Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Age-Old Struggle

One of my friends from recently posted this on her facebook, and there was a minor uproar of response: 7 likes and 15+ people discussing it.
This opinion didn't really surprise me - from what I know as a friend of Melissa she's particularly into singer-songwriters (no matter how well-known or obscure).  There were a lot of comments, some agreeing with her, and some disagreeing.  I'm a Skrillex fan myself, and I said so.  It doesn't bother me that some people don't find certain styles pleasing or interesting, so none of the comments for or against really bothered me, either.  But later that day Melissa's brother posted a comment that actually irritated me.
Maybe it seems pretty innocuous, but this comment really made me mad.  A little backstory: Michael Jones is in his mid- to late-20s and a math teacher at a high school near Austin.  He's also a talented musician, and he plays regularly at a local bar.  He sings solo and accompanies with acoustic guitar; he does covers of his favorite artists.  I've seen him - he's good.  I don't know this for a fact, but my guess is he doesn't write any original music, and if he does, it's nothing special.  Would I ever call him out on this?  No, it's in bad taste.

Until you make an ignorant comment like this one.  At first I had no idea what would compel him to say something like this about someone else in the world of music.  Don't artists have each other's backs most of the time?  But thinking about it some more, the whole comment reeks with jealousy.  It's practically drowning in it.  Evidently, Michael Jones fancies himself a prodigious musical talent.  He thus believes that someone like Skrillex - who makes music that sounds bizarre and computer generated to him - doesn't deserve the fame he has gained.  He wants to be in Skrillex's place on stage at huge music festivals, by virtue of his perceived talent, and he thinks he deserves to be.

Saying that an artist who uses a computer to generate music has no talent is the most enragingly closed-minded statement I've heard in a long time.  Regardless of whether you like his music, denying that Skrillex is a musical innovator is the height of ignorance.  Since before Brian Eno, a certain brand of musicians has been expanding the scope of music using computer-generated sounds.  Progressive Rock bands used Moog synthesizers in the 70s; Daft Punk led a host of DJs creating electronic house music; rap and hip-hop have used similar tools to create backing music and beats.  Like it or not, the computer is an integral part of music today.

Apparently Michael doesn't like it.  There's one essential point that is lost on Mr. Jones.  Skrillex goes through the same process any "normal" musician would in creating his songs.  In place of physical instruments, however, he uses the vast catalog of sounds afforded him by computer generation.  The intricacy and detail in his songs makes it evident that no computer could, on its own, create these tracks.  They can only aid an artist in the production.

This is really nothing new, though.  Innovative musicians have always face resistance.  If you can believe the basic premise of the movie Amadeus, people liked what Mozart was doing in general, but thought he used too many notes.  Jazz as an art form has come under criticism because of its lack of structure, yet it was among the most influential musical styles of the 20th century.  The other Beach Boys pushed back when Brian Wilson brought them Pet Sounds.  Some people still maintain rap is not music because they don't outright sing.  Skrillex is just another artist in this long line of musicians pushing sonic boundaries.  He'll meet resistance from those who don't recognize his genius.  But luckily that'll never stop him from creating.

College Football Uniforms

...are a hot-button issue this season.  A lot of teams have come out with vastly expanded uniform designs and combinations, most of these being teams that use Under Armour gear (Oklahoma State and Maryland have been the most talked-about).  I guess they figured they better try to compete with Nike or fall behind even more.  These new uniforms have come under heavy fire, especially from the boring old people commentating on ESPN.  But the reason they're around is the players love them, so odds are the trend isn't going to slow or turn.  And it shouldn't, necessarily.  The amount of colors and combinations used make it inevitable that some heinous uniforms will come out, but a lot of them are really pretty good.  Oregon, the poster child for uniform madness, has had unis at both extremes.  And one can't forget that there are some programs that have landed on a look so classic it doesn't need changing at all.  The flip side of that, though, are the programs that haven't changed their uniforms in forty years.  These are mostly incredibly boring (Penn State, Alabama, I'm looking at you).  There's a balance to be struck between classic and cutting-edge, and different styles suit different programs.  That being said, I thought I'd add my two cents on which teams have gotten it right, because it seems to differ a lot from what others are saying.


Like I said, there are several teams that have stuck to simplicity amid the trend to difersify, and a few have done so with fantastic results.  It seems like a lot of these programs are teams that have been elite for decades, which makes a lot of sense.  People know immediately who they're looking at, so don't fix what isn't broken.  


I'll get this one out of the way.  I'm a UT student so I'm inherently biased, but I've looked around and a lot of people agree with me.  Texas has some of the best football uniforms on planet earth; the away jerseys especially.  All white with burnt orange accents, they're basically the visual embodiment of less is more.  The home jerseys are very similar, just switching burnt orange with white on the top.

Florida State

The perfect balance between two really good-looking colors.  That helmet logo is among the very best in college sports.  It sounds a bit ridiculous, but the word beautiful is perfectly fitting for these uniforms.

