Moon and Star and Planet-Gazing

This looks to be a fun summer for amateur astronomers. Mars will be closer to us than ever, which means a big red dot in the sky for us to look at this summer. It’s almost enough to get me to finally invest in a decent telescope. I love this stuff.

This article details the where and when of Jupiter, the Moon, and Mars in the next couple of months.

Irony Explained

I should start a new category named “Language.” This article is an all-too-good explanation of the word “ironic” and how it is greatly misused to the point of being meaningless. Let’s place all the blame on Alanis Morissette, who has since admitted to having the wrong definition for the word when she wrote her song. (Rain on your wedding day is in no way ironic. It’s unfortunate. It might be tragic. It might even start bridal rage. But it’s not ironic. If your parents got divorced on your wedding day, though, then we might start considering the “irony” label.)

Liz Phair, “Liz Phair”

Liz Phair
With all the attention being paid to her in the world of music, you’d think Liz Phair were the anti-Christ this week. She’s shed her alt-rock stylings for something more radio-friendly. In her mid-30s, she’s decided to make an album to reach out to more of the general population. This, she figures, might be her last best chance to pull in a large audience.

For that, of course, she’s branded a sell-out and her music is trashed. One critic in the New York Times even penned an irate editorial against the current record, branding it “career suicice.”

With feelings burning this hot, I had to give the album a chance. I’ve never listened to her earlier albums. I’m coming into this fresh. And what I found with the eponymous album is a fun pop sound that sticks in your head and is fairly radio-friendly. Some of the lyrics sound like they’re written by a whiney teenager at times, but the music carries you through it with a strong hook. (“Why can’t I breathe whenever I think about you? Why can’t I speak whenever I talk about you?” Why does every singer/songwriter have to have a song about breathing these days? Damn you, Faith Hill!)

The problem comes when Phair throws a bone to her indie rock fans and gets the CD brandished with a “Mature Lyrics” label, thus killing its potential sales to much of the very audience she says she’s going after. The album whisks by until the final third, which includes a song titled “H.W.C.” I try to maintain some level of family-friendliness on this page, so I won’t tell you what it stands for, but suffice it to say it’s fairly crude and, in some minds, vulgar. This isn’t an album I’d give a tweener, based solely on that song. Phair sings it with a nod to her base, pounding home the offensive lyric with great repetition.

If you’re trying to aim for the bubble gum pop sound, why do you also work against it so strongly on the same album? If you’re going to change your sound, go all the way.

The crew at The Matrix produced a small number of songs on this album. They were responsible for Avril Lavigne’s album, and their sound comes through. I picked out three of their four contributions to the album without reading the liner notes. The techno-echo sound was obvious.

“Liz Phair” is a fun album that earns its “Explicit Content” notice, sadly. “Rock Me” is destined to be a single, and could very well be Demi Moore’s anthem. (“Oh baby, you’re young, but that’s OK, what’s give or take nine years, anyway? … want you to rock me all night, baby.”) The CD is stuck in my car stereo, because I don’t want to listen to anything else right now. I’m in a groove with this one. Makes me want to check out what the previous efforts sound like. In that, I supposed this album is successful. It’s reached me.

The true story of the “Fargo” girl

Remember the story a couple years back about the Japanese girl who went to Fargo to look for the treasure from the movie FARGO? She was found dead in the snow shortly after that. Everyone had a good laugh.

Except it turns out the entire story is wrong. This story tells what really happened. It seems she dated a guy from the area, was heartbroken by him, and went back to either find him or just plain commit suicide there.

Not as much fun as the original story, eh?

TiVo with DVD recorder

They won’t be cheap ($1200 to start), but Panasonic has announced the first DVD Recorder with TiVo functionality. I’m sure all the usual Hollywood lawyers will be on Panasonic’s case by the end of the week. Nevermind the fact that this is essentially a high-tech and expensive VCR…

The next R.E.M. album

R.E.M. has finally set a release date for their greatest hits album, which they’ve worked on for the past 6 months. Yes, that’s right: It took longer than 6 months to put together a compilation of greatest hits.

