Friday, December 19, 2008

Good riddance

Keeping this pithy...2009 can not get here fast enough. Good riddance, 2008!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008 Real Grammy Awards

The year in music is, for all intents and purposes, over. I have to say that as far as my particular tastes go, it wasn't the greatest year for music overall. But here are my picks for the best of. If you want some reference as to why I am posting this, please refer to my original Real Grammy Awards post from February 2008, for a detailed explanation.

This time around, I've created some new categories because, well, these are my awards and I can do as I please. I took the various pop vocal categories and combined them into Best Vocal Performance...male, female, group, whatever. It is exactly what it says...not necessarily the best songs or artists, but best vocal performance. Only two rock categories...Rock Album, and then Rock Performance, which takes into account the quality of the songwriting, production, "catchiness" and vocals...combining elements of the record, song and vocal categories at the traditional Grammy Awards. Best and Worst Live Performance are taken from my concert-going experiences this year. Best Surprise details those artists whose releases I either wasn't aware of, wasn't overly excited about or was expecting to be somewhat "eh" but who turned out to release solid albums. Worst Surprise exposes those whose albums I was looking forward to and turned out to be duds.

So here we go...

Record of the Year
I Can’t Hold You – Dan Wilson
Light On – David Cook
What About Now – Daughtry

Broken – Lifehouse
Underneath – Alanis Morissette
Sweet and Low – Augustana
Pork & Beans – Weezer
Rise Above This – Seether
Won’t Go Home Without You – Maroon 5
Inside the Fire – Disturbed

(I'm calling a tie because I just couldn't decide between these two, so it's an American Idol coup here.)

Song of the Year
Ordinary – Tim Warren & Eric Donnelly (The Alternate Routes)
Shine – Anna Nalick
Pork & Beans – Rivers Cuomo (Weezer)
Underneath – Alanis Morissette & Guy Sigsworth (Alanis Morissette)
Broken – Jason Wade (Lifehouse)
Grace – Jonathan Kingham

(Songwriters listed...performer in parentheses if different. Phenomenal song from a phenomenal album. For some ungodly reason, they had to create a special "radio re-mix" for the commercial single. What was wrong with the original?)

Album of the Year
3 Doors Down – 3 Doors Down
Forever More - Tesla
Light It Up – Rev Theory
District Line – Bob Mould
Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt – Augustana
Flavors of Entanglement – Alanis Morissette
Heavy Weighs the King – I Nine

(Perfect blend of melodies, harmonies, pop, rock, thoughtful lyrics, and everything else needed to be the find of the year. See "Best Surprise" category for more.)

Best New Artist
Rev Theory
Jonathan Kingham
David Cook
Jordin Sparks

(It was a real stretch to even include this category this year. Not a great year for new artists in my book. Rev Theory wins a landslide here. The other three I only included because they each had a couple good songs and they'

Vocal Performance
Grace – Jonathan Kingham
Where Will You Go – Kip Winger
I Can’t Hold You – Dan Wilson
Light On – David Cook
Forever – Live
Tattoo – Jordin Sparks
Broken – Lifehouse
Stand – Candlebox
Not As We – Alanis Morissette
What About Now – Daughtry
Star – Extreme
Shine – Anna Nalick
Sweet and Low – Augustana
In This Life – Delta Goodrem

(Didn't care for much of the album, but the guy can sing. Kudos to Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame and new go-to songwriter, Brian Howes, for co-writing a great song that showcases Cook's abilities.)

Rock Performance
Inside the Fire – Disturbed
Stand – Candlebox

Star – Extreme
Rise Above This – Seether
Nine Lives – Def Leppard
Let It Die – Foo Fighters
Pork & Beans – Weezer
Saints of Los Angeles – Motley Crue

(Didn't know these guys were coming back, wouldn't have cared, never liked their old kick ass rock song.)

Rock Album
3 Doors Down – 3 Doors Down
Forever More - Tesla
Light It Up – Rev Theory
Songs From the Sparkle Lounge – Def Leppard
Chinese Democracy – Guns N’ Roses
Into the Sun – Candlebox

(After a career of radio-friendly hits that I enjoyed for the most part, but that never overwhelmed me, 3 Doors Down surprised me with a solid album of rock tunes. Of course, it turns out to be their worst-selling album to date.)

Worst Song
Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis
No One – Alicia Keys
Love Song – Sara Bareilles
Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield
Realize – Colbie Caillat
Too Drunk – Buckcherry
Teardrops on My Guitar – Taylor Swift
Say – John Mayer
All Summer Long – Kid Rock
Boots of Chinese Plastic – The Pretenders
Mercy – Duffy
New Soul – Yael Naim
Something in Your Mouth – Nickelback
That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings
Chasing Pavements - Adele
Empty Walls – Serj Tankian

(In what was overall a mediocre year for Jeremy music, I couldn't pick one standout shitbomb this year. In her defense, Fergie did have singles out this year, but I am not familiar with them. I'm sure they sucked worse than anything on this list though.)

