Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last Night's Top Chef Finale Was....

Completely, utterly, disgustingly meh.

Carla--How the hell do you let your bum-ass sous chef (who choked so spectacularly in the Season 3 finale that the best thing she presented all night was made by Howie "Sweat Lord" Kleinberg) talk you out of a kick-ass menu? If you don't know how to sous vide, don't do it! You rule at tarts, make tarts. Casey Thompson, you were out of line opening your mouth, you clearly don't understand the true purpose of a sous chef. Don't show up in DC. Ever. You know who pays triple at Ben's Chili Bowl? You, bitch.

Stefan--It should have been your title, and you got outcooked. What the freak. Though by the wacky Fin not winning, Season 4 chef Stephanie Izard still has the most total main competition wins (5) and the most impressive show resume by a TC champ.

The Guy Who Won--I know your name. Congrats on being the most hated winner since Season 2, and the most mediocre chef to ever win (1 individual challenge win?) And it's already being figured out that sous chef Richard Blais was largely responsible for your dishes--so much for that "I made my food" comment. Assclown.

Edited to add Casey's classy response:

Carla was not prepared and in over her head. The show did not talk about how the first course (crab) took her half of the friggin’ cooking time that day, I was left to work the rest of HER dishes.

She also did not have a plan. The ONLY thing she had in mind was a cheese course! I would NEVER do a cheese course. And where in the hell did french come from!? She is not even classically trained! It (the show) didn’t talk about how I worked on a sauce for 2 days and Carla forgot to put it on the plate… It didn’t show how the 2nd course (fish) was MINE. It didn’t show how she took the sous vide idea and decided to GRILL it last minute causing it to be tough… And it didn’t show how she WANTED to do the souffles which she does not even know how to make! That was HER food, because it certainly was me asking her how she wanted to do this and that while she was busy picking crab the entire time and making a souffle that didn’t rise!

I am done with TC. I did not influence her. She has NO ideas of her own, oh, except a cheese course.

What a cunt!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My 20 Favorite Albums

Some of my more faithful readers will recognize the bulk of the Shonen Knife review. Hey, if it's good, repeat it, I says.

1--SONIC YOUTH, A THOUSAND LEAVES--The most evocative album I've ever heard, and just the best (no Khaled). "Wildflower Soul" paints a pic of sun-splotched youth, while "Hoarfrost" is the most precise aural imitation of snowfall since Vince Guaraldi's "Skating". Throughout, Kim Gordon uses her vox like it's just another pedal on the rack.

2--SONIC YOUTH, DAYDREAM NATION--Loathe though I be to include two albums by one artist, SY demand it. If SISTER is the sound of a bunch of hyper-literate downtowners reading great books, DDN is the sound of those sharp city kids writing theirs.

3--SLAYER, HELL AWAITS--Yes, over REIGN IN BLOOD, and despite the fact that the mixing is so amateurishly harsh as to render Tom Araya's bass plucks 8-bit. The difference maker here is that while both albums shudder with horror, this one shakes like an alcoholic suffering nasty DTs (whereas RIB is a dusthead's attempts to rip every door in their apartment off the hinges): the title track plows through 74 different riffs 'cause dogs lick their balls, "At Dawn They Sleep" mimics an ever-growing hoarde of zombies, and "Praise of Death" is appealing brutality, like a drunk dude hanging out by the fridge, daring people to smack them as hard as they can.

4--STEREOLAB, SOUND DUST-- Sensuous, but never sleazy. Playful, without stooping to puerility. Jim O'Rourke prefers COBRA AND PHASES, but his touches to "The Black Arts" and "Captain Easychord" tip the scales considerably.

5--SLEATER KINNEY, ALL HANDS ON THE BAD ONE--Anyone who would write off SK as riot grrrl grate clearly never heard any of their post-debut albums. ALL HANDS galvanized what the band had established on their 3 prior records: the melodies are slick sheets, under which roil bold, brash, brainy exhortations of girls together outrageously while terse admonishments of bass-ackwards stereotypes beat the mattress from under the bed. Show 'em your riffs.

6--NAS, ILLMATIC--Take superb lyricism and marry it to bangers provided by NY's greatest producers and you have the most magnificent hip hop album of all time ever, the definition of sublime economy in a genre infamous for LP's stuffed sick with skits that feature, in some combination, drug use, simulated sex, and gunshots. While Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, Rakim and Big Pun all were mind-fucking MCs who dazzled with disgusting wordplay, no album by any of those men had the beats on ILLMATIC.

7--VINCE GUARALDI TRIO, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS--One of the most perfect half hours in TV history can only have a sonic companion of near-equal brilliance. The aforementioned "Skating" hits your chilled-red face like flakes; the legendary "Linus and Lucy" makes kids and adults alike do the Shermy. This is NOT a great X-mas album. It's a great album.

8--WU TANG CLAN, ENTER THE WU: 36 CHAMBERS--The hip hop Beatles--immediately after this album hit, everyone else sounded hopelessly lost and they had to scramble for air in a pure, stanking swamp where the music was a series of merky belches and nine utterly unique MCs popped their heads up, hammers in THEIR hands. "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" is sheer perfection, featuring the single greatest peformance by the man known as Ol' Dirty Bastard.

