Recently I was driving upstate to visit my brother Tom on the farm he lives and works on with other disabled people. Because I was by myself for the drive and it’s good to have something fun to listen to I made myself a mix of Elliott Smith songs. Why not! Even though it’s sad that Elliott Smith died at age 34 ten years ago today, his music wasn't all broken bottles in empty parking lots, stained floors, naked mattresses and irreversible damage.
About ten minutes into The Room, a film that is considered the worst ever made, the actress Juliette Danielle has to make love to her fiancé, who is played by the film's writer and director, Tommy Wiseau. They are atop a bed of rose petals. Soft R&B plays. The camera lingers over Johnny’s pale bottom. Cascades of mermaid-length black hair spill over his back cleavage. As he thrusts into what seems to be Lisa’s belly button, she looks at him chidingly, as if he’s a soused comic who’s just told a fairly racist joke at an open mic.
Like most soft-core sex scenes, the love scene in The Room is [...]
It's hard to find an exact release date, but one of the greatest albums ever recorded by anybody came out thirty years ago this month. I can remember right where I was the first time I heard "Blister In the Sun," the first song on the first album from The Violent Femmes. I was in my friend James' kitchen, where we'd go every afternoon in sophomore year to pinch a pipe's worth of pot from the brick his mom kept wrapped in plastic under the telephone book in the drawer next to the fridge. James had a tape, a taped tape, a cassette recording someone had made for him. I [...]
The Rolling Stones played their first concert under that name on July 12, 1962. That's fifty years ago today. There are lots of different ways to feel about this. I'm choosing acceptance of the imperfection of even life's very greatest joys. They are rehearsing for their next tour because they've sort of gotten themselves into a position where they can't stop until Mick or Keith dies.
Ten years ago today Winona Ryder stole several thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue. I reacted to the news of the incident the way I react to most celebrity scandals—with unmitigated delight—and prepared myself to follow subsequent action with mild interest.
Then, on the day of her arraignment, a friend called me. He was very excited. (The last time I had heard him like this was during the 1994 Oscars when I called him to make fun of Susan Sarandon’s dress and he picked up the phone, having no idea who was calling or for what reason, and wailed, “I know, [...]
It is the 50th anniversary of "The Flintstones," which actually seems kind of low, since it feels like it has always been around. Anyway, celebrate with this list of the show's ten craziest inventions or skip to the 1:23 mark on this video to watch Branford Marsalis force Sting to sing the theme song. Either way, have a gay old time.
The Clash's London Calling came out thirty years ago today. It still stands as punk rock's crowning achievement. In fact, it's probably as responsible as any other work for the fact that the term "punk rock" seems kind of silly now. The Clash were a punk band, coming out of England with the Sex Pistols in the late '70s. But the music on London Calling ranges from reggae to rockabilly to snazzy pop tunes. It's thoughtful and refined, even gentle at times, and delivered with as much subtlety as spit. It rages and sneers, too, to be sure, but even in that, it proves the futility of thin definition [...]
For an album that had a couple of videos in semi-permanent rotation in the 1989 of my memory, Tanita Tikaram's Ancient Heart, which was released on this day 25 years ago, may be one of the most neglected great records of that period. There's nothing innovative or groundbreaking about it, sure, but it was an astonishingly assured debut by one of the most interesting voices of the last quarter century, and there are certain people I know who still pretend to have something in their eye when they hear "Valentine Heart," which deserves top ten placement on any assembly of sad songs worth the name. If you've never [...]
On June 11th, 1993, I had my one and only "religious experience." It began, as is tradition, by staring into the cold hard eye of a raptor. It lasted for 127 minutes, in which I was in a complete state of raptor—sorry, rapture (these words are synonyms to me). I emerged from the movie theatre a changed person. I was like Saint Paul after he fell off his horse and realized, "Holy crap, Jesus is a god-man-thing!" Only my revelation was about dinosaurs, and so is obviously superior.
I had borne witness to the birth of Jurassic Park. I had seen it bite through the fence of public anticipation and [...]
