Tuesday, November 20, 2007

post 402. acting antics,part one: scoring with dr. z.

well, having done my first video shoot, i have to say that i'm a big fan. i ended up landing a gig as a student in a sex ed. class given by victoria zdrok, also known as dr. z - you can do your own googling there, friend - to promote her new book, scoring with dr. z. we all played students for the clinical psychiatrist, asking questions, getting notes on dating, and...you know. all that other stuff. and while one might dismiss dr. z's credentials - you finished that google search yet? - some of the stuff was pretty interesting.

two days in the beautifully treed dobbs ferry new york, and after a few weeks of doing absolutely nothing, i was met on the first day with a gorgeous head cold. not fun. but the whole two days made up for it: lots of laughing.

but here's the thing: you sit around for a long time, chatting it up with new friends, maybe playing basketball, maybe reading. you get your make-up done. you guess as to the identity of dr.z's assistant, ms. joli. wander into the kitchen and have another cup of coffee, or another roll. then you get called onto the set, film for a while, and then go and sit around again. train ride home, check's in the mail.



jason and rog play basketball.

david figures out the crosswords.

since i left lake george before the leaves changed colour, it was nice to get out of the city and see the foliage. we filmed at st. christopher's school, which had some old, old, old school buildings that added to the autumnal panaorama.

but some weren't too excited about it; one of the cast, a born-and-bred new yorker, thought the silence was creepy. "i like to hear the gunshots; when you don't hear anything, then something weird's going on."

dior, peter, josh, rog.

a break in the action, with dr. z and ms. joli conversing.

head cold + salad + dayquil + lots of coffee + 300 nutri-grain bars + half a coke: misery.

when one has down time, one finds things to do: my first time ever on a pogo stick. jesus. thank god for video games.

filming in the classroom. look at those trees, man. sweet.

dr. z. get this: i'm sitting around, reading ian fleming's on her majesty's secret service, and ms. zdrok is in the make-up chair. she looks at the book and tells me that she was the model for the cover. pret-ty sweet. so while others got autographed copies of her book, i was content with her john hancock on my james bond novel.

ms. justine joli. it's nice: i'm the only person who tried to discuss the world of adult entertainment in terms of nascar. anyway. ms. joli and ms. zdrock were both really nice, and so was everyone else. and for my improv friends: our director mark had a voice and gait so similar to sean daniels that i was always jerking my head around thinking the improv guru was in the room.

Friday, November 16, 2007

post 400. the hives, the black and white album.

from pitchforkmedia.com:

Roll back to 2001-02: A swarm of vaguely retro-thinking garage bands with plural-noun names (the Hives, the Strokes, the Vines, the White Stripes) were credited with reinvigorating rock'n'roll. The press went all breathless at the sight of slightly disheveled boys in tight pants, and the Hives were promptly slapped on the cover of Spin, extensively profiled in The New Yorker, and repeatedly fawned over by the NME. Alas, the new millennium's culture-cycle is especially vicious, and by 2004, when the Hives released their fourth LP (Tyrannosaurus Hives, the follow-up to their stateside breakthrough, Veni Vidi Vicious), most folks had moved on-- which is too bad, because of all the over-hyped revivalists of the early 00s, the Hives might be the most fun.

Although The Black and White Album features the same ecstatic, semi-ridiculous guitar thrashing that characterizes most of the band's previous work, it also sees the Hives expanding their sound to include more bass and songs that clock in over three minutes. This time, the band ditched its native Fagersta, Sweden to record, mostly, in Oxford, Mississippi, soliciting help from a handful of all-star producers: Pharrell Williams, Jacknife Lee, Dennis Herring (who's worked with Modest Mouse and Elvis Costello), and Thomas Oberg (beloved vocalist for a bunch of Swedish rock bands, including Bergman Rock/bob hund). With all that muscle behind the boards, it's not surprising that this is also the Hives' cleanest record to date-- the Hives were never particularly convincing as a garage band (the impeccably-tailored, color-coordinated suits didn't help), and any delusions-of-grit they may have entertained in the past are wholly eradicated here.