Best Live Performance
Bon Jovi – MGM Grand Arena
Puddle of Mudd/Cinder Road – The Joint
Poison/Sebastian Bach/Dokken – The Pearl
Toad the Wet Sprocket – House of Blues
Shaw-Blades – Aliante Station Hotel & Casino

(Took a chance and broke my rule about not paying more than $40 for a concert. Great move. After 22 years, I figured it was time to give Bon Jovi a shot, since I really liked their latest CD. For $76, I got a lengthy 2 hours plus of awesome hit songs, great vocals, great energy, great song selection...hands down best of the year.)

Worst Live Performance
Live – House of Blues
Daughtry – MGM Grand Garden Arena
Natasha Bedingfield/The Veronicas – House of Blues
Alanis Morissette – The Joint

(I took a chance on an artist I don't really like...mostly because I wanted to see the opening act. Turns out, they both sucked fish. The Veronicas song selection was awful and Nastaha Bedingfield is just a bunch of noise in my opinion. The only concert I've ever walked out on in the middle. In Bedingfield's defense, I am not her audience, so I'm probably not best qualified to judge her music.)

(1/17/09 EDIT TO THE ABOVE) - how did I forget the Warrant fiasco of last summer? A disgustingly inebriated Jani Lane warbling through the lyrics to an entire set's worth of 80's hard rock tunes. My apologies to Ms. Bedingfield...obviously Warrant takes the cake in this category. Hers was only the worst SOBER live performance.

Best Surpise
Guns N’ Roses
Alanis Morissette
3 Doors Down
Bob Mould
The OffSpring

(Guns, Tesla and Offspring have all had awesome albums before. Alanis and 3 Doors have had songs here and there I thought were awesome. Candlebox's CD was really 4 amazing songs with the rest being just OK. So it came down to Mould and Augustana. I wasn't aware that either was releasing new CD's this year until they were out. Augustana's hit single "Boston" from their first CD was OK...but the album didn't really resonate with me. See the "Album of the Year" category for more on why this was the surprise find for me.)

Worst Surprise
Suzie McNeil
Theory of a Deadman
Snow Patrol

(In fairness, I didn't listen to all the full songs from all these CDs. But, from what I did hear, they all clearly missed the mark in my book. I simply had the highest expectations for McNeil's sophomore effort (see February's Grammy blog post). For some reason the "na-na" cheerleader sound that Avril Lavigne utilized on her latest album, seems to be in vogue. McNeil needs to go back to the kick-ass power pop and classic rock ballads from her debut. Emphasis on her amazing vocal ability. Not being the principal songwriter on her material, it's possible McNeil doesn't deserve all the credit for the first CD, nor all the blame for this mess.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The End of Boston Legal

The TV series, Boston Legal, ended this week. I started out watching it every week, but gave up on it the past couple of seasons. I figured I'd check back in for the series finale. It pretty much went out true to form...a show that could have been an amazing television drama, but instead was morphed into some kind of surreal, satirical dramedy. James Spader burst onto The Practice during the 2003-2004 final season of that show. He single-handedly took a dying show and brought it back to life, allowing it to go out in a blaze of glory. This wasn't any more evident than in the 3-episode story arc in the middle of the season during which Spader's Alan Shore defended a childhood friend, Paul Stewart, played by Patrick Dempsey, against murder charges. These three episodes, with other guest appearances by Ed Asner, Jill Clayburgh and most notably, Betty White, represented some of the best dramatic television I've ever watched. Keep in mind, this was before Grey's Anatomy, so the last thing of note that Patrick Dempsey had done was "Can't Buy Me Love." His performance here was awesome, as was Spader's...laying the groundwork for what should have been one of the most interesting characters on TV - Alan Shore. Everything about the story was dead on...right up until the final moments with Dempsey and Spader in their childhood treehouse, where, after getting Stewart acquitted of all charges, Alan Shore comes to the startling realization that his childhood friend was actually guilty. Probably the best ending to any television episode ever.

