Sunday, April 29, 2007

Vinniethevole anniversary

It occurred to me today that April 10th was the one year anniversary of me switching my entire webpage to this new blog format. Maybe I should dig through my old pages and repost my old blog-ish writings from them. As if anyone but me gives a crap about what bands I thought were cool in 1998...

New Pics of the Boy

Man am I glad it was nice this weekend. We got to get outside several times and that helped enormously with John's cold and with Daddy and Mommy's sanity. Winter babies are fun because they don't seem to mind abrupt changes in temperature and they also have LOADS of fun outdoors when they realize that the world is a much bigger place than just an 1100 sq foot condo. Here's some of John and mommy and daddy frolicking at the nearby "tot" park.


First time on a swing! Whee!


Who would have thought that mud-eyed me had a
blue eye recessive gene that would equal THIS color?








Daddy's little buddy.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

From the Daddy Vault

Our camera has been down for two weeks because the $12.95 Duracell CR-V3 battery that it takes died, and we needed to make a special trip to grab a new one. Nonetheless, here's a relatively new photo:

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Week in Brand

1) The Croup, is some scary shit. It's an infection that infants and toddlers get where what would normally be just a cold becomes an airway-closing, terrifying trip to the ER in the middle of the night. I had it happen to me when I was little, and weirdly enough it was one episode that I actually remember from when I was very young. It's like asthma, but it takes longer to go away, and in very young babies (ie: John, who had it last night), it can even be life threatening. Anyway, John woke up at about 9:30 last night barely able to breathe, and after watching him choke and cough and his eyes roll back into his head, mommy, daddy, and John went on a high-speed, stoplight-ignoring tear-ass down Central Street to the ENH Emergency Room for a vaporizer and a shot of a corticosteroid to make it go away. By 2AM he was fine, and thank you God.

2) My current hunger for live performances, funny videos, and mass-culture mixed with my inability to do really much of anything for more than ten minutes at a time, has resulted in the perfect storm: an addiction to YouTube. Bring on the democratization of the media! I've found dozens of performances I saw on TV that I wouldn't have been able to get MP3's of on iTunes or anywhere else. A good example would be Eddie Veddar's "Here's to the State of George W" which is better than anything Pearl Jam has done in years, and isn't recorded on any album. Which dovetails nicely with the next point:

3) Jack Valenti is dead! WOOT! He wasn't in truth solely responsible for the insane douchebaggery of the RIAA and MPAA of the last 5 years, but he is to the recording industry what Charlton Heston is to the gun industry.

4) Zola Turn, one of my favorite old indie bands from the SLU days is still making music under the name the LAVAS. It's a little heavier and a little less melodic than before, but hey, so is the world.

5) Imogen Heap is pure genius.

6) The White Stripes have a new single out called "Icky Thump" which is just as deliciously weird and rockin as their older work. Man, am I glad Jack White's done with that stupid "Raconteur" nonsense. Linkin Park also has a new album due out, and really, how bad could that be?

7) My friend from high school Frank Arquitt tried to email me through Classmates.com. I have been absolutely dying to talk to this guy for years, and I unfortunately lost track of him. Frank, if you can get to this site, or if anyone who has a Classmates.com membership can email him, tell him to email me at mark_r_brand@hotmail.com.

8) John's trick this week was learning how to kiss people. And who is is favorite person to lay a big, drooly, barfy smacker on? Daddy. :)

ZOLA TURN LIVES!!!

One of my favorite indie bands from NY is apparently alive and well in LA, and is now called the LAVAS. LAVAS, Zola Turn, whatever they're calling themselves these days, it's still the awesome sisters Alice and Julia Austin that rock hard as ever. I almost can't describe how sad I was when I heard they broke up and the trail ended at some other webpage that they never updated. This is almost enough to make up for an entire week of hearing on NPR how our idiot president is vetoing every bill that makes any sense at all and supporting people like Gonzales and the president of the world bank who are obvious criminals. But hey, as long as the girls from Zola Turn keep rocking, there's hope!