9--DEVO, FREEDOM OF CHOICE--The spudmen's Newest Wave, it gave the world "Whip It" but dig deeper and you're treated to addictive keyb action over which Messrs Mothersbaugh and Casale speak freely on everyday topics like love ("Snowball"), censorship imposed by forces both external and internal (the still-fresh title track),and the deterioration of the soul ("Planet Earth"). Devo were always the smartest dudes wherever they stood, and this album just proves it.

10--SHONEN KNIFE, PRETTY LITTLE BAKA GUY/LIVE IN JAPAN--If you get the latest reissue, sans the live tracks, you're missing out. The third album by these insanely loveable Japanese women is the culmination of a life spent obsessing over the Ramones, the Beatles, food and fun. The song topics are straight out of Calvin Johnson's fantasy diary: public baths, candy bars, ice cream, space travel. It's all there except the love, lust and longing, which I can totally understand, what with all the food to project your base desires onto. The live selections, from '82 to '90, are raw and revealing. The later songs are a window into the cozy world of a band of secretaries fresh off a hero's welcome in the previously-thought impenetrable American rock scene. The highlight is "Baggs" a crabby-sounding toss that namedropped Louis Vuitton a full decade and change before Kanye West. Atsuko's drumming is not only the best performance you'll hear from her in any capacity, but its insistent shuffle still sounds current amid a wealth of West Coast dance-punk racket-gangs. The '82-ers are naturally inferior in terms of recording quality, but are top-to-bottom essential nonetheless. Dinky and doinky, not too far from sounding like three tipsy bridesmaids who just threw the wedding band off the dais so they could show off what Rocket to Russia taught them.

11--NONPHIXION, THE FUTURE IS NOW--Three white dudes from the projects hook up with hip hop production royalty and spaz out over 16 tracks. In the future, everyone is coked-out, paranoid, on the run from cyborgs, reading books by the sons of William Cooper, and listening to nothing but boom-bap and metal.

12--THE BEATLES, ABBEY ROAD--The peak achievement by a band who operated at no level lower than "fucking excellent". Harrison's best songs? Check. Gnarly Lennon poetics? Why yes. McCartney as Godhead? Don't deny it. "Maxwells Silver Hammer" can be derided as fluffy, poppy (or as Harrison once said, "fruity"), sure, but if Lennon had written it critics and fans would hail it as a daring, edgy rumination on the inevitable bird shit that will drop out of the sky plop atop your head. Finally, the concluding medley is so goddamn impeccably tailored, it's like a suit(e). Listen to "The End", then come back and tell me Macca can't fucking rip. Do it.

13--BORIS, PINK--Yeah, pink. And blue. And black. And totally some orange. Veers between ruminative creepy-crawly and raucous stampede but it is never ever anything other than supremely hypnotic. So heavy you can just take the disc to keep a door open.

14--HUSKER DU, CANDY APPLE GRAY--ZEN ARCADE has the concept. What puts the Huskers' first major label foray a cut above is the presence of "Too Far Down" and "Hardly Getting Over It", two acoustic songs that let the album breathe.
Oh, and the presence of a beautiful blitzkrieg "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely".

15--METALLICA, MASTER OF PUPPETS--Each of the eight songs on Metallica's forever ulimate album contains moments that 20 plus years on jolt that area of the brain that recognizes and processes the purgative qualities of sounds. Someone coming to MOP after hearing only the material from the 90s onward will likely be surprised at the thoughtfulness these drunks put into both the musical and lyrical compositions, just like all those yobs making Youtube videos showing off their ability to play the "Damage Inc" intro on six-string guit were when they found out they were actually mimicking a severely effected bass guitar. (A top 10 song intro of all time, by the way.)

16--HELIUM, THE DIRT OF LUCK--Mary Timony is fresh out of a forgotten 80s cartoon about an ethereal, pale girl whose sweet pixieish exterior couldn't prepare you for her vicious wit and imagination. Or the fact that she could take a guitar and send you into paroxysms of ecstatic delirium. "Skeleton" made all your favorite indie rock guitar gods let loose a long, painful exhale and mutter, "Fuck!" (And still another further think, "I''m totally jacking that riff in three years.") "Pat's Trick" is one of the greatest singles of the 90s, a sweetly-sung fuck-off that doesn't flinch one inch while the guitars crash and crush around it. If A THOUSAND LEAVES is my autumn record, this is my spring record.

17--EL-P, FANTASTIC DAMAGE--Every cliche about this record is true: it sounds like robots fucking professors on top of a Blade Runner poster while someone makes a strawberry banana bile cum smoothie in the kitchen. It all sounds positively mood music, but El-P's carefully chosen and interwoven space-age samples make even the most dystopian ramble a must-repeat banger. I'll never get over how this guy fucks with drum patterns.

18--THE B-52S, THE B-52S--This list is not in order, by the way, or this would be top 5. The obnoxiously bright yellow cover is a solid indicator of what you'll hear: a Paul Lynde-ian guy speak-screeing alongside two syrupy Georgia broads, one of whom was just blessed enough to be born into the same family as an innovative guitarist who died far too young and will never actually receive his due as a maestro of the imperfect riff. But fuck that. If you come to one of my parties, I'm putting this record on. I'll give you "Rock Lobster", "52 Girls" and "Dance This Mess Around", and if you don't shake yourself to any of those songs, you're outta my fucking party.