Spinning off The Practice into Boston Legal, David E. Kelley had the opportunity to explore the unbelievable emotional complexities of Spader's character. But instead, the show spiraled into a comedic mess, making a mockery out of what could have been riveting television. And the seemingly life-altering incident depicted in the above-mentioned story from The Practice was never mentioned again, despite Betty White reprising her role of Catherine Piper on Boston Legal. That character was turned into a complete and utter farce, and Alan Shore apparently got over the shocking deceit by his friend, not to mention all of his past emotional issues. What a waste.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shaw-Blades (concert review)

Went to see Tommy Shaw (of Styx and Damn Yankees) and Jack Blades (of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees) perform an acoustic set tonight at Aliante Station Hotel & Casino. These two have been singing together for a number of years in Damn Yankees, on each others' solo records and as Shaw-Blades, which has to date, recorded two albums together...the latest being a collection of covers from the 60's and 70's. Incredible performance. A little bit of everything as far as the set list went...Styx, Damn Yankees, Night Ranger and some classic cover songs. The vocal harmonies were spot on...both guys sound like they could be 25 years old. Also some kickin lead guitar from Tommy Shaw. Hard to pick a best performance of the night. The encore was a little weak, but I have to say, as someone who detests almost all Christmas music, I'll give them that their rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was among the non-suckiest versions of that song that I've heard. When you sound good, you sound good. I don't see any upcoming tour dates posted, but if they come around to wherever you are, I'd highly recommend checking them out. I'd also recommend both of the Shaw-Blades albums, "Hallucination" and "Influence."

ILike Widget

For those of you who haven't checked out the music site, ILike, it's a cool place to kill some time looking for and listening to some tunes. Its software also integrates with other sites/applications such as ITunes, myspace, facebook...and obviously now I've added the ILike widget to EUtS over here on the right --->. Right now, I have posted some of my favorite songs of 2008. These are in no particular order and do not necessarily represent my top 17 songs of the year, but it's just a sampling of songs that were available in full form on ILike. I'll post my Jerammy nominations in a few weeks, but for now, this should be a good indication of what has a chance of appearing on that list. As for the actualy Grammy nominations...I just have no words. Wait...I do have one...JOKE. I think I used that word last year though. Oh well. I'll have to get my hands on a good thesaurus for future years.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Return of EUtS

Well, I stopped blogging because only like 2 people were ever reading these posts, but the clamoring for more (read: 1 person) has spurred on the return of Everything Under the Sun. I promise that this relaunch will provide bigger, better, faster, more thought provoking, sexier, and altogether tastier tidbits of insightful thought. OK not really, but I felt that there should be some kind of grand re-entrance. So hide the kids...I'm back!

So what happened since my last post? The Devil Rays (sorry...the RAYS) won me my baseball betting money back, but then failed miserably at making me any kind of measurable profit. The world economy has decided to teeter on the edge of utter collapse. Terrorist attacks in India. Oh...and yeah, some dude was elected president. Obviously, one can see why I've had nothing to write about. Or, if I'm using proper grammar...nothing about which to write. That just sounds so stupid though.

Yes, I voted for Obama. No, I am not mesmerized by his mere existence. I do not think he's the second coming. And I definitely did not have tears in my eyes when the election was called in his favor. The honest truth is, I fell asleep. Yes, my cherished liberals, our country was on the verge of an earth-shattering, history-making, potentially life-altering occurrence, and I dozed off with the TV on...only to open my eyes mere moments after the landmark announcement had been made. I was disappointed for about half a second...then I was like OK...not really that much of a surprise here. Even the snowballs in hell were laughing at McCain during the last couple months of the race. To further underscore the middle ground nature of my political leanings (do I actually "lean" if I'm in the middle?), I watched the election night coverage on my cable news network of choice, FOX News. Yes, that's right, a registered Democrat...who voted for the savior Bill O'Reilly every night and prefers the slightly red network over the others. It happens. Although Sean Hannity can kiss my ass. I have no use for pundits and analysts who only ever agree with one side. That drastically decreases your odds of being right, because I guarantee you, neither the right nor the left always has the answers. Let's just hope and pray that for the foreseeable future, with a Democratic-controlled White House and Congress, the left has most of them. I'm not convinced yet.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

End of the World Part II

Since my lamenting on the dearth of listenable music being released this year...and the gratifying purchase of the surprisingly great 3 Doors Down album, a couple more enjoyable, melodic nuggets have come to my attention and made their way to my ITunes collection.

Previously unknown to me, and likely the majority of others, the band Rev Theory released a rocking album, "Light It Up." A nice find.

I also downloaded six tunes from "Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace," the latest from The Offspring. I wrote last time that this was one of the new releases I was looking forward to...and it delivered. Didn't quite get sold on the entire album, but it's easily their best collection since "Ixnay on the Hombre." They show a much wider diversity in sound than on previous efforts, but don't lose the sharp melodies.

