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I'm So Into You

Oh yeah, I'm writing for Gawker now

And I'm doing my thing with a freedom that no full-time job has offered unti this point. This blog has long been a refuge for work that doesn't fit in at work, but as of my first week, there's little of that. It's a beautiful thing to get paid for expressing all that is inside of me (I'm loving my job so far), but it also leaves me with the question of what to do with this blog. If I'm saying it all during the day, what else is there to say? (Winston pictures probably.)

I'll figure it out. But until then, if you want to check out what would be here (like a Hunger Games review, an essay on why I'll never recap a show again, a video re-edit of this motivational speaker/meathead, etc.), you can read my stuff on Gawker.


I wanna feel soft and pretty

Funky Town Grooves recently issued expanded and remastered editions of La Toya Jackson's third and fourth albums, Heart Don't Lie and Imagination. They are really something, to say the least. I reviewed them for MTV Hive. Since the noises that come out of this woman's mouth are often unbelievable, I thought it necessary to collect her best screeches, interjections and declarations in a soundboard. It's below. Turn your speakers down (off, even!) and have fun. (I highly suggest at least listening to the very last file, the last minute of the slow jam "Love Talk." You'll thank me.)

Continue reading "I wanna feel soft and pretty" »

Still mourning

Bobbi_kristina_oprah

Oprah Winfrey's interview with Bobbi Kristina Brown, broadcast last night on OWN's Oprah's Next Chapter, was the antithesis of O's 2009, revealing sit-down with Brown's mother, Whitney Houston. Bobbi Kris's was conducted while standing, perhaps to feel more casual. The ultimate effect was one of discomfort, though, with a jittery Bobbi Kristina playing with her hair throughout the interview. Perhaps this was one subject where Winfrey's magic -- relaxing her interviewee better than truth serum and a magic lasso combined -- just wasn't going to happen. Broadcast exactly a month after Houston's death, Brown was still shaken, and who could blame her?

You can't push a kid in mourning, and one can only imagine the extent of the behind-the-scenes demands put on Winfrey in exchange for Bobbi Kristina's participation. Almost everything, it seemed, was off limits. Topics like Bobbi Kris's back-to-back hospitilizations (on the days of and after her mother's death), her supposed suicidal tendencies, her documented drug use and the reportedly imminent rehab stint weren't broached. Instead, we learned that Bobbi Kristina still hears her mother's voice and considers light flickerings in her house the work of her mother's ghost. She stated an agenda speaking publicly for the first since her mother's death: to let the world know what an amazing spirit her mother was. This didn't exactly accomplish that or much of anything (at least not Bobbi Kris's segment). I don't think it was "too soon" to try to talk to Bobbi Kristina, as some people have charged (as if such a concept exists in our day and age!), but I do think that she's not together enough to have any perspective. That's fine. Save it for the memoir, girl.

Bobbi Kristina revealed an interest in singing and acting, as we already knew. "I gotta carry on her legacy," is how she explained it. Where talent and career path are concerned, that is astronomical ambition. But in a way, Bobbi Kris is already carrying out her mother's legacy. She's struggling publicly, like her mother, and also like her mother, she has a legion of strangers behind her and rooting for her. I don't know what's in store for Bobbi Kristina's celebrity, but if she turns out happy and safe and lives a long, full life, she will have succeeded. Here's hoping.

Bobbi Kristina said she couldn't yet listen to her mother's music. That's in contrast to how the rest of the nation (and many parts of the world, I presume) mourned Whitney Houston's death. Post February 11, her sales skyrocketed, "I Will Always Love You" reentered the Top 5 on the Hot 100 and for a few weeks, the woman's voice was once again inescapable. When I interviewed TLC's Chilli a few years ago, I asked her if it was comforting to her and T-Boz that the rest of the world was grieving along with them over the death of their friend and bandmate Left Eye, as so many people were touched by the work they did with her. She told me that on the contrary, it made things more difficult becuase there was no option to grieve privately. Wherever they went, they were reminded of their loss and implicitly asked to discuss it by seemingly well-meaning people. For someone who found herself in an atypical existence through no pursuit of her own, things have to be even stranger and more complicated for Bobbi Kristina. Just getting through that Winfrey interview and saying the little that she did while remaining standing the entire time seems like an accomplishment.

