A subdivision of ACIDEMIC

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stuff I Liked in the 1970s. - Part 1

My earliest recollection of getting really into a toy was my Dr. Zauis doll, which was about 3/4 of the GI Joe size, but we in the Knapp Elementary ape society wouldn't play with ordinary Joes, and one kid tried to infiltrate with his pint-sized Six Million Dollar Man. Apes kicked his ass! Then Zaius lost a leg, but my wily babysitter tied a shoelace lasso to his little ape hand so he could lasso things and swing around. Those were some crazy adventures, climbing the stairs like it was Everest. Eventually he disappeared... at least I can't remember losing him or throwing him out or outgrowing him. And of course we had viewmasters (above), with which to see dinosaurs, Alice in Wonderland, the Planet of the Apes, and various geographical excursions in exciting 3-D!

The arrival of Aurora monster models changed everything. Dracula was always my favorite, so I got him first, and shunned Dr. Jekyll and Quasimodo, who looked to much like Bruce Glickis a kid I fought with a lot because I couldn't stand his fat dumb face. It wasn't bullying because he was actually bigger than me, and all our fights were bloody nose draws. Fuck Bruce Glickis!

Charlie's Angels was my first big introduction to the appeal of girls. I couldn't stay up to see the show, but I clipped pics from magazines, TV Guide and Time especially, then later Teen Beat and all that crap. Eventually I made a big scrapbook of it all and then sold the scrapbook to a kid down the street for $40, a fortune at the time. And I'd moved on by then.

And then - well, WW2, you can guess the rest. I was a boy! I joined forces in 6th grade with a kid named Alan Pyle -we started drawing and selling our own line of comics, and of course playing a lot of WW2 HO scale campaigns. Later we moved onto designing TI-994A computer games and D&D modules. I left my girl obsession in the dust until the Playboy years began. Next stop: punk rock, real girls, and the dawn of the VCR!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wrap Your (Girl) Troubles in Drinks - a vidmix.

The divine Mary

Ah the 1990s - the last gasp for mopey depression- if you were in your 20s during this era, as I was then you know that it was a good time for music. Nirvana's explosion in 1992-93 had opened MTV up to all things even remotely grunge, so weird college acts that would normally never see the light of day got a chance to become fleeting stars. If you were a mopey feminist who liked to cry all night in his bourbon, it was your time to shine. It all ended with Napster killing small labels and Elliot Smith stabbing himself in the chest. Now. all we have are dusty CDs hidden far away in case books, and memories. Even the depression that spawned this music and made it listenable is largely gone thanks to SSRIs, and of course Britney Spears and MTV changing its tunes. But the music never dies!

Helium - "Wanna be a Vampire Too, Baby" - love the scrolling effect. Elegant.

Cat Power - "Bathysphere" (cool found footage video by AnititonyA)

L7 - "Pretend We're Dead" - Lesbian feminism in a grunge-angst setting..."Wake up and smell the coff-fee!"

Jennifer Trynin "Better than Nothing" - one of my favorites, since it mentions doing shots of whiskey!

Kittywinder - "Crazy Weed" - 1997 - a Boston / New Hampshire / NYC band that broke up only months before I started dating the bassist... crazy weed is right?

PJ Harvey - "Legs" - (live in 95) its host album "Dry" was released in 1993, but it's as forward leaning as ever. I love her more than a word could say, though her last few albums have left me... well, not dry, but not soaking like Dry or Stories from the Sea.

The unforgettable Space Team Electra - "Luminous Crush" 

The awesome Pixies -"Gigantic" in '88! BN (Before Nirvana)

Even farther before, one of my all-time favorite songs ever, "The English Roses" by my first rock crush, one that's shaped my destiny, Chrissie Hynde and her Pretenders. Half the band would be dead soon, and 30 years later, she's still rocking. I love you, CH!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Despair of Total Harmony: A Short Mix

Lee Hazlewood - "The Night Before"
(Aka "I see those empty whiskey bottles.")

