Saturday, July 21, 2007

Posted Without Comment

Courtesy of TMZ

Friday, July 20, 2007

SeeqPod...Totally Blown Out...

SeeqPod just somewhat blew my mind. iMeem is kind of nice...but like I said before, those :30 second clips were pissing me off. SeeqPod is a similar idea, only rather than relying on public-spirited individuals to upload full songs, it just searches all the mp3s already out there and plays them right in the search window PLUS it lets you embed what you've found!

I tend to test music search engines with "Sebadoh" for some reason. Not sure why. Maybe it's because they're not totally obscure, so it doesn't feel unfair, but it's going to rely on a bit deeper catalog than most big, popular artists.


SeeqPod found a BUNCH of results immediately. about something a bit more recent. Like, say, that Bat for Lashes single "The Wizard" I discussed a few days ago...


Bam! Done!

What's that? Does it have any old school hip hop?


iMeem's got some catching up to do. In fact, pretty much every other mp3 site on the Intar-Web has some catching up to do. This thing rocks...


I can't stop.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I don't know how much they paid Robert De Niro to play gay pirate Captain Shakespeare in director Matthew Vaughn's unfortunate big-screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel Stardust, but unless he's now one of the five richest men in the world, it wasn't enough. It's humiliating for an artist of De Niro's caliber to flounder around in lame shit like Analyze That, sure, but Stardust is another conversation entirely. We're no longer discussing his reputation as an actor; that battle has been fought and lost, long ago. Now he's starting to sacrifice...and I say this not to insult the man, but out of real concern...but he's starting to sacrifice his basic human dignity.

I was literally, without embellishment, embarrassed for De Niro throughout his mercifully brief role in Stardust. I don't want to give too much away...but at the same time, I don't want you to see this I'm torn. Suffice it to say that the key joke around which De Niro's character is based SUCKS. He's asked to inhabit a degrading, mincing stereotype that's completely beneath Neil Gaiman, Matthew Vaughn, Robert De Niro and most of all the American and British moviegoing public. I actually feel like I am a worse person for having seen De Niro in this film.

Even if the remainder of Stardust was a work of genius, under no circumstances could the final product warrant any grade higher than a B-. Like failing to stick the triple lutz, this is just the kind of error that will mar an entire undertaking.

Krazy Krossdressing Kapt. Shakespeare is the most unfortunate float in the Parade of Incompetence called Stardust, but many other examples could and will be provided.

Most bad Hollywood films are a failure of vision - some mediocre but easily marketed ideas thrown together lackadaisically to produce something cheap, moderately entertaining and disposable. Stardust doesn't have this problem. It has plenty of interesting, fun ideas (most of them, I'm assuming, taken from Gaiman's book, which I have not read). Flying pirates who bottle lightning, telepathic unicorns, witch rivalries, wisecracking ghosts of slaughtered princes, undead swordplay...Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman definitely had the raw materials for at least a passable fantasy-adventure film.

They simply have no idea what to do with them. Any of them. At all. Every one of these concepts, and dozens of other possible avenues for amusement, are squandered, wasted and ignored. At times, such as the atrocious Ricky Gervais cameo, I could tell the movie was trying and failing to be funny. But for much of the film's midsection, there didn't seem to be any jokes at all. Just situations that resemble other films, but don't build to anything. Vaughn's film plods along toward an inevitable storybook conclusion for 2 hours and even its protagonists don't seem to actually care. They just mosey around the wilderness in silly outfits because that's all there is to do in these movies. You walk around, you ride some horses, you discuss prophecies, you have a sword fight and you cash your check. Bada bing, bada bang, bada boom, learn from the pros, kid.

The result is a movie that clearly aimed for the inspired silliness of The Princess Bride or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but plays like a high school production of "Fellowship of the Ring" on opening night. A lot of recognizable characters, scenes and concepts, but jumbled together, performed in an awkward, halting manner and entirely unconvincing.

Okay, so, the set-up...150 years ago, in England, a guy named Tristan (Charlie Cox, the human embodiment of a double Nyquil shot) tries to hit on his cute neighbor Victoria (Sienna Miller) by promising to fetch for her a falling star. She agrees to marry him (this being the 1800's and all) if he can return with the star by her birthday the following week.

So Tristan crosses the magic wall separating England from the magical fantasy-world of Stormhold in search of his star, which itself turns out to be a beautiful lady named Yvaine (Claire Danes). In Stormhold, I guess, stars are not balls of gas at all, but beautiful ladies that hang around in space...but glow. And are magic.

Danes, stepping into the Jeff Bridges role, is really really terrible in this film. (If you laughed at that sentence, Welcome to Dorkville...Population: You). I mean, Yvaine the Star Woman is not by any stretch a sensational role...don't get me wrong...The "rules" governing her behavior and her situation aren't very clear, and thus I found it kind of hard to relate to her. Is it fair to ask an actress to simultaneously play scared, angry and bored? Isn't that kind of contradictory?