The stuff with Whitney's brother, Gary, and his wife, Pat (also her manager and best friend) wasn't much more enlightening. Who knows if Pat was telling the truth when she said that at what would turn out ot be the end of her life, Whitney's drug days were over, as far as she knew, and that she was on an upswing. Pat seemed sincere, and certainly at other points in the interview, her candor was apparent (especially regarding her concerns over Whitney's involvement with Ray J as well as her confirmation that Whitney and Stacy Francis indeed had words at Kelly Price's Grammy party). But she also could have been attempting to spruce up Whitney's legacy by presenting a rosy picture. Maybe at this point, no one can the truth, or at least the whole truth.

I remain thirsty for it, though. It's very strange to be so moved by the death of someone I didn't know. I had a dream on Friday night that I was watching a just-taped interview with Whitney. She was happy and laughing and sharp and acting irreverent, like the rock star that she was. I felt such relief and I didn't know why. I then realized that my brain was contradicting the reality of the past month. The disappointment was worth the momentary flash of joyful deceit (in this case, the ride really was worth the fall). Whitney left behind so many of those moments, too. They're terrific places of refuge.

John Carter is so bad

It is unconscionable in 2012 for a movie to portray a white dude who infiltrates a non-white native culture and then turns out to be better at being a native than even the natives are. We've seen it for years, we saw it in Avatar and now we see this straight up white supremacy in John Carter. The title character, a former captain of the Confederate fucking Army, is ported over to Mars, where he encounters a race of four-armed green monster warriors. Because of his bone density (bone density!), he is innately superior, able to leap in massive bounds and thus can defeat legions of not-so-nice four-armed green dudes who confront him in orgiastic pilings-on. He is a super hero and his white skin is all the cape that he needs.

I am not familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs' beloved Barsoom books, so I cannot say whether John Carter does them justice. If they promote the idea of the white man's innate heroism and superiority, however, they are some bullshit and they deserve this piss-poor Disney film adaptation, if not worse. I can say for certain that transplanting this universe from print to film is not without immediate unintentional humor: Barsoom (the Martian word for "Mars" here) sounds way too much like "bazoom" when it is said out loud. I kept thinking about that awful woman Henrietta in Showgirls whose tits popped properly only with Nomi's assistance.

There's a lot of really stupid vocabulary specific to John Carter. There is a Martian city-state called Helium, and when another race (made up mostly of white people) kept talking about "saving Helium" at the beginning of the film, I thought they were discussing the element and could not figure out why it was so crucial. Maybe one of them really, really liked balloons, I thought. Like, liked them-liked them. Maybe they were planning a birthday party. That would have been more fun than John Carter's central demand of its audience to parse out dialogue over perpetually swelling music in some of the worst sound mixing I've ever experienced. But then, when I realized that the people were just babbling nonsense words anyway, I figured I wasn't missing anything.

Soon after arriving on Mars, John is given some elixir that allows him to understand the Green Martians' language. Mostly, it just cures the movie of subtitles, since the white people who already live on Mars only speak in English, even before the elixir is administered. Nothing in their speech is altered by John's taking of the elixir and they can freely communicate with the Green Martians, as well. I can't even figure out where the logic is there (other than allowing us the satisfaction of watching savages assimilate to our ears on their own fucking planet). The Green Martians are still capable of speaking in Martian or Barsoomic or whatever it's called, however, as we hear in prayers and various other mutterings throughout. So the elxir is more a Band-aid than a cure, I guess.

Also on the linguistic tip, when John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the human object of his affection who kind of looks like Hoopz rendered as a Disney princess, we find out that there are still plenty of vocabulary differences. Planet names, for example, differ on Earth and Mars, although Dejah refers to everything as the "solar system" so somehow the stars aligned for that phraseology to be universal.

I know that many of these are minor points and that science fiction demands a suspension of disbelief. I don't know that John Carter is at terms with its own logic. Right up front we're told that Mars is not the airless or dead planet that we think it is, "but it is dying." So we're almost right, I guess? Great excuse for a story, righting our half-wrongs with racism.

