Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The best Radiohead cover ever...

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This is how much I love David Bazan as a singer/songwriter...I am making the trek all the way from Atlanta to Wichita this weekend to watch him play a "house show". I'm actually really psyched about it. He's literally playing a series of shows in private residences through the end of April. There were about 30 tickets sold for this and I was lucky enough to score 2 of them. So my bro-bot Justin and I are going to enjoy an extremely intimate acoustic performance with one of our very favorite singers of all time. I don't think it can really get much better than that can it? I doubt he'll sing this but if you've never heard Pedro the Lion or David Bazan this is a really good intro. So this is my favorite singer covering my favorite Radiohead song. I think my awesome gland just experienced a full aneurysm.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Free music SXSW style...

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If you're looking for oh, I don't know... say about 6GB worth of free tunes then go ahead load this link up in your favorite BitTorrent client and begin sucking up your share of Comcast or Cox bandwidth. This is all of the music currently available on the SXSW (South by Southwest for any non-hipsters out there) website. If you aren't familiar with BitTorrent or how to use it then the good folks at Lifehacker have you covered here.

Monday, March 16, 2009


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Last Friday, my small group from church gathered to watch a movie called Fireproof. If you are a Christian, know a Christian, have ever seen a Christian or have ever heard the word Christian, then you probably already know about this movie. If you don't fit any of those descriptions, here is the gist of it: Kirk Cameron (yes, that Kirk Cameron) plays a firefighter whose marriage is on the brink of collapse due to his long hours on the job, a formidable Internet porn habit and the fact that he generally treats his wife like a doormat. His wife, tired of being screamed at for not doing little things like cleaning the house, grocery shopping or leaving any pizza for her husband, decides she's had enough and wants out. Our protagonist's father intervenes and asks his son to give the marriage 40 days before he complies with his wife's request for a divorce. He gives him a notebook called "The Love Dare" which contains a different task for each of the 40 days designed to show his wife that he still loves her and is committed to their relationship. He promises his son that if he will commit to "The Love Dare" for 40 days it will make a difference in his marriage. So now you're up to speed on the plot.

A couple of items to note. First of all, this movie was made by the folks at
Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. It was filmed for a budget of $500,000 and according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, it has grossed about $33.5M. For most pictures, a return like that should be enough to have the Spielberg's, Katzenberg's and Wienstein's all fighting over the visitors parking spaces on Sunday morning. Naturally, when this movie was released last year it was enthusiastically embraced by Christians of all persuasions. It received unabashedly positive reviews from Christian publications far and wide. Michael Foust of Baptist Press said

"I walked into the theater without any expectations, but walked out after the closing credits believing I had just seen perhaps the most convicting and inspiring film I had ever viewed. Fireproof isn't just a great Christian movie. It's a great movie. Period.

Eric Bell of ChristianAnswers.net raves

"You are about to embark on a life changing experience when you view this incredible film.The quality of this story is simply amazing, especially in a spiritual and moral sense. And yet, it is edge-of-your-seat entertainment."

The non-Christian media hasn't been quite so kind (I'm looking at you Boston Globe). The most common criticism of the film seems to center on the acting and the fact that the movie tends to bludgeon the viewer with a sort of heavy handed preachiness.

I will say at the outset that I am a bit of a film snob. I like to think I enjoy movies on a deeper level than most. When I watch a movie I really try to take in the entire experience. The cinematography, the writing, the music, the performances, the artistic choices that an actor or a director make, etc. A good movie is more than the sum of it's parts. Good movies, much like the characters they contain, can be flawed and still win our hearts. It's OK to say "I didn't really enjoy watching that movie, but it had some really excellent performances in it" or "That movie had some serious technical shortcomings but the writing was terrific." Sometimes a movie is difficult to watch but unflinchingly tells a story that is too important to look away from (e.g. Saving Private Ryan). Unfortunately, I knew in the first 10 minutes of Fireproof that I wasn't watching a movie that was any of those things. As a Christian, I certainly can't take offense with the story that this movie is trying to tell. As a movie lover however, I can be deeply offended by how poorly it is told.

I cannot put into words how bad the performances are in this movie. Aside from Kirk Cameron, all of the actors in this film are amateurs and it is painfully obvious. To say that the acting was wooden would be an insult to trees. All I could think of when I was watching these performances was that it like somebody recorded a church drama production with a really expensive camera. The writing is ham fist-ed and obvious. The screenwriters insult our intelligence by having the characters explain things to us that we don't need to have explained. For instance, it is very clear from their onscreen actions that Dr. So and So has eyes for the firefighters wife. We don't need a gaggle of nurses to huddle on screen and whisper conspiratorially "If I didn't know better, I'd say Dr. So and So has a thing for her". On top of all this, I saw the M. Night Shymalan style "twist" ending coming a mile away. The one positive thing I can say for this movie is that it was well made from a technical perspective. For all of their shortcomings as filmmakers, the folks at Sherwood Baptist do seem to know how to run a camera.