Lastly, the surprise of the year so least for me..."Flavors of Entanglement" by Alanis Morissette. Never been a die-hard fan, but she's had enough great songs over the years to pique my curiousity...probably some that I should have bought but didn't. I think this is her best, top-to-bottom, since Jagged Little Pill. While she flanks a more over-produced set than most of her singer-songwriter counterparts, it works. The voice is strong as ever, the quirky and insightful lyrics remain, and the melodies and rhythms treat the ear well. The first single, "Underneath" may be my early vote for Record of the Year...albeit one that has no shot at consideration. Alanis may have lost the bulk of her commercial bankability, but this one is well-worth the $12.99.

Granted, there have been a lot of misfires since my last posting. New albums by Coldplay, Aimee Mann, Weezer, Disturbed, Gavin Rossdale, Jakob Dylan...all fell flat in my opinion. But the gems I've found from various unexpected sources have begun to encourage me that all is not lost for music 2008.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Deaf Jaguar

No, I'm not starting a cheesily-named tribute band to pay homage to my favorite rockers of all time. I'm literally hoping that jaguars can't hear. Because if they can, they might be as irritated as I am that suddenly people can't seem to pronounce their names correctly.

As with the previously blogged about acronym debacle, this is a new development in the butchering of the English language - or at least one I hadn't noticed until now. Over the past year, I've noticed that a lot of people are referring to the spotted cat (or the luxury car brand name) as a jag-WIRE. Do you see the letter "I" anywhere in this word?

The ultimate offense occurred when I heard a radio commerical for a local Jaguar dealership, and the narrator made the above-mentioned gaff. Granted, it sounded like it was just one of those live reads by the station talent and not a professionally produced spot, but still - how embarassing for the dealership that their own advertisement doesn't even know how to pronounce what it's supposed to be selling. That's assuming that the folks at the dealership even know the correct pronunciation.

Score another one for the English-speaking public.

The End of the World As We Know It?

It was beginning to feel that way, looking at my ITunes purchases for the year and considering the music I had taken a pass on as of April. As of April 28, I had downloaded exactly 2 new singles, which both happened to be ITunes free singles of the week, and 1 new album - the surpisingly good "District Line" by Bob Mould. There was also "Good and Reckless and True," another great find, this one by The Alternate Routes, but that was released in 2007. Granted, my musical tastes are admitedly narrow, but comparing apples to apples - I had made about 740 ITunes song downloads since I started using the service in late 2004 - roughly 240 per year!

Leave it to my favorite band of all time to (hopefully) signal a turnaround in this dismal musical landscape. "Songs From the Sparkle Lounge" is nowhere close to being Def Leppard's greatest work ever. But, for once, the band made a cheesy statement like, "We're putting out something edgier" or "The sound is similar to (insert huge 80's album here)" or whatever it was they said, and you can actually see that they made a concerted effort to rock out. The album's growing on me.

That very same day, I discovered the new Augustana album, "Can't Love, Can't Hurt." Like with Mould's release, I had no idea that this CD was coming out, nor would I have been anticipating it even if I had. It turned out to be a great collection of songs. Since then, there have been a couple other albums that were not great total packages, but which yielded a few choice cuts each. And then, using the handy Amazon gift card given by my brother as a birthday gift, I gobbled up the latest from 3 Doors Down. These guys are nothing if not consistent (OK, they're more cookie-cutter than a cloning laboratory). But this was the first time I ever bought an album of theirs...and it actually kicks some ass. By the way, Amazon's music downloading service is a nice alternative to ITunes since they don't use that annoying Digital Rights Management encoding to prevent you from sharing the songs with others or even playing them on your own damn IPod.

So I'll overlook all the musical misses from this year so far. The old schoolers who showed their age - both expected (REM and Bryan Adams), could have gone either way (Sheryl Crow) and disappointing (Dokken) and the modern set who didn't quite make the grade (Theory of Deadman, Marie Digby, countless others I can't remember). And I'll hold out hope for the rest of the year...there's a lot of catching up to do. Next on tap - Weezer, Aimee Mann and The Offspring. Here's hoping the Leps added enough "Sparkle" for a true turnaround.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Free Shit

Trent Reznor is making the entire new Nine Inch Nails album available for free download on their Web site,, thanking the fans for continued support over the years - a noble gesture for sure.

One listen, and it's not hard to tell why it's free. Thanks Trent.

In other news, I'm going to skin a coyote alive, record its gutteral screams and make the MP3 available on this blog. No, don't worry about the royalties...this one is on me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Acronyms and Coffee

OK, so what's the common thread in the title of this post? The Final Jeopardy category is, "Things That Are Annoying Me at the Moment."

The "answer" is - Jeremy is annoyed by people who don't know THIS.

The correct Jeopardy response would be, "What is...what is the definition of an acronym and also that you're supposed to ask someone before refilling their coffee cup?"

Give yourself $10,000 if you had the correct response written down.