19--PANTERA, FAR BEYOND DRIVEN--Phil Anselmo was, is and ever shall be a sanctimonious douchebag-bag (you know, the big bag you put douchebags in), but damned if he didn't come closer than any vocalist in the genre to Halford status when he was on his game. The fact that the album is so heavy yet GROOVES so effortlessly is what gives it enduring power. Could have done away with the Sabbath ballad at the end, though.

20--PAUL MCCARTNEY, MCCARTNEY II--Yeah, this guy again. Saved this for last 'cause I thought you'd give up on me otherwise. Dude does farm-charm pop--gets shat on. Dude does experimental tracks heavy on the synth--more shite. (I guarantee, Lennon came out with "Temporary Secretary" it would be recognized today as a precursor to the music of Suicide, among others. But since it's Paul, it's "crap". Oh I see.) He can't lose, you ask me. Remember that party I referenced? I'm also putting "Coming Up" on the stereo.
Utterly bewitching, if you like superior songcraft.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Week in the Life of a Caps Fan

If you ignore the Avalanche loss (which perhaps would be a bad idea--it exposed the inconsistent goaltending and defense that right now comprise the biggest obstacles standing in the way of a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals), last week was a hell of a seven-day stretch to be a Washington Capitals fan. Whether you're a vet at it like me (15 years and counting), or what Penguins fans like to call a"bandwagon idiot", having the world's greatest hockey player on a team that's actually kicking ass is a glorious combination. It's hard not to be excited, and hopeful. What else does DC have to look forward to, sports-wise? The Redskins are gonna suck again. The Wizards blow. The Nationals? Are we seriously gonna talk about the Nationals?

It all came to a head Sunday, when NBC televised an afternoon matchup between the Caps and Pens. Oh how I wanted to be at Verizon Center; to cheer, to scream, to laugh, to curse the refs, to head down the escalator to the Metro, spot some black-and-gold sweaters hanging from dejected shoulders and yell, "Russian Machine doesn't break, swear to Gah!" Washington won 5-2, and took home the moral victory too. On the ice, everyone in red was decking the dudes wearing white, facing only mild reprisal. The Pens best player, Evgeni Malkin, was a non-entity incarnate, while Sidney Crosby was subject to endless taunting and the occasional jab/smoosh. This isn't exactly new territory for the young man that the NHL has anointed their savior above all, but he never had the real best player in the league getting in his face and styling on him.

It's akin to Gretzky and Lemieux getting into a tussle, which as I can recall, never happened. It's an occurrence so beastly that even ESPN's daily battle of the blowhards, Pardon the Interruption, had to talk about it. Or mainly Wilbon talked some sense about the rivalry while Kornheiser parroted some pro-Cosby patter and admitted that his daughter loves Ovechkin. (Any Caps fan who sees Kornheiser at the VC this season has carte blanche to knock him stupider with Horn Guy's instrument.) Only the most astonishing, breathtaking of NHL events can cause the Worldwide Leader to take notice. The fact that within the span of one week, actual on-ice activity managed to crack the stained glass of Sportscenter is nothing short of incredible. No shock that both times, Alexander Ovechkin stood at the epicenter.

Wait, you don't know about what happened earlier on in the week? When Washington played Montreal?

Ovy scored only the second greatest goal of his young career, a dazzling display of skill, puck-smarts, speed, and stick-to-it-iveness that showed the interested world that here, finally, was the true greatest player in the National Hockey League. He never lived in Mario Lemieux's basement, never was given team captaincy while a teenager, doesn't have English as his first language. He just loves to play the game he's superb at, and it's about goddamn time the league had a guy who not only could operate at a maximum skill level, but also hits like a tank, runs his mouth, and celebrates goals--his, his teammates--with tackles, blown kisses, leaps, and yes, Hulk Hogan-esque crowd-baiting. He's got personality, sure, but it's more than that. It's the X factor when trying to explain why Ovechkin has surpassed Crosby.

It's duende.

Duende is a Spanish word used primarily to describe art and artists. It indicates soul, but goes beyond that. The Larousse Spanish-English Dictionary translates duende as Goblin, elf. There is also the term tenor duende, to have a certain magic. Per Christopher Maurer, editor of "In Search of Duende," the elements of duende are: "irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical." Maurer's book lists dance, music, and bullfighting as the arenas most likely to attract duende. But really, it's not hard to see it in sports as well.

John McEnroe had it; Jimmy Connors did not. Babe Ruth for sure possessed duende; not so much Roger Maris. Lebron James has it; Kobe Bryant does not. As you can see, the metaphysical concept that is duende does not apply to mere talent. The athlete visited by the "goblin" exudes this ineffable quality even in the throes of failure. Boston Globe columnist George Frazier described such a scenario perfectly: "It was what Ted Williams had even when striking out, but Stan Musial lacked when hitting a home run."

And that, friends, is what ultimately separates Ovechkin and Crosby. It is no knock on Crosby, but rather an invitation to marvel at Ovechkin. He is an anomaly in pro hockey, while Crosby is another in a long line of humble Canadians who gives assembly line answers in interviews. Even now that their feud has spilled over into the media, each man delivers what you would expect.

