Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"One Time:" Just Give In Already

I've been accused of music snobbery before, but my friends know I have a weakness for the sweet, straightforward pop song. A while back, it was David Archuletta's "Crush," the aural equivalent of a cupcake with confetti sprinkles.

Now, the culprit is 15-year-old Usher protege Justin Bieber. With his Zack and Cody aura and fondness for hip-hop hand gestures, Bieber could easily be mistaken for the devil's work. (Remember Aaron Carter? I do.) When his "One Time" video first flashed across our TV screen last weekend, I had my phaser set on "Hate." But as my kids' heads bobbed to this infectious little gem, well, I had to admit that it was good stuff. I felt a little better when my brother told me that "One Time" has been his jam for a while now.

You win, kid.

Monday, July 27, 2009

You Know You Want To

AMC's "Mad Men" is such a great show, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to turn myself into the newest dish (and trailblazing African American) at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. "Mad Men Yourself" — which allows you to create a vintage illustration inspired by the show — is loads of fun, but also an addictive time suck. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Didn't I Think Of This?

Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that there's a point at which any sense of fun feels far, far away. The details, the managing of expectations and the family wrangling are enough to make a sane person run to the nearest courthouse. And considering the cost, more of us probably should have.

That's why I am so taken with the now-famous video of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz's wedding entrance. In case you're one of the 12 people who haven't seen it, the Minnesota couple and bridal party danced their way down the aisle to Chris Brown's "Forever," and the result was pure joy. I've been to a lot of weddings, and a few of them incorporated choreography in a way that was ... unfortunate. However, this couple and their friends were true to the idea that a wedding is (or should be) a celebration.

While most of the feedback has been positive, a few people have griped that the routine was inappropriate for a church. I say poppycock. It's not like they were grinding to Li'l Wayne's "Lollipop." I grew up going to church, so I understand that it is The House of the Lord. But I also think human beings get huffy about things that God couldn't care less about. If that routine is at all indicative of the life these two will have together, I can't imagine the maker being anything but tickled.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Praise Of Love Stories That Don't Insult The Audience

I hope that new movie starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler fails spectacularly. I want it to land in theaters with a thud, and for that thud to echo in the silence. I want the echo to reverberate all the way to the Hollywood offices of the people who green-lit another generic, candy-coated romantic comedy starring two gorgeous actors masquerading as regular people.

I don't have anything against Heigl and Butler, but for God's sake. The trailer for "The Ugly Truth" all but says, "Hey, women! You'll go see this because it's about romance and Gerard Butler may be shirtless at some point."

A romantic movie I'm much (much) more hopeful about is "Adam," the story of a woman (Rose Byrne) who falls for a man (Hugh Dancy) with Aspbergers Syndrome. Maybe "Adam" will turn out to be one of those too-quirky-for-its-own-good flicks, but the trailer is completely charming. Dancy doesn't appear to be playing his character as over-the-top odd, and at one point he says, "I'm not Forrest Gump, you know."

My interest in this movie is somewhat personal: My 9-year-old son is somewhere at the so-called mild end of the autism spectrum, and I've often wondered how he will navigate romantic relationships once he grows up. Like Dancy's Adam, he is personable and handsome, but he doesn't always grasp the subtleties of social communication. I hate the idea of that making life harder for him, but he's come a long way — and he's hardly alone. I'm sure there are plenty of adults on the spectrum who found love (all relationships are imperfect), and it's cool that a filmmaker is offering up that perspective.

"Adam" will probably make less in six months than "The Ugly Truth" will rake in opening weekend, but just knowing that it exists makes me feel better.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Dear Kim Kardashian:

I didn't want to like you, but you managed to win me over with your unexpected sweetness and willingness to answer almost any question. And I must say that current boyfriend Reggie Bush is a vast improvement over your ex, Ray-J, whose popularity with the ladies continues to baffle me.

What really impressed me was your interview with Muscle & Fitness Hers. You came across like a normal woman who has worked hard to get in shape and stay there. Your frustration with the wafer-thin beauty standard in L.A. was palpable, and I like how you are representing for women who are not shaped like 12-year-old boys — all while working hard in the gym to keep the junk in the trunk from overflowing. Heck, I was inspired. I told my friend H. that I was going to keep you in mind when that last running interval/Arnold press/lunge seemed too difficult to complete.

But then you and your sister Khloe cooked up some weight-loss product called Quicktrim, a "cleanse" that you plan to market and sell. First, there's that name. Why perpetuate the lie that body transformation is a quick and easy process? The last thing people need is more sketchy information and false hope about permanent weight loss. And you must know that, somewhere in the back of their minds, the women who plan to buy this stuff are hoping that it will make their bodies look like yours — fine print, be damned.

Judging from the reaction from fitness-loving types, this hasn't exactly bolstered your credibility. (Although you are a long, long way from "fat," the last resort of haters.) That's too bad, because it was refreshing to hear some real talk about nutrition and exercise from someone who appeared to be in the trenches with the rest of us — that is, if we were rich and worked out with Gunnar Peterson. You know what I mean.