To clarify...I've been noticing A LOT lately, that no freakin body knows what an acronym is. Even people I consider to be extremely intelligent regarding grammar don't know. Let me enlighten you (and by "you" I mean the zero people who read this blog). "FBI" is not an acronym. "NYPD" is not an acronym. HTML is not an acronym. These are ABBREVIATIONS, people! An acronym is an abbreviation formed by intials that is regularly pronounced as a word. Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome forms the acronym, AIDS. Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus forms SCUBA. These are acronyms.

Now, the coffee thing. Let it be said that I am not much of a coffee drinker. That is to say, I am not eagerly anticipating the day when Starbucks is commercially available for dispensation via a personal IV drip. I drink it once in a while...and never at home. So it is usually a waiter or waitress who is bringing said coffee to me. These service people seem to think that the onus is upon them to follow up my initial cup with enough of the caffeinated drink to drown all of Columbia. Here's a tip...if there is still brown liquid in my cup, do not pour any more into it. If I have not asked you for a refill, do not pour any more into my cup. And under no circumstances should you transform yourself into a coffee-serving ninja who can pour coffee into my cup from 20 yards away without me ever knowing you're there. I rarely drink more than one cup of coffee at a time, and when you pour additional coffee into my cup, it ruins the meticulously calculated ratio of liquid to sugar that I had perfected.

And while we're at it, if I order dessert and coffee, this means that I desire to enjoy these treats TOGETHER. Do not bring my coffee 15 minutes prior to the dessert, as it will be ice cold by the time my final course arrives.

That folks...are the things that are annoying me right now.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bon Jovi

Concert Review: Bon Jovi and Daughtry - MGM Grand Garden Arena 4/12/08

So it only took me 22 years to get around to seeing Bon Jovi live in concert. It was worth the wait, if not the $76 I spent on the ticket (way past what I would normally consider spending for a concert). I made an exception since this was one of those bands that I felt I should see once before I die (or more accurately, before THEY die). I was actually looking forward to seeing Daughtry - what I thought was a solid opening act. They were very disappointing. But the Jovis made up for that misstep. Read below for more:


First off, I missed the first song...not Mr. Daughtry's fault. MGM has the entry to the arena set up extremely poorly, so it takes like 10 minutes for the herd of fans to get inside. And of course, this was the only concert in freaking history that started exactly at the posted time. When I entered, they were starting "Breakdown" - not even one of my favorite tracks from their CD, but it sounded great.

Grade through most of first two songs: A-

Things started to go south towards the end of the next song, "What About Now" - my favorite song of theirs. It started off amazing, with a build from piano to a hard chorus. Then Mr. Daughtry inexplicably inserted a piece of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" in the middle of the song. Note to everyone involved in the music industry in any way: DON'T DO THIS! If you're doing a cover song, do it. If you're not, then don't

Annoying habit of inserting pieces of cover tunes into other songs: F (done twice by both Daughtry AND Bon Jovi...ugh!)

Annoying habit of recording versions of songs containing high notes that you can't hit in real life: F

Mr. Daughtry relied heavily on his backing vocalists for the high parts...which I guess is OK if you can HEAR the backing vocals. But it's just annoying when you realize that singers can't really sing like they do on CD. More annoying was that Chris' voice was otherwise really strong, and the band sounded great, but this detracted from the overall performance.

Finale: F-

The last two songs were ones I had never heard of...or at least I couldn't recognize them through the ear-shattering screaming vocals. This was one of the worst endings to a concert set I've ever seen and completely ruined the entire thing for me. I'm really hoping we hear better from these guys in the future.

Overall grade: C

Bon Jovi

They played for 2h 13m...longer than I've seen an act do in quite some time. When you're charging what they are, that is a very good thing. It's amazing to see the wealth of great songs these guys have amassed. When you can play "Born to Be My Baby" the second song in and then go right into "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Raise Your Hands," you know your set list is stacked. I guess there was a brief segment of the show where things got a little less than exciting, but for the most part, it rocked all the way through. JBJ exclaimed at about the 1 hour mark, "Let's kick this thing into high gear now!" Usually when a rock singer makes a declaration like this, it's followed by about 3 more songs. Not this time. They pretty much played everything you'd expect them to. No glaring omissions. They subsituted a couple deeper tracks like "Just Older" and "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" for hits such as "Always" and "Runaway" - but this didn't really detract from the performance. Surprisingly, a couple songs that were not my favorites, like "It's My Life" and "Blaze of Glory" sounded really good live. Daughtry coming out to help on the latter actually added a lot to it...better than he did on any of his own songs! The one sore spot for me was an awful arrangement of one of my favorite songs of all time by anyone, "Bed of Roses." I'd seen them do it this way on TV, so it wasn't a complete shock, but still a little disappointing. But then they end with "Keep the Faith," "Livin' on a Prayer," "In These Arms" (a nice surprise in the encore) and "Wanted Dead or Alive." Some finish! See how it's done, Mr. Daughtry! WDOA is actually not the best choice of song to wrap up a concert because it's a little slower, but it was the obvious selection.