Evie Sands - "Anyway that you Want Me"

Fontella Bass - "To be Free"

Heart - "Magic Man"

Howlin' Wolf - "How Many More Years"

Kimberly Linn - "The Sparks" - for Bela

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Into Dust" - The Gears of War 3 commercial

There's an ingenious TV commercial for some video game coming out Sept. 20 called GEARS OF WAR 3. It uses one of my favorite songs, "Into Dust" by Mazzy Star and the juxtaposition of this magnificently still and existentially melancholy song with these apocalyptic visions of war and sci fi machinery is so beyond the usual for this sort of thing that it becomes art. It's not a video game commercial anymore, it's a quick, devastating reading of America's post-apocalyptic pulse. Acidemic salutes the advertising team of Twofifteen McCann!

There's a vibe in the "Brothers to the End" tag line which makes us see that this dismal cityscape, with all the black rainy clouds and robot monsters, isn't going to rise again, not for a hundred million years, and the hopeful little blue lights on the backpack straps of the warriors backing up on their hillside defense position, are going to go out, very soon. It's an Altamont moment, the Stones carrying on under their little stage lights as the best ideas of humanity are crushed under the heel of bad drugs and idolatry right before their eyes. And there's no more fallback position, no backstage safe area, no green room, no supply depot. Just brothers. Street-fighting men. I have no idea what kind of backstory to past Gears of War commercials or game plots this may allude to. I'm just reading the commercial as it's own thing. On that level, it's just a shout away from devastating.

I always thought that Mazzy Star would have saved Zack Snyder's SUCKER PUNCH from sucking as bad as it did, and it turned out I was right. There needed to be a counterpoint to the soulless CGI mayhem of PUNCH's 'fantasy' scenes, which instead were all set to obvious strip club remixes of hits like "Sweet Dreams" and Bjork's "Army of Me." There's more mood and emotion in this damned Gears of War 3 commercial than in Snyder's last two films (by which I mean PUNCH and WATCHMEN) combined. The last time a song worked this well in a violent montage was "When The Man Comes Around" in the credit sequence of 2004's DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, directed by who else? Zack Snyder. When's that man going to come around, again, Mama? 15 months and counting...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rooftop in Brooklyn: The Post-PJ Ipod

Holly Miranda - you are truly the holy miracle your name resembles.
Mopey girl rockers - I love them, provided they don't 'over-sing' or get all slick and professional and hollow and sound like everyone else. Keep it neither too raw and lo fi nor too AOR slick and oversung and you have me at hello - it all started with PJ Harvey's 1992 classic, "Dry" - which changed my life, and  let's face it, great as PJ Harvey's new album "Let England Shake" is in principle, there's only two songs that I'd ever want to hear over and over as the soundtrack to my anguished obsession du autumne, the rest is just way too serious, continuing a downer trend Harvey's been cultivating since her alleged big romantic crash following the jubilant "Stories from the City, stories from the Sea." Will we ever have a song as awesome as "You Said Something?" Look at how happy she was, rolling her eyes and being goofy:

Now she may smile and stuff, but her songs are devoid of romance and humor, and more just glum and haunted. Still, I love White Chalk and these basement videos she made (below). I wish she'd give Bob Dylan a harmonica lesson:

Luckily, my ipod soars with new and recent girls who nail that moody emotional swamp I walk home in, opening doors to past loves and doomed romances, and making my feet leave the ground in cathartic movement.

SMOOSH - "The World's Not Bad"
From their awesome album of the same name - these girls are too young for me to ever see play live (shouldn't they have curfews?) but there's no denying, for me anyway, the genius simplicity and power of this album, and this song in particular - love that simple, almost percussive piano and the whispery harmony - this is the kind of stuff that girls tend to grow out of as they start dating guys who try to get them to be more slick and professional and let their boyfriends add long elaborate dobro solos. It's what ruined Azure Ray! Smoosh sisters, don't ever change!

EMA - "California"
Love this song, with its apocalyptic organ/drone chords and EMA's rattled off anguished lyrics about the alienation of L.A.: "Now you've corrupted us all with your sexuality / tried to tell us love was free / tried to tell us love was free." And it's not long before she's carrying a gun like Lou Reed in The Blue Mask - I love walking home from work with this song on my ipod, "I'm just 22 / I'm just 22 / I don't mind dyin'" Video's kind of dull though...

There was a year where I listened to this song and this album every day on the way to and from work, so now I can't help but think of my East village walk-up, my gorgeous long lost ex, and the grotty subway whenever I hear it. I thought Holly Miranda was kind of busted for some reason, as I never saw waht the band looked like - how could she be as gorgeous as her voice? But she AM! The below video is cute but you can't hear the bass which is one of the best aspects. Still love her rock and roll arms.