People Will Be Singing That Song From From The White Stripes "Elephant" Album Long After Elephants Themselves Are Extinct
The White Stripes' greatest album, Elephant, came out ten years ago this week. You probably know about how the first song, "Seven Nation Army," has become a ubiquitous (and sort of fascistic!) chant in sports stadiums across the country. It is a great song. A "classic" for sure. A better rock song has not been written since. What has happened since is that 62 percent of the world's forest elephants, a distinct species native to central Africa, have been killed for the booming ivory trade in China and Japan. This is one of the more depressing things we can learn from the running Scientific American feature [...]
It was 40 years ago today (more or less): "The Intel 4004 was a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the first complete CPU on one chip, and also the first commercially available microprocessor. Such a feat of integration was made possible by the use of then new silicon gate technology allowing a higher number of transistors and a faster speed than was possible before." And think of all the joys it's brought us! Seriously, think about it.
It was 40 years ago tomorrow that photographer Iain MacMillan took the picture of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road outside Abbey Road studios that would be used for the cover of their final studio album, called, uh, Abbey Road. It has since become one of the most enduring images in rock-music history. Am I Right has collected 63 covers from other artists parodying the original, and the BBC is running a nice little segment about the endless stream of tourists who stop traffic to take their own pictures on the very crosswalk trod upon by Paul's bare feet-a place that now has a webcam monitoring the [...]
The dust was everywhere. It nestled into crevices of wood and fabric, into the plush fur of bears and tigers and dogs and rabbits and indeterminate species of stuffed toys. It settled over dried flowers: Red roses burnt black, white carnations leavened into dusky repose. Candles, curved faces flush with saints and saviors, towered in ashy, extinct clusters. Gusts coughed up low, dirty clouds through which visitors shuffled, trance-like. A town of prairie dogs peeked up and around from their burrows of the stuff, surveying the shrines and memorials, eye-level with the human feet and ankles and shoes and sandals and boots. Buses, climbing an adjacent grade, wheezed into chalky [...]
The American Cancer Society was founded in New York City on May 22, 1913. (That's a hundred years ago today.) Back then it was called the American Society for the Control of Cancer. It's funny to think of "celebrating" in terms of a disease like cancer. And it sure would be better if there was never any need for an American Cancer Society in the first place. But here we are, left saying "fuck cancer" anytime someone like David Rakoff or Adam Yauch dies way, way too young, and so to the people who are working so hard to make it be so that we [...]
Today is the 50th anniversary of Maurice Sendak’s The Nutshell Library, which is an excellent collection (anything that features "a cautionary tale" deserves reading) and well worth purchasing if you have or know any children or are feeling especially fragile just now. It contains, among other books, Alligators All Around, notable for being perhaps the greatest book about alligators ever written. Children ought to know more about alligators and be properly frightened of them. When I was a child every night my father would sing to us the same song:
Sooner or later I’ll be an alligator and I’ll eat all of my children, every one Oh, I’m a [...]
In October of 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was about to give a speech in Milwaukee in support of his reelection campaign under the newly created Progressive “Bull Moose” Party when a bartender named John Flammang Schrank walked up and shot him in the chest. Roosevelt of course was not killed, but neither his survival nor Schrank’s claim that he was instructed by the ghost of William McKinley to prevent a third term for the two-term former president were the most extraordinary parts of the whole affair. It was the fact that Roosevelt decided to deliver his speech in the Milwaukee Auditorium anyway, for an hour and a half, with blood seeping [...]
Don’t try to tell me you don’t like this song. Don’t try to say that it’s too earnest and simplistic or that the big dumb chord progression is too big and dumb or that Kevin Cronin sounds too much like a dweeb or that his clothes or his acting in this video are too ridiculous for you to take anything he’s ever done seriously ever. Don’t try to tell me that you never wrote this song’s lyrics into a love note to an old ex-girlfriend you were trying to win back. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t turn up the volume and sing along aloud every time it [...]
The skyborne-disaster comedy Airplane! turns 30 years old next month, and Matt Zoller Seitz's look back on the flick and its influences way down the lines of comedy is quite a good read. (The revelation that the movie is partially responsible for the movie career of the not-funny-just-sorta-gross Farrelly brothers isn't going to dim my enthusiasm for it!)