defrog: (devo mouse)
Apparently they’re planning another Woodstock festival this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original.

Because, you know, the 25th and 30th anniversaries went so well.

Anyway, the lineup has been announced, and NPR ran a piece on it with the following headline:

Can Woodstock 50 'Re-Create The Magic' Of The Original Festival?

Here’s my short answer:


Here’s my slightly longer answer:

Hippie jokes aside, Woodstock was a one-off product of its time, unprecedented in scale and ambition – so much so that the organizers lost control of it early on. Which was in a way in keeping with the times themselves.

To be clear, I think the mythos of Woodstock gets overplayed a lot. But it WAS a culturally significant moment because of the youth-culture ideology that drove it, the sociopolitical changes in play at the time, and the unique role of rock music as an interactive motivational soundtrack for those changes.

Rock was still new and evolving in the late-60s to the point that it was part of the anti-establishment social movement itself. Consequently, I think Woodstock 1 has the reputation it does precisely because the music was integral to the youth movement at the time.

By contrast, pop/rock today feels relatively static and part of the institution, and structurally independent of sociopolitical movements. Yes, youth are starting to get engaged politically again (gun control, climate change, trans rights, #BLM, #MeToo, etc), but the music is mostly incidental or at best reactive to that. Certainly none of the big-name acts I've seen booked for WS50 have much to do with whatever new social movements are underway (their particular political beliefs and opinions of Trump notwithstanding) – maybe Miley Cyrus, but apart from that, not really. 

The organizers may have their hearts in the right place, but it sounds like to me they have no understanding of what made Woodstock 1 'magical' in the first place. In the end, Woodstock 50 (like WS25 and WS30) is just another overpriced corporate-sponsored music festival with a classic brand, and nothing more. 

This concludes my TED Talk.

Goin’ down to Yasgur's Farm,

This is dF
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Recently the interwub has been raging over one of the most important questions of our time:

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

I have decided to weigh in on the debate over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. For me, I have a two-pronged yet simple answer:

1. Die Hard is not a Christmas movie

Obviously, the question mainly hinges on the criteria of what counts as a Christmas movie in the first place, and according to various articles I’ve read, the criteria varies but is generally narrowly tailored to ensure that Die Hard counts as a Christmas film.

Basically: “If it takes place during Christmas, it’s a Christmas movie.”

Based on that criteria, I could say The Fugitive (1993) is a St Patrick’s Day movie.

My own criteria goes like this: “It has to take place during Christmas, and this should inform the narrative in some fashion, whether it treats Christmas as a secular or religious holiday, or as a positive or negative thing. If the story itself can play out regardless of the holiday, it’s not a Christmas film.”

I would argue this is true of Die Hard. The Christmas setting doesn’t add anything to the story, apart from perhaps a nihilistic counterpoint to the main narrative, but the story could have been set any time of year without losing anything essential.

Not that it matters too much – I’m reasonably sure that most people who insist Die Hard is a Christmas film fall into four categories:

(1) People who are just trolling or trying to be punk-rock to annoy people who like proper Christmas movies
(2) People who hate proper Christmas movies
(3) People who hate Christmas altogether
(4) A combination of the first three categories.

2. Die Hard is a retroactive NRA propaganda film that embodies and endorses virtually every value embraced by the current NRA leadership.

There’s practically a checklist:

• Good guy with a gun
• The good guy with a gun is working-class rugged individual who doesn't like people telling him what to do
• The villain is an educated intellectual AND a foreigner
• Federal govt incompetence
• Justification of excessive deadly force by law enforcement offers
• Specific repudiation of Miranda and other “rules” that hinder police officers from doing their job (which is killing criminals caught in the act of committing crimes)
• Bad guys reduced to one-dimensional evil targets that can be killed off with sneers and one-liners, after which their dead bodies can be used as messaging devices.
• Wholesale murderous violence as redemption, proof of manhood and a way to win a woman’s love and respect (or in this case, win it back)

Probably the only reason the NRA doesn’t use it as a training video is they can't get licensing permission.

