check that.  It was a force of nature.  It dominated the screen to the extent that it might qualify for this year's Academy Award for "Best Performance by a Body Part."  You can tell that the prosthetics guy or gal got way excited about "the scar" and was thinking, "How do I make the scar memorable?  It needs to speak to you!  It needs to jump off the screen!  And it shall!"  So, while the scar is a definite plot point, with a reason to be there, my advice to the lucky screenwriter for "The Debt Part II" is to let the lead character** visit a better plastic surgeon in the interim.  That is, if she survives at the end of this movie!!  Does she!!  I don't know!  Maybe?!  Da-dum-dummmm!!***

* Yes, that is Liam Neeson in the clip.  He's not in The Debt.  But the guy who played Perseus is, so that was close enough for me to put in the Kraken clip. 
**  I think her name was...Rachel?  Or maybe that was her spy name?  I definitely remember someone named Rachel.
***  I think she survives.  Maybe.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday video - Mötley Crüe

First, just stop.  This is not tongue-in-cheek.  I sincerely freaking love this song.  I was a male growing up in the 80's.  Of course I loved this song.  I still do!  It is hair metal at its absolute finest, at its most glorious before the corrosive effects of just-a-bit-too-much-makeup Poison and subsequent, obviously lesser material* took over.**  But, like the rest of Shout at the Devil, this song had a killer riff, edgy vocals, and a great hook. 

But what really elevates this song is the video.  Probably the most underrated and understudied video of all time!  Take a look and remember the awesomeness you had forgotten:

Now, time for the pop quiz.  There is only one question:

1.  Which of the following things in the musical video "Too Young to Fall in Love" by the band collectively known as Mötley Crüe is awesomest?  Is it:
     A.  The real-life and completely accurate depiction of Chinatown, U.S.A.?
     B.  The fact that the Crüe have two handmaidens attending to their every need, not to mention a short Asian kid informant?
     C.  The fact that, during the part where the Crüe is playing instruments, Nikki Sixx isn't playing his bass guitar so much stimulating it?
     D.  The ninjas?
     E.  The grunting sounds during the ninja fight -- that were not even on the original album recording?
     F.  The fact that Tommy Lee can catch nunchaku in mid-air and then knock out the ninja?
     G.  The gong that sounds*** whenever the bad guy**** in the dark John Lennon glasses shows his equal sign tattoo?
     H.  The fact that the Crüe totally ditch the girl once they see that she had an equal sign***** tattoo on her face, even though she's much hotter now and no longer common street trash like she was at the beginning of the video?
     I.  The fact that Tommy Lee isn't 100% sure they should ditch the now-hot girl?
     J.  The rice bowl that has captivated Tommy Lee (really, Tommy Lee owned this video, right?)?
     K.  The surprise that the rice wasn't that good? or
     L.  The gong and the devil horns at the end?

I'll give you a second to consider your answer.


You are correct!!  Whichever answer you picked!  Because they are all equally the awesomest!!******  Yes, it was a trick question!  So everyone passed the test!  Fly your devil horns in celebration!

So, like I was saying.  This song:  awesome.  This video:  awesomest.

**  This is a common and unfortunate phenomenon.  See, i.e., the Beatles led us to the Monkees; Nirvana and Pearl Jam led to...ugh...Limp Bizkit, so-on and so-on, etc.
***  Again, not in the original album recording!
****  Is he bad?  I'm not entirely certain.  Sure, he has ninjas, but that's not an absolute signifier of being not good.  I mean, I would totally have ninjas if I could, and I'm pretty sure I'm not a bad guy.
*****  Or could the tattoo be a precursor to this?  Would certainly shed some light on whether the dude was a "bad guy" or not.  He might actually be a good guy, rescuing street urchins to promote human rights.  But, again, the ninjas.
******  Actually, the correct answer is K.

Long weekend postmortem

Most everyone had a three-day Labor Day weekend, just like yours truly, but I also had the added day off yesterday to hang out with my absolutely adorable daughter, who we just so happened to keep home from daycare due to the massive amount of snot pouring from her nose, not to mention the cough.  Yes, my dearest daughter had a cold, which I believe she picked up either at the Wal-Mart or the Jason's Deli in North Little Rock, two places we happened to be on Sunday.  So my three-day weekend was extended to a three-day weekend plus one day of playing wipe-the-nose with a 20-month-old who quickly tired of daddy chasing her around the house, snot rag in hand.  But she was able to make it to daycare today and is on the mend and I got to play catch-up at work. 

That being said, there are a couple of little tidbits I'd like to share with yours truly.

Number one - This fool used to be a pretty good sportswriter.  Now, he's a hack who coasts on past glory.  Why do you care?  Because he picked the Hogs to win the national championship this year.  Hallelujah!!!  His word should be Gospel!  Oh, but wait...he also said this in that same article:
If [Peyton] Manning doesn't start Game 1, I will come to your house and eat things that are stuck in your carpet. 
Oh, the humanity!*   Moral of the story:  Sportswriters are so very stupid when they start writing about things about which they have no idea.  They should stick with what they know about -- that is, regurgitating whatever BS a college athletic department's or NFL/MLB/NBA's PR flack gives them.