ELECTRELANE - "Oh Sombra!"
I love these girls! We were myspace buddies for awhile, maybe still are. This video is perfect at recreating that ipod and Q Train commute vibe, and the slowly mounting beauty/anguish of the song and Spanish lyrics perfectly match the sinking feeling of returning to Brooklyn after a rainy day of city errands.

LANA DEL REY - "Video Games"
This girl reminds me of at least two of my long lost loves, and the sweet pain of remembering her and how I lost the last one (in 2003) and the pain of dating a hot and bi-polar and having to fend off hordes of richer, younger, more confident dudes at every gas station, restaurant, and AA meeting. The tragic tender sadness that memory creates is all tied into Lana's husky, Los Angeles voice; the inclusion of the drunken stumbling audio is genius, as is the found footage ensemble around her, conjuring a Hollywood of ghosts, roadside attractions, and sun-drenched graveyards where 'happiness is never experienced, only remembered.'

BARDO POND - "Tommy Gun Angel"
Loved this song all through my 2003 divorce, so expressive, druggy, and deranged! Read my Bardo Pond appreciation here. I kind of dig Matt the Mad Hat's found footage edit for it too.

To be continued with my own mash-up for Kimberly Linn's "The Sparks" plus: Ida, Ida Maria, Rainer Maria, Mount Rainier, and Rainier Wolfcastle!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Return of X

I was scared of 'rap' as a 20-something negotiating my way through the end of the Bush years but my friend Max was insistent I learn Public Enemy, NWA, the Geto Boys.. damn that stuff scared the shit out of me. But there was also cool shit, hip-hop: Young MC, Brand Nubian, De La Soul, and--my favorite--KMD.

While many of the albums linked major tracks with little in-between skits, KMD took it to a meta level with an old 'learn to speak a foreign language' record, the narrator's patient white male voice coming off clueless and arrogant to the KMD brothers, as when the narrator says "your mother likes to visit the old churches," and you hear in the back "oooh, I know he didn't just dis your mama". Hilarious! But best of all, was the feeling that the KMD crew weren't just scaring white kids and preaching local block unity, they were letting the white kids come home and see their bedrooms--finding they all could agree those old stereotypes were history -  as in time to dust off "Little Black Sambo" and see what may be sampled.

Now Little Black Sambo was an album I actually had on 78's as a kid--inherited from god knows what dead relative along with Peter and the Wolf. Both albums took up about 8 double sided, inch thick 78s. Sambo depressed me, even then as a kid in the early 70s, only dimly aware of how godawful racist it was (I think I smashed the discs after ROOTS premiered). I hated it because the were just too many pancakes and tigers, too much eating and running.. it made me nauseous. So hearing the sample brought me back, but Zev Love X wasn't about to come down on me or my white brethren. He brought us along with bemused disbelief, half blaming the accusers of racism as much as the racists "you mean that coon is me?" in the joyously inclusive "Who Me?" While in "Banana Peel Blues" he waxed off about racism like he'd just gotten the textbooks at some Strong Island college class and was seeing what still applied and what didn't. You could imagine him reading passages out loud to his pals in the dorm, half mocking the text. There was something so direct and sweet about it because X refused the us vs. them of so much rhetoric on either side. Rather than try to bury Sambo in the ditches of culture's verboten junkyard--where, as Freud taught us, nothing stays buried for long without an eventual rise up zombie-style from the repressed--he dressed him up in a big parade costume, as below:

(I never actually saw any of their videos, til now, writing this, by the way - 1991 was looong before the internet and MTV was strictly commercial)  Anyway, we loved the album. It sounded great high on acid.

Then, as all good things do, the summer of love ended-- groups like "Reality Used to be a Friend of Mine" and ("G'head Mr. Wendell") took new age tolerance to an almost icky new age level. And in the established acts, humorless rhetoric and druggy aggression took over. Cube left NWA and their follow-up album was just sensationalist parent outrage-courting misogyny. Brand Nubian got sucked in the undertow that followed rap's commercial success in the mid 90s, and thinking man's hip-hop got steamrolled (in the waterless horizontal bong sinse) by blunt acts like Cypress Hill and Dr. Dre.

