lunedì 28 febbraio 2011

Podcasts That Are Worth Your Not-So-Precious Time: Keith And The Girl

I will use this recurring section of MAC to promote interesting podcasts. To make it simple for the few ones of you who have lived on Mars or in Europe for the lòast few years: podcasts are today's more advanced brother of the rightfully extinguished radio shows. All you need to listen to them is some sort of mp3 reading device, and you'll find any sort of topic covered for you. As with anything else, 90% of podcats are crap, so i'll pick some of the ones i personally consider special and worth following.

This one is a big thing to me, so this presentation is biased. VERY biased.

See, i've been through bad times in my life. Depression, Drugs. Booze. And a general feeling of being cast out of anything worthy in the world. This show not only made me laugh and kept my mind on track, getting me out of depression, but actually made me consider new ideas, meet interesting people, regain confidence, start new projects and more. A lot for a show, right?

Well it isnt just any show. "Keith And The Girl" is not only the most popular comedy podcast around, it's probably one of the few that can be considered a cult in the true meaning of the word.

A single stat is quite telling: the show has 83 (sorry, 87 ) fans with the logo tattoped ont hem, and 2 brandings. Yes brandings as in permant scalding iron caused scars. And i wont go into the more boring stats, like the exact number of listeners (cause i dont wanna look it up and you dont care).

It's hard to exactly pin down in a cold scientific manner why this show is powerful as it is, but i'll have to give my own view.

The core of it all, is its hosts: Keith Malley (a stand-up comedian, writer, actor and general charmer) and Chemda Khalili (a singer-songwriter, writer, actress and genral foxy lady). To put it down simply, they're magnetic, interesting people, even id ìf they'd probably laugh at this definition.

Keith is outspoken, smart and caustic, able to pull out hilarity from any topic and still give unconventional and well thought point of views. He is the intelligent, outspoken, painfully funny observer that you love to listen to while he dismantles ideas and makes new ones and at the same time he's still a guy you would love to hang out with.

Chemda is his perfect counterpart, an intelligent, sensitive and hilarious gal with a sultry voice and a gift for understanding people in a few seconds, while still being able to burn them to pieces verbally if needed (and that means Keith too. Indeed).

Their interactions alone are priceless, yet still they manage to have incredible guests, that include top comics like Doug Stanhope or the late Greg Giraldo, or amazing stand-up gems like Jesse Joyce, Pat Dixon or Myq Kaplan. And nothing of what comes out even remotely resembles any radio show. there's laughter, fights, personal momenths, visceral revelations and mind expanding discussions on any sort of topic. Theres a good chance you'll end up learnign something while laughing after a listen.

These two have survived a complicated relationship, a break-up, working in crappy jobs and leaving them behind and created an empire of adoring fans that gather at Keith's annual stand-up show or meet each other around the world like a loving family of heathens.

They wrote a relationship book that is actually useful and funny. Did live shows that can be rewatched repeatedly and still make you crack up everytime. Did 4 record-breaking marathons that are pure bliss. Still make five shows a week and NEVER do a bad episode.

Go to their website and subscribe. Buy some of their stuff. Enter the clan. Trust me, it will be the best decision of your whole damn life.

Bands You Need To Know: Monique Ortiz

Lets say it right away: Monique Ortiz is hot. Very hot. She has that vibe of sexy, tomboyish confidence about her that just enchants me. She looks like a girl that could make a man or a woman happy and in pain at the same times (and all smart people know that the two go hand in hand).
Ok, now that i got that off my groin, lets talk about her music.
Monique is a bass player, a great one. And her, lets say, idol is sorely missed Mark Sandman from the great Morphine. If you have no idea of who Morphine were, you have to fix that. Get any of their albums, or better just get their masterpeiece "Cure For Pain" and learn.
That said, as with Morphine, her sound, while taking different shapes, is usually something deep, rhythm driven and sensual. Her songs are velvety pieces of the night-time, sweaty and husky like her voice. They might get sligtly harder an bluesier (her first band A.K.A.C.O.D.), more improvised and jammin (her latest solo album "When The Pigeon Flies") or just a perfect soundtrack for the night-time (any of her outputs with the band Bourbon Princess, that also features Morphine's sax player Dana Coley. Dur!), but her bass and hypnotic voice make them all an experience.

Check her out in any of her various projects, before i kidnap her and make her my personal troubadour.