Still, Danes could not be more aloof or distant as Yvaine if she were starring in a remake of Persona. For the first half of the film, she's arguing with Tristan despite not appearing to actually be mad, and then she pulls a 180 and falls in love with him without ever once appearing to give a shit. At any point during the film, Yvaine could have said, "This planet sucks, I'm outta here," turned into a star and disappeared forever and it would not have seemed out of place.

I don't know if Gaiman's book made any more sense on this front, but I'm not sure I get what Yvaine is, why she's here or why she's doing what she does. At first, she's focused entirely on returning to outer space or something, but she also craves love, attention and warmth in order to retain her starlike brilliance or whatever.

But this is even more description than you need. I'll keep it simple. She's supposed to be an embodied star, right, that fell from the heavens to earth accidentally when a dying king (Peter O'Toole) tossed his ruby necklace skyward. (I wish I were just rattling this off as a joke, but it's the actual plot of the film). So you'd think that being on Earth would be a new and exciting experience for her, and we'd get some Daryl Hannah in Splash kind of scenes with the mythological woman exploring our familiar world.

But after years of watching Earth from above, Yvaine's entirely nonchalant about being an embodied human on Earth. You'd figure, even if a star knew what Earth was all about, it would be a considerably difference experience to come down here in a woman's body and walk around, meeting people and falling in love and having adventures. Rather than Hannah in Splash, the Danes performance here reminded me of Michael Jordan in Space Jam, who wanders into the Looney Tunes Universe without registering the least inkling of surprise or alarm. "Hey, Bugs Bunny...what are you doin' here?" That's about where Claire Danes is at in this film.

The only character I found even remotely appealing was Witch Queen Lamia, played by Michelle Pfeiffer with some actual relish and personality. The best shot in the film is Lamia's rapid transformation from an old hag into the only somewhat-old Michelle Pfeiffer, which is funny and even kind of sexy. I'll admit, I did wonder why a witch casting a youth spell on herself would turn into the middle-aged version of Michelle Pfeiffer. Shouldn't it have been Fabulous Baker Boys Michelle Pfeiffer? Or even Scarface Michelle Pfeiffer? I mean, we are talking a realm of sorcery and magic. (I'm making fun of Pfeiffer a bit, but she's the only one who really commits to this world and her character, and she gets almost all of the films best little jokes and moments, so I really appreciated her presence. She gets more laughs out of an arched eyebrow than 2 hours of quipping spirits and effeminate sky sailors could muster.)

Anyway, Lamia is after the Star Girl because she wants to cut out her heart and eat it, thus permanently restoring her youth-ish beauty. The last-living son of dead king Peter O'Toole, the evil Septimus (Mark Strong), is after the Star Girl because she's wearing his father's ruby necklace, which he needs in order to establish his rule over Stormhold. Tristan needs the Star Girl so he can prove his love for cruel taskmaster Victoria. And so all manner of poorly-shot swashbuckling, poorly-conceived shenanigans, poorly-written banter and poorly-executed effects sequences ensue.

The effects work, as you can probably tell, really bothered me. Either Vaughn lacked the resources to realize the story as it existed in his head or he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. De Niro's flying pirate ship just looks silly (and particularly unimpressive on the heels of ILM's work on the Pirates franchise). There's none of the scope or majesty of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films (this is much more reminiscent of the forgettable Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe). Lamia's "magic" effects are particularly dire - her outstretched hand oozes a glowing green mist that looks like something out of a "Tales from the Crypt" re-run.

Lamia at one point has a "witches' battle" against Ditchwater Sal (Melanie Hill). I bring up this scene for two reasons. One, it represents a common and peculiar motif of Stardust: showdowns between two antagonists, neither of whom has garnered any sympathy thus far with the audience. Two, Vaughn's finished footage perfectly recreates the dailies from the Harry Potter/Voldemort showdown in Goblet of Fire, before they added the actual effects. Vincent Price and Boris Karloff have a duel in the 1963 Roger Corman-directed comic spin on The Raven, and I swear to you, it looks cooler than the Sal-Lamia faceoff in Stardust.

I had a similar reaction, overall, to Matthew Vaughn's directorial debut, Layer Cake. Not in terms of shoddy effects work, but just the feeling that he was grasping at something considerably out of his depth. Twice now, Vaughn has attempted a recognizable genre (in the case of Layer Cake, the hard-edged British crime film) and rendered it without grace or style, utterly failing to make it his own. This is never a good thing, but working with specific sub-genres that a lot of other directors do particularly well (like dryly funny crime movies or postmodern fantasies), Vaughn's kind of asking for trouble. Perhaps he should start with something less ambitious? This kind of irreverent, idiosyncratic material, straddling the line between children's adventure and satirical comedy for grown-ups, can't be the easiest thing to pull off, and it's only the guy's second film. Perhaps a nice buddy road movie might be more his speed?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

iMeem Officially Works!

