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Friday, December 19, 2008

Things I'm grateful for in 2008

In light of my previous post, I though a little sunshine was in order.

So here a list of things that I am grateful for in 2008:

Obama: Could things look more hopeful? I was wrong to doubt this man. He may be the one person left on this planet who could bring integrity back in the White House. He’s one smart cookie… and when you have a cookie factory that has been allowed to churn out crap for eight years you kind of need a smart cookie to take the reins. He’s JFK minus the baggage. A new beginning. I pray he’s not Jimmy Carter II. So, while I’m holding my breath, I’m also assuming that I needn’t hold it for long.

Kristine W.: While her upcoming, much-promised albums ‘The Power of Music’ and ‘Straight Up with a Twist’ have yet to appear (they are now being promised for 2009), 2008 did have several really choice tidbits trickle out of the Fly Again camp. Her cover of the old Diana Ross classic “The Boss” hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play charts. And November brought forth her holiday offering, an EP entitled “Hey, Mr. Christmas” and the second single from ‘The Power of Music’, ‘Never’. She continues to amaze me. Her vocal style is becoming more defined, which is not to say predictable in anyway (check out those Michael Jackson like trills on ‘The Boss’. She is simply one of the best vocalists. I’m always tempted to qualify that with “on the dance scene today”. But no… she is simply one of the best vocalists – period. No need to auto tune her vocals. She’ll never be caught lip syncing. Nor does she have one of those barely-a-whisper-oh-so-frail-waif-like voices. She’s a powerhouse who knows when to rein it in. She writes, too. Ah yes, she is the real deal.

Solange, Estelle, M.I.A., Santogold, and Lady Gaga: Just when you thought Jill Scott and Macy Grey had done all they could do to revive a glorious, feel-good ‘70’s vibe along come these five to place all sorts of intricate twists into the soul/dance/new wave/world music/disco mix. Solange is the biggest surprise. ‘Sandcastle Disco’ alone guarantees that she’ll never have to stand in the shadow of her famous sister again. Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ didn’t need the stamp of Kayne West, but it probably helped it gain a lot of attention. M.I.A. almost fell between the cracks, despite all the accolades heaped in her direction in 2007 – but thanks to stoner pic ‘Pineapple Express’, ‘Paper Planes’ finally got her the chart action she deserved. Santagold’s debut has yet to yield a breakout hit, but the album continues to generate lots of buzz. I just love the whiplash, new wave (The Waitresses, Missing Persons), knowing smile of ‘L.E.S. Artistes’. And Lady Gaga? Well, I suppose for someone with her writing history this type of success comes as no surprise. Watching the rise of ‘Just Dance’ (with or without Akon) throughout the year has been a lot of fun. That she managed to top the Dance Charts and then break through to the top ten of the Hot 100 – and has a second #1 (Pokerface) in Canada, makes me think we’ll be hearing more from her album ‘The Fame’ during the first quarter of 2009.

Kathy Griffin: I saw her live! At the final show of her 5 night sold-out run at the Orpheum in Minneapolis, MN. It was surreal. Kind of like seeing the Muppets Live, only much better than you could ever expect it to be! She worked the house like a jack hammer and her energy never dimmed once. I can’t imagine the inside of her head – it must be like a billion sparks with magic hamsters running around in circles and tiny internet gnomes Google-ing their brains out. I just love her. Look forward to another season of ‘My Life on the D-List’, am hoping she wins her Grammy (I tried to buy the album at Target, no luck – why? I wonder.), and finds the love her life (Girl needs it bad). Just a note – she’s the first woman since Joan Rivers in 1984 to have a #1 comedy album on the Billboard Comedy Album Charts. For god’s sake – give the lady her Grammy!

Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Yeah, I know – the pundits that be say the show sagged a bit and lost some luster this season. But they’re wrong. This show single handedly justifies owning a television. The writing is sharp, the ensemble chemistry is amazing, and its cutting edge continues to draw blood while carving away at society’s norms, television conventions and the American psyche.

Christine Applegate/Samantha Who?: I avoided this until about two months ago. Now I’m hooked. ‘Samantha Who?’ is the true inheritor of the throne vacated by ‘Sex and The City’. It’s got a much better cast, a better premise and better writing than those other pretenders (Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia). Key to this success, and to the success of numerous movies of dubious quality, is the charm, talent and presence of Ms. Applegate. Never would I have thought this possible, back in the days of when I caught the occasional episode of ‘Married With Children’. Her grace, humor and beauty just blow me away. Oh – and with Jean Smart on board – how could she go wrong? (Though I do hope they do more with Melissa McCarthy’s character.)