Anyway, no matter whether you consider Christmas to be a secular or religious holiday, there is nothing in the above list that even remotely reflects what Christmas is about.

ADDENDUM: Even if we agree that Die Hard is a Christmas movie if you narrow the criteria sufficiently, it’s ALSO an NRA right wing fantasy movie.

I’m not saying Die Hard is a bad movie. On its own merits, it’s better than most 80s action movies, thanks mainly to Bruce Willis being an unlikely action hero, and Alan Rickman being so good.

But a Christmas movie? Only if you really hate Christmas. Or love the NRA.

I mean, we’re talking about a film where at one point the good guy takes the body of a man he just killed, sits it in a chair, writes a note in the guy’s blood to the villain, and puts a Santa hat on him. Which is not exactly in the spirit of the holiday.

It’s kind of psychotic, actually.

Like the current NRA leadership.

Ho ho ho,

This is dF
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You probably have heard that Charles Manson passed away.

Which is mainly worth blogging about for a couple of reasons: (1) I’d rather forgotten about him, and (2) Manson’s strange role in the pantheon of pop culture. At least for my generation.

To be clear, he was a dangerous lunatic who deserved to stay in jail until he died. Which he did. I remember that whenever he came up for parole, the TV media would do a bunch of stories about it and the general consensus was: of COURSE keep him locked up.

They would also do TV interviews with Manson, who was, among other things, what they call “good television”. His interviews were a mix of stand-up comedy and Dadaist performance art. Which is how Manson sort of imposed himself upon the pop culture landscape as the world’s most dangerously entertaining mass murderer.

At least for those of us either born after the Manson Family murders or too young to remember them. We knew all about it either from the book Helter Skelter or the TV movie based on it. We knew it was a true story, and yet it was presented in the narrative form we usually associate with fiction. And the story had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood thriller.

Which is why ultimately – and perhaps inevitably – we reduced Manson to a cartoon villain.

This song by legendary Nashville hardcore band Rednecks In Pain sums it up well.

Or, if you like, this Ben Stiller sketch.

Which is not to minimize the horror of the Manson murders. It’s just that for those of us who came of age after the 60s were over, it didn’t have the same kind of impact that it did on people who were, say, high-school age or above when the murders happened, especially in the context of the cultural revolution America was undergoing at the time. Also, to be honest, by the time I knew who Manson was, serial killers were a thing (Zodiac killer, Son Of Sam, etc) and Jim Jones had his followers commit mass suicide in Guyana. So while the Manson murders were horrifying, they didn't exactly stand out.

That said, strange as it sounds, Manson was one of those monsters of society who was always present in the pop culture landscape, even if he was mainly just lurking in the background muttering to himself. The weird charisma he exerted on his followers also had an effect on those of us who were repulsed by him – a madman with the ability to make you question yr own sanity if you weren’t careful.

Or is that giving him too much credit?

Anyway, when I think of it, I wonder if maybe it was a good thing that he became a cartoon character for many of us. True Evil wants you to take it seriously. It wants you to be afraid. It hates being laughed at, being mocked. And in the end, we laughed at Manson. And in doing so we made him powerless to frighten us.

There’s a lesson there, perhaps, especially in this day and age where various groups of people are trying to frighten us into accepting their agenda.

FUN FACT: One of the many legends of Charles Manson is that he once auditioned for the Monkees TV show. Turns out that’s not true.

Helter Stupid,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)


PRODUCTION NOTE 1: BTW, for everyone having a cow over D.Trump declaring Loyalty Day as if he came up with the idea? He didn’t. May 1 has legally been Loyalty Day since 1958, and every POTUS from then to now has recognized it as such.

Still …

PRODUCTION NOTE 2: If yr wondering, that video is meant to demo the fact that there were two soundtracks recorded for Flash Gordon – one by Queen and a more traditional one by Howard Blake. This one shows a scene with the Blake version.