I also don't really know what this movie is about. Opposing forces, I guess? Going from Point A to Point B through the desert on a Tauntaun knock-off with no name? Sword play in a time of aircraft technology that exceeds what we currently have on Earth by thousands of years? A cave of gold? A script whose first uttered word is "Mars!" that then goes on to deliver bon mots like, "Where on Earth am I?" and "I claim the right to challenge!" and "War is  shameful thing!" and "We are strong because we despise weakness"?

This movie is a pile of shit. I liked John's flat-faced dog side-kick because he reminded me of Winston, and I look forward to cutting together a supercut of all of the instances of people saying "John Carter" throughout this movie because they say it so much. It stops making sense and, like most of what comes out of people's mouths in this movie, is merely just noise.

I also reviewed Silent House for this week. Surprise, surprise, I also hated that, much to my dismay. I would love a good horror movie right about now, and I love to love Elizabeth Olsen. Ugh. I wish a good movie would come out. Right now, my favorite movie of the year so far is The Vow. Fucking The Vow!

Probably my only ANTM post of the cycle

As I've been saying for a while now (recapping be damned), I'm over America's Next Top Model. In confirmation, I thought last night's Cycle 18 premiere was fucking dreadful. I wrote about it for work, and a tweet I sent out with a link to that piece turned into an extremely unpleasant interaction:

Cutrone_tweet

I know people like that person from her past appearances on reality TV (I'm not much familiar with much beyond her name and occupation), but I think on ANTM, she is on some sub-Twiggy level shit. So dull. Here's the commentary on her that appeared in my review:

The biggest alteration arrives late in the premiere, when it is announced that fashion PR and reality TV vet Kelly Cutrone has replaced André Leon Talley on the judges’ panel. While Talley brought cloaks, his own vocabulary (“Dreckitude!”) and a sense of absurd performance (“I feel like I’m in a cinematic moment of something wonderful!”), Cutrone’s sole flash of color comes when she pronounces “aristocracy” as “UH-ris-to-crasy.” She is virtually lifeless, delivering flat line after flat line in a chat forum that demands animation (“It’s an unfortunate picture,” “The clothes are wearing her, she’s not wearing the clothes”). At one point, she describes her PR work by saying, “It’s my job to make them think they want things they don’t need.” If she’s trying to convince us that she’s what Top Model needs, she’s doing a terrible job.

A bit later, I recieved this reply:

Cutrone_tweet3

There are many lessons to learn from this:

Continue reading "Probably my only ANTM post of the cycle" »

How they lost

I have discovered what I humbly consider to be the most perfect use of the gif wall medium possible: The reaction shots of Oscar losers. As they are broadcast, you simply cannot take them all in since they're spread out on the screen in tiny boxes, and last but seconds. They're just flickers of emotion. I think that placing them side by side on infinite loops works best to fully read the reactions of disappointment, bitchiness, feigned cheer and actual cheer. As much as losing an Oscar (or winning even) is kind of an emotional Rorschach for the nominated actors, reading their expressions is a Rorschach for the viewers. Except for the really bitchy ones. Those we can all agree on.

Below are so so many examples of fallen dreams. Each row is all of the (present) members of one year's given category (I'm only using actors and actresses here). On far right, I've included the reaction of the winners just for good measure. Have fun laughing at their pain!

Continue reading "How they lost" »

Love is deaf

I almost admire Rihanna's audacity. She is a willful woman in a world still fearful of them. She knew exactly the kind of backlash that collaborating again with Chris Brown would inspire and she did it anyway, taunting the world via Twitter last week in advance of last night's release of the remix of Talk That Talk's "Birthday Cake." (One tweet repurposed the lyrics of "Hard" from her superior, post-abuse album Rated R: "They can say whatever, Ima do whatever... No pain is forever <-----YUP! YOU KNOW THIS.") Rihanna has been unfairly accused of having no on-record personality, but the statement (and all of the psychological implications) made in one remix is bolder than that which your average contemporary pop star makes over the course of a single album.