Still, Reggie Bush? Major upgrade.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Sounds Like Summer

I really don't want to hear another person claim that the Black-Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" is the song of the summer. It is not. That honor must go to "Lisztomania," the utterly delightful, effervescent cut by French rock band Phoenix. It's a standout song on "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," an album full of very good songs. When I heard Phoenix playing in my favorite comic book hangout recently, I smiled. This is usually not the case when I hear music being played in stores.

"Lisztomania" is pretty fabulous by itself, but it made my day when a friend sent me this video of the song set to scenes from classic, '80s teen films. If I had not been in my office, I would have gotten up and done the Molly Ringwald dance, which I used to kill back in the day.

Sorry, Fergie.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Worst Landlord, Ever

I have had some colorful landlords in my time. Most memorable is the senior gentleman who oversaw my building in Tampa’s Hyde Park in the mid-‘90s. He was wee, often shirtless, and was a competitive dancer of some sort. That’s Florida for you.

But in my entire decade as a renter, I never had a drunken psychopath for a landlord. Gabe Dunn did, and he has chronicled the experience in a set of riveting blog posts about his former landlord and housemate, Gary.

To get a sense of this guy, imagine Mr. Roper of “Three’s Company” on coke. In addition to having many run-ins with the cops, Gary steals from his tenants, leaves Gabe profane, barely coherent voice mails, and writes his housemates unintentionally hilarious notes: “GABE: I AM NOT IN JAIL!!!” Gabe remains remarkably calm throughout, which is wise when you’re dealing with someone this unhinged.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's All Over But The Shoutin'

One of the many weird things that happens when a celebrity dies: Many people insist that the period following their demise is "not the time" to criticize them or bring up the unsavory parts of their narrative. I guess U.S. Rep. Pete King (NY) disagrees, because in his now-infamous video video blasting the media for 24/7 MJ coverage, he referred to the departed artist as "a lowlife," "child molester," "pedophile" and a "pervert."

"He died. He had some talent; fine," Rep. King said. "There's nothing good about this guy."

King's comments were over the top, and while there is plenty of speculation, Michael Jackson was never found guilty of anything. That doesn't mean he didn't do what he was accused of (Hello, O.J.!), but that's what our legal system decided. Over on Facebook (of course), there was some discussion about whether old boy owes the Jackson family an apology. Actually, it wasn't even a discussion. It was a lot of people saying King was a hater and that the real fault, if any, was with the parents who had their kids all up in Neverland.


I've made clear my love of Michael Jackson's early music and persona, but I'm struck, once again, by how easy it is to conflate fame and talent with virtue. King's video was presumptuous, but so are the impassioned arguments that Michael was all about healing the world and its children. The bottom line is that we don't know, and the last 15 years of Jackson's public life were not reassuring. Like, at all. And isn't there a valid discussion to be had about whether an artist — even one as electrifying and game-changing as Jackson — deserves this much coverage, analysis (heh) and reverence? Very few people seem to be concerned about the emotional Pandora's Box that Jackson's death potentially opens for the young men who accused him of molestation. Remember; the first case was settled for a tidy sum somewhere north of $20 million.

While I'm very tempted to say that King's video was way insensitive, it could be said that the posthumous lovefest is insensitive to Jackson's onetime alleged victims.

I doubt very seriously that Jackson achieved megastardom by being child-like, delicate and unassuming. Somewhere underneath was a savvy and extremely ambitious soul who, in death, certainly doesn't need anyone to protect him from his detractors.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Have To Admit ...

As tacky as this picture from Runner's World is, I'll give Sarah Palin this much: She is in impressively good shape. Maybe it's at least partly genetic, but for someone who has had five children - heck, for someone her age who has had NO children - she has a great figure. You don't get legs like that by sitting on the couch with US Weekly. I guess she'll have plenty of time to work out now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I've Got Your Soul Mate

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford can't seem to stop talking about Argentina Maria's whip appeal, even though his wife and kids might not welcome the information. I particularly loved his assessment of the situation as a tragic love story, which is not surprising considering that he actually referenced "The Thornbirds" in his goopy mash notes. And how nice of him to say that he would try to fall back in love with his wife even though Maria is his "soul mate."

I'd like to suggest the following for Merriem-Webster:

   Pronunciation [sōl-māt]
1. a romantic partner, usually brand-new, who has not yet been seen in ratty sweats while folding laundry or making annoying throat-clearing noises.
2. an idealized person experienced only in candlelight, high thread-count sheets and swooning emails, far, far away from the daily drudgery of child-rearing and bill-paying.
3. a person who "gets" you, despite not having seen the real you — good, bad and really ugly.

I consider myself a romantic person, and I don't begrudge anyone the magical experience of falling in love. Marriage is hard, and not everybody needs to stay married. Shit happens. What I don't understand is why the governor seems so invested in defending his actions instead of repairing the damage he's done to his family or moving on with what's left of his dignity. If Sanford wants to get a divorce and split for bliss in Argentina, then he needs to do it like a man and accept the consequences — one of which is probably his kids thinking he's a self-absorbed asshat.

On the other hand, he has a real potential as a writer of romance novels.