PRODUCTION NOTE 3: In case yr thinking George Harris’ voice sounds different than on the Queen soundtrack album, yr right – the album version is Harris’ real voice. This is the overdubbed version. Contrast and compare here.

BONUS TRACK: Everywhere else in the world (i.e. outside of America) it’s Labor Day. So here’s yr Labor Day song.

Possibly topical!

Without measure,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

O captain my captain,

This is dF 
defrog: (Default)
It’s not quite what I was expecting.

[Via Scott Patrick]

Mad Mario,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Yes it is.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Max Fury Road - Trailer from Monkey Blood on Vimeo.

What a lovely day,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)

[Via Lint]

Pump some Trump in it,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Album Cover Art

[Via Forever Blog]

Pop will eat itself,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)

[Via Thrills, Chills and Stills]

Onward to Iowa,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
incorrectnoamchomskyquotes:True quote

[Via Matt Fraction]

DISCLAIMER: That’s probably not a real quote. But that doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate.

Noam if you want to,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
And now, the movie review you’ve been waiting for all this time.

[NOTE: I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, but if you haven't seen it yet, by all means wait until you do before reading this.]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Truly it’s hard to imagine another movie preceded by this much hype and an equivalent amount of baggage from fans who have never forgiven George Lucas for making grim prequels instead of giving them the Star Wars movies they WANTED. Plus, there was all the dithering over the fact that Disney bought Lucasfilm and declared most of the Star Wars Expanded Universe books, comics and games non-canon. Cos you know, Disney ruins everything, right?

Anyway, SW:TFA had a hell of a legacy to live up to, which makes it hard to review it like any other film – unless you’ve never cared about Star Wars, or you liked the films but not to the point of obsession, or you saw them starting with the prequels, or whatever. For myself, I’m from the original Star Wars generation where our young and impressionable lives were changed forever in 1977 by the original film. I didn't expect J.J. Abrams to duplicate that experience – that would be impossible, partly because I’m 50, and partly because part of what made the first Star Wars so amazing was that nothing like it had ever been done visually – Lucas’ team literally had to invent some of the FX techniques that made it work, or take older techniques to new levels. I knew going in that SW:TFA would have none of that – FX-wise, it would use the same techniques as the average Hollywood CGI blockbuster, albeit perhaps to better effect.

So I wasn’t expecting a life-changing experience – I was just hoping Abrams would make a decent Star Wars film that reflects the spirit of the original trilogy – i.e. a fun adventure in space with good characters.

So, with all that in mind, here’s what I have to say about SW:TFA:

1. I loved it.

2. Is it perfect? No – far from it. Plot holes abound, and Abrams and the writers go a little overboard with the fan service, while the story unnecessarily borrows select plot elements from the original trilogy and relies an awful lot on coincidence as a plot lubricant.

3. On the other hand, it’s got far better dialogue than any of the other films, and while the story follows some fairly obvious tropes, it doesn’t come across as a tired rehash.

4. That’s largely because SW:TFA is populated by an interesting new cast of likeable characters – Rey the mysterious Force-sensitive scrap collector, Finn the cowardly but good-hearted Stormtrooper, Poe Dameron the smart-ass pilot and BB-8 the plucky cute droid – to take the baton from the old hands.

5. Speaking of whom, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher do a great job of playing convincing older versions of their respective characters. I do admit being disappointed that Leia doesn’t have as prominent a role as Han, but at least she gets more than a cameo.

6. As the new Bad Guy, Kylo Ren is no Darth Vader, but that’s a good thing. Ren has his own motivations and complications, and actually projects his own brand of menace – until the mask comes off, but even then he comes across as a character someone put some thought into.

7. All up, is it as good as the original film? Of course not. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun, which you haven't really been able to say about a Star Wars film since 1983.

8. Is it as good as the original trilogy? Let's put it this way – I can safely say this is the fourth-best film in the series. Possibly even the third-best, depending on how you feel about Return Of The Jedi.

9. Either way, it’s safe to say the series is now back on track as the fun, entertaining popcorn space-fantasy franchise it was intended to be (whether George Lucas cares to admit that or not).