Ohio State

I'm definitely not an Ohio State fan, but I have to admit they have some great home uniforms.  They're one of the few three-color uniforms I've seen that look truly great.  A ridiculous number of teams have red as their primary color, but OSU's red is surprisingly unique.  The helmet stripe is repeated exactly on the sleeves and the pants, a design chioce I like a lot.  I prefer the helmets sans buckeye stickers, but everything is so simple they don't really distract you.



Notre Dame


Slick and New

Nike has led the charge on modern, varied, and multi-textured uniforms with their Pro-Combat series and their runway models at Oregon.  A lot of these combinations can look really good, but there are some that transcend to classic status almost instantly.

Arizona State

ASU completely rebranded last year with the help of Nike, and it was a huge success.  The new logo looks great, and all the jersey combinations are good.  The all-blacks are the real standouts.


Oregon has been the standard-bearer for Nike in their uniform experiments, and their jerseys seem to change every game they play.  As many look really good as look ridiculous, but every once in a while a true classic emerges, and is promptly scrapped for something else.  The Pro-Combat unis in their season opener vs. LSU were great.

I really liked the helmets they wore in the National Championship game last year, too.


My family raised me as Mizzou fans, so I'm biased to black and gold.  Also, Mizzou has been the beneficiary of some of the best Pro-Combat unis since the series began.  


LSU benefits a lot from making the gold of their Purple and Gold... actually gold.  




And Finally...

The most talked about uniforms this season by far were the ones Maryland unveiled in their opening game against Miami.  Definitely the most striking unis so far, they featured patterns from the very unusual flag of Maryland, and they were almost universally panned by crotchety ESPN analysts.  The Maryland players seemed to love them, though.

I'm going on record as saying I like the infamous flag uniforms.  They're a great way to rebrand a program that has struggled in the ACC and needs a jolt.  Obviously uniforms won't make a tangible difference on the field, but they create interest and are uniquely Maryland's.  Sure the patterns are wacky and bold, but the rest of the uniforms are simple white, so there's a pretty good design balance.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Blazing Saddles Drinking Game

About a month ago I re-watched Blazing Saddles and it was even funnier than I remembered the last time I watched it.  I watched it again last Monday with my brother, and we made a drinking game for it.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I thought I'd post it.  It's not incredibly creative (you could do drinking/smoking/cursing for about half the movies out there) , but it's my first, I'll work on it.  I may come up with some more drinking games for other movies, it's pretty enjoyable.

  • Take a drink every time someone says something racist  -  Mel Brooks is pretty equal-opportunity with the slurs and racist jokes, and they're all very funny
  • Drink every time a character takes a drink or lights a cigarette/cigar/pipe/joint
  • Drink every time a character curses
  • Drink every time a character breaks the fourth wall
  • Drink every time Hedley Lamarr loses control  -  He has a tendency to get a little rapturous when he's imagining land-snatching, and he loses his temper when he's challenged
  • Drink every time Lili Von Shtupp says "tired" - This is the marathon drink session during the movie, but it's manageable, especially if you're just doing beer
  • Drink every time someone is shot

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Directors

A while back I figured if I wanted to become a film director I should learn from the best.  So I started compiling a list of the greatest movies ever made, determined to take it on and learn what I could simply through observation.  I quickly developed a love for certain filmmaker's works, and I made a list of my favorite directors, both past and present.  Regardless of whether I ever get into film in any way, I've enjoyed watching these directors' works and analyzing their common themes and styles.

I enjoy making lists, so I thought I'd list all the movies I've seen from my favorite directors and talk about the ones that struck me.  I only list directors of whose movies I've seen at least five, with one exception.

#1 - Alfred Hitchcock

He was astronomically ahead of his time, and was the master of absolute simplicity.

The 39 Steps
The Lady Vanishes
Rebecca - Don't tell me that burning monogrammed pillow wasn't an influence on Citizen Kane.
Rope - Could've been better edited by today's standards, but I love the idea of a single continous take.
Strangers on a Train
Dial M for Murder - Hitchcock's under-appreciated one-setting murder mystery.
Rear Window
To Catch a Thief
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Vertigo - Still the best twist ending to any movie I've ever seen.  Absolutely haunting.
North by Northwest
Psycho - Simplicity doesn't get better than this.
The Birds

#2 - Stanley Kubrick

What can you say?  Immensely influential and a strong candidate for the best director of all time.

The Killing - Great use of the alternative plot structure about 40 years before Tarantino.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2001: A Space Odyssey - An existential masterpiece.
A Clockwork Orange - Really disturbing, but unforgettable.
Barry Lyndon
The Shining
Full Metal Jacket - The best war movie I've ever seen.  Friggin' brilliant.
Eyes Wide Shut

#3 - Clint Eastwood

A simple but powerful filmmaker, when he gets the right script he knocks 'em dead.

