Monday, May 29, 2006

Oh my God, shoes.

I am so fucking obsessed with this video.

This is courtesy of the brilliant Liam Sullivan. Be sure to check out the extended version of the video on his site and definitely check out the coolest Myspace page ever, Kelly's Myspace page which has been recently hijacked by her mom because Kelly is like, totally grounded.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Amazing amazons and magnificent mutants.

Thanks to the good graces of a pal of mine, I received a link to this most amazing video in my email today:

I could seriously watch that video 10 times every hour for the rest of my life. Sure, I might get a little bored, but it's doubtful.

People have often asked me where my Wonder Woman fixation comes from. I was recently one of several people quoted in a piece in The Advocate about why gay people love super heroes so much. Because I knew I wasn't supposed to babble on endlessly about the whys and wherefores of my love of super heroes, I kept it short and to the point: as a queer person I identified with the concept of having a secret identity, a part of yourself you had to hide away in case the world couldn't handle it. In case your true self was something they weren't ready to face. There was also the little mention of the hot, hairy chested (and criminally overused all over the Marvel universe) Wolverine, an early instigator of my attraction to hairy chested men.

But there's more to it then the few simple quotes I provided. My first memories of loving super heroes came from watching the Wonder Woman TV show which started airing when I was about 5 years old. I was immediately obsessed with the show and with her. While my step-brother summed up his interest in her with one phrase, "She has nice boobs!", I was not in it for the T&A. In fact, it's amazing to watch the show now and see how successfully Lynda Carter was able to wear such a skimpy outfit and not play Wonder Woman as a jiggly, bouncing, sex symbol. She infused her with dignity, courage and strength, pushing her beyond the realm of mere eye candy and titillation.

Every time I watched the show I couldn't wait until Diana Prince would duck into a nearby alley/corridor/abandoned doorway/whatever, glance around with that look of determination and then begin spinning until a ball of light and sound exploded from her, ushering in her change to the red, white, blue and gold spangled form of Wonder Woman. When they would do 2 part cliff hanger episodes that would end with her in peril or with someone potentially discovering her secret I was practically a wreck until the next episode, even though I knew it was all fiction. Something about her inspired me more than any fictional figure I'd encountered up to that point. As a kid, I was not the most able bodied of individuals. I had severe asthma and was being raised by a Christian Scientist mother and step-father, so medical attention was not a part of my daily life. But pain was. I wasn't able to be as active or athletic as a lot of my childhood peers. And while I was still as spazzy as I am now, if not more, I was often winded and wheezing just from walking upstairs to my bedroom. Watching Wonder Woman run, jump, fight and deflect bullets made me long for the ability to spin around and turn into someone strong and amazing. Her adventures were an escape from my illness and my family life. The fact that she always stood for justice, equality and peace were concepts that mattered much more to me later on in life.

My interest in Wonder Woman lead me to start reading comic books. One of the comic books I first remember reading, and loving, was The Uncanny X-Men. At this point I was almost 7 years old and dealing almost daily with feeling like an outcast at my athletics obsessed elementary school. Before I even had a conscious idea that I was gay, I knew that I was different. The X-Men being mutants and having to hide who they were, even moreso than Diana Prince ever had to, really spoke to me. At school I would try to hold my breath as much as possible because my nearly constant wheezing caused my oh-so-friendly classmates to frequently ask me to "stop breathing, it's so loud". One of the first storylines I encountered in the X-Men had to do with Jean Grey transforming from Phoenix into Dark Phoenix, her already awesome powers driving her to madness and vengeance after years of holding herself back and restraining her darker side. I think I wanted to be like her almost more than I wanted to be like Wonder Woman. If I could just get past the barriers created by this illness, I could show people how strong, how powerful I could be. And yeah, maybe I wanted just an eensy bit of revenge against all those assholes in school who wanted me to stop breathing.

Tonight, Red and I are going to see the midnight premiere of X-Men 3: The Last Stand. While there are many people worrying, fretting and naysaying over what Brett Ratner will do to this movie, I am merely excited. Call it simple comic book geekery, but it's much more than that for me. Aside from mutants being shunned by the larger society being a really apt metaphor for queerness, these characters were a huge part of my formative years. They were a haven from a religious upbringing that caused me years and years of pain. They were an escape from bullies, jerks and bad family members. They were the closest I saw to anything in the culture around me that I related to. And Wonder Woman was the glimmer of hope that there were people who could be better. Who believed in valuing everyone, even if they were different, and for fighting for equality and justice for all not just the chosen few. Tonight when I sit in that darkened movie theater watching the screen adaptation of one of my favorite pieces of pop culture ever, I'll be excited, entertained, thrilled and giddy, just like everyone else around me. But I also know a part of me will be so happy to see my childhood heroes and heroines, the characters that gave me hope and refuge, come to life for a few hours in front of me. Because I still relate to them, still need them and the messages that they bring: it's alright to be different, never change for anyone, because your are right and whole the way you already are.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Battle Royale: The Celebrity Edition

