Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plain White T's review

From Clevescene:

The Plain White T's
Big Bad World

Since the runaway success of 2006's coffeeshop-acoustic single "Hey There Delilah," making the case that Plain White T's frontman Tom Higgenson is anything other than a sensitive, nice-dude wuss can be a tough sell. After all, pop-punk lite tunes about mooning over chick crushes are his specialty; check the rest of 2006's Every Second Counts for the softee-imitation Green Day/Weezer/Jimmy Eat Word evidence. "Delilah" was a lucky aberration for the Plain White T's, a fluke that finally made the public-at-large pay attention - a lot like Sugar Ray's 1997 smash "Fly" in context of that band's early gross-out metal.

So Big Bad World, naturally, panders predictably, while positing Higgenson as a fame-drunk cad who's fending off that dastardly playa impulse when he isn't dispensing romantic or motivational boilerplate. "Someday we'll all reach higher/Someday we won't be so tired/Someday we won't say never," he generalizes emptily on "Someday," which purports, in its polyharmonic soar and dewy, mid-tempo sweep, to be an "Imagine"/"I'd Like to Teach the World" admixture for 2008. Worse still, the band transmorphs into a latter-day Monkees for "That Girl," pissing ecstatic onamonapia all over sunny-side chordage in service of a kicky li'l number about love - and orgasms - at first sight. While the cloyingly chipper title track encourages us to keep plugging away at overcoming our chronic mistakes, Maroon 5 rip-off "Natural Disaster" waxes mindless-tryst celebratory. Then Higgenson is genuflecting waist-deep in orchestra-pit musical-theatre cheese, begging God to forgive him for a "Serious Mistake," a weak, insincere stab at a template Say Anything would've nailed with verve, sass and wit to spare. Suddenly, "Delilah" no longer seems so intolerably banal. - Ray Cummings

Things I Learned Watching "Grandma's Boy"

You know, the creators of this thing could've easily ditched the main plot points - the deadline for the big video game release, Linda Cardinelli-as-lust-object, Grandma and her effed-up housemates - and Grandma's Boy could've actually been funnier. Seriously, two aimless hours or so of game tester geek-boys challenging each other to joystick duels, getting high, and being totally baffled by Kevin Nealon's vapid CEO pep talks would've ruled in a kidulted-The Office sort of way.

Memo to Nealon: Steve Martin kinda sonned you twelve ways from Sunday two years later with his uber-smug CEO routine in Baby Mama, didn't he? But you probably don't care. A paycheck's a paycheck, right? Right, Doris Roberts?

Compare the Allen Covert of, say, The Wedding Singer with the Allen Covert of Grandma's Boy and it's clear that this guy has wasted his career being a minnow in a bigger star's Perrier-filled pond - he is to Adam Sandler what Jason Mewes is to Kevin Smith. To visit Covert's wikipedia page is to behold lowbrow comedic promise sadly unfulfilled; we won't even get into all the residual Saturday Night Live schlock he's helped enable. I don't care if dude did co-write The Benchwarmers; The Benchwarmers is even less watchable than Grandma's Boy! What the fuck, Allen Covert? Two words, bro: Steve Buscemi.

Dear Peter Dante, so adept at portraying total dim-bulb losers: the above goes double for you, bub. I mean, you're 40 now. 40!

Getting back to Nealon for a minute, you know, I've never watched an episode of Weeds and probably never will so I'm not sure if he's being used well there, but I wish Kevin could find a starring role in a big-time comedy to match his so subtle-there's-almost-no-pulse funnyman's gifts. His SNL career and stand-up work make clear that his is a dry comedic aesthetic suited to specialized projects. Directors like Todd Solondz should be all up in Nealon's grill like last year, and I can't figure out why they aren't.

That whole bit where Joel Moore's evil video-game designer thinks he's Neo from The Matrix? Funny for exactly five minutes, insufferable thereafter.

Grandma needed a third wacky elderly lady roommate, thus setting up some super-after-the-fact Golden Girls gags. Hmmm. Maybe not.

Dunno if it's my general disgust at the last couple seasons of ER talking or what, but Linda Cardinelli really needs to be restricted to second- or third- tier roles in funny movies or TV shows. Note: the Scooby-Doo movies were about as funny as a hernia.