www.myspace.com/thelavas

WOOT!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

See ya later, douchebag



Jack Valenti, known widely as the man who invented the Hollywood ratings system, died today. What isn't known widely is that he was one of the most powerful lobbyists for the MPAA for 38 years, having a hand in those news stories about college kids going to jail for downloading movies on the internet and getting the horrible and unconstitutional Digital Millenuim Copyright Act of 1998 passed, which makes crimes out of things like making copies of your own DVDs, and prevents the copyrighted material of old-guard Warner-Disney-MGM films and music from essentially EVER entering the public domain. This guy is also the reason children at age 13 can see people having their heads blown off with shotguns but not *gasp* a fully unclothed woman. You can thank this asshole for the lion's share of what is wrong with the film industry in general, and, like someone on Fark.com said:

"Don't let the coffin door hit you in the ass on the way out, Jack."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

YouTube Music Overdose

Well, as all my readers can plainly see, I've been surfing YouTube heavily this week. Much of it was prompted by the tip to check out that Imogen Heap tune from a friend. In that same spirit, I posted some clips of some of my favorite musicians and their better tunes. In the interest of not having to explain one more time who Zero 7, Rilo Kiley, Ray LaMontagne, etc are to people who have never heard of them. Turn off your top-40 station and listen to real music people.

Sia and Sophie Barker are temporary frontwomen for Zero 7. If you've never heard this song before, you might recognize Sia from "Breathe Me", the song that played during the extended finale scene of "Six Feet Under".


This is Rilo Kiley performing two of their best tunes "More Adventurous" and "Portions for Foxes". Lead singer Jenny Lewis is also known for having played opposite Fred Savage in the movie the Wizard in the 80's, a movie about a kid Nintendo prodigy. Video isn't great, but the sound is terrific.


Ray LaMontagne and Damien Rice here in a duet of "To Love Somebody" Basically Ray simultaneously channels vintage Van Morrison and Jim Croce with a hint of Vietnam Vet thrown in. This guy is the shit. This performance pairs him with the also excellent Damien Rice, who you will recognize from his spectacular song "The Blower's Daughter" from the movie "Closer".


More Ray LaMontagne, because yeah, he's just that good.


My all-time favorite song being performed by probably the best musician of the last 20 years. Ani DiFranco is my generation's Bob Dylan. I've seen her live twice, and sadly she did not sing this song either time.


The White Stripes single-handedly keeps guitar-based rock and roll alive in the 21st century. You will remember Jack White as the younger hillbilly in the film "Cold Mountain", and on the soundtrack to same. This is their best song in a catalogue filled with terrific songs.


And finally, because I'll probably run out of room on my homepage at this point, and because it's time for me to go to bed, here's a live recording of Joss Stone's haltingly-good song "Right to be Wrong". Bucking the trend of young, talented one-album-wonders, Joss continues to improve with each new effort.

If I were a Carpenter

Beth and I sang this to John in the hospital about 4 hours after he was born. We still have it on our TiVo. It still makes me tear up thinking about it. Best version of this song, ever.

Holy #*&$

Check out one of the coolest vocal performances I've ever seen. Note the part about 3/4 of the way through when she harmonizes herself on the melody line, records it, and then improvs over it. And she starts with no beat. It's pretty incredible. I don't even want to think about how long it took her to learn how to do this.

Imogen Heap - "Just for Now"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I KNEW they existed!!!

OK, so anyone who has spent enough time around me when I'm drinking will know that I have a bizarre long-standing tradition of talking about one of my favorite things from the 80's: Muppets. I used to wax philosophical about their virtues in comparison to the drek that is today's children's programming, and inevitably, I would bring up the "Yup-Yups" from Sesame Street. This is the point where even my stoned friends in college would look at me and say "naw, man, you're making that up." I swore I could remember these hilarious, bewildered "yup-yups" and no one else seemed to. Well, through the magic of YouTube, I bring you, straight from when I was 4 years old: the "Yup-Yups"!!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

http://www.myheritage.com

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Last Video for the Day, I Promise

This one just made me smile. I'm a big Norah Jones fan, and here she is singing "Don't Know Why" to Elmo on Sesame Street.

Apparently, rats are ticklish, and they LAUGH

Qui-Gon Jin, the Worst Jedi Ever

Hah!