The Black and White Album can feel, at times, thematically spastic, spinning more like a mixtape than a proper LP. Pharrell's two standout tracks-- "Well All Right!" and "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S"-- are both slinky clap-alongs that play remarkably well to the band's party-anthem tendencies: "Well All Right!" sees frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist shrieking "People see me and they go/ Ahhhhh! Woo woo!" over pittering drums and perfectly-orchestrated backing chants, a jubilant bit of shameless self-promotion that suits Almqvist remarkably well. Regardless of how you feel about his thick, barky pipes, Almqvist is a captivating performer-- both live and in the studio-- strutting back and forth like a cartoon Mick Jagger, lips pouted, hips popped, voice undulating, part-James Brown, part-John Fogerty. Each vocal track on The Black and White Album sounds intense and revelatory; paired with Pharrell's playful production, the Hives soar.

The Hives' three self-produced cuts are just as jubilant-- with the exception of the instrumental "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors", which is all fart-bass and creepy synthesizers. It's presumably a concept song about life-as-a-Hive, but it's also the band at their most subdued. Jacknife Lee's track ("Hey Little World") is classic Hives, frantic and propulsive, with a few simple riffs and a broad, confrontational chorus ("Whatcha gonna do/ Any one of you?"). The bulk of the record is handled by Herring; on opener (and lead single) "Tick Tick Boom" a wall of guitars is balanced by a wall of vocals, with all five band members worked into a proper frenzy and howling away. At their best, the Hives are frenetic and volatile, jolting, pushing, panting-- it's punk rock at its most polished, with only the barest threat of dissolution.

-Amanda Petrusich, November 16, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

post 399. as animated, as chaotic, and as beautiful as the last supper.

my since-second-grade best pal scott took this picture of...(from left to right) his sister lisa, lucy (le chien), kyung, someone's kid, zoe, and someone else's kid (i'm only interested in names and ownership when they can start speaking). i think that's everyone...unless...nope. that's a coat.

Monday, November 12, 2007

post 398. sightseeing, star strickening.

picture this: new york city. mid-forties, grey skies. an average day, right?

i woke up and did my usual things: emails, audition searching, fantasizing about the day when i open my bank of america on-line banking page and find three million dollars in it. then i strike out in search of my new favorite coffee shop.

this isn't as easy as one would think. especially with my cursory knowledge of minor streets. all i need is reasonable rates, some tables - no table service please - and the feeling that i would be welcome to sit for an hour and simply stare out the window at a cabbie's who's obviously spending his break practicing his tennis moves.

no starbucks.

today i found such a place: 9th street and avenue a. cafe pick me up. i spend an hour writing, staring at some guy's dogs out the window, and watching the aforementioned cabbie.

then i decide i'll walk uptown. sight-seeing. i just kind of take an array of north-bound streets, crossing here, going there. and here's the funny thing: the randomization of my street choices, all the time it took, those few minutes i spent at a starbucks for their only good purpose (bathrooms), the stopping to take a picture of the empire state building (my new favorite pasttime), all of these entirely random choices timed and sorted in a way which found me walking up lexington avenue at the exact moment that larry mullen jr. was walking down it. that kind of coincidence blows my mind.

i met larry mullen jr. on the streets of new york. minutes - minutes, i tell you - after seeing a giant ad for the joshua tree rerelease, minutes after half-jokingly wondering if i'd see bono when i walked in front of the united nations.

you see, it's a big deal because, well, i've met my hero-of-all-heroes, the awesome and immeasurably talented vernon reid. no sweat. very pleasant. i met moby. i shook kevin strongbow's hand and thanked him and scissorfight for coming to rochester last summer. no worries. i'm able to simply be a fan, not an absolute nut. sure, i squealed and pointed like a little girl at her first cabbage patch kid when i saw trent reznor walking out of jurassic park iii in new orleans, but come on. i was 23.

so there i am, being approached by u2's drummer. u2! this guy not only knows the edge, but probably got a christmas present from him last year! and here he was, in new york! on the street! where were the thousands of screaming fans? here was one of the four greatest musicians since the beatles, just...walking! out on the streets as if he were human. what's one to do?

i was on the phone with art, my good friend from new orleans, and he can probably tell you what i sound like when i hyperventilate with a quandary of conflicting thoughts: how do i express a deep-rooted fascination with larry mullen jr. without looking like a hayseed? i wonder if i could get a photograph? should i tell him that i want to hear "daddy's gonna pay for your crashed car" on the next tour? where's my opaque posse demo?

