Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet Killed the Video Star

You know how you have those "go to" things? As soon as all my laundry's clean, the first thing I put on is my navy and grey striped long-sleeved "favorite tee" from the Gap. If I've got twenty minutes on my computer before my bus leaves, I do a crossword puzzle on When I need to throw a snack for later in my backpack or for a car ride, it's a peanut butter chocolate chip Quaker granola bar. In junior high, I used to walk to my friend Andrea's house with her because it was just a few blocks away. We'd sit in her basement and pretend to do homework while we talked and watched MTV-- back in the video days.

We have these patterns, comforts we zone in on while running on autopilot. But every once in a while, the "go to" changes, or something surprises us. I'll grab that shirt that's been hanging in the same place in my closet for months because suddenly I feel like wearing something else. I'll completely forget to do the daily crossword. We run out of granola bars and I don't bother to pick them up on the next grocery trip. And the ultimate happy surprise: the mundane strikes me. Dozens of viewings of "Black Hole Sun" and suddenly the conversation with Andrea stops because another video has come on, something I've never seen before--the song is great, the video is innovative--it's terrific. Thing is, art can do that to you. It creeps up in your life without warning, and you must suddenly concentrate on something you didn't know existed ten minutes before. You think about it driving in your car or falling asleep. I wish I had come up with it first. I know that somehow I could have come up with it. Yet somehow, I wonder how anyone came up with it.

The following is my salute to the music video, the ultimate in collage art. It starts by taking someone else's art, and then a team of people work together to interpret it for mass consumption. I have respect for that. So, this is for Andrea, who was a teenager with me. It's for my parents, who wouldn't let me watch MTV, even though I always did. And it's for all of you who remember watching videos on MTV. Perhaps we can all now appreciate our parents' and grandparents' "when I was your age" stories. Next time some teenager mentions The Hills, I dare you not to think, "When I was your age, they had music on music television."

Top 5 Music Videos

1. "Sledgehammer" Peter Gabriel
The first time I saw this video I just thought "What the heck is this?" Granted, I was five or six years old, but that didn't mean I couldn't watch crazy claymation and animation timed up with bizarre lyrics I didn't understand. When I think of the phrase "music video," I go straight to dancing chickens; every time I see them, I become nostalgic for the time I was a teenager in the 80's--which I never was. See how art can take you to a different time and place?

2. "Sabotage" Beastie Boys
I'd like to start this explanation with a shout-out to Bakes, who managed to work this piece into as many M.Ed projects as possible. A little director known by the name of Spike Jonze is responsible for the funniest fake detective show ever to grace the small screen. Beastie Boys + rugs and 'staches + hood slides = high art. Check it.

3. "You Can Call Me Al" Paul Simon
I have known all the words to Graceland for as long as I remember. Seriously, how many little kids can recite "Boy in the Bubble" without the music playing? At any rate, the video's got Paul Simon wandering in and out of an all white room playing various instruments heard in the song while Chevy Chase lip syncs along. I know I'm not the only Gen Xer who thought Chevy Chase was Paul Simon for a while.

4. "Undone (The Sweater Song)" Weezer
Spike Jonze strikes again. Maggie commented on my last entry that Rivers Cuomo was in her Top 5 guys, and he hasn't ever been far off my list. I have more of a love affair with the entire band, though that hasn't stopped me from naming my car after the lead singer. (Come on, my car is blue, rivers are blue, and Rivers is blue). Anyway, The group is just singing the song on a stage in an empty auditorium, but things start to go a little strange. By the time a bunch of dogs are released from backstage, I'm sold. My favorite moment is when Pat runs around his drum kit hitting the cymbols, and he barely makes it back to his seat in time to keep the beat. There's something so simple about this video, yet it is an excellent metaphor for the song itself.

5. "Reptilia" The Strokes
And here it is: my "go to" video. Every once in a while, I just need to watch this. It's like a fix. No matter what is going on in my life, this three minutes and forty seconds is always there for me. Please don't take my lust too seriously--this is not merely an opportunity to watch Julian Casablancas for a couple minutes while I listen to a good song. As soon as I hear the opening notes, I'm giddy; my heart flutters like it did in eighth grade when a certain boy walked into the room. This is, in my opinion, the perfect video. You can't beat a well directed performance video, and this so nicely, so eloquently, so minimally shows the viewer exactly how those boys play their instruments. This is all about control, and knowing when and what not to show. In fact, the faces of the band members are secondary to tight shots of hands on strings and frets. I believe Mr. Casablancas' face is shown only as much as it is because his mouth is his instrument, not because he is the lead singer. When you do see the other guys, they are too into what they're doing to care that a camera is there. It's so personal, like the viewers are invited into a private session. By 3:08--for lack of a more vulgar expression--I lose it. Best use of split screen ever. If you don't get this video, you don't get me.

So go spend some time on YouTube, or, ironically, I bet it's been a while since you sat around watching music videos, and I bet you've missed it a little bit. Despite no real fruitful outlets for showcasing, there are still a lot of great videos being produced out there. You might not consider it art, but I do. It's a lot of work to interpret someone else's story, whether it be a book, a painting, or a song, and when a group of people can come together to create one coherent vision of that art, I'm impressed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Am It Love? Meee Think So!

Right, so, my apologies to all my adoring fans. In recompense, I promise a new entry every day next week from Monday through Friday. It has been way too long since last I made a list for all to view. Thing is, no school excuses allowed. That was my excuse for three weeks, but I haven't been stressed about that in a while. To be completely truthful, something with my health came up and I've been pretty worried and didn't want to blog until I found out the results. Long story short, the doctor does not have to slice my neck open and remove one of my vertebrae. But don't worry, we're checking again on that next year. I'll keep you posted... ha ha! Get it? It's a blog, and I'll keep you posted. Oh, I slay me.