"What I can say about him?" Ovechkin said. "He is a good player, but he talks too much."

"Like it or lump it, that's what he does," Crosby said when asked about Ovechkin's showmanship. "Some people like it, some people don't. Personally, I don't like it."

("Like it or lump it?" How Marge Simpson of you, Sid. I guess I'm just gonna have to go get in the crawl space again!)

Those tsk-tsking Alex Ovechkin for his expressive brand of hockey need to understand that this is beyond arrogance, a sense of entitlement, or age/cultural differences. He is made of different stuff, material that fits together in only a select few men and women (oh yes...Babe Didrikson had duende. Danica Patrick, no. But hey, she's got that GoDaddy sponsorship going for her). Allow me to repeat Maurer's explanation: the elements of duende are: "irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical." It's the third element that I think gets very overlooked when evaluating Ovechkin's on-ice character, and perhaps this is borne out of respect. But the fact is that Sergei Ovechkin pushed his little brother to play hockey again after dropping out while still only a pre-teen. And the fact is that Sergei Ovechkin died without seeing Alexander play in the NHL. Knowledge of the fragility of life streaks behind Ovechkin as he makes play after incomparable play. As he irritates the traditionalists with his joyous post-score behavior. As he waves dismissively at the Boy Who Would Be King.

As he plays hockey.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peanuts Is Timeless, Pt. The Oscars Are Longer Than the Wait For Devo To Come On Stage

"Porkulus"? Say it like Charlie Brown.

Amusing, but her name's not "Heather". The specials aren't canon.

Hardcore Republicans do want failure. Actually, all politicians do, in their way.

Sports sports sports sports...Marge, Bart gets to ride up front today 'cause he's a good guy at sports!

Never mind that the soundtrack was so superb that McCartney himself said before the ceremony that "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" deserved to win.

I like when unfunny people put their names before their product. So much easier to avoid that way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Texting Burns As Many Calories As Flossing: Reflections on Gym Etiquette

After four months as a gym member, currently working out five days a week, there are certain things I've grown accustomed to. I finally feel myself to be a real member of the little Golds Gym community; I see a lot of the same folks every day, working hard to be healthy just like me. A couple of the employees know my name and greet me ("You get thinner every time I see you!" is the best compliment any human being can pay another human being ever. That's like "You are the wind beneath my wings" for people who aren't Nicholas Sparks-reading cornballs). There are certain weight machines with greater magnetic pull than others, so I no longer grow exasperated wondering when the hell that guy will get off the torso rotation machine, or how many hundred ab repetitions that chick with the eighteen-pack is gonna do.

I have also grown accustomed to breaches of gym etiquette.

These affronts to common decency are not egregious at Golds; I would wager to say that my gym may have a little less than the national average if we're totalling up member offenses. A good girlfriend of mine lives and works out in Manhattan. I cannot even fathom the horrors.

--It's considered bad form to sit on a machine between sets. I say, go ahead and sit, but keep eyes peeled for anyone who may want to "work in", and sometimes just making eye contact with someone standing nearby provides the opportunity for them to request it. If this happens, it is bad form to say "no". Your workout routine is important, but so is everyone elses.

--Wipe ya sweat. Seriously, the fact that this is not obeyed across the board 100 percent is disgusting, vile, wrong and proof that the world is overpopulated with oxygen hogs. Especially the bald you not know that your dearth of follicular growth means the sweat hits the machine unimpeded? Do you know that no one is interested in laying their head back into your sweat patch?

--Don't leave the free weights on the floor. Ladies, come on. We're better than this. It's thoughtless and unsafe.

--I've only ever heard a couple people sing along to the sounds of their MP3 player. Y'all would never want me to partake. Can you imagine me busting out some Slayer while on the treadmill?

"Bones and blood lie on the ground/Rotten limbs lie dead/Decapitated bodies found/On my wall your head!"

--People who hold on to the treadmill handrails and/or read while going at a leisurely pace on the cardio machines really are guilty of bad training etiquette. How do they expect to get maximum results if they don't obey the rules of good posture and proper exertion? You should be sweating with a heart rate 70-80% your maximum, not able to read a book or magazine.

--I will not comment on the cell phone people. I haven't seen anyone texting on a machine yet.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Smithsonian and the Presidency

AIRDATE: 4/19/89

STORY: Wherein the Peanuts gang--now with 100% more Franklin!--visit some Smithsonian museums and learn about stuff. And by "stuff" I mean fossils, planes, space, culture, and presidents. And by "presidents" I mean--Lincoln and the two Roosevelts. 8

ANIMATION: Neatly rendered, but dated in the way that Rakim's first two albums are dated; meaning that while the look is resolutely of its era, it more than holds up. 8.5

MUSIC: Imagine "Linus and Lucy" reprised to sound like the musical cues between scenes in an episode of Who's the Boss? 7.5

VOICES: The same voice actors were used for the entire miniseries, but the performances of each individual child vary from show to show. While Eric Chase was underwhelming in The Great Inventors, he shines here, giving Charlie Brown the dulled edge of cute he needs to succeed as a loser--9. Brandon Stewart remains serviceable as Linus (8), while Erica Gayle delivers a thin-sounding Lucy (7). Brittany Thornton's Sally dips to a 7; she sounds a bit too Lucy-ish. Marie Cole does Marcie well--a smart kid who sounds perpetually dumbfounded.
8. Jason Mendelson earns a 9 as P. Pat, which is no shocker. Who did make my blotchy jaw-house do the Moe Syslak was Hakeem Abdul Sanad as Franklin. This is the only Franklin who sounds like the sass-gobbed black kid who would have moved in with Fred Sanford after Lamont left and taught the crotchedy old bastard a li'l somethin' 'bout love, life, and not bein' a jive turkey if Redd Foxx had wanted to milk the great glowing cow any further.