"larry," i say, "what's up?"

he gives me the nod. we keep walking our separate ways.

i love this city.

post 397. cocktails at bruce's.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

post 395. update, 11.6.07.

_dear mr. saul williams: a few weeks ago i wrote radiohead (they have yet to respond) telling them i didn't pay for their new album in rainbows. look, in all honesty, it wasn't because i was broke. it's just that they've got money, and enough rabid fans to buy their music. plus, i've spent my fair share of money on them in the past, starting with ok computer, which i bought while traveling through tennessee back in 97. and, in all brutal honesty, i'm not that crazy about radiohead anymore.

but i was down to my last few dollars last wednesday when i donated five dollars to your efforts and downloaded the inevitable rise and liberation of niggy tardust. that might sound like i'm trying to tell you how high up on the priorities list i put music - my last few dollars going to you rather than, say, a bag of sundries from the local groceterium - but really it was the day before my unemployment check came, and i was impatient.

i swear i didn't buy your record because trent reznor produced it (even going so far as to arrange your cover of u2's sunday bloody sunday). you're a talented, inspiring artist (sorry to devolve into such cliches, but it is a myspace blog) and it's a great record, and i'm going to tell everyone to buy it. see you monday at the show you're putting on at the box.

_dear aspiring actors: here, sir ian mckellan gives you the inside skinny on acting:

_dear nine inch nails: you are now my favorite indie band ever. perhaps now all those skinny girl jean-wearing, purse-carrying, scarf-sporting so-over-it hipsters in williamsburg (not to mention the knobs at pitchfork) will show you the respect you deserve.

_dear uncle donuts: i have long desired to be a new yorker. not in the sense that i come from new york state (the empire state, at that), but a new yorker, able to rattle off at a moment's notice the subway lines that get someone from coney island to the upper west side in a heartbeat.

i've also wanted to be able to butt into someone else's conversation and say, "oh, you want (fill in service industry or product)? best place in the city for that is (fill in obscure business name). just take the (fill in subway line and directions)."

oh, you want coffee? best place in the city for that is uncle donuts. just take the r to steinway. it's the closet-sized space next to the popeye's.

_dear u2: i have tried, several times, to be your friend on myspace. who's in charge of that? edge? i know it's not larry. i would figure adam, since he's the hip one of the group. whoever it is, i've spent enough money to send lance bass into space on you guys, and would appreciate it if you'd accept me as your fucking friend. i will steal your music until you do.

_dear united states of america's national park service: you owe me one victorinox-brand swiss army knife. what? i'm going to ellis island on a ferry and i can't bring a swiss army knife? isn't this a little extreme?

the charming and delightful ms. westra and i spent an hour in line awaiting the ferry that takes people to the statue of liberty and then to ellis island. little did i know that there's an airport security-style hangar where you take everything off your person. now, i'm no rambo - i'm not even remo williams - but i have two knives: a swiss army knife i carry in my back pack (extensively used during my storied career at record archive and one that still brings a certain mid-eighties tv show's theme to mind every time i see it), and this thin little swiss army "card" my parents got me for christmas that's been easier to carry in my pocket. how often have i used it? well, the little screwdriver helps tighten the screws on my glasses.

but the card has a knife in it. so the officer comes over to the braying security woman searching my bag, and tells me: the knife in the card is ok, but the swiss army knife isn't. he offers to walk me outside so i can put my swiss army knife someplace in new york city so i can get it when i come back from ellis island.

put it somewhere outside? hide my knife in new york city? like, "mommy, i just killed a pigeon. oh, with this knife i found under that bench."

retarted. retarded. the thing about it is how i was pretty much unable to do anything about it; the ticket was bought (no refunds), and i hate confrontations, especially with some uniformed, gunned cop who's reciting policy verbatim in that way that makes cops so unnerving, leading one to think, "that guy has a gun?" sure, sure, safety safety 9/11 and whatnot, but. seriously.

ellis island? the statue of liberty? next thing you know i'll get frisked for entering montana. you owe me, government. you owe me.