Well, moving right along... let's talk about love. Not very many of these posts will be directly influenced by the sitcom Friends, but this is one of them (no, I will not be listing my five favorite "Friends"... aww, poor Monica). In an episode around season three, the friends are hanging out in the coffee house and discuss "the list." Basically, everyone gets five celebrities that they can sleep with sans any ramifications from significant others--that's right, a free pass. I'll spare you the details of the episode (you can go Netflix that gem, if you simply must know), but the point is, Brian and I have been a little obsessed with our lists since about the time we moved in together around the turn of the century. Our deal is that we can rotate the people on our lists, but the other one must be familiar with the current roster of the other. It actually winds up being fun, and has really opened up our relationship to comments such as "He's hot" or "I'd do her" while participating in pop culture-related activities. We're truly on a whole other plateau.

Top 5 Celebrities I Get to Do and Still Stay Married

1. Topher Grace
I love him. He's been on my list since I knew this clause was allowed within a committed relationship. His comic timing is phenomonal. What can I say? The tall, skinny boys get to me, and even though the Pong-playing-Star Wars-loving-boy-next-door Eric Forman is fictional, I sense he is not all that different in real life. What other celebrity holds weekly Monopoly games with only non-famous friends?

2. Jon Stewart
The host of the Daily Show is the only other guy who's managed to stay on my list since its inception. When it comes to an older man, I will definitely take one who is hilarious, smart, and hot. Who doesn't like this guy? My quippy vocabulary will never be the same after I saw that man shake his fist and yell, "Ratzinger." And, despite wearing suits and hiding behind his corresponence desk, I'm pretty positive this man has exceptional legs, because he was a college soccer player. Oh, and he lives in New York City, the best town in the world.

3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
You might know him as the kid on Third Rock from the Sun, but I don't. I never watched that show, but I've really fallen for this guy in Brick and The Lookout. He has true acting talent, and he is a good reason to go see something like Stop Loss (sorry ladies, Ryan Phillipe is not an acceptable justification to shell out $8.50). Rumor has it he's even good Mysterious Skin, directed by Gregg Araki. Araki is the guy that brought Nowhere into this world, a film only topped on my list of worst movies of all time by Anti-Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. Seriously, unless your definition of a great film is spotting the acting triumvirate of Staci Keanan, Denise Richards, and Shannen Doherty don't bother. Gregg Araki: I will hunt you down and kill you... no, I don't make threats, I'm just a fan quoting. But I digress... Mr. Gordon-Levitt owns his roles and picks interesting ones when he could be doing romantic comedy shlock.

4. Julian Casablancas
Lead-singer of the Strokes. He writes great lyrics, he's part of one of my favorite bands, and he doesn't really worry about bathing. He's got the right priorities. All the boys in this band are totally fab... okay, one of them is Fab, but... I'm sorry. I'm officially checking the puns at the door. I don't know what's wrong with me today. At any rate, the Strokes is one of the rare bands that I fell in love with instantly. I generally have to listen to an album once or twice, leave it alone for a while (often months) and then go back to it to form a general opinion. In the case of all three of this band's records, I loved them immediately, and I remember that this is one of the groups I really did get to first. I got Is This It right when it came out and told all my friends about it. I don't take credit for their success (I think it's stupid when people feel they have more of a right to art because they discovered it first), I just feel good that I let other people know about great music. Oh yeah, he's also cute.

5. Thom Yorke
The rock stars are taking over. At one point, my list was completely actors, but music's more my thing. Beck was on it for a while until I found out he was a scientologist. Not attractive. Either how, Yorke is truly a musical genius, as I've mentioned once or twice in the past. There are not very many people in the world I truly consider to be genius, but he is. His music is like no one else's (and he's got a kickin' band with just as much talent). It's Radiohead, man. What can I say? Just go listen.

And the runners up...

Christian Bale has been the sixth guy on my Top 5 List, and Brian even accepts this, but for purposes of this blog, 6 ≠ 5. Perhaps we could call this the "Top 5 + 1 Celebrities I Get to Do and Still Stay Married." My co-heart will get that one. At any rate, the Dark Knight is as good as on my list, but he was the one chosen to be put down here because I think enough girls are already in love with him, particularly girls I know, so I don't want to step on any toes.

I've always said that Ryan Adams would make the list if he weren't so drugged up. Apparently he has recently gone straight, but I'm going to wait and see. It needs to be at least 5 years from the day he fell off a stage and broke his wrist for me to consider him sober.

Last, Milo Ventimiglia is the epitome of my "type." However, I only seem to love him when watching Heroes or old episodes of The Gilmore Girls, and for me, absence does not make the heart grow fonder.

Whenever I share this list with people, they tend to be surprised by how "unhot" my list is. I guess I like famous people who don't act very famous. You never hear stories about these guys breaking the law, and I've never scanned any of their pictures on the cover of Tabloids while waiting in the grocery line. When it comes down to it, I like guys who are good at what they do, and I consider these specimens to be quite talented. They also tend to be a little on the dorky side. Takes one to know one. So, I'm only going to go for a guy I respect, even when I'm completely disrespecting myself and my marriage while climbing into the proverbial elevator at the Oscars.

But none of this will ever happen. I don't mean to gloat, but I got the best guy there is for me. He's the Eric to my Donna, the Stewart to my Colbert, the P.I. to my femme fatale, the juice to my box, the paranoid to my android, and yes, even the Jum-Jum to my Mio. Brian took care of me the whole time I was worried about this whole medical thing, and the rest of these guys barely did anything. I'd be lying if I said I didn't listen to In Rainbows in the last couple weeks, but I tend to need a little face time with my men.

I love Cake.