The other day Red and I were discussing a movie we both love, Battle Royale. For the uninitiated, this is a Japanese film set in the near future where, as a method to control a rebellious youth population, a class of students is selected at random, kidnapped and taken to an island where they must fight one another to the death. Only one can emerge victorious and the rest will die. They all are made to wear special electronic collars that are set off if they stray too far past certain boundaries on the island. When triggered, the collars will explode, killing the kid who is wearing them. Despite this grisly premise, it has a lot of humor and is pretty damn brilliant. There was a vastly inferior, overly fast-paced sequel made that I could barely sit through. But the first one is fucking awesome. I highly reccomend it.

So anyway, we were discussing this fine piece of film when it occurred to me that it needed to be remade here in the good ol' US of A (since all we do now is remake movies, especially ones that were 100x better in Japan). But - and this is where the important difference comes in - it would not be a fictional tale. The movie would be called Battle Royale: The Celebrity Edition. Like the fictional youth population of the-not-so-distant-future Japan, our nation's celebrity population is out of control. Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, The Olsen Twins, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes, Denise Richards, Heather Locklear & Charlie Sheen, and the list goes on and on. It's getting to the point where talentless, closeted, anorexic, insane, clothes whores are taking up so much space that celebrities with actual talent who can justify their existence on this planet are all but ignored in favor of the shenanigans of the vapid and STD-riddled. And while it's tempting to line them all up and shoot them, why not get a little entertainment out of it and give them all one last chance to appear onscreen before they are wiped off the planet forever?

And remember, one of them gets to stay. Whichever one wants fame badly enough, whichever one is hungry enough for the spotlight - and that could be a tough call with the likes of Nicole, Mary-Kate and Ashley all vying for the top spot - he or she will be the one to win the Battle Royale! And it doesn't have to stop there. Like the movie, this is something that could happen often and at random. One day Mischa Barton could be sipping a mimosa at a chic L.A. eatery and the next thing you know she's on the island fighting for her life against Ryan Cabrera, Ashlee & Jessica Simpson and several American Idol cast members. Think of the glee Felicity Huffman would feel as she watched Terri Hatcher, Nicolette Sheridan and Eve Longoria hauled away, screaming for their lives (I'm leaving Marcia Cross off of that list because she is clearly a Preying Mantis and will eat my head). Sarah Michelle Gellar may have to deal with the loss of her beloved Freddie Prinze Junior, but I'm sure it's exhausting having to be the only talented one in that couple. And heaven help anyone if Shannen Doherty ever ends up on the island, because you know that bitch will be the last, blood-drenched one standing. Jennie Garth, I'm looking at you.

And it doesn't have to stop there. The music world could use a good housecleaning as well. Why, I can imagine entire theme editions like "Battle Royale: The New Country Edition" where Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Shania Twain and that annoying woman who sings all those songs about being a redneck have to slaughter one another for the chance to be the only one who can sing their canned, lifeless music. On "Battle Royale: Derivative Bands Edition" we can watch The Killers, Interpol, Panic! At The Disco, and The Bravery combat one another to see who is left to continue on making watered down, soul-crushing, "new wave" music. There will be a lot of smeared makeup on this one, not for the faint of heart.

As you can see, the possibilites are endless. Within a few years we could level the useless celebrity quotient by massive amounts. We could have a celebrity clearcutting the likes of which would startle McDonald's and Burger King combined. And future generations of wannabes would have a warning: this could happen to you. Don't send that audition tape to Star Search. Don't dream of what The Mickey Mouse Club could do for you. And forget reality television. It will be all but outlawed - a crime punishable by death with no chance for even a Battle Royalle to save you. All reality shows that is except for Project Runway and America's Next Top Model, each season of which would conclude with the deaths of all losing cast members so as to save us from whatever they may try to foist upon us in the future.

I will be pitching this idea to all the major networks, so don't even think of stealing my thunder, bitches. My shit is copyrighted up the ass.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sleater-Kinney, Great American Music Hall, 5/2 & 5/3

One of the first songs I ever heard Corin Tucker sing was from a demo for her first band Heavens To Betsy that I bought in 1992 at a record store in New York City. The song was called "Baby's Gone" and it was a sparse, guitar-and-voice-only track where she sang from the point of view of a young woman who had died while attempting a self-abortion. The song was so intense and personal I felt as if I were invading her privacy by listening to it; reading a diary that wasn't my own full of someone's most secret thoughts. And even though it wasn't a subject that I could personally relate to it was so inspiring. I'd never heard anyone sing the kind of songs she sang in Heavens To Betsy and she was one of the musicians that came out of the whole riot grrrl/queerpunk explosion in the '90s that really inspired me to start playing music. Her voice was incredible and she totally blew my mind much the same way Kristin Hersh did when I first heard Throwing Muses when I was 15.