So willful is Rihanna that she not only rejected better judgement and her record company (allegedly), but her own words, as spoken in her 2009 interview with Diane Sawyer, which aired around the time of Rated R's release:

"My selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed. I could not be easy with that part. I couldn't be held responsible for telling them, 'Go back.' Even if Chris never hit me again, who's to say that their boyfriend won't? Who's to say that they won't kill these girls? And these are young girls...I just didn't realize how much of an impact I had on these girls' lives until that happened. It was a wake-up call. It was a wake-up call for me big time, especially when I took myself out to the situation and I'll say that to any young girl who's going through domestic violence: Don't react off of love. Eff love. Come out of the situation and look at it third person and for what it really is. And then make your decision, because love is so blind."

So is she regressing or making a cynical bid for attention (the second best currency in a rapidly crumbing industry)? Is she back in love, blinded all over again, the product of the effect on which she wisely opined two and a half years ago? None of this was any of our business, by the way, until she made it that way with such a public act of reapproval. As irresponsible as it would be for her to privately hook back up with Brown, there'd be little left to do but sigh over her not understanding the extent of the career she's chosen, that her words from 2009 were indeed true and that when you are a celebrity, at least part of your life is no longer your own. That's the trade-off for mass adulation and wealth. You don't have to be an explicit role model, but like it or not, you are an example.

The convenient thing about this "Birthday Cake" remix (and the infinitely duller "Turn Up the Music" remix, his song on which she now appears, in a one-two punch of releases) is that we need not examine a set of messy, complicated personal lives to critique the Rihanna/Chris Brown reunion: This time it's musical. It once was, too: Brown guested on a terrible remix of Rihanna's "Umbrella" before the pair confirmed their relationship. That one's long forgotten, as it deserves to be (it was dropped from playlists after the abuse reports, but it always seemed like a doomed, shrimpy attempt at eclipsing something that was iconic on first play).

The "Birthday Cake" remix will not evaporate so quickly. Like its Coldstone namesake, it will stick to the ass of pop culture. That's too bad because it is a terrible, terrible song. Brown, who's an embarrassment to the soul tradition, adds nothing as usual. His limited range and whiny tone help expose the song's ultimate bankruptcy -- what ran on Talk That Talk at a brisk minute and a half has been stretched to over three and a half minutes and you feel every extra second. Brown merely reiterates what Rihanna says verbatim. (Her in the first verse: "It's not even my birthday, but he wanna lick the icing off / I know you want it in the worst way, can't wait to blow my candles out"; Him in the second: "It's not even her birthday, but I wanna lick the icing off / Give it to her in the worst way, can't wait to blow the candles out.") His third person pronouns in reference to her help us look at this situation for what it really is: Chemistry-free. (When he does refer to her in the second person, it's to say, "Girl, I want to fuck you right now / Been a long time I been missing your body." So yeah, that's no better.)

An irritating clack of a song that finds its hook in a monotone, "Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake!," the "Birthday Cake" remix is a miserable experience. It's a shame because the original was something special: Not a song or an interlude, but a statement. It's a statement in which a woman sings, "I'mma make you my bitch," and it sounds plausible, not just wishful or compensatory to someone who already expressed what he thought of her humanity all over her face. The original features a hard cut right after Rihanna sings the words, "I wanna fuck you right now." She's so serious, so in control of her sexuality that she can't even be bothered to end her own song. It's real a shame that she somewhere lost belief in the power of leaving things unfinished.

Old-lady love/hate

On Friday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center screened 1970's awful-enough-to-subvert-its-own-camp Myra Breckinridge. (I have a very complicated relationship with this movie: when I watch it, my emotional state is a perpetually motive vacillation from love to hate.) The showing was preceded by a live chat between Simon Doonan and Myra herself, Raquel Welch. She was such a bitch. Simon opened with an anecdote about watching Raquel on a motorcycle during the '60s, biting the air and introducing the notion of sexuality to him. It took him five minutes to get that out because Welch repeatedly denied that it was she on that motorcycle. She claimed it was Ann-Margret. I'm more inclined to trust Doonan on this one (he's the pop culture encyclopedia!), but fine: If he was wrong, he was wrong. She was unduly condescending about this, though, at one point talking about how captivating our hallucinations can be. She seemed to mean it as witty banter, but it was just cutting. I couldn't help but wonder if the entitlement that comes from being a fawned-over legend for decades and decades obliterates the nuance necessary to pull off pleasant nastiness.