The best scene in Grandma's Boy had to be the one where Nick Swardson is challenged to some sort of Dance Dance Revolution death match and feigns ignorance about how to play the game until his turn comes around, and he just totally kills it. This guy's gonna be on SNL someday. Just wait. I'm not entirely sure that's the best aspiration for an up-and-comer; I'm not entirely sure I just conferred Swardson a compliment.

Side note, totally unrelated: SNL is kind of awesome so far this year. The new and new-ish cast members are totally on fire, the writing staff's getting it up at least half the time, Darrell Hammond's earning his keep, etc. Which more than makes up for the fact that Michael Phelps is a horrible actor (James Franco's not much better, to be fair) and Lil Wayne's nutjob-MC M.O. translates abysmally on live national television. Also: Kings of Leon have convinced me that their last kind of bloodless album was a fluke and I should get onboard their train. More on nu-SNL in a future post, maybe.

Do not under any circumstances rent or buy this D-movie. Just watch bits and pieces of it on cable when you aren't actively watching something else - a baseball game, a Law & Order re-run, or maybe DVR'd TNA Impact - like I did.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Viviparous Blenny Deadline: OCTOBER 23! Get Synchronicity!

Viviparous Blenny
a twentythreebooks and furniture press
contemporary arts journal

January 2009, Volume I

Theme: Synchronicity

Synchronicity is not merely serendipity, it is defined as meaningful coincidences. Synchronicities are acausal, that is, not able to be reduced to a cause-and-effect explanation. They are always personal events. They are boundary events that often occur at periods of major life transitions. And they necessarily reflect a deeper, more holistic reality.

*If you submit work that doesn’t directly address the theme, please explain why you’ve chosen the piece to represent the theme.

Submissions guidelines:
3–4 poems
1000 words of prose (fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, commentary, interviews, reviews, etc.)
Black and white photographs (.tiff, .gif, .jpg; low-res for submission)
Black and white artwork or drawings (low-res scanned image file)
Name and contact info. on every page submitted
No simultaneous submissions.

You may also submit your work on CD to the address below (be sure to mark “CD, do not scan” on the outside of envelope).

Send written work as an attachment to

or snail mail to:

Viviparous Blenny
c/o Douglas Mowbray, Managing Editor
76 Stone Park Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21236

Be sure to include an SASE and cover letter (including a brief bio) for a reply to your submission. If you would like your work returned, please include proper postage and envelope.

Submissions due no later than October 23. Any submissions after this date will not be considered.

Payment is 1 free contributor’s copy and new friends.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

# 994 Laura Branigan "Gloria" [CBS, 1982]

So this is one of those goosebumpy radio classics for Voguing to Danzig. It rewinds me all the way back to Happy Acres summer camp, where the counselors would sometimes switch on a radio right after naptime, and "Gloria" would invariably pour out in ecstatic-if-desperate waves, being a hit single at the time, all synth-aerobics on the choruses and tense pianos on the verses, Laura Branigan screaming disco at or celebrating some chick named Gloria or whatever. That 80s-dynamic, cheesy intro would zipper-apart and have me up from under my blanket, just wilding the fuck out, really, because my mom's first name was Gloria, too, and even though I wasn't conscious of what "Gloria" was actually about in any way, shape, or form - twas all church-choir chorus and unfadable hook to me at that point - I guess I just liked to pretend, on some superficial level, that it was about Mom. Listening to the song today, of course, it's pretty clear that this is kind of a "don't be a slut/don't spread yourself too thin/don't let yourself be used/respect yourself" anthem, see also the Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams" - a sentiment worth repeating in any event but one that I needed to heed much more than my mother ever did. It feels like a warning I missed. Too much of my adolesence and young adulthood was spent wanting for certain people to like me, to want me around, to miss me; I deluded myself time and time again, trying too hard to be indispensible to folks who, I should've known then, had no interest in taking me on as a friend or anything more serious than that. So much effort and energy and emotion was wasted on these doomed pursuits that could've been better expended artistically or scholasticly that it's almost embarrassing. Shame on me for not paying enough attention then. All that baggage aside, "Gloria" still packs a nostalgic thrill on par with "Uptown Girl" and "Karma Chameleon" and "Pick Me Up Before You Go Go" - it's just so vibrant, insistent, and alive that it invokes the memories surrounding it with every play.