BONUS TRACK: For those of you who care, while Disney disavowed the Expanded Universe stories, that didn’t stop the screenwriters from borrowing certain ideas from it. io9 has a list here if you’d like to know more, though it is of course chock full of spoilers.

SEE ALSO: This op/ed from Ars Technica on why scrapping most of the Expanded Universe was probably a good idea.

AND FINALLY: If you want to know what George Lucas thinks about SW:TFA, you can find out here.

The Force abides,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
The Muppets returned to the televisions this week.

I didn’t watch it, because I don’t live in the USA. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as an American citizen, it’s this: just because you haven't actually seen a TV show or a film doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the content.

Sure. That’s what Franklin Graham and One Million Moms do.

Apparently they’re expecting lots of sex, drugs and full frontal nudity. I have a feeling it’s going to fall short of that mark – after all, this is ABC, not HBO.

On the other hand, if the promo material is anything to go by (and that is what these people are going by), The Muppets ain’t exactly a kids show, either. Even the producers have promoted it as a more “adult” show, which means edgy realism humor, uncomfortable relationship situations, double entendres and Grindr jokes, evidently.

None of which is a reason for ABC to cancel the show as Graham and 1MM are demanding. They generally demand the same of 85% of any given prime-time line-up, so it’s hard to take them seriously even before you factor in the fact they haven’t even watched the shows they want taken off the air.

Probably a more pertinent question is: is this really the Muppet show we want? (And by “we” I mean “me”, of course.)

Some of the more sober commentary I’ve read suggests that while the new show is clever and probably what the franchise needs to succeed in 2015, fans of the original show may find it jarring, if not sacrilege, or at least depressing.

For myself, I can tell you from the promo material that I’m not that enthralled with the new direction for a couple of reasons.

1. The mockumentary concept has been done to death (and just because they’re mocking the mocumentary concept doesn’t mean we need more of it). Even the idea of a mockumentary of a late night TV show isn't that original – The Larry Sanders Show covered this ground in the early 90s.

2. I don’t really want a Muppet show that goes for edgy realism or delves into their personal relationships. The Kermit/Miss Piggy angle of the original show was fun and made sense because it played to Piggy’s stage-diva character. Turning it into an ugly public tabloid drama with new girlfriend/ex-girlfriend tension doesn’t really entertain me or make me laugh.

Maybe all of this gels in the current jaded TV landscape. I don’t really watch much TV anyway, so that’s at least one reason for the disconnect here, I admit. Maybe Muppet fans who do watch lots of TV will get more out of the new show, or see the humor in it. Or maybe they’re just glad that the Muppets will be relevant to new generations of fans.

The thing is, they’re not the same Muppets I grew up with. The same characters, yes – but portrayed and presented in a much different way. Let me put it this way: as far as I know, the Muppets were always an all-ages proposition – that doesn’t mean it was just for kids, but that everyone who watched would get something out of it. Making it more “adult” alters that equation. Which might be fine except that the Muppets have always been marketed as being appropriate for kids. To suddenly bump them up to PG levels is inevitably going to confuse people.

It’s also fair to ask: is this what Jim Henson would have wanted? Lisa Henson thinks so, at least in terms of the Muppets being back on prime time and being popular again. But while Jim Henson always had something of a subversive streak to his work, he also understood the importance of subtlety.

Anyway, I'll be the first to admit my reservations don’t mean anything – as I say, I haven't seen the show, so I’m just kind of riffing and dithering here via a promo and second-hand info. And to be clear: even if it’s as bad as I imagine, I wouldn’t support a boycott like what Graham and 1MM are demanding.

Also, it’s not fair to judge a whole show on one episode. By some accounts, Episode 2 is a lot better than the premiere. So it could still grow into something that’s worthy of the Muppet legacy.

In any case, it does sound like one of those cases where parents should be given fair warning. If you already let yr kids watch (say) South Park, it’s probably a non-issue. If you keep them at the level of Pixar films or Frozen, you might want to dial up some parental supervision. Maybe a lot of the “adult” stuff will fly right over their little heads and they’ll just laugh at the silly bits. Still, I have my misgivings.