_dear mr. barry bonds: let me get this straight. if the hall of fame takes the asterisked baseball (home run number 756), you won't be there if they induct you?

look: pete rose has been barred from the hall of fame because he took actions that effected the outcome of games he participated in. you created an imbalance in home runnery when you took your ster-oreos and milk. you took actions that unfairly effected the outcome of games.

in the olympics (and, for us bone-headed americans, the tour de france), when you admit to sneaking some steroids into your six grams of protein and five ounces of monoglucamosetatherozine, you give back your medals, your trophy, your tour de france decoder ring and tee-shirt.

so don't threaten baseball with your strangely girly-voiced threat of not showing up if the hall of fame decides to honor you. there are plenty other people in the history of baseball - don mattingly instantly springs to mind - who we'll applaud for the simple sporting legacy of man vs. man, not man vs. chemistry set.

_dear mr. keith olbermann: you're my new hero.

Monday, November 05, 2007

post 394. i knew i wasn't the only one who thought this.

Johnson's dominance, personality has NASCAR fans rooting for Gordon
November 4, 2007

By Bruce Martin
PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor

FORT WORTH, Texas (Ticker) - Jimmie Johnson may be NASCAR's "Nice Guy." But his corporate, vanilla personality has done the unthinkable - it's made NASCAR fans actually consider rooting for Jeff Gordon.

For the second season in a row, it appears that Johnson has found the key at just the right time that will drive him to the NASCAR Nextel Cup title.

And with nine wins, including the last three in a row, a strong case can be made that Johnson is once again NASCAR's best driver.

For most of the 2007 season, however, it looked like Gordon was NASCAR's best - and he was on pace to win his fifth Cup championship, but his first since 2001. At 36 years old, Gordon has matured into the "total package."

He looks like a champion, acts like a winner, is probably the most articulate driver in the garage area and understands his obligation to the sport, whether it be cooperating with the media or signing autographs for the fans.

Usually, when Gordon speaks, he says something interesting.

Johnson has many of those same qualities but far too often seems like a creation from the corporate boardroom. He says the right things all the time, while Gordon has shown flashes of peevishness, which only adds a little character to his persona.

"I'm just mad that we sucked tonight, that's all," Gordon said after finishing seventh Sunday night. "The car was good at the end. We just couldn't ever get it right earlier in the night. I'm disappointed with that."

There was a time when Gordon bore a striking resemblance to the cartoon character, "Speed Racer." Johnson looks more like "Dave Matthews," but probably can't carry a tune.

These are the only two NASCAR drivers left that have a legitimate shot at winning the title with two races remaining, and they are both teammates at Hendrick Motorsports.

To add to the intrigue, both Johnson and Gordon admit to being friends - and Gordon even has an ownership stake in Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet at HMS. But all of that is forgotten once these two appear on the race track.

So when Johnson was asked if he felt the slightest empathy for Gordon after he lost the points lead on Sunday, he couldn't resist but state the obvious.

"No," Johnson said. "This is racing. You have to check your emotions at the gate when you get here. Jeff is a great friend and a great teammate and he's the most challenging guy out there to beat. But no, I don't feel bad for him."

One day, Johnson may reach the same status that Gordon enjoys. But Sunday's win in the Dickie's 500 was Johnson's 32nd in the Cup Series.

Gordon, meantime, has 81 wins and is closing in on some of NASCAR's legendary names, such as Cale Yarborough's 83 victories and Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip, each with 84.

Gordon was so good at such an early age at the beginning of his career that the fans developed a hatred for the talented driver from Vallejo, California who honed his racing skills by living his teenage years in Pittsboro, Indiana as a star in the United States Auto Club (USAC).

At that time, NASCAR was still a Southern-bred, deep-fried sport with most of the drivers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia or Tennessee. The fans didn't like Gordon because he just wasn't "one of us."

Today, fans still boo Gordon, but most of them have probably forgotten why they booed him in the first place.

So when Gordon entered Sunday's race with a nine-point lead over Johnson, it was a razor-thin margin. Gordon finished seventh and with Johnson's win, he lost the points lead and now trails by 30 points with two races left.

"Thirty isn't much," Gordon said. "The biggest thing right now is that we're just getting beat and those guys are winning races. We've got to put some pressure back on them and outperform them."

Gordon believes his teammate is "spanking us." That's what upsets him the most.

"They're putting it to us," Gordon said. "I don't like it. We're very competitive and we're just getting beat. We've got to go to work. We've got to get it back."

Gordon is upset, and that has led to even more motivation for the driver and the team. And with that type of attitude, he's suddenly become worth rooting for.