Number two - Yes, I've already picked on sportswriters today (see "Number one") but you cannot watch what happened over the weekend in college football and not bang on them again.  No. 14 TCU?  Beaten by unranked Baylor.  No. 16 Notre Dame?  Beaten by unranked South home.  Defending national champions, No 23 Auburn?  Pushed to the brink at home by Utah State.  Now, it is easy to say that this was the first game of the season and these teams are still working out their kinks or whatever, but since the rankings are voted on by...ta da!...sportswriters in the Associated Press, don't they bear just a bit of responsibility for clanking on over 8% of their Top 25 prognostications?**  Aside from meterologists predicting snow, is there any "profession" that would consider a 92% success rate OK?***

After all, the sportswriters that vote in the AP poll are supposed to be EXPERTS.  These guys are plugged in!  They write about college football a living!  Here, let me answer the rhetorical question I posed at the end of the preceding paragraph for you:  Unless you work in theory-based science, experimental medicine, or a field so esoteric that a failure rate is built into the profession itself, not very likely.  The best these guys are are semi-educated guessers at this point in the season.  They might have a bit of inside knowledge here, some calculated reasoning there, but when you get down to it, those sportwriters are too chicken to go out on a limb to NOT rank Notre Dame in the Top 25 at the beginning of the season (because they are Notre Dame, dammit!), or to just plug in the usual Alabama/Oklahoma/Notable-Overrated-Big-10-Team/Notable-Overmatched-PAC-10 team into their preseason rankings and not think a thing about it.  Because that's the easy way out.****  Print, publish, and talk junk like you actually have a clue right up until kickoff of week one. 

I'm hardly the first person to call for no rankings for the first month of the season.  You know, wait and see how teams fare against, you know, other teams.  See how it shakes out.  After a month, even sportswriters will begin to see which teams are actually good and which teams are trading on their reputation alone.  But, like the NCAA's myopic rigidity of refusing to consider to pay college athletes at least just a small stipend while the universities make bank off of that same player's name, face, and talents (which maybe would prevent this from happening), that won't happen.  Ever.  There's too much pomp, circumstance, and "tradition"***** to even consider abandoning the preseason rankings. 

Number three - Man, those red bananas I wrote about last week were not good.  Like, ACTIVELY not good.  I don't know whether they were not ripe enough or overripe, or what, but they assaulted my taste buds.   The one I ventured to eat was hard and chalky.  I had to spit it out.  I'm going to try another one in a day or two (after giving them a little more time to soften up, I suppose?), but until then, be forewarned!

*  Make sure to reserve your time with Mr. Reilly to come over to your house and eat your carpet goodies!
**  OK, sure, Auburn didn't technically lose.  But ask any Auburn fan or anybody that actually watched the game if they "lost" and I guarantee you the overwhelming consensus from those who watched the game will say "hell yes they lost."  Auburn fans won't answer you because they'll be crying into their hands.
***  And don't get me started on Ole Miss of the MIGHTY, MIGHTY S.E.C. WEST blowing a 4th quarter lead against newly independent Brigham Young University.  At home.  Although I'm actually not sure who was favored in that game.  I just wanted to bang on Ole Miss a bit.
**** Credit where credit is due:  Texas is not ranked in the preseason.
*****  And money.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday video - The Corin Tucker Band

It seems a little like heresy to write about The Corin Tucker Band to the exlusion of Sleater-Kinney, Corin's majestcially fantastically super awesome band from the mid-90's through the first half of this decade.  As friends of mine know to an absolute certainly, Sleater-Kinney is one of my all-time favorite bands forever and ever and always.  That being said, SK is on a permanent hiatus and while I can hope that the hiatus will go the way of the Pixies' and Pavement's respective hiatuses (which recently ended), at least we can all still listen to and appreciate Corin's newest band (just like we can give each other high-fives over Wild Flag, SK-alums Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein's newest band). 

Check out the video for "Riley", a track from Corin's newest CD:

And here's an in-studio redition of "Its Always Summer," which, like most of the The Corin Tucker Band's album, is a distinct departure from Sleater-Kinney's driving rock.

And then, as if I needed to solidify Corin's "awesome credentials" even further, there's this interview.  Like one of the YouTube commenters said, "how can she rock so damn hard and then just put on that adorable mother face[?]"  Indeed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday video - Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse was one of the bands that I really got into after I graduated and moved from Fayetteville to start my real-world job in Little Rock and growing up and all that.  The band was suggested to me by one of my very best friends who sadly is no longer with us.  However, his musical tastes were spot on and Modest Mouse fit right into the musical sphere I was in at the time, alongside bands such as Pavement, Pixies, and Sleater-Kinney

Interestingly, many of my friends did not share the same musical interest in the Mouse that I did, complaining about the noise-rock aspect and (I'd guess) sometimes dischordant melodies.  Then, lo-and-behold, "Float On" was released in 2004 and all of a sudden, everyone thinks Modest Mouse is the greatest band.  They were and are right, of course, but it certainly can be frustrating for the fan who was on board years earlier, listening to the dual masterpieces of This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About and The Lonesome Crowded West.  OK, then.  Here ends the I'm-a-confused-and-crotchety-old-man rant :)

This clip comes from The Lonesome Crowded West.

Its low-fi and shot from a weird angle, but it is a great song with a utterly hypnotic drum rhythm.  Recorded "in the late 90's" according to the YouTube poster, when Modest Mouse were still underground and writing and recording some of the best rock of the era.