"Charlie Brown, you so ugly we can stick your head in a blender with a banana and make us some gorilla shakes!"

Franklin didn't say that, of course, but just the thought of it makes me laugh. 9


--As part of a fifth grade field trip, my class went to the Natural History Museum. I remember virtually nothing of the journey, which is amazing considering I'm famed among my circle of friends for a fantastic memory. I had a real thing for rocks back then; I used to walk up and down my father's garden during the infertile winter months, digging for them igneous and sedimentary shits. I loved to read up on the rocks, gaze at full-color pictures, and wonder when I would ever find specimens that looked so immaculate. Not quite realizing that since I was unearthing them from a fucking field of dirt, my dream was nigh on impossible. Ah well. I still heart you, rhyolite.


"Behold, I am domino canis."


Bowler hats are so crazed they can make even a quotidian citizen like Charlie Brown seem cooler than a polar bear listenin' to Outkast in a walk-in freezer.

--Sally sharing what she knows about dinosaurs: "I did a report on the Bronchitis. He coughed a lot." Makes me laugh like a friggin' half-brain.

--Why Teddy Roosevelt and not George Washington? Why not. Schulz adored funny-sounding names. (Hence Schroeder loving "Beethoven", not "Bach".) Well, T.R. had sons named Kermit and Archibald. No funnier names exist in the history of presidential progeny. At least until Sarah Palin takes the highest office in 2012.

--You just kinda threw up in your mouth a little, didn't you?

--I don't give much stock to the adult voices in this series, but Frank Welker is fantastic throughout. From Shaggy to Santa's Little Helper, the man is a national treasure. His Lincoln sounds quite Obama, being pre-Obama and all. Isn't that how we're dividing the world these days? Pre- and post-Obama?

--Among the artifacts gawked at by our heroes are the Lunar and Command Modules of Apollo 10, which were nicknamed "Snoopy" and "Charlie Brown" (incidentally, neither are actually in the Air and Space Museum). They also gaze upon a Peanuts strip in the American History Museum (incidentally, a Peanuts panel does appear in said museum). They are stunned at these "coincidences", but little else. All I know is, I go to a museum and I see a plane named after me, or drawings of my daily routine up on the walls, I'm freaking out and holding some fossils hostage till I get some goddamn answers, goddamnit.



"Did you say 'Wright Brothers' or 'White Brothers'? This place is racist!"

--The show begins rather inauspiciously.

"The Washington Monument is really high!"

"The White House really is white!"

"Gee, the Lincoln Memorial is beautiful!"

Amazingly, Charlie Brown says the least dopey statement of the whole opening sequence. I was prepared to hear, "Golly, the Lincoln Memorial really is dedicated to that guy on the penny!"

--Later, though, while paired up with Linus as paperboys delivering a B & W to Mr. Lincoln, he asks: "Is it hard, being President, sir?" Mendelson and Melendez--they weren't terrible writers.

--They gave Lincoln a nose like the old lady in that classic optical illusion.

--To really appreciate this show, you have to try and view it through a child's mind. If you can, how much you can. You have to temporarily clear your mind of all acquired-as-an-adult unsavory knowledge about the nation's leaders.

Lincoln's incessant anxieties and chronic fear of going insane? Quite Schulzian, but have no place here. Cartoon Lincoln is dedicated to ending the Civil War and giving a memorable speech in Gettysburg. (The most applause-worthy moment of the entire half hour is that Frank Welker recites the Gettysburg Address in its entirety. A close second is the Great Depression footage shown throughout the FDR segment. It really lets children understand the destitution of those times.)

--Teddy Roosevelt was a noted hunter, soldier, environmentalist, and bookworm who cultivated an image of the ideal man that many demand their CIC exude. He was also a classist at best, believing that those who spoke English as a mama tongue (and better, were born with a pale complexion) were destined to occupy the top spot in society's hierarchy, while generally speaking, non-whites were inferior. The subtle racism of great figures is fascinating to uncover with later study, but there's no reason to throw it all at kids in one heaping helping of ambivalent character study. The best you could hope for is this early exposure to the people that shaped the country will encourage them to dig deeper.

--Hell, even seeing a drawing of The Spirit of St. Louis made me think--"Bruno Hauptmann sure got fucked, didn't he?"

Ah well. Kids know nothing of ingrained hatred, war, or scapegoating borne of media frenzy. They just know they need a laugh at the end.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Peanuts Is Timeless, Pt. Oh Hai Iz Jenn

Who knew? That Peanuts was filled with angst, negativity, and disappointment? Gee, I dunno...anyone who'd been paying attention?

Yes, it is rather obvious, isn't it? Politics is now comprised either of folks who wear blue dresses or those with zig-zag shirts. Change, my ass.