I could not get into Dre, so rap, hip hop and I parted. I still listen to Brand Nubian and KMD, and Ice Cube, but little else. Years later while on a trip to San Francisco I found KMD's abandoned sophomore album at the famous Amoeba Records. With it's picture of a lynched Sambo on the cover. I didn't know of course that their label had dropped them over the cover, which is a classic example of the way literalism and overbearing PC ninny-itis was clouding issues in the early 90s, and that Zev's brother Sub Roc had died around the same time in a car crash, and KMD was history... and X had disappeared without a blip on my radar.

That's why another ten years later, discovering MF Doom was such a thrill, a veritable Phantom of the Opera unmasking, with a new identity, or lack thereof. Zev Love X had returned, once again quietly and under my radar, I recognized his voice in an MF Doom track playing at the old Kim's Video. It's done my OG heart a good turn to see him still out there, blazing his own unique trail, proving that straightforward examination of stereotypes causes them to melt away in the sun.

I only hope I have the balls to wear the mask one day if I should fall from grace, and thence seek to return anew, reborn, and if you need help taking down that fucking arrogant dickhead Johnny the Human Torch, let me know. And if you want to switch up, switch up!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kitty Kali: Julie Newmar as Catwoman (BATMAN)

There's been other Cat Women: Michelle Pfeiffer (good); Eartha Kitt (fine), Halle Berry (my review here), but there's only one true Catwoman, only one who rocks the ears, tail, whip, and sparkly black bodysuit as if she was born into it: Julie Newmar.

I grew up watching her in BATMAN after school with friends and then going outside and fighting, dynamic-fake style but fun: "Pow!" "Biff!" And of all the characters, the gorgeous Newmar seemed most able to pull off the hat trick of being super slinky sexy yet kid-friendly; of being a good villain while being mostly harmless and all while having a totally electric effect on my latent sexuality.

Lithe, sensual but never serious... at times her face has a GILDA-era Rita Hayworth quality, where a thin beguiling layer of facial baby fat adding youth and exuberance to her playful cat style, and allowing her every facial gesture to blossom out into a celebration of non-sleazy sexuality. I love--and still do love--the way she get's excited over every aspect of her fabulous crimes, the way she slinks around her lair, her uninhibited come-ons to both Robin and Batman, her handling of her devoted minions; the comfort and delight in her own body; the way she playfully straddles pipes, or twists into weird poses rather than ever lying still... Practically a golden age comic book drawing come to life, Newmar's Catwoman was one in a million. No wonder I grew up fantasizing about my first grade classmates as my slaves in bizarre S/M pre-orgasmic fantasias that kept me up many a night in delirious nightmares of ecstasy!

I'd forgotten about the tug she had on my prepubescent hormones until I started watching the show again recently on cable, and enjoying mostly the eps with A-list supervillains (though both Adam West and Burt Ward are better than you remember): Frank Gorshin is a hysteric, cackling, Ed Harris-on-acid delight as the Riddler (Harris would make an awesome Riddler!); Burgess Meredith relishes every cackle as the penguin; Talulah Bankhead is glad to be working as the elderly Black Widow; and coming in a fair second to Catwoman's marvelousness, Ceaser Romero as the Kid show clown-gone-amok Joker.

Like Newmar, Romero finds a way to tap into the deadpan comic hysteria of his character that puts the fractured lack of genuine menace into a bearable perspective. What do I mean? There's an unspoken understanding between Gotham and supervillains: as long as you don't use guns, you'll be out of jail by the show's next season. Jail in "Gotham's liberal prison system" is like jail in a kid's game, merely a place to rest for a two-week stretch or two, so another villain has a chance to torment the city (they go one at a time). Rather than go to jail though, Catwoman likes to apparently die by falling great distances. In one tense two-parter, she ends up almost falling in love with the caped crusader, and he even takes out a batkerchief to shed a tear after she tumbles down a well. I remember being really moved by that at the time. There's definitely a kinship between them, and the dynamic duo's attitude towards her is never as strident it is for other villains. In a way, she's like Robin's illegitimate mother - she's the queen of the night to Batman's Sarastro in the MAGIC FLUTE (on some strange Wagnerian level, Batman and Catwomen are our unholy true parents). She's Irina Derevko in TV's ALIAS. And, like the male villains, she is all inclusive. She whips her underlings, who flinch only out of politeness to the viewer, for were they to writhe in masochistic ecstasy, much disgust would ensue all around (1). She's powerful yet playful, sexual yet beyond sex. Watching her interact with her dimwitted henchmen, you long long to be one of them.