Fast forward 14 years to San Francisco and the Great American Music Hall and Corin Tucker is still blowing my mind. Sleater-Kinney were in town for a two night stand at GAMH after their show two days previously at Coachella. They didn't have to stop here at all since there wasn't further touring booked in the area, but the band really seems to love San Francisco, as they told us many times both nights. When Corin hit the bridge of the song "Sympathy" near the end of their first night set, it was a similar feeling to the one I had back in 1992. "Sympathy" is about the difficulties she had during her pregnancy with her son Marshall and how it seemed like he might not make it into the world. Luckily he had a healthy and safe birth, but the song reflects her own turmoil and pain waiting and wondering if he'd make it through. It's a stark contrast to "Baby's Gone", starting out with a single, plaintive guitar line and then bursting into a full-on blues rock stomp and wail. She doesn't hold back vocally in the recording and live it's a hundred times more incendiary. It's as if she's reliving those moments of fear and desperation in front of the audience and it almost feels like we shouldn't be there - like it's too personal. But we are there and we are allowed to witness this incredibly personal moment and it's one of the many moments where Sleater-Kinney blows so many other rock bands right out of the water. The fact that they did that dozens of times both nights is no small feat.

Click the image to see a video clip of "Sympathy" from 5/02

Sleater-Kinney has never been a band to disappoint with their live show. But watching Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein evolve from the contained intensity that seemed to boil from each one of them behind their mic stands to these confident, audacious, show-stopping rockers is really incredible. Pete Townshend would bow down before Carrie's guitar shredding leaps and windmills just as any singer in his or her right mind would kill for a weapon like Corin's voice in their arsenal. It's always been astounding but now there's so much control and depth to her voice it's definitely awe inspiring to hear live. And don't even get me started on Janet Weiss. She's been a fantastic drummer since the first time I saw her touring with S-K. But she's gone from this precise, flawless drummer who could replicate every hit, fill and crash from the albums to this insane-yet-still-incredibly-tight drumming maniac. Watching her makes me feel like I tap on some pieces of cardboard every now and again as opposed to playing drums. She still gets all her parts right but she throws in wild improvisations and fills-galore so even their oldest songs sound new and exciting. The fact that they play all of one slow song in the whole set where she only drums a little at the end amazes me. I seriously get tired just watching her. All hail.

So the first night at GAMH was great but the second night was just plain incredible. Both sets had them playing everything off of The Woods except for "Steep Air" (which was not missed) as well as some tunes from All Hands On The Bad One and One Beat. But the second night was a total wish-fulfillment set. Red, Geof and I all had songs we were hoping and praying they'd play on the second night: "Get Up", "Good Things", "Everything", "Turn It On" and "One Beat". They played every single one. They also blew us all away by playing "Little Mouth" as the final song of their second encore. I can't even remember the last time they did that one live. The entire second night was completely live album-worthy - including both of the covers they did - Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" and Bruce Springsteen's "The Promised Land". And I do hope that such a live release exists someday. Pair it with a live DVD and myself and many other folks can die happy.

Corin completely owned the second night and it felt as if her voice could do no wrong. She was loud, confident and even playful, rocking some serious Susanna Hoffs eyes during the saucier moments of "Milkshake n Honey" and "Get Up". One of the things I have always loved about her songwriting in S-K is that she actually allows desire and sexuality to be a part of the usually sexless, "we just cuddle and are shy" world of indie rock in a way that is both real and cliche-free. And while I know there are legions of fans who think Carrie is just sex on a stick with her fabulous guitar moves and her onstage swaggering, Corin is always the secret bombshell of S-K in my mind. Anyone whose songwriting repetoire can contain both a song about atomic fusion, the ill effects of war and the need for change in our culture ("One Beat") as well as one sung from the perspective of a horny male tourist in France who has "always been a guy with a sweet tooth and that girl was just like a king-sized candy bar" wins in my book. She puts her heart, brains and lust on her sleeve and that rocks.

Most shows, even ones with bands that I love, always leave me with a desire to jump onstage and play with my own band. I get antsy as an audience member and I want to play, play, play. It's not a dis against the band or bands I am seeing, it partially means they inspire me to rock. But I am never content just watching them. But both nights at The Great American Music Hall I was more than happy to stand - and dance my ass off - in the audience with everyone else as I watched one of the best bands in existence do what they do best. Here's to decades more.