Welch also bristled when Doonan compared Myra Breckinridge to Showgirls, finally saying, "I don't do nudity," as if that were what he was implying in the first place, and as if Showgirls isn't at least 10 times more entertaining than the movie Welch claims to dislike but regularly shows up to discuss (she has a solo commentary on the Myra DVD – it's entertaining, and far be it from me to begrudge anyone profiting off her bomb, but she makes a lot of time to protest too much). Much of her Myra discourse involves trashing her dusted-off co-star Mae West, who by all reports was terribly unkind to Welch, refusing to appear alongside her on screen and dictating Welch's wardrobe. Well, Welch gets the last laugh by virtue of having outlived West, so HA! (I guess?)

Granted, I admire a good bitch. The utter lack of political correctness Welch exhibits by speaking ill of the dead (pirouetting on a grave, even!) is breathtaking. That said, what she doesn't seem to get is that West is by far the best thing about Myra – West's Old Hollywoodness is one of the few things about the film that actually flatters Gore Vidal's pillaged source material, and she's weird enough to be a standalone freak show. The peak of her performance is a completely needless musical number, a medley of "You Gotta Taste All the Fruit" and "Hard To Handle." You haven't lived until you've seen West bring her trademark snarl to an Otis Redding standard. She feels herself up better than anyone else could possibly hope to.

 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Always love

Eyes_1

Because my adoration for Whitney Houston is well documented, people have been offering their condolences to me, which is a little weird (it's not like I knew her better than anyone!) but entirely nice. I'm OK! Sad, for sure, but it's easy to find tangents of perfection, beauty and hilarity to distract yourself with when reminsicing about Whitney Houston. Here was someone so gorgeous, her warts were attractive.

To think of anyone's life as a cautionary tale is condescending (true acceptance includes flaws) and selective. Unless you are model-pretty with the best voice on the planet and have been rewarded for both with international celebrity, Whitney's complicated story doesn't apply to you. The best we could ever do was admire it from afar, the worst we could do is reduce it to a one-sentence moral. What can you learn from Whitney's addiction that Nancy Regan didn't teach you almost 30 years ago?

I was really looking forward to watching Whitney turn into a crazy old lady. The fun she already was predicted the fun she would have been! I was also looking forward to her comeback, which for the last decade, flirted with the horizon. Selfishly, I feel cheated out of some great chapters, but the early ones are rich enough to provide a lot of solace.

I've been pondering the thematic line in Whitney's "Didn't We Almost Have It All": "The ride with you was worth the fall, my friend." It seems like it should apply here, and it almost does. Jon Caramanica said it really well (with eerie prophecy) days before those pictures of Whitney looking disheveled outside of Kelly Price's party surfaced: "To be Whitney now, you had to be Whitney then." A life is over, and Whitney wore it so publicly that we now know exactly what we are missing. Nothing is "worth" someone's death, but I feel so fortunate to have shared some of Whitney's life.

I wrote a more formal tribute for work. During my research scramble, I rewatched a lot of her 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey, which was just so wonderful and comprehensive that it's about as close to a memoir as we got from Whitney. The part of the interview that affected me the most during my review was the discussion on the death of Michael Jackson, which affected Whitney so greatly that she teared up during her recollection. Watching this in light of her death, I felt a weird unity with this distant star and so much farther away.

 

Millie Jackson is amazing

 

I'm a little late to this one, but I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on my favorite person on TV this week, soul singer Millie Jackson. Her life story took up an hour of TV One's Unsung (basically my favorite show on TV now – did you see last week's Full Force episode?!?). And what a story it was! She got her break by shit-talking some woman that was onstage at a concert she attended. She described her marriage to a bass player like this: "He was a decent cat, but he thought we were going to be Ike and Tina, and the record company didn't sign Ike, it only signed Tina." She gave Roxanne Shanté these words of advice: "You'll be successful a lot longer for the nasty things that come out of your mouth than the nasty things you put in it." She made fun of her own music, lamented her inability to pawn gold records and showed that at age 67, she's still quite flexible (you can see that in the video above).