The idea of the underlings in the lair is very meta if you were bad at sports, like me, and liked to be the ringleader for younger kids so you could be the strongest in the various games. The supervillain persona reflects this as one who has deliberately situated themselves outside of the realm of 'the good people of Gotham City,' but at the same time operate a kind of 'home for misfit toys' with plenty of low-rent riff-raff of the "aw, gee, boss" variety (and these underlings are always loyal to the last man). The vibe at the villain's lair or underground hideout is always one of giddy joviality, not so much greed as displays of greed, while the world of Bruce Wayne and his ward, Dick Grayson, is one of affluent sober learning. Dick always has to study the piano or memorize elemental tables, etc., while the aunt looks on, bewildered by any sort of out the ordinary behavior. Is there any doubt where the average 1970s kid would prefer to situate himself?

Lastly, a sexy supervillainess makes the Batman mythos operate at a far more evolved level than with male baddies, for instead of an all-boy group of kids pretend fighting in the backyard, there's the female element of the hottie next door who makes all the boys stammer; the yin-yang dichotomy is in place. She becomes the chthonic enemy of normal patriarchal civilization, its inescapable shadow. How easily she gets our dynamic duo in tied-up situations, yet always leaves them room to escape; she likes the chase and the drama and the last minute rescues and, like the other villains, there's a clear idea that without the dynamic duo to wrestle with and subject to various colorful slow torments, a life of crime would be a drab, dull affair--no one to play with, so to speak. And of course she takes the homosexual associations of the boy wonder and Batman's coded relationship and blows it out of the closet through her explosive hotness. Both Batman and Robin kind of have a thing for Catwoman especially when she's played by Julie Newmar. The other catwomen are okay, sure, but it's not the same - it never would be again.

1. the masochist thrives by his very unsightliness. Only the dominatrix, the sole witness, sees him and punishes him for being visible, thus she restores order to the universe of viewer perception and unconscious interaction. A lack of psychological acumen is apparent in the whole idea of Robin and all sidekicks for superheroes:  kids don't identify with Robin but rather see him as competition. With his infantilizing green shorts he too is better left unseen, redeemed only by his fiery fearlessness and fabulous fighting flair. Burt Ward--who did all his own stunts and was a karate champ--made Robin cool despite all the best attempt of Bob Kane and company to the contrary.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eat the light!- GHOST ADVENTURES (Travel Channel)

I don't like most investigative ghost teams, but Nick, Aaron and Zak are pretty cool. I can imagine partying with them. I love how they get scared but excited, forgetting instantly they just asked the ghost to make a noise. They're right on the fence of being obnoxious, but it eventually tumbles over into callow vigor and innate showmanship. The funniest guy, the anchor to Zak's boisterous leadership, is Aaron, who deals with the haunted house hunting stress by filming himself with mouth agape and eyes popped open.
Aaron, in a rare not-spooked moment.
These guys are serious bros. "If they want us out, they're going to have throw us over that damned wall," boasts Zak. I believe them. They're not as charismatically-challenged as most ghost hunters and the lame MUFON guys over on Planet Green who think that by somehow separating truth from fiction they'll be any closer to understanding. Aaron knows best! He knows this stuff will never be understood. The whole thing is a dog chasing its own tail, but so what, the tail is ours.

Zak. He's kind of the alpha bimbro, a bit too eager to show off his perfect abs. He leaves in footage of a girl on a school bus telling him he's hot, but feels the need to explain he's taking his shirt off to show his tattoos to the ghosts of intolerant ghost nuns. There's cutaway subliminal images of a guy eating a light bulb, and old weird dolls stop motioning with their eyes. Weird sound effects and liberal interpretations of the AVP ghost whispers, "oooh! I just heard a whisper. . Oh my god! I felt that guys, that was arrrffl!" They're steadfast in their willingness to be scared but their refusal to be scared for long. "Dude that was, like, footsteps!"