I first discovered Bon Jovi, as did most people, in 1986 with the release of "Slippery When Wet." 22 years later, my first BJ concert experience (that didn't come out right) gets an A-. And their latest CD, "Lost Highway" was a surprisingly great purchase for me last year after several years of not caring too much for their stuff. "You Want to Make a Memory" was one of the best songs from 2007.

Oh and by the way, MGM Grand Garden Arena is a great venue other than the aforementioned entryway snafu. The sound was great...something you don't always find at concerts.

Peace out and keep rocking them all! (OK that was cheesy)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We Feel Your Pain

So Philadelphia Phillies All-Star left-hander, Cole Hamels is the latest young MLB whippersnapper to whine and bitch about the "measly" salary he's been granted. I just have one reaction to this...blow me. Cole, if that's getting too technical for you, I'll type slower so you can understand. I make about $450,000 a year less than you do, and I guarantee I work harder for least mentally. You play a freakin' game for a living bro. If $500,000 is considered a "low blow" in any occupational field, then this country must be in a lot better shape than we've all been led to believe. I guess there are no people out there struggling to find work, living from paycheck to paycheck, being oppressed by society from birth...must be a vast right-wing conspiracy to make us believe all this is really going on. But all praise Cole Hamels for showing us the light. Maybe we should just disqualify Obama, Clinton and McCain and anoint Lord Hamels to lead us through to Utopia. Just please...nobody tell him that the President only makes $400,000.


So Iditarod participant Lance Mackey repeated as champion of the iconic Alaskan sled dog race by outwitting his opponent and duping him into believing he was sleeping for longer than he really was. I guess his trick worked on me too because...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Oscars - Ratings Down the Tubes

Much has been made about the Academy Awards telecast being the lowest-viewed Oscar broadcast ever. I'm still trying to figure out how you can put a negative spin on being the number 1 rated show of the week, higher than all three American Idol episodes. What kind of expectations are we setting when 30+ million viewers and a 29% share of the total audience is not good enough? An Entertainment Weekly article cited the highest-rated Oscar show of all time from the 1950's, which raked in almost 90% of American TV viewers. Well guess what folks...that ain't ever happening again...not even close. There was what - one other TV program on at that time? There are freakin 9,000 channels, mobile phones, IPods, DVRs, and all sorts of other things sapping our already short attention spans. If you lock down 32 million people for a 4-hour TV show, you are doing a damn good job. You simply can't compare the numbers to even those broadcasts from only within the past ten years. We live in a different world now. Yes, maybe there is more of a focus on smaller, "artsier" films than there used to be, but hey, who cares? If Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer or whoever wants to go ahead and make an Oscar-worthy film then make our day! I'm sorry though...the general movie-going public is drawn to (for whatever ungodly reason) Spiderman at a 10x higher rate than it is to There Will Be Blood. But are we going to honor dreck like that for appealing to the lowest common denominator? Gosh I hope not. I didn't agree with the Oscar choices this year, and I usually don't. But I know that the 300-million dollar epics are not going to make the grade. Hollywood needs to resign itself to the fact that the Oscars are the #1 game in town - albeit a much lower #1 than ever before. We should all be so unfortunate.

Movie Review: Vantage Point

This is a review of the movie, Vantage Point, starring Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, William Hurt and Forest Whitaker.

**Spoiler Alert**

OK. I don't think this review really contains any crucial spoilers, but anytime you write about movies, you're bound to give something away that people would rather have seen for themselves, so proceed with caution.

The one knock against this film that I've heard a few times so far from critics is that the repeated flashback structure becomes annoying. For those of you who are not familiar with the gimmick of this film, we are shown the same 5-or-so-minute sequence (the shooting of the President of the USA) from the perspectives of several different characters who witness it. Each time we get to a pivotal event during each sequence, the action "rewinds" back to moments before the shooting, and we are shown the next character's vantage point. The pivotal event or "cliffhanger" that was not fully revealed is then explained in one of the subsequent sequences. I actually thought this device was interesting and unique. It's really difficult for filmmakers to come up with ideas that have not been used in film before...that's why we see so many mediocre and derivative films. So I say that the director, Pete Travis, and the writer, Barry Levy, neither of whom who have really done any previous work of note, deserve some credit for making their first major box office offering different in some way.