The Outlaw Josey Wales
Unforgiven - The darkest, most powerful western I've ever seen.
Mystic River - A cold tragedy about mistrust, deceit, and treachery.
Gran Torino

#4 - Martin Scorsese

A visionary auteur with at least four timeless classics, he's still producing high-quality work.

Taxi Driver
Raging Bull - A masterpiece that contrasts gut-wrenchingly violent with exquisitely filmed.
Goodfellas - Gets better with each watching.
Cape Fear
The Aviator - An underrated period epic, with great montage.
The Departed - Smart and fast, with unforgettable characters in an epic struggle.
Shutter Island

#5 - Terry Gilliam

Not as good a story-teller as the others, but his visions are so unique they demand watching.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Brazil - An incredible dystopian vision, with some tiny semblence of hope.  Sort of.
Twelve Monkeys
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - It owes a lot to Johnny Depp, but it's absurdly hilarious.
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - Really cool visuals with that signature cock-eyed humor.

#6 - Quentin Tarantino

He's got a great, unique style, but he wouldn't be this good without his extremely clever writing.

Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction - Innumerable unforgettable scenes, and a mixed-up plot that come together perfectly.
Jackie Brown
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 - Slick and stylish
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 - But with a moral message at its heart.
Death Proof
Inglourious Basterds

#7 - David Fincher

With a good script he's the best in the business, and his future is looking really really good.

Se7en - The most underrated movie on this entire list.  A chilling, elemental horror/thriller masterpiece.
Fight Club
Panic Room
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Social Network - Perfectly suited to its time period, but it'll soon be a timeless classic as well.

#8 - Christopher Nolan

The most original writer/director in movies today, he's not getting the recognition he deserves...yet.

Memento - A perfectly executed, original thriller with a fantastic twist.
Batman Begins
The Prestige - A character study on obsession with another great twist.
The Dark Knight - Elevates a superhero movie to questions of fundamental morality.
Inception - The most original movie in ten years (at least), thought-provoking and visually stunning.

#9 - Darren Aronofsky

A little explanation: I had watched his first two movies as a part of my list, and I was very impressed.  I loved his most recent movie, Black Swan, so much that I decided he deserved a place on the list just for that.  He's got a promising future in store, I'm sure more of his movies will appear here soon.

Requiem for a Dream
The Fountain
The Wrestler
Black Swan - As stunningly beautiful as it is paralyzingly terrifying, I couldn't look away.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One of the most badass movie quotes of all time...

by one of the best screenwriters ever.

"When fortune smiles on something as violent and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other that, not only does God exist, you're doing His will."

The Bride, Kill Bill

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I've Always Wondered...

Why did people hold guns so weird in the 50s?

Example:  Catch Me If You Can

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I'm glad I stopped watching House.  I just saw a clip on the Craig Ferguson show and it looks like it turned into Two and a Half Men in three years.  Hugh Laurie has an awesome accent though, and him and Craig talking is exponentially more awesome.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Quote of the Week (so far) and a short intro

The Oscars were a little slow and pretty predictable this year, and although this is the first time I've watched the entire ceremony, I shouldn't have been surprised.  My favorite part of the night by far was right before the presentation of the Best Picture Oscar.  With a sly smirk on his face, Steven Spielberg delivered a line that put the entire evening into perspective:

"Well in a moment, one of these ten movies will join a list that includes On the Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, and The Deer Hunter.  The other nine will join a list that includes The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate, and Raging Bull."

I've always had a mixed opinion about Steven Spielberg.  In some movies, he appears to be a consummate artist (Jaws, Schindler's List), and in others he seems like a typical Hollywood blockbuster-pusher (Indiana Jones 4, producing Transformers, etc.).  I guess I shouldn't fault the guy for being productive.  But this surprising (at least to me) intro reasserted that, of course, Spielberg cares a great deal about movies and that he's one of the most commercially successful Director/Producers of all time for a good reason.  Anyway, he re-earned my respect by bringing the ego of the Academy down a little, even if they didn't take it quite that way.

If this had been a weak year for movies I don't think the statement would have really resonated.  But this was a fantastic year for movies, and that fact that an organization with an often spotty record chose one very good film over many other arguably better films is really a small matter in the grand scheme of things.  Don't get me wrong, I loved The King's Speech and it was a high-quality movie.  But I enjoyed Inception and Black Swan more, and I thought The Social Network deserved the Best Picture Oscar over any of them.  And, as is the case with the second list of movies above, I'm willing to bet that in ten or twenty years Black Swan, Inception, and The Social Network will be considered bigger contributions to the film canon than the movie that won Best Picture (sort of an Oliver! situation).  

So, if anyone should stumble upon this blog, it's really just meant to be a dump for all my random thoughts, opinions, and observations.  It's more for my benefit than anything, but if people somehow find it and decide to read it that's cool too.  The title's from a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Philadelphia Story, and it's still tentative.  Anyway, Katharine Hepburn's character is apologizing to Ruth Hussey's character for the mistakes of a drunken night, and she replies:

"Oh it's all right Tracy.  We all go haywire at times and if we don't, maybe we ought to."