The Big Bang Theory: At my house, we refer to this show as “The Nerd Boys”, as in “Hurry up, the nerd boys are on.” It has yet to fail to delight. I like the cast. The timing/telepathy on display at times rivals that of ‘Fraiser’. I especially like the addition of Sara Rue this season, although something tells me that her stay won’t last through the premiere of next season. There’s a lot of smart stuff here, and I think it is just going to get smarter.

Gordon Ramsey/Kitchen Nightmares: Fascinating. And Mr. Ramsey isn’t nearly as stupidly nasty as he is on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. This is a great tutorial on what not to do with money, how not to decorate a restaurant, what not to put on a menu, how not to run a kitchen, etc. It is business 101 for budding restaurateurs. I have learned so much. I think Gordon Ramsey is one hell of a great teacher. Very insightful.

Little Britian: I love these guys. They pick up where ‘The League of Gentlemen’ and Kids in the Hall left off. Cheeky to the extreme.

Other TV Programs of note: Sordid Lives, Clean House, and The Soup

Sex in The City:The Movie: Okay, so it was too long. In fact, it was like watching an entire season of episodes without a bathroom break. Putting it all together like that, the weaknesses couldn’t help but show. This premise is a serial. But, like seeing old friends that you haven’t seen in awhile, it was nice to get together again. There were no revelations. Nobody died. Everyone remained just as self-centered as ever. So, yeah, it was your typical reunion. I just think that the price of a movie ticket should have come with a complimentary martini. Gin, please!

Hillary Clinton: She made this election year very exciting. And though most would disagree, I think she played the game very well – stepping down only when it was necessary. My admiration for her is immense. I hope she has a great run as Secretary of State and helps restore this country’s tarnished image.

Happy holidays... and have a great new year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

These are a few of my least favorite things... The villians of 2008

Hello, it's been awhile. Not much. How about you?

Lots has gone under the bridge since my last post... but since I'm really not that interesting... here's a list of some of the people of 2008 that might capture your interest. They certainly did mine.
Rick Ross and Akon: Liars: plain and simple. They have both misrepresented their lives, have failed to own up to that fact and cling to a brand of credibility not due them. They lack integrity as human beings and their music suffers for it. For that matter, so does the public.

Kanye West: A master manipulator who is not a musician, has never written anything original, cannot sing and seems to think that self-aggrandizing is an artistic statement worth repeating ad nausea. He is the Puff Daddy of this century; a momentary, monumental example of style minus substance. Yes, people like Neyo may share West’s obsession with Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, but the difference is a matter of talent; Neyo has a great deal. The only things that exceed the size of Kanye’s ego are his record sales and his freakish, almost constant, whininess (but that’s what happens when one auto tunes their entire life – everything sounds kind of thin and squeal-like). He is the most irritating character that has ever graced halls of pop music – and that is a pretty incredible feat, considering the gargantuan height of that particular mountain.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s villain-izing of Hillary Clinton: In an election year when we had two outstanding candidates (Hillary and Obama) and an opportunity for an examination of the issues and some real debate, Rolling Stone chose to elevate their candidate of choice by writing scathing, ridiculously biased burn pieces about Hillary Clinton. I voted for Obama. I feel he is the right choice for the country and will make an incredible leader. But what Rolling Stone did to Hillary Clinton is journalistic murder. I have never been more embarrassed of a magazine that is mailed to my home (and I used to get Genre magazine – so that’s saying a lot).

Michael Vick: What a creep. If O.J. Simpson’s and Larry Craig’s pictures appear in the dictionary next to the word creep, well Michael Vick should certainly be there, too. Never has someone been given so much only to disappoint so thoroughly. If there is any type of comeuppance in the after life, I sure would not want to be Mr. Vick. And because this country lacks the moral fiber to severely punish those who abuse animals, I do hope that there is indeed an after life. However this man suffers in this lifetime, it is not enough.

Erykah Badu: With each album release she becomes more and more inaccessible and more and more irritating. It reminds me of what happened to Curtis Mayfield during his heyday. After a point, while wading through all the excess and lack of focus, you begin to lose sight of what made the artist stand out in the first place (hello, Tori Amos). It astounds me that her latest release, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) is on anyone’s best of list.

Eliot Spitzer: My new favorite scum bag/hypocrite. Oh, I have no issue with his use of prostitutes. I could even overlook his two-faced typical politician’s stance on prostitution. What galls me to no end is that he had his wife stand by his side during the subsequent press conference confessional. That poor woman is going to make some therapist a very rich person.