Tv Is Better Than Movies: Deadwood

In the last years, during my mental recovery, i found myself paying less and less attention to moives and more and more to TV series that i managed to miss at some point.
Having a vicious case of ADD always butchered my ability of staying behind a series or anything with multiple episodes. But as movies got sloppier and sloppier with time, i found myself (with a little help from the interwebs) caught by them. Whether its the black comedy turned drama turned violent thriller with psychological overtones of Breaking Bad or the exercise in entertainment via brutality of Kurt Sutter's shows (The Shield or Sons of Anarchy), i find the technical, emotional and slow burning effect of tv series much more powerful than most moder cinema.
Case in point: Deadwood. What you see on the surface here is a western themed series, with gritty tones and interesting actors. What you have is an epic saga on humanity that all takes place in a slimy, decadent soulless town, where actually historical characters are used to unbleash some of the most thought provoking and plain unsettling moments of TV history.
You have the great Ian McShane playing what seems to be a shady, amoral businness man and brothel owner and slightly turn him into a character that has the complexity of something lòarger than life itself. A man that swears to the point of surrealism, has no qualms about murder, abuses people constantly but that has the ability for grand gestures and a smart, cynicla view of liufe that is more true than anything ive seen. Or his "rival", a glorious Powers Boothe, who is a brutal ruthless individual while managing to be still so sexy and charimatic, that being charmed is inevitable.
And theres incredible and strong female characters, ambiguous antiheros, tragedy, irony, brutality (lots of it). All melted into one epic ride that has also some of the greatest cinematography ive seen in a while, with shots that could turn easily into paintings.
And the writing by the ingenious ex-academic David Milch... Wow. He creates a world where all characters come from the real world but have no fixated destiny. Some lives their real arc, others dont. Where philosophy and street talk mix. Romanticism, and sweetness take place unexpectedly in the middle of carnage and vileness.
I cant think of a movie that managed to drive me to tears or simply squeeze my heart as this series has done.

Oscar Ramble or Why The Social Network Did NOT Deserve To Win....

Ok, the Oscars are done. Sarcastic Tweets have been sent all over the place, snarky film nerds have posted their opinions on Facebook and the most boring, yet most followed, award ceremony of the year has taken place.

Personally, i have nothing against the Oscars. When i was a kid, Italian TVs had a night broadcasting of the ceremony that i really looked forward to and obsessively recorded on VHS to sparsely watch the day after. As a young movie nerd blossoming that was surrounded with indifference and boredom, the iudea of a whole ceremony about cinema, was amazing to me. Then i grew up, and got cynical. I stopped watching.

Still in the latest years, the Academy has rewarded strong and unvonvential moives, peaking on the year "There Will Be Blood" and "No country for old men" were rewarded. Two actors playing villains with no heart were awarded. Pessimism won. How cool was that.

That didnt happen again. The awards were again about bloated, pleasant, turgid movies with an (thunderclap) UPLIFTING MESSAGE). And this year seems to have gone the same way. But not really.

The Social Network fandom seems to be promoting the movie like its the symbol of modern society and the future. Everything abouyt The King's Speech smells of "the usual biopic about disabilities". It is about royalties, it has beloved british actors, it has the uplifting message. Still, ill say: between the two, while still being the LEAST ENJOYABLE, "King's Speech" is the most daring and difficult. Why? Here's why.

King's Speech is a movie that has its driving force in main actor Colin Firth's Performance. Geoffrey Rush is incredibly mediocre in it. The direction is tepid. Still it is different BECAUSE of the type of character Firth plays and how he plays it. His King is a douche, an unlikeable weak man, with a bad temper and no charisma. His stuttering is the least of his problems. His need for therapy is nt to overcome his problem forever in an ispiring manner. He needs to talk decently enough to deliver some speeches. And when he does, he does it barely (as noted on the great movie podcast Battleship Pretension), being guided through every single word. And hes announcing a war. Yes, he pulls it off and has a friendship, still he remains a mediocre man who will die young and miserable after spending years fighting a painful war. The whole movie is about a sad broken man wioth a crown and Firth plays that perfectly.