It isn't even a question, you use a Snoopy Band-Aid. Duh, dude.

It was nine years ago this past Friday that Charles Schulz passed away. I didn't do anything special on the 13th to commemorate his death, because, well, I do something special to remember him every day. I have Peanuts in my life.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Body and the Mind Are Like Any Relationship--Sometimes They Play Games With Each Other

Fibromyalgia is plenty real, of that I am convinced. What I'm not buying into is that the pharmaceutical companies need to pump out pill after pill to effectively treat this painful condition.

During my Great Breakdown of 2008, I was initially diagnosed with fibromyalgia by an ER doctor. I can't even tell you what that news does to you. No one knows what causes fibro, and no one treatment works for everyone, or even a majority of the sufferers. Being told you have fibromyalgia is more or less being told you can look forward to a lifetime of pain.

For a month I lived like this, scouring the Internet for medical articles and forums. I wanted to learn about ways sufferers made life bearable. All I saw was a lot of people on more medication than is safe. It took a visit to a local rheumatologist to discern that I did not have fibro. I did not have the tell-tale pressure points pain, for one. My blood work showed a negative ANA test. Which was cool; but it took another month to find out what exactly was up with me.

What lifted me out of that mephitic swamp? Therapy. Given the "murky" nature of fibromyalgia, why don't physicians encourage their patients towards counseling instead of immediately scribbling on some paper? I think some fibro sufferers need to start insisting on it.

Happy Valentines

Whatever you do or don't do on this special day, I'll be armed with a spiral notebook and pen, going through my boxes of Snoopy collectibles and taking inventory. Looking forward to relocation this year (hopefully Montgomery County), and these babies will take up even more space than the furniture.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

As a Parting Gift, Please Accept This Middle Finger, Upraised With Great Insouciance


Make it last this time, asshole! And don't even think of coming back, and definitely not to the Vikings. Tarvaris Jackson sucks goose eggs, but not so much that the fanbase would even consider rooting for you.

That said, I wish you a long, fulfilling post-retirement life. That way you'll be able to see Peyton Manning shatter every NFL record you own. Except the interceptions. Yeah, I think that one's safe for a while.

This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Great Inventors

AIRDATE: 3/10/89

(My apologies that this came a day later than promised. The rest of the reviews are in various stages of completion and will meet their deadlines. Swear to Snoopy.)

Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson did not hone his bones with neurotic children. When he approached Charles Schulz to do a mini-documentary on his great creation, Mendelson had already crafted San Francisco Pageant (a Peabody-winning retrospective on the San Francisco World's Fair) as well as A Man Named Mays, dedicated to one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. Having just done a piece on a legendary sportsman, Mendelson saw the next step in the trajectory as a look at the worst sportsman (or sportsboy) in all the wild--Charlie Brown.

After 20+ years of holiday-themed specials, the Peanuts team decided to produce an educational film on American history. After discovering that their collective reach exceeded their grasp, the first-ever animated miniseries was born: This is America, Charlie Brown, an eight-part look at some of the key moments that shaped the grand land.

STORY: The Great Inventors concentrates on some of the more significant inventions thought up by American minds: the light bulb, the phonograph, the phone, and the car. This is America was meant to be "edutainment", meaning that you learn but you don't get bored in the process. At least that's the ideal outcome. We also must not let it slip our mind grapes that Boogie Down Productions had an album called Edutainment. So, does this special shine as it teaches, much like the song "Blackman in Effect", or does it confuse, bore and annoy, much like R.E.M.'s "Radio Song"?

The concept is novel: the Peanuts boys and girls are giving oral reports at school on famous inventions, then the action segues to the relevant time period, where the child is then inevitably doing a report for school on a wholly personable and accommodating genius (seriously, Edison would have snapped some nosy kids left arm clean the fuck off if they'd brought that, "Gee, Mr. Edison, I'm writing for school about you, can I watch you work?" crap). In simple language, the animated versions of these great men explain the thought process as to why their invention is necessary and the progress they've made. The viewer is then treated to the voila! moment of consummation.

It's all very educational and not dull. But it's a tad disappointing as well. I expect untrammelled brilliance from anything that bears the name Schulz. Maybe the fact that the resplendent man himself did not write any of the scripts in this miniseries--those duties went to Mendelson and Bill Melendez--affected the overall quality, making for a very watchable, non-heinous group of specials. But Peanuts shows are, at their zenith, more than "very watchable". They're side-splitting and excogitative. Repeated viewings are cause to revisit delightful lines and moments that stay in you like DNA, as well as opportunities to uncover new joys that you may have missed before.

I had only watched The Great Inventors once on DVD before last night, when I stuck the disc back in the playa for review purposes. Meanwhile, I'll watch A Charlie Brown Christmas seven or eight times this year. 7.5

ANIMATION: Not precisely cracker-crisp, but nor is it wafer-thin. Impressive variety of colors, and honest renderings of period homes, clothing, and furniture. Only a 9, though, because Snoopy's mouth is doing some weird shit.