Zak gets all indignant "is that what you did? You chained them up to this wall? Are you trying to communicate?" "Did my taunts just anger the spirit of a Spanish soldier?" He's about a third Clyde Beatty, a third Ben Affleck and a third Michael Moore, though he's much more transparent (not literally) it helps him be believable; he's earnest and just a little forced, and that's what TV is all about! Zak actually reminds me of me when I'm filming and bullshitting my way around as a narrator without a script, making it up as I go and barely staying on the right side of the coherence border, feeling I have to belittle my comrades onscreen when I get nervous.

I keep being afraid these guys are going to show up in my apartment and shout taunts at me, and I'd have to scream into their AVP microphones just to get a faint whisper. They'd freak out when I rose from the couch to go refill my beverage.  How else do you ever really know you're dead?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Favorite TV Women Part 2

Carrie Brownstein

I saw the first five episodes in this hilarious IFC series before putting two and two together and realizing this is the Carrie Brownstein, from that awesome post-grunge Olympia yodeling band, Sleater-Kinney. It was the biggest Sleater-Kinney moment I'd had since a 1997 road trip, passing the Sleater-Kinney highway sign driving through Washington State and going 'Hey!'  That's twice Sleater-Kinney's caught me nappin'.

Brownstein herself is a two/two pinnacle: as ballsy and swaggering as any man (look at her primal stare above) and yet hot and sweet when she wants. Brownstein is some kind of amazing non-diva talent that she can match Fred Armisen scene for scene and bring all sorts of minute, letter-perfect comedic inflection in an array of hilariously skewed characters, then go kick ass as a guitarist and singer for one of the best all-girl rock bands in the history of the Pacific Northwest: "Oh - you've got the dark / est eyeyeyeeyeyeyeyeyeys..."

Jackie Barrett
America's Psychic Challenge 

Speaking of darkness. When the psychic who won said she represented the light and Barrett was 'evil', or used 'dark energy', I smelt a rat. A truly 'light' person isn't going to rain on the parade of darkness, because to rain is to become darkness. Dig? Jackie is an expert crime scene analyst, a serial killer profiler, and if you don't have a good balance of light/dark  that stuff can kill your soul. You can tell Jackie is made for the job because she doesn't prioritize one polarity over the other, and that is the path of the truly enlightened who see 'death is great as life' (to quote Walt Whitman). When Jackie circles a subject, feeling their aura and telling them "you know who I am? They call me the white serpent," you get a chill in your soul but also a sense of relief, she's using spookiness as a tool, not a crutch. She's balanced - she knows when you repress the darkness you give it strength, so she lets the illusion go. Seek not to destroy darkness altogether lest you become darkness, this I say to you. And Heaven only knows the amount of pain and misery she's prevented in her work. In staying true to her quirky self, and using dark power to combat darkness, Jackie is a true agent of karma, and a living example that psychics--the real ones--are true treasures to be revered. Read her awesome web page here.

Lizzy Caplan
Party Down 
I'm always wary of the perennially single cute smart girl in the ensemble sitcom, as they're clearly meant for male audience members like myself to crush over, without having to factor in some boyfriend to be jealous over, or kids and domestic life to bore us to death, but I'm also highly responsive to that approach.  Lizzy Caplan is a great example - cute, fun, a genius comedienne, and adorable beyond description. Here's what she said about landing the gig on this STARS comedy (avail. on Netflix streaming):
It was starting like three days after I found out about it and I just gunned for it, because it's ten episodes and it's hilarious people with a whole lot of freedom. You're definitely not pandering for huge ratings or anything, so it's the sweetest kind of gig.
Sweetest gig, for the sweetest girl!

Rashida Jones
Parks and Recreation

With Amy Poehler embracing her post-baby weight gain and dolling herself up in unflattering knits, it's up to Rashida Jones to carry the hotness weight on the sporadically amusing Parks and Recreation. The problems with the show seem to hinge around its attempt to be 'nice' -- and those of us who know comedy know niceness has no place in it (see Jackie Barrett, above). We look to comedy to channel our aggression - the comedian acts out and says the things we want to say and does the things we want to do, but wouldn't dare, and we're purged. It's like when you're really upset and pissed off and you meet someone who is acting even more pissed than you feel and suddenly you're calm and telling them to relax. Ever notice that happen? Comedy is like that, but Parks is not like that because it misunderstands and tries to be nice in itself, leaving you to deal with your accumulated venom some other way.