All of the acting performances are pretty spot on, particularly that of Dennis Quaid, who plays a Secret Service agent returning to the job for the first time since taking a bullet for the President months earlier. Totally believable as a rugged, stoic but emotionally shaken Secret Service dude. It's also nice to see Matthew Fox in a role that is not just a retread of Dr. Jack Shephard from Lost. Whitaker's character is kind of lame, but he does with it what he can.

The big faux-pas they make is, of course, laying out one of the big reveals of the film in the trailer. If you've seen it, you know what it is, so I won't go into further detail. Not only was it unnecessary to make the trailer enticing to moviegoers, but it severely impacts the emotional response from the audience during the viewing of the actual movie. However, I think there are a couple of other major reveals in the film that are not known this carries the drama factor despite the misstep in the coming attractions.

One positive I've heard about the film that I would actually count as a negative, is the car chase. I thought it was over-the-top and didn't really add much to the experience.

The film suffers another demerit for never revealing the motivation of the bad guys. I suppose this isn't incredibly important in the grand scheme of things, but I prefer when a movie ties up the loose ends. However, this is somewhat redeemable by the very last line of dialogue in the film, which is a nice touch (that's all I'll say about that).

All in all, there won't be any awards bestowed on this film, but as an action-thriller, it works. It's an enjoyable use of an hour and a half of your time on the weekend.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10 stars/B

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The REAL Grammy Awards

OK well this is my first ever blog post, so if anyone in the universe actually reads this, please forgive me for my blogging ignorance. Even setting up this simple template seemed to be somewhat of a chore for my technologically-challenged self. we go.

The Grammy Awards are this Sunday. As someone who has always had a passion for music and an interest in the music business, I have watched all or part of the Grammy broadcast every year since I can remember. This Sunday, that will change. I am boycotting the 2008 ceremony. I know the music industry is going to be extremely upset at this revelation. Hell, they may even sue me, as that seems to be the standard response to everything that transpires in music nowadays. I could make this blog post a rant about the industry in general, but I'll save that for another day. My point here is that the Grammy Awards have become a cosmic joke. The Grammy voters are caught somewhere in between trying to be hip and relevant, trying to fall in lockstep with the consensus of music critics and their collection of year-end best lists and trying to pay homage to the elder statesmen of the industry - mostly to make amends for not honoring them during their prime. The result is a mish-mosh of which no one can really make sense. If you're telling me that "Rehab" by Amy Whine-house (get it?) is one of the top five best-written songs of the entire year, then I think I am going to move to Alaska and listen to nothing but recordings of whale farts for the rest of my life.

This post is going to focus on the REAL Grammy Awards...the ones being handed out in the ceremony in my mind. I'm sure a lot of music listeners have pondered to whom they would bestow these honors upon if they were in charge. Because I am a giant nerd, I actually wrote my choices down and am going to share them with you (the hypothetical readers of this blog). I have to admit that my musical tastes seem to be completely divergent with anyone else's on the planet. I don't expect anyone to agree with my choices, but maybe you'll feel compelled to at least check out a few of them if you haven't heard them before. A lot of the music I listen to is not commercially successful, so I'm giving those lesser-known artists a shot where the music industry has failed to do so. It's OK if you're on my list and can't make it to my house to accept your award. I'll gladly accept it on your behalf. Just brag to all your musician friends that you won something at the 1st Annual Jeremy Grammy's (Jerammy's?). So, here are the nominees, with my selection for the winner in red, in each of the categories that I know anything about. I'll leave Rap, Country, Folk, etc. to the experts in those fields. Note: not all of my categories are limited to the standard five nominees. With the thousands of songs that are released each year, I figured I'd give myself some leeway.

Record of the Year
A Fine Frenzy – Almost Lover
Bon Jovi – (You Want to) Make a Memory
Evanescence – Call Me When You’re Sober
Fountains of Wayne – Someone to Love
Crowded House – Don’t Stop Now
Josh Groban – You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)
Suzie McNeil – Hung Up
Pat Monahan – Her Eyes
Puddle Of Mudd – Psycho
Disturbed – Land of Confusion

(Hands down, the one song I could not get out of my head since it's release)

Song of the Year
Foo Fighters – Long Road to Ruin
A Fine Frenzy – Almost Lover
Bon Jovi – (You Want to) Make a Memory
Dan Wilson – Breathless
Fountains of Wayne – Someone to Love

(Another clear choice...just an outstanding and true emotional combination of melody and lyrics)

Album of the Year
Lifehouse – Who We Are
Crowded House – Time On Earth
Buckcherry – 15
Suzie McNeil – Broken & Beautiful
Pat Monahan – Last of Seven
Europe – Secret Society

(This was tough to narrow down to one winner. McNeil gets my vote mostly because of how shocked I was at how much I liked an album from a Rock Star: INXS contestant!)