Something I didn't know until just recently: Branigan's "Gloria" is actually a cover, so the sentiments therein aren't actually hers. Yet the singer invests the content with such passion that it seems as though she's actually addressing an actual person, or maybe just herself, sinking her lungpower deep into disclaimers like "Gloria/You're always on the run now/Running off with somebody, you gotta get 'em somehow" and "I think you're headed for a breakdown/So be careful what you're showing" and "How's it gonna go down?/Will you meet him on the mainline or will you catch him on the rebound" and "I think they've got your number/I think they've got the alias you've been living under" and "Will you marry for the money?/Take a lover in the afternoons?" Whenever I listen to "Gloria" now, I imagine a young girl on the precipice of womanhood, confronted by a sprawling battery of life choices - some good, some bad - and totally baffled as to which moves are the best to make and which ones should be avoided at all costs. In that context, "Gloria"-as-song is like a concerned older sister or best friend or mother loudly chipping in two cents. If Branigan - or, indeed, the original songwriter - was envisioning an actual person as the target for "Gloria," I wonder what choices she eventually decided to make, what paths she followed, if she's able to live with the consequences of whatever happened after she screwed up all her courage and leapt bravely out into that abyss. We'll probably never know.

Friday, September 12, 2008


  1. Pretending to open and repair things with his "Handy Manny" tool set, especially the hammer, which he rarely lets go of

  2. Turning on light switches

  3. Ringing doorbells

  4. Climbing onto chairs and couches, often at odd - and perilous - angles

  5. Saying "NO!" even when the answer to a given question or request clearly isn't "NO!"

  6. Picking his toenails

  7. Trying to sing along with songs on the radio

  8. Running around with Dad at the local park

  9. Watching the Pennsylvania State Lottery operations on television

  10. Dancing along to those 1-800-that-spells-free-credit-report-dot-com-baybee commericials

  11. Opening doors, because he can now

  12. Chattering pretty much non-stop

  13. Running away and giggling mischieviously when it's time for bed, a diaper change, or any other event that necessitates being picked up off of the ground

  14. Playing with toys in the back yard

  15. Running through a sprinkler in shorts or being sprayed with the hose

  16. Attempting to sing the alphabet song

  17. Counting to ten, sometimes successfully

  18. Approaching Neeko ever so tentatively with a dog toy while repeating the puppy's name, wary of being leapt upon, pawed, licked, nibbled without mercy

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meet Neeko!

He's our new German Shepherd puppy. He's cute, but he's a frisky handful. Nodin never seems to get tired of saying his name!

Also, this might come in handy in combatting xenophobic, down-with-liberalism anti-Obama rhetoric


In other news, Happy Patriots Day, everyone! And that has nothing to do with football. P.S. Tom Brady, don't get well soon!

Q: Will I be burying acquaintances in "Pro-Obama/Don't forget to vote" spam in a few weeks? A: Hells yeah, so look out.

In the meantime, check out Noise for Obama, which is on the same general tip.

Friday, September 05, 2008


The Republican Convention: Most bogus and sad, what I glimpsed of it while flipping through the dozen-plus cable channels that were televising it, live, this week, en route to anything fucking else. (Alecia and I actually watched that 90210 re-boot for a while! Yeah, I know. It's not so terrible.) Those huge American flags flapping in the breeze in slow-motion. Everyone wearing ridiculous hats and looking haughty. Sarah Palin effectively saying "Sure, John McCain, I'm totally psyched and happy to be your pandering tool." Sarah Palin in general - I mean, just look at her. No, wait - don't.

Nu-90210: Brenda got old, dude. Old. But points to Shannen Doughrty (probably a misspelling, but I don't care enough to look it up right now) for saying "fuck plastic surgery and Botox and coligen injections, I'ma be me." Kelly? Also old, but wearing it well. And there's the usual poor rich-kids drama going on, only the newbies are from Kansas instead of Minneaopolis this time, and one's a black adoptee, and breaking yr parents' rules now amounts to flying to San Fran on some hot trust-fundee's private jet. Not excellent, not bogus - just there. but I'd tune in again.

PaperThinWalls biting the dust: bogus but inevitable. Still can't quite believe it happened. Time to get back on the crit hustle.

Nodin's 2nd Birthday Party: A rocking-horse recycled from a trash-heap bound bedframe? An interactive alphabet toy? Wings of all varieties and termperatures? A massive Cummings delagation driving up from Baltimore to attend? Good will, laughs, and hugs all around? Excellent - and most triumphant!