Rashida Jones is awesome though, dusky beauty with a sexy voice and impeccable pedigree (Quincy Jones is her father, Peggy Lipton [Twin Peaks] her mom). With all that star wattage you'd think she wouldn't be as grounded and intelligent as she is, but she makes a great gal pal for Amy and brings a smudgy, accessible hotness to the show that no one, including her roster of handsome but bland boyfriends, can match.

Ms. J. Alexander, Runway Diva Coach Extraordinaire
America's Next Top Model

While not a woman per se, Ms. Jay certainly qualifies as a queen of wit, sharpness and knowledge - his/her eye for fashion and proper model runway walking makes him/her a permanent panel member on America's Next Top Model. Nothing makes me fall on the floor laughing more than when s/he gets his/her voice all deep and breathy to discuss girls who look to 'dragalicious.' Next to Tyra, Miss J. makes the show the awesome paragon of simulacra self-reflexivity it is. Go Miss J.!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Favorite Women of Television - Part 1

1. Tyra Banks - America's Next Top Model:
The modern Kali of reality TV, this host and creator of America's Next Top Model can be super nurturing one minute then cold as ice the next as she sends another chick off the show, but not before a good luck hug. Even if you're not a fashionista the show is amazing as it's so meta-textual. Think about it: a reality show about young girls who choke up when they get in  front of a camera for a photo shoot, but meanwhile they're on camera constantly for the actual show. Together with the judges you get to do modeling crits, judging the success of photographs - so you're watching a show about looking at photographs. The result is a weird hybrid of commercial-within-a-show (I know lots about Cover Girl designer lip gloss now) and meta-within-meta Russian doll boxing, and over it all Tyra stands like a beacon of always-on-point dynamic brilliance, demonstrating in every head tilt and enunciation exactly what she's trying to instill in this cross section of our female youths.

2.  Tina Fey - 30 Rock: Her repartee with Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock is one of the more inspiring things on TV, with the whole 'will they or won't they' element scuttled for a more progressive mentor-mentee relationship. As someone who's sponsored and mentored women over the years, I salute! The stuff about eating your feelings and the Cathy-esque spazzola stuff seems forced though, Tina. You're so much more than an everywoman!

3. Maya Rudolph - SNL 2000-2007:
Perhaps she's just too confident to demand top billing or seek a film career, and that's why her name doesn't strike a chord the way her SNL top-shelf alums like Fey and Amy Poehler do, but Maya is the bomb! Her seven-year spin in early 00's SNL included the Donatella Versace holiday parties, her tragically hilarious rendition of Whitney Houston on her way up, down, and semi-up again, and Vinnie Verdecci's daughter reciting her English class days of the week... and man can she sing! Tru-baller SNL fans ask: When is she going to get her own Best Of?

4. Candace DeLong - Deadly Women:
For those of us too squeamish to watch serial killer dudes abduct and torture innocent girls, the Deadly Women show on Investigative Discovery is a godsend, recreating three factual scenarios each episode with actors playing an array of poisoners, shooters, manglers and matricidal maniacs, all of whom are women. It's narrated by a woman with a great if predictable sense of pausing and dramatic enunciation, and presided over by the regal Candace.

I keep waiting for them to do one on Brenda Wiley, my Central NJ champion of incarcerated girls who killed their mom and nosy brother at age 15: who knows if DeLong gets my letters? What's important is that she was the first female FBI criminal profiler and the inspiration for Clarice Starling. And she's still hot! I love the slightly bitchy way she lays out the behavioral underpinnings of the girl killers, saying things like "She needed to buy things to feel better about herself, and if she had to kill someone to pay the bills, that was... fine... with her!"

5. Jan Hooks (SNL 1986-1991, recurring guest appearances on 30 Rock)
Now most recognizable as Jenna's greedy meth head nympho-alcoholic stage mom in 30 Rock, who'd have guessed Hooks was once super hot and sultry and a regular on SNL?  I admire how she now acts as if she's been kind of white trash Liz Taylor brazen and busty all her life as said mom, while her foxiness at SNL tells a whole other story.

Yeah, I know, some of these chicks is from yay far away in the past, but so what? I really only watched SNL reruns on Netflix streaming (cuz I lives with a comedy writer), and discovered Deadly Women, 30 Rock, marathons of America's Next Top Model, (cuz she likes the trash) and lots of WW2 documentaries (that's my reward for enduring the chick stuff). I'm turning into a vegetable, but that's what 2011 is all about.