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? To be fair, I think they were also working on material for their next album, which won’t be out until 2004.

The good news is that the album probably won’t include their war protest song that they put out on their web site a couple of months ago. It had to be the worst protest song ever written.

Finally, the story with Drew Carey

Special thanks to Steve M. for passing this one along:

The L.A. Times has a great story on the situation with THE DREW CAREY SHOW and ABC. In a nutshell: ABC signed a two year agreement with the series before last season, after which they tanked the show by moving its time slot. Then, they cancelled the show at the end of the season. Still, there’s another year left on the contract for a whopping 26 episodes.

So, the cast and crew go back into the studios later this summer to begin filming 26 episodes, for which ABC is paying nearly $80 million. ABC doesn’t know what they’re going to do with the episodes. Drew doesn’t care; he’s getting paid. He has total creative freedom at this point. And the show will live on forever in syndication.

We know several ABC shows will bomb in the fall. Maybe they’ll use it as a mid-season replacement.

It’s still the funniest, most clever, and most inventive sit-com in recent memory. I’ll be there when it returns to finish off the current season, starting tonight with episode #200.

And good for Drew Carey. Maybe Comedy Central will pick up WHOSE LINE next and they can keep making new episodes. Did you see the new episode last Friday with special guest star Richards Simmons? Funniest thing I’ve seen so far this summer.

Posted in TV

Widescreen versus Pan and Scan

Director John Carpenter is my Hero Of The Day for this quote from a recent article about the differences between widescreen and pan and scan presentations:

“If I had my druthers, I’d give the option,” Carpenter said. “Just put an extra disc in there and give the original [widescreen] version . . . and then give the idiots their pan-and-scan version.”

I get nauseous watching a movie on network television these days. Can’t stand all the extra camera movements. Don’t like missing out on half a picture. It stinks. Thank goodness for DVD.

Spike Situation Gets Funnier

Just when you thought TNN’s attempt to change its name to Spike couldn’t get any wackier… The son of musical satirist Spike Jones has weighed in on Spike Lee’s insane battle of ego.

He sides with TNN. He’s worried that he won’t be able to use his father’s name as a movie title if Spike Lee wins this law suit.

This just gets better every day.

Posted in TV

New DVDs for 23 June 2003

Welcome back to the DVD Week In Preview. OK, it can’t really be a “preview” since all the stuff I’m talking about here is out as of today. It can’t be a “review” since I haven’t had the chance to buy any of this stuff, let alone watch it. So maybe this is just the “DVD Week As It Is”? I don’t know.

You can see the full release list over at That’s where you’ll see this week’s half-dozen TV shows coming out on disc. I’m not interested in any of them this week, for a change.

Air Bud Strikes Back (2003)

Proof that FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY is not the death of cinema. Any sequel to AIR BUD was, but we survived that. I think we’ll survive this, too.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2002)

There aren’t many movies that I don’t wait to watch. This is one of those movies that I plan to start spinning as soon as I get home tonight and get dinner heated up…

The Hours (widescreen) (2002)

A bunch of morbidly depressed lesbians commit suicide. Bring a date!

Kangaroo Jack (widescreen) (2003)

Remember what I said about AIR BUD? This qualifies, too.

Lost in La Mancha (2-disc set) (2002)

This rates high on the interest meter. What happens when Terry Gilliams sets out to make an film and then fails miserably? You get an amazing documentary on how the Hollywood process can fail.

Popeye (1980)

What happens when Robert Altman sets out to make an ill-conceived film and nobody’s there to document it? You get POPEYE.

Punch-Drunk Love: Superbit Deluxe (2-disc set) (2002)

Adam Sandler gets serious. A tepid nation ignores him. Movie gets a second chance on DVD. Let’s wish it the best of luck. I’m there for it.

Posted in DVD