MUSIC: David Benoit is to Vince Guaraldi as Tom Tom Club was to Talking Heads. No dis at all, 'cause Tom Tom Club made "Genius of Love", which most of us agree is so fuckin' funky it makes Bootsy Collins seem like Pat Boone (glory b!). Benoit has the expected jazzy piano and horn-blasted patriotic huzzahs as his Get out of Jail Free card, a constant sonic undercurrent that keeps tedium at bay. 8

VOICES: Kids-only edition. Given deliberately unspectacular lines, the gathering deliver uniformly appropriate performances. Starting it off, Brittany Thornton's Sally is a jerky-while-trying-to-be-authoritative 9. Erin Chase earns 7.5 as Blockhead, while his best pal Linus (brought to you by Brandon Stewart), is a genuinely childish 8 (many times the producers skewer towards the mature-sounding kids for an underage sage such as Linus). Marie Wise is a nice 9 as Marcie, although you can tell if she were given a larger role, the show would have lost serious momentum. Her voice simply doesn't have that flavor. Marcie's sassy sidekick, voiced by probable producer progeny Jason Mendelson, is a typical 10, pulling off the line of the night: "Hey, that's neat!"


Sally's report, fittingly, deals with more "frivolous" inventions: pizza pie, sneakers, sports, comic strips. All the better for Snoopy to do his show and tell, which naturally provides the show with its moments of highest comedy.

Her unwilling love interest, Linus, naturally traffics in loftier stuff: the phone, trains, typewriters. And his class gets a screen to show slides! When you're in grade school, the older kids always have the cool shit you don't, so they suck. Then when you get to the next grade, you can't even appreciate the cool shit, 'cause now they've moved on to and got the even cooler shit!


Putting the kids in the middle of the action makes these moments of near-unfathomable historical import more relateable to the kids these programs aim to teach. This could have been done quite poorly, revising history to a ridiculous extreme for the sake of a laugh, but the events fold true to documentation, and the children are awed observers rather than irksome meddlers or fortuitously placed onlookers. Points for acknowledging that Edison did not invent electric light (that was Humphry Davy, 1809), but rather perfected a 50-year-old idea, finally making electric light practical for home use.

Not that there aren't liberties taken, namely during the segment dealing with the first ever car race. I mean, I seriously doubt that history overlooked the "Snoopmobile" entry. I can, however, buy that at one time Snoopy drove his doghouse into the back of a horse-drawn carriage. That friggin' dog. Aw, but we love him. He wears Chucks!


"I only ate the peformance enhancers 'cause I thought they were Chiclets."

"'I figured it out by hiding behind a bathroom stall at school, where I heard you tell your friend Biff exactly how you'd done it!' What the...this is the worst Encyclopedia Brown ever!"

--"The mornin' sun is shining like a red rubber baaaaaaaalll!"

"So while you half-brains were cooped up in here slaving over the push-button hammer, I invented something called a 'strap-on'! This kid in the green will love me for it when she gets older."

--Yes. Yes. Yes. There are honest-to-Isis adult beings in this, as well as all the parts of the miniseries. I have no issue with this. It's absolutely necessary to make the very concept work. The adults must be animated, and they must not be given the wah-nky voices associated with Peanuts specials. They must be coherent for the sake of teaching the viewer about these events. And how can you hate on Alexander Graham Bell's Scottish accent? Next Irvine Welsh novel, that will totally be the male voice in my head while I read the text (replacing the drunk Scot I met in England at ATP 2006. "We're in Room 101. George Orwell, right?" And I swear a Scottish accent makes "George Orwell" sound like "Jim Jarmusch").

However, not everyone understands. To these folk, the presence of adults is anathema to what they imagine Peanuts to be all about. Over at IMDB, it's considered a lapse in judgment at best, and "sacrilege" at worst.

So what should they have done? Just shown kids reading reports with no dramatic action? Should the kids have dressed up to represent the inventors? Linus with a handlebar moustache?

Mr. Schulz not credited as a writer does not mean they trampled his baby. Anything released with the Peanuts brand had to have the great man's pre-approval. If he was fine with clear-speaking adults, no one else has any reason for beef. Thus, it's not in any way "sacrilege", and you'd have to be a semi-coherent dung beetle to think so. And if anyone reading this does in fact believe that they know better than the creators of the fucking shows themselves, and gets turned off by what I'm saying, way too bad. Your belief is idiotic, and it's time someone told you so.

Have a great day otherwise.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What the Future Holds, Peanuts Edition

It's no surprise that the most-read posts on this blog are the Peanuts reviews. Where else on the Net can you find such a winning combination of in-depth analysis, humor, and screen caps?

The top 5 most popular Peanutty posts on Trapper Jenn MD are:

5. You're In the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown
4. She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown
3. You're In Love, Charlie Brown
2. It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Numbers one and five aren't surprising; the former is the most beloved of all the CB specials, and the latter was linked on UniWatch on Super Bowl day. The meat does take me aback, though; it shows me that folks browsing are really curious to read about Peanuts shows that aren't so well-known by the mass.

Going over my checklist today, I thought I'd update you guys on my future reviews. So here we go.