It's actually kind of cool. I upload mp3's, they host them, then I can put them up on my blog. Not 100% sure what they're getting out of it. (There's a few ads, but isn't this a really expensive proposition, to host all this content?)

I mean, I have no real intention of joining their "social" community, as I can never seem to get really into the whole online social community thing, despite spending 140 billion hours a week online, which isn't even possible.

So it's just like a free hosting service, really, but as such, it's actually quite a nifty one. I notice that most users don't actually bother to upload their own music. (I should add, I am only uploading free, legal mp3's that I have downloaded from Official Band Sites or legit mp3 blogs, and I think iMeem actually polices for people uploading pirated music.) You can, if you so choose, just browse from songs on iMeem and add them to your profile, but unless the record company gives the A-OK, you just get :30 second clips.

So most people's iMeem profiles suck, because it's just a sample of a song, not a song. And who the hell wants to save song samples or share them with friends? My iMeem profile, however, will eventually be kickass. Right now, it's just two songs. Here's the second one. It's an awesome live collaboration between post-folk oddball Final Fantasy and Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon.

Take a Gawk at the Weird Side

I've been listening to this song all day. Let's see how well this iMeem thing works:

It's a band called Everything, Now!, off their new album "Bible Universe." I'm thinking about buying the album just because I can't get this one song out of my head. My Old Kentucky Blog tells me it's a wacky concept album about a suicidal kid named St. Backbone who finds himself in an alternate dimension. Interesting...

Here's the band's official site if you also want to pick up the whole album becuase this is such a cool, catchy song.


From the AP via Huffington Post:

Marine: Beating of Iraqis Became Routine

A Marine corporal testifying in a court-martial said Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after officers ordered them to "crank up the violence level."

Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo testified Saturday at the murder trial of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.

"We were told to crank up the violence level," said Lopezromo, testifying for the defense.

When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: "We beat people, sir."

Lovely. Way to win over those hearts and minds.

Seriously...let's all give the surge some more time to work. If you figure each full-bodied American soldier can personally pummel 6 Iraqi adults senseless per day, imagine adding 20,000 new soldiers! That's 120,000 Iraqis who will get their asses kicked, thereby allowing freedom to spread...somehow.

Within weeks of allegedly being scolded, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. The Marines and corpsman were from 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment.

Lopezromo said the suspected insurgent was known to his neighbors as the "prince of jihad," and had been arrested several times and later released by the Iraqi legal system.

Unable to find him, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony.

Four Marines and the corpsman, initially charged with murder in the April 2006 killing, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges and been given jail sentences ranging from 10 months to eight years. Thomas, 25, from St. Louis, pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea and is the first defendant to go to court-martial.

Okay, now, let's stop for a moment even considering the impact of having roving bands of American soldiers wandering around Hamandiya looking for individuals to torment. Let's ignore the ramifications of having our military seize men that have been released by the Iraqi judicial system because, like, they totally heard that this guy was Disney's Prince of Jihad or something...

Let's just consider these soldiers. These were probably pretty normal people when they went away to war. Oh, sure, one of them may have been a psycho all along, like Penn in Casualties of War or whatever, but it's doubtful that all of them simply had a criminal mindset when they first landed in country. This is what happens when you send people into these kinds of chaotic warzones for months and then give them crazy, insipid orders like "crank up the violence level."

And now the rest of us will have to live with and amongst this madness forever. Now, I'm not trying to insult the men and women of the American military; this is totally not their fault. They signed on to do a job and had no idea of the rank incompetence and bloodthirsty amorality of their elected representatives and appointed superiors. But the fact is that this war has created a generation of Americans who are now cold-blooded, vicious murderers:

Lopezromo, who was not part of the squad on its late-night mission, said he saw nothing wrong with what Thomas did.

"I don't see it as an execution, sir," he told the judge. "I see it as killing the enemy."

He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency.

I gotta spell it out for you?

Thomas' attorneys have said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from his combat duty in Fallouja in 2004. They have argued that Thomas believed he was following a lawful order to get tougher with suspected insurgents.

Honestly...this is a really tough call. I mean, we clearly expect soldiers to be able to turn their impulse to kill on and off. If you're in some kinds of wars, it's not that difficult. When in battle, kill. When hanging out later, don't kill.

But in Iraq, where you're constantly being shot at without warning? After an officer has just told you to generally be a lot more violent with Iraqis? We're asking a lot of these soldiers...Too much. Way way too much. To the point of ridiculousness. It's one of the 100,000,000,000 good reasons to end this war, ASAP, which of course George Bush would never do because it might make him look stupid. And, folks, he can't have that.

Lopezromo said a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead, he testified.

"If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice," he said.

He was totally VC al-Qaida, I swear!