Another distracting element in the movie that really pulled me out of the experience was the lack of realistic language in the script. Because this is a Christian movie, apparently the film makers made a commitment to keeping out many of the elements that some Christians find offensive in a film. While profanity doesn't really offend me per se, I understand the decision to try to keep the film family friendly by refraining from "adult language". Unfortunately, the film as a whole suffers for it. There were certain scenes, particularly early in the film where I found the lack of profanity to actually be a bit jarring. I'm watching Kirk Cameron's character screaming at his wife, having this knock down, drag out fight but they're yelling at each other like a couple of Sunday School teachers. It just felt really artificial. To expect the audience to somehow believe that this couple on the verge of divorce, who are admittedly not Christians and don't espouse any particular Christian worldview would still maintain G rated language in a moment like that is just not realistic. In that situation, nobody would use language like "YOU ARE A DISRESPECTFUL WOMAN!"

In the end, what offends me more than anything is how this movie is so enthusiastically praised by Christians even though it is such a clear example of a poorly executed film. When I have heard people that I know talk about this movie it is almost always a variation on the following theme: "The acting is pretty bad, but it's a really great movie". I understand what they're trying to say I think, but I still have trouble with that statement. What is it that makes this a great movie? Certainly not the writing or the performances, and I somehow doubt that they are commenting on the cinematography. It just seems like many in the evangelical community are so desperate to have a "Christian" movie playing at the local multiplex that they are willing to forgive a multitude of sins that they would not forgive in the "secular" media. People are less concerned about the talent with which an artistic effort is exercised and more concerned with getting it in front of as many secular eyeballs as possible. I don't know whether this is borne out of some inborn mission to win the lost through some type of artistic pseudo-ministry or just to tell the world "see we can make movies too". For the record, this mindset permeates virtually all of the Christianity's modern efforts in the arts, whether it be music, film, art or literature. The result of this, in my opinion, is a message sent to the world that tells them that Christians are a) incapable of creating well crafted artistic expressions or b) that we're too dumb to know the difference. A movie like Fireproof, while certainly well intentioned, only serves to further that stereotype.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A surprisingly good cover...

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Actually, this isn't all that surprising to me because I've always been a fan of Adam Sandler's music. He's a fine musician and (I think) a really good singer. This is a great version of a Neil Young classic and I hope that he has more opportunities to do stuff like this. I would absolutely buy a non-comedy Adam Sandler record. 

Here's some nerd for you...

I'm kind of a font geek. I'm also kind of a history geek. So when I find an illustrated table of elements for commonly used typefaces that includes who designed each font and when AND groups them in order of relative popularity...well that's just almost more than my geeky little heart can take.

[via Gizmodo]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm on a boat...

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Not really, but I wish I was. Mainly because Andy Samberg and the rest of The Lonely Island crew make it look so frakking awesome. Since this is a family show, I'm going to go ahead and embed the edited version of this video that aired as an SNL Digital Short but there's nothing stopping anybody from waiting until I leave and then clicking here if they wanted to experience the full uncensored, NSFW, autotuned glory of T-Pain and his vocal hook. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Jimmy Fallon's first night

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If you didn't get a chance to check out Jimmy Fallon's first night as Conan O'Brien's replacement as Late Night host, you should go back and check it out on Hulu when you get a few minutes. He seemed a little nervous and there were a few rough spots but all in all I thought it was a pretty good first outing. My favorite bit of the night was Slow Jam the News. I really hope this becomes a recurring bit because I thought it was hilarious. On another note, I don't really know how he convinced The Roots to be his house band but there they were...Black Thought, ?uest Love and ?uest Love's afro in all their glory. Regardless of what you think about rap or hip-hop music...these guys are a tight band and they're going to be fun to watch every night. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Jimmy Fallon can do with this show over the next couple of months.

A new addition to our great big blogging family...

My old buddy Johnny just started a new blog and I'm have to say I'm really psyched about it. He's one of the funniest people I know and if you have ever laughed at anything I've written...well, then strap in because you ain't seen nothing yet. He's way funnier than I am. Seriously, like really, really ridiculously more funny. You can check him out here.

editor's note - In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be pointed out that Johnny did re-post one of my recent items on his blog (which is the closest I have been or probably ever will come to having my work published) but that in no way influenced my comments about him, his laugh-out loud-funny sense of humor or his wonderfully crafted blog. 

(personal note to JG - I don't think I oversold that. Now all you have to do now is write relevant, funny material that people want to read. You thought this shit was easy? Welcome to hell kid.) 
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