This is because I am old and decrepit, I know. Fair enough. I can’t say this is the Muppet show we need, but given the state of TV in 2015 – and the general culture of Fear, Hate and Cynicism that pretty much defines social media – maybe it’s the Muppet show we deserve.

It’s not easy being green,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
I am somewhere in America, walking across a large shopping mall campus. I need to get to the Parkroyal Hotel to meet some friends, but I’m not sure where it is or of it’s within walking distance. I see a taxi and decide to flag it down.

The taxi is more like a van, and there are already some people inside, but the driver tells me it’s cool – it’s more like a mini-bus service than a taxi service. The driver looks familiar but I can’t place him. He hands me a business card – his name is Tom Petty.

Well that explains it.

The people in the van are a mix of passengers and friends (most of whom I assume are the Heartbreakers), and Petty jokes around with them – it’s like a party, though with no drinks. He pulls up to the front of what I assume is the main shopping mall building and drops off the last of the passengers, then drives off.

As we go up some kind of ramp next to the mall, I ask him if we’re going to the Parkroyal next. He says, “Oh, it’s over there on the left.”

I look out the window. From the elevated vantage point of the ramp I can see that the building we just left has a courtyard in the front, and the courtyard is the lobby of the Parkroyal. So we were already in front of it when he dropped off the last passengers.

“Okay, then just let me out here,” I say.

“Sure, just hold on a minute, I can’t stop right here on the ramp,” he says.

The ramp leads to a vast rooftop parking lot that is technically next to the Parkroyal but still a good distance away. He stops the van and everyone gets out – me, Petty, and the Heartbreakers.

“How come you didn’t just take me to the front entrance again?” I ask.

He scowls. “Because I didn’t want the reception that people were going to give me when I showed up! And they wouldn’t be saying ‘Cobalt!’ neither!”

I seem to remember that “Cobalt” was Petty’s nickname among his fans. I realize now what he’s talking about – he used to be a rock star, now he’s driving a cab, and he doesn’t like the assumptions people make about that.

“I got tired of the music business, and I have more fun driving a cab, but people see you go from rock star to taxi driver and they think it’s because you don’t have any talent anymore, or yr a loser! Well fuck that! I don’t need that shit!”

It’s at this point I realize two things: (1) he’s a little drunk and (2) he doesn’t look like Tom Petty so much as he looks like Gary Busey playing Tom Petty in a TV movie.

Petty sits down on a curb and starts to throw golf balls with enough spin that they rebound back to him. The golf balls keep hitting him in the crotch, but this is apparently on purpose, as he goes off on a monologue about how the only purpose of marriage is for a woman to legally and metaphorically kick a guy in the nuts.

I sit down next to him. “Bad marriage, huh?”

He gives me a look. “Like you don’t know. The media milked it for weeks.”

“I don’t know,” I shrug. “I don’t follow celebrity gossip or watch much TV. I don’t even know who you were married to.”

“Heather Locklear,” he says.

I nod. “Oh, right. I remember hearing about you two being a couple, but I didn’t follow the details. You wanna tell me about it?”

Petty proceeds to tell me about his marriage and divorce from Heather Locklear. The other Heartbreakers fill in some details as well. We all sit there casually throwing golf balls as the story unfolds, and by the end Petty seems to be feeling better.

“It helps to talk about this,” he say. “Especially to someone who didn’t hear the tabloid version first.”

“Yeah,” I say, “my experience is that it’s always good to talk to an outsider who doesn’t care.” When Petty frowns at this, I add, “What I mean is someone who has no stake in the game. Like when you know a couple that gets divorced and yr friends with both of them and they expect you to take a side, and they resent it if you try to stay neutral.”

He nods, then he gets to his feet. “C’mon, I’ll drive you to the lobby.”

And then I woke up.

DISCLAIMER: I'm pretty sure Petty's nickname in real life is not "Cobalt". But that's what he said.