The Great Inventors--February 11, 2009
The Smithsonian and the Presidency--February 16, 2009
It's Magic, Charlie Brown--March 24, 2009
You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown--April 5, 2009
You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown--April 5, 2009
It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown--April 11, 2009
The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad--May 10,2009
The Music and Heroes of America--May 25, 2009
It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown--June 5, 2009
Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown--June 9, 2009
It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown--June 22, 2009
The Birth of the Constitution--July 4, 2009
The NASA Space Station--July 20, 2009
He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown--August 26, 2009
Snoopy's Reunion--September 15, 2009
Why, Charlie Brown, Why?--October 7, 2009
The Mayflower Voyagers--November 11, 2009
He's a Bully. Charlie Brown--November 20, 2009
The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk--December 17, 2009

Holy crap, the next one is in two days!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Peanuts Is Timeless, Pt. Die Grammys Die

Which is of course German for, "The Grammys the."

Just a reminder, Snoopys Reunion out on DVD April 7th.

Once again, Japan is winning. Whether humiliating a comedian by making him attend a mock press conference where his ex-wife is announcing her remarriage to another, older comedian, or getting all the cool Nintendo shit early, it's impossible to not admire the Land of the Rising. I hereby beseech any natives with Flickr accounts to upload shots of these ads when possible.

Dude was nicknamed after two cartoon characters and still sucked at life.

I had no idea that the Puppy Bowl took place in Silver Spring. Or that a beagle won MVP, but you know, first Uno now Matilda, Snoopy's legions know no end to the glory.

The 33rd anniversary of Vince Guaraldi's death was marked this past week, and one man went out to find the spot where Guaraldi lived his last moments, and where he was laid to rest.

of football gag references. I cannot believe the DTV switch has had to be moved to June. I seriously thought this country was showing some greater mass intelligence. They have been running the fucking ads for months.

There's no way I'm not listening to this.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Only Poetry Post Ever on This Blog

Done per special request, these are some selections from a lyric game that me and some friends do. The idea is to write some insulting, funny stanza. Points given for rudeness, crudeness, vocabulary, and humor. These are my selections:

Several vaginas line up in a b boy stance
Grape pits and ape sh!ts mark the shirt stains
Unbelievably cast in the role of a tolerable
Human being with a straw nose, porkpie face, and bucket ears
You're worse than a rapist with a stutter
A murderer with bad credit
A vegan with a budget
I can't feel you
I yearn to rip your nose hairs out and glue them together
For no fuckin' reason
That's why you exist

With the alphabet I get pimp as hell
Nas is better than Tom's favorite MC, it ain't hard to tell
But you say, "Oh well"
Like you dropped down a bucket and pulled up an orgasm
I can't fathom the spasm
You got opinions, fantastic, every idiot has 'em
I call up a friend and make some chocolate cake
You try to make a sandwich, but you make a mistake
You don't put the bread in the middle, asshole!
I beat you upside the head with a tuna casserole
Now I'm getting hungry, I gotta exit stage center
Jenn The Benn the winner, I'm what's for dinner

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shakes Your Hand, Then Punches You in the Face

It really is pretty amazing, being a Minnesota Vikings fan. I don't refer to the fact that geographically it makes no sense for me to root for the purple and gold, being a lifelong resident of Maryland, but most people in my neck of the woods root for a Pennsylvania football team anyway. Rather it's the fact that Minnesota shares, along with the Buffalo Bills, some rarefied air: 0 for 4 in Super Bowls.

My brother-in-law, who won two Bowls as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the 70s, says that basically the Vikings won their conference four years, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, he won two Super Bowls. Winners can afford to advise the less-fortunate on the value of the moral victory.

Last weekend was supposed to be a bit of vindication for the two unluckiest conference champs in the sports history. The Hall of Fame would be announcing its newest inductees, and sure to top the list were a Bill, monstrous defensive end Bruce Smith, and a Viking, gracefully devastating wide receiver Cris Carter. So imagine my shock and apall when the ESPN2 scroller showed that while Smith indeed made it...Carter did not.

My initial disbelief was tempered by the justice that longtime Vikes guard Randall McDaniel was voted a Hall of Famer. 12 Pro Bowl selections in 14 years, 9-time First Team All-Pro, a spot on the League's 1990s All-Decade Team, and the lynchpin of the mighty Purple o-line of the late 90s. Well deserved.

As far as Cris Carter, hell, I guess this is going to be another Art Monk situation. Although Monk had nowhere near Carters stats. Third in all-time receptions, second in TD receptions, eight Pro Bowls, and, like Mr. McDaniel, a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team. Know the only receiver to record two 120+ catch seasons? Carter. Who mentored Randy Moss? Carter. Who would have won Super Bowl MVP in 1999 if Robert Smith wouldn't have kept running out of bounds and stopping the clock in the last minutes of the NFC Championship, thereby giving the Atlanta Falcons ample time to kick a game-winning field goal? Carter! Stupid fucking Broncos!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christ, You're Eternal

Sonic Youth's new album, The Eternal, will be released on June 9th of this year. Coincidentally (or not), this date will also mark the 25th wedding anniversary of founding members Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Makes me love the title that much more, actually.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Peanuts Is Timeless, Pt. Football Fever Has Passed

So now, I can return to blogging.

Basically. There is of course a pro-Garfield counterpoint, which falsely claims that no Snoopy video game is worthwhile. Snoopy vs the Red Baron for PS2 had a goddamn pumpkin gun.

This post is kinda all over the place. And yeah, the Cardinals are total Chucks. Put a zig zag on 'em.

Hallmark is also selling Astronaut Snoopy to celebrate the anniversary.