Larry Craig: Larry, give it up already. Nobody buys it. You’re a cocksucker. Enjoy it and spare the rest of the world your drama. And on that note, now that I know that the likes of you could be on the other side of any given stall wall I will be keeping my pants up at my knees and my stance as narrow as possible when doing my business in public. Shudder.

Toby Keith: If there is a recording artist who epitomizes the dumb-it-down -dumber-than-dumb G.W. era, it is Mr. Keith. Whether selling oversized, gas-guzzling trucks to American no-necks during a time of unprecedented high gas prices or trotting out his tired, old red, white and screw world view, Toby has managed to capture the attention and imaginations (not to mention the pocket books) of middle America. He is the musical equivalent of Larry the Cable Guy, and I for one, am glad their days in the sun are numbered.

Certain Music Blogs:
I’m not naming names (Idolator), but there seems to be a plethora of music blogs which exclusively practice a new type of journalism. They seem to think that surfing the web, stumbling upon some news that some one else first reported, adding a link to said article on their own site and then making some brief comment about the relevance of the cited article constitutes journalism. Why don’t they go and find a story that some one else hasn’t already written? Could it be that they are unable to put down their bag of Cheetos long enough to push away from their keyboards and actually interact with human beings face to face? Is it laziness? Yes. Yes it is.

Criss Angel: Creepy? Yes. Boring? Yes. Talented? Not really. Worthy of my attention or any more blog space? No.

Sarah Palin: Only in America (and only in 2008) could a former beauty pageant contestant, with limited political experience, possessing absolutely not an iota of debate skills, and without an original thought in her well coiffed head, end up running for Vice President of the United States on the Republican ticket. Hmmm. On second thought – I’m really glad it happened. Has desperation ever been more apparent? That and the fact that her designer spending spree, knocked-up daughter, Tina Fey/SNL connection and numerous jaw-dropping faux pas made the last few weeks of the 2008 campaign mildly hysterical. I can’t wait for the musical.

Cringe-Worthy Moments in the Real World: There is a lot of events that happen under the radar that, thanks to The Smoking Gun, I have had the displeasure of learning about. Among them:

Five Blackwater Security Guards were named in a 35-count federal indictment charging them with manslaughter and weapons violations in connection with the September 2007 bloodbath in Nisur Square. They are accused of going on an unprovoked shooting spree in Baghdad last year that resulted in the death of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians. I wonder how Karl Rove and Dick Cheney sleep at night.

The group of teens from Albert Lea, MN charged with torturing the elderly at an area nursing home.

Brandon Raz, the Wyoming municipal employee who pleaded not guilty to charges that he twice ejaculated in the water bottle of a female co-worker. Hmmm… forensic evidence says you did, Brandon.

Andy Martin, a Chicago man and former Connecticut congressional candidate who is credited with launching the Barack Obama-is-a-Muslim smear campaign. In addition he also pledged to "exterminate Jew Power in America," and claimed that "Jew babies are fed with subsidized American taxpayer money".

Lori Drew, the Missouri mom charged with orchestrating a cruel online hoax that led to the suicide of teenager Megan Meier. Has justice been served? Probably not in this life.

Jeremy Noyes, a Pennsylvania medical student who allegedly planned to assemble a "family" of female sex slaves that would reside with him on a farm or island who was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Jeremy Noyes.

Anton Dunn, alias the "Trashman" was tracked down and charged with posting YouTube videos in which he claimed to have poisoned thousands of bottles of Gerber baby food in a bid to kill black babies.

Diane Wargo, an Ohio nursing home employee who lost her job after blogger Perez Hilton posted an e-mail in which she called him a "FAT GAY PIG" and Angelina Jolie a "fag lover". She’s now suing the online columnist for $25 million for publishing her name and e-mail address, which triggered hundreds of angry letters and phone calls from fans of the gossip site. My heart bleeds for her… She’ll actually have to spend time in the same room as Perez. And while that seems a fit punishment for a homophobe, I doubt it will alter her views at all. Eh, they deserve each other.

And the winners: Michael Tracy Long and \ Michael Long Jr. This Florida father and son are each facing an animal cruelty charge for allegedly killing a neighbor's kitten with a sledgehammer. Maybe they can share a cell with Michael Vick. Gee, I wonder which guy ends up being the bottom in that ménage a trois.

Well, that’s 2008 in a bucket. A very sad, rusty, crusted, beaten bucket. I can’t wait to toss it all out come the New Year. Though I can’t imagine what will take its place. Maybe Anne Coulter and Dr. Laura will reveal their secret lesbian relationship on a very special episode of Oprah?

Well, I can dream, can’t I?