Also, I have no idea if he was ever married to Heather Locklear.

Don’t do me like that,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

[Via Flashe Non Deux]

PRODUCTION NOTE: Yes, it’s a hoax.

Spoken word,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Remember the old days when the hep kids used to groove to Captain Beefheart on the TVs?

Yeah, me neither.

PRODUCTION NOTE: For those not acquainted with Captain Beefheart, the song is "Flash Gordon's Ape" from the LP Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

Picked a banana and threw it at the sun,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
ITEM: YouTube user Marcelo Zuniga has made some videos detailing every change ever made to the first three Star Wars films, complete with side-by-side comparisons.

Many of them I already knew about via the 1997 "special editions", but I didn’t know they’d been making extra alterations in subsequent home video releases. Many of them are fairly subtle, others not so much.

Anyway, as part of the original Star Wars generation, I think these videos offer definitive proof (to me) that the originals really didn't need "fixing". In my opinion the Biggs scene is the only deleted scene that was worth adding in.

It occurs to me too that one of the biggest problems here is that Lucasfilm is subtely (if not intentionally) altering film history.

The original SW trilogy was heralded in large part because the FX were groundbreaking and visually stunning for the time period. That matters because when you watch any old film, yr basically seeing films that were made with the tools available at the time, some of which may have been invented specifically for that film. That in itself is a tribute to the ingenuity of the filmmakers, and even if it looks a little clunky by 2015 standards, you can still appreciate what they managed to accomplish.

Star Wars has a well-earned rep as a game-changer in FX, but when you stick in scenes using technology that didn’t exist at the time, it’s like cheating. People seeing Star Wars for the first time may look at the latest version and think, “Wow, they had CGI back in the 70s!”

Well, maybe not, if only because Lucasfilm has been fairly transparent about its enhancements, so it’s not they're trying to trick anyone into thinking they were that far ahead of the CGI game. And maybe it only matters to people like me who have a fascination with film FX tricks and the art of making fake look real, and how they used to do it in the Old Days compared to now.

And considering a lot of the original FX are still intact, I guess you could say the upgraded films serve as a kind of mostly seamless comparison of old-school and new-school FX that demonstrate how sophisticated Lucasfilm and ILM were when they first started.

Still, now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, I’m hoping one day they’ll release the original versions for us Old And Cranky People who will always swear that Han shot first. That doesn’t seem likely, internet rumors notwithstanding. And Lucas has adamant that the “special editions” are the definitive versions as far as he’s concerned, and the originals are “half-completed” films.

If it ain’t broke,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Coming soon to a porn site near you:

[Via Scott Patrick]

Of course it’s tradition for pornmakers to cash in on big-budget films with a cheap XXX version, though it’s only in recent years that they’ve put a little effort into it in terms of costumes.

Apparently they’ve gotten so good at it that they can make a parody of the film before the film is even out.

Which means this is really more of a parody of the trailer of the film. Which is probably close enough, since the XXX plot will probably involve Batman and Superman having a contest to see who can bang the most porn stars.

Or here’s another way of looking at it – if the XXX version comes out before the non-XXX version, could one argue that Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman is a non-porn rip-off of the original XXX film?

Who came first,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
From 1962 (allegedly):

The Hipster Coloring Book (1962)

[Via Retrospace Zeta]

It's probably a hoax. Or a Mad Men in-joke.

But either way, FINALLY I know what a “hipster” is. I’ve seen everyone on Facebook complaining about them, but I’ve never actually seen one or even heard them described. Now I know.

Thanks, Tumblr!

Color me impressed,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Before there was Syfy and The Asylum, there was Hammer Films.

flight-to-mars:Another Hammer film that was never made.�� � Art by Tom Chantrell �(c. 1971)

[Via 70s Sci-Fi Art]

Evidently this is concept art for a film idea floated at Hammer that – sadly – never went anywhere.

There is however a hoax Republic serial from 1936. With gratuitous jazz crooning.

Watch the skies,

This is dF


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