The Social Network on the other hand is a quite engaging legal thriller that happens to talk about the most useless invention of the century. Fincher direction is barely noticeable, probably on purpose and the actors are mostly there to say Sorkin's lines. And as much as Sorkin is a great writer, he is also turned into one of the most standardized and clichéd authors in hollywood. Watch "A Few Good Men" or any "West Wing" episode and youll notice the similarities between them and "Social Network".
Sorkin doesnt care about modern society or Facebook or the complexities of Zuckerberg's character. He has no sympathy or interest in those things. He is a lefty ìntellectual who is in love with his own words. So you have (again) a bunch of people who sermonize to each others at tables or in rooms. Its engaging but identical to anything he wrote in the past.

So while Fincher's movie is the most interesting to watch, it did NOT deserve an award. And King's Speech while looking on surface as the easier choice and while still being a monumental bore, was the most uncomfortable between the nominees.

As for the rest of the awards..... meh.

domenica 27 febbraio 2011

Humoredians: Lee Camp

Next to music, good Stand-Up comedy is my own source of truth and delight.

true, like everything else, 98% of it is made by hacks and obnoxious one trick ponys, but the good ones are gold.

This fella has earned the praise and support of Kelly Carlin, daughter of the great George. His latest recording"Chaos For The Weary" is a great display of piss and vinegar social commentary, thought provoking rants (some great ones) and mean one-liners.

He also has a series of youtube videos called "A moment of clarity where he delivers Gems like the one above.

Check his MySpace and see him live:

Guilty Pleasures

Fuck it, i wanna see this. Nothing about Captain Kirk screamed Mighty Thor to me, and the first trailer looked like on of those things you forget three seconds after you saw it, but this one is actually good looking.

Branagh isnt an action director.

The cheese factor is high.



HE SAYS "PUNY"! That sold me.

Bands You Need To Know - Bridget And The Squares

I aint necessarily a pop fan, although i am proud to say that i am an inveterate music-junkie. Like any addict (and i know something about addiction), i have a feeling of empty, panicky despair when my ears are void of any sonic stimulation. That said, usually, simple melodies dont stick with me. Might be the quantity of sounds i inject daily into my soul, might be something else. But in any case, "pop music" (whatever that means) needs to be special to catch my attention.

BVridget And The Squares, play an intimate brand of pop. Their sound makes me think of the good stuff from Fiona Apple, with a hint of emotional indie-songwriting music. The center of their songs is singer, main songwriter Bridget's voice, delicate and yet so strong it can carve lyrics in your soul and her powereful paino arrangements. But they're a band and the chemistry with Kyle Thompson's steady and subtle drumming and Aran Chekijan's basslines is essential to what gets to your guts in the end.

And they shine live. I managed to hear a performance by the whole band on comedy podcast "Keith And The Girl" and the visceral effect it had on me, drove me to buy their album on itunes without even thinking twice. The songs are personal, sweet, desperate but hopeful. Delicate and Strong. Simple but layered. It works on the heart and the brain. Check them out.

Their Myspace:

So there we are.

I'm starting this thingie, cause i want a place to ramble freely when the toughts fill my head to the top. Happens quite frequently to us manics and when the choice is taking pills that make you feel like somone chemically castrated your soul, well id rather create a pointless blog.

To give a more specific hint about me: i dont have a middle ground when it comes to emotions. To quote a coke addled Charlie Sheen on a plane, surrounded by bimbos: "i love violently and i hate violently". Problem is: these emotions assault me many times a day and switch my head around at the drop of a hair from my balding head.

So if you share this "disease" (lets call it that way, gathers more simpathy. we might even get our own t-shirt) you know how people seem attracted to the ups and find you the moost adorable person on the planet to talk to. Those people are the "emotional leeches".

You have some in your life too. You dont knwo it yet. Maybe you love them, maybe you even married them and had a bunch of pink turds (aka babies) from them. But Beware.

Those creatures are the kind of beings that will love you and pay attention to you until you're there to listen to their problems (usually stuiff that involves their iphones and is followed by the delightful acronym FML, the most despicable acronym on the planet). You're their "Emotional Tampon", to quote Sam Kinison.
But pay attention: when the ship falls down for you, theyll disappear. Maybe with your money, maybe with the knitted scarf you made for them in a good moment, maybe with that album you love. Definitely with your heart. And they wont be there for you. And they will laugh at you with their friends.
And to be clear the Leeches are of all kind of sexuality. Male, Female, Transgender. They can befriend you, act as your lover, even marry you. maybe you never noticed they were one before and then you realized it when it was too late....

What shall we do with them. Listen to this little ditty by Thumb, and drop a comment if you want to....