My favorite thing about her crazy-old-lady-ness is that she's in complete control of it – she knows exactly how funny she is. There's no guilt or irony involved in appreciating this woman. A brilliant singer and storyteller (her Caught Up album, which contains her signature song, "If Lovin' You Is Wrong (I Don't Want To Be Right)" splits its time between the point of view of a woman cheating with a married man and the point of view of his wife – Millie plays both roles), she is the definition of unsung and I really hope that her series-stealing appearance boosts her visibility. I would love to see more of Millie. This senior citizen would be a breath of fresh air to pop culture. Reality show, please.

Some gifs of her wild stage shows and a few still shots are below the jump:  

Continue reading "Millie Jackson is amazing" »

Anything goes with Anna Nicole

 

Anna Nicole Smith died five years ago on this day, and rarely one goes by that I don't think about how much I miss her. I wrote a tribute to her for work that heavily references her infamous appearance at the 2004 American Music Awards:

 

You can read my piece here. Below the jump, some other recent writing...

Continue reading "Anything goes with Anna Nicole" »

Shit the Internet says about the Internet: A blog post

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Lana Del Ray is a singer/Internet lightning rod, a prematurely experienced internet lightning rod, a lightning rod. (However, "Video Games" was the perfect lightning rod, a viral sensation.) [Emphasis mine.] Lana Del Rey is a starlet to music bloggers, a YouTube sensation turned Billboard chart-topper, Enya for the Twitter set, a comment-section-stoking singer, an internet sensation, an Internet sensation, an Internet phenomenon, an Internet singing sensation, a singer of songs that are very popular on the Internet, a person who makes music that is much discussed online, a tabula rasa, a punching bag, a reflection of our collective nightmares about American cynicism and disingenuousness. The divisive Internet sensation was, well, divisive: bloggers are obsessed with her. She is the new singer music bloggers love to hate, the Internet's most hated singer, a sacrificial lamb, 2k11's #1 human meme and 2012's buzziest artist you need to know, in one. Lana Del Rey is an important search term to refer viewers to a website.

"Video Games" hit the 1 million mark on YouTube. It attracted almost a million and a half page views. Two million views. Viewed 2,644,000 times. Nine million. 13 million. It currently has a staggering 20 million views on YouTube. No, more than twenty-one million views on YouTube since it was posted, last August.

What went down from 1 to 21 million views generally is agreed upon, sometimes in different words.

Continue reading "Shit the Internet says about the Internet: A blog post" »

I just want my pants back

 

This is how we do on the other side of the BQE.

A week with RuPaul

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(Via Georges LeBar)

I spent (roughly) the last week of 2011 with RuPaul at his place in the "Birds" section of the Hollywood Hills. He was a generous host, and not just with his time (he was inclined to pay for everything, and also gracious and unwilling to engage in one of those considerate play fights when I wouldn't allow him to). As a result, I wrote a profile for work, "The Tao of Ru." Of course, there were several things that couldn't make it into the article and so below is a brief list of outtakes...

Continue reading "A week with RuPaul" »

Some kid!

 

There was an episode of Made that premiered last week that, as far as I can tell, got ZERO play despite it being UTTERLY AMAZING. It featured the kinda awkward, kinda sickly awesome high school student Jason, who has some kind of degenerative disease that will soon paralyze him (I missed the first three minutes, but the only reference to what is ailing him that I could tell came when he said he was hypermobile, although that just means double-jointed, so WHAT?). He wanted to be a rocker to get "chicks," but then once the cameras did that job for him, he kind of lost interest but still had to stick it out for his hunky Made coach Eoin Harrington (who's "like pie"). For some reason this episode isn't even online, nor is it airing again in the near future (as per a cursory survey of upcoming episodes on my cable box). So here's seven of Jason's best minutes, which are as cringey and hilarious as teenagehood itself.

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