New Artist
Dan Wilson
Suzie McNeil
Pat Monahan
Cinder Road
A Fine Frenzy
The Alternate Routes

(In the long run, Wilson and Monahan are probably the most talented of the bunch, but McNeil's standout vocal performance on her album and any live performance of hers you might find floating around vaults her to the top - hope she doesn't succumb to the dreaded New Artist jinx!)

Male Pop Vocal
Josh Groban – February Song
Mika – Erase
Dan Wilson – Breathless
Pat Monahan – Her Eyes
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun

(Astonishingly, the Grammy voters never seem to comprehend that the name of this category implies that the nominees and eventual winner need to have VOCAL talent - Groban is not my favorite artist, but when it's purely about the voice, these others don't stand up)

Female Pop Vocal
Suzie McNeil – Believe
Avril Lavigne – Keep Holding On
Michelle Featherstone – I’ll Be There
Pink – Who Knew
KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World

(See previous comments)

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group w/ Vocals
Poison – I Never Cry
Bon Jovi – (You Want to) Make a Memory
Daughtry – Home
I Nine – Seven Days of Lonely
A Fine Frenzy – Almost Lover

(See comments re: Song of the Year)

Pop Vocal Album
Suzie McNeil – Broken & Beautiful
Pat Monahan – Last of Seven
Lifehouse – Who We Are
Crowded House – Time On Earth
Bon Jovi – Lost Highway
Collective Soul – Afterwords

(Another fault of logic to which the Grammy voters sometimes fall victim - nominating an artist in one of the "major" categories, but then not giving them the win in the genre-specific categories over other artists who weren't even good enough to grab a nomination in the majors - if McNeil wins overall Album of the Year, then obviously she gets this one too)

Solo Rock Vocal Performance
Suzie McNeil – Hung Up
Jesse Malin – Prisoners of Paradise
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun
Paul McCartney – Only Mama Knows
Ozzy Osbourne – I Don’t Wanna Stop

(Rack 'em up Suzie! Again, it's called VOCAL PERFORMANCE's about the pure vocals)

Rock Performance by a Duo or Group w/ Vocals
Puddle Of Mudd – Psycho
Disturbed – Land of Confusion
Evanescence – Call Me When You’re Sober
Europe – Always the Pretenders
Buckcherry – Next 2 You
Foo Fighters – Long Road to Ruin
Iron Maiden – Different World

(If you like rock, and you don't like this song, you ARE psycho!)

Rock Song
Foo Fighters – Long Road to Ruin
Evanescence – Call Me When You’re Sober
Jesse Malin – Prisoners of Paradise
Bad Religion – Honest Goodbye
Iron Maiden – Different World

(Again, paying attention to the name of the category, from a songwriting standpoint, Grohl and Company deserve this one)

Rock Album
Buckcherry – 15
Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Puddle of Mudd – Famous
Saliva – Blood Stained Love Story
Europe – Secret Society
Cinder Road - Superhuman

(What a comeback story! It was hard not to give them the win for overall Album of the Year. Simply an amazing CD from beginning to end)

Song Written for a Motion Picture
Rob Thomas – Little Wonders
Avril Lavigne – Keep Holding On
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun

(I'll admit that I don't really know enough about songs from movies to have done this category justice. But I'm not really into the more quirky selections like the Moldy Peaches from "Juno." But I do love Ellen Page...sorry Ellen!)

Worst Song
The Sweet Escape – Gwen Stefani
Big Girls Don’t Cry – Fergie
This is Why I’m Hot – Mims
Rockstar – Nickelback
What Goes Around…Comes Around – Justin Timberlake
Waiting On the World to Change – John Mayer
Lost Without U – Robin Thicke

Bubbly – Colby Caillat
Rehab – Amy Winehouse
Snow (Hey Oh) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Apologize – OneRepublic
Ladies & Gentlemen – Saliva
Sillyworld – Stone Sour
Alcohaulin’ Ass – Hellyeah

1234 – Feist

(OK, so I made up my own category...there are so many bad songs released every year, I felt we needed this one. So sorry Fergie and Fergie fans...this is simply one of the most God-awful songs ever written in the history of sound. The other ones were bad, but this was the easiest choice of any of the categories.)

I know my first blog post ever was really a thousand times longer than it should be, but hey, it's not anywhere near as long as the actual Grammy broadcast! I tried to be all fancy and add a poll to let you vote on the Record of the Year, but in my tech-stupidity, I couldn't figure out how to include all of my nominees, including MY favorite! So vote if you want to, but probably better to just mention your choice in your comments. I welcome your input and even your criticism, but please be nice. Otherwise, I'm going to force you to listen to that whale fart CD with me.