Reporter gets pwn3d by animal-shelter kitty

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Favorite line from Grindhouse (Tarentino's "Death Proof")

Rosario Dawson: "Did you just hit a boat?" (as their white Vanishing Point Dodge Challenger barrels through an old rowboat which is inexplicably in the road).

Also check out "Hold Tight" by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, and "Staggolee" by Pacific Gas & Electric

Monday, April 16, 2007

I am so over Esquire magazine

This is the newest Esquire issue:

Unfortunately the cover photo of Halle is the only interesting thing about it. The features that I loved so much about the magazine when I first subscribed: Snarky Tom Chiarella's articles, Chuck Klosterman's America, the music column by John Mayer, Funny Joke by a Beautiful Woman, 10 things you didn't know about women and the occasional article about esoteric men's fashion, are all but gone. This month they manged to suck the life out of the magazine entirely. The interior was littered with advertisements for, of all things, WOMEN'S CLOTHING LINES. Tons of glossy, overproduced ads polluted the magazine, driving what little content that actually was there into the background. Rose McGowan, who I thought was quite good in Grindhouse, was made to look like a total idiot in her pathetic and uninteresting feature. Halle Barry, who you would think would have better sense than to do this sort of thing, looks less like a Victoria's Secret model and more like a cheap hooker inside. Klosterman's piece was as rambling and pointless as a Vonnegut story, and the music department is so far off the mark that I don't even bother to finsh reading it. So, either I'm just getting old, or Esquire is embraving the sort of retarded shit that makes Maxim popular. In either case, I'm through with it.

Further tales of overrated movies

All right, here's another one that people said was good and wasn't: The Good Shepherd. Matt Damon plays an emotionless robot of a man (which I liked better when it was called "The Bourne Identity", if for no other reason than it had the fabulous Franka Potente rather than the vapid bucket of lips that is Angelina Jolie), and the entire thing moves at a realistic but incredibly dull pace. I have read many books about spies and how they operated, and I find the whole subject mesmerising. Somehow, this movie managed to be barely watchable. In fact, so much so that I did not even finish it. This is a fate reserved for only the worst overwrought piece-of-shit, overrated films. With Little Miss Sunshine I held out hope for a good ending and was robbed of it, with The Good Shepherd, I knew after 45 minutes that the film would not improve, and there was no point in continuing.

I did, however, see Children of Men and Grindhouse this weekend, both of which I thought were really good. Tarentino's "Death Proof" was a real suprise, managing to be nearly as good as Pulp Fiction or Resovoir Dogs.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why I hated Little Miss Sunshine

I have a feeling I'm going to be in for it after writing this, but here goes....




I watched Little Miss Sunshine tonight, with the very best hopes of digging into something worth watching. So few movies in the last few years have been worth the money spent making them and I was most excited after hearing from literally everyone who saw this film that it was a great movie. I think Little Miss Sunshine is the most overrated, non-funny, slightly depressing thing that I've seen in years. Let me state my reasons:

1) Greg Kinnear cannot act. He just cannot. This man is as wooden and incapable of good acting as William Hung is of good singing. I have hated Greg Kinnear in literally everything I have seen him in. In fact, it has gotten to the point where I will deliberately NOT see films he is in just because I hate him that much. I had a twinge of apprehension when I saw him on the cover of the DVD for Little Miss Sunshine, and I went ahead and watched it anyway. He was/is, just as awful as ever. If only Greg Kinnear was the only reason to not see this film, though...

2) Steve Carell turns in the first performance I have ever seen him in where I thought he was absolutely in no way funny. This man breathes and eats funny, he is funny just smiling a certain way, and yet, somehow, they managed to make him absolutely un-funny in this movie. Nice job.

3) Yes the little girl is absolutely terrific. Every instant she is on the camera, she lights the whole thing right up. But at the end we are treated to a tour-de-force of America's Creepiest Pasttime: the child beauty pageant, including an incredibly disturbing and not-funny pervert in the audience. Did anyone actually laugh at the ending? A little girl entering a meat-grinder of looks-obsessed glamour? The Tammie Faye Baker pageant judge and the Jerry Springer pageant moms? God, I hope not. I find it slightly insulting that the writer of this film would consider me such a typically jaded American that I could find a way to laugh at these uber-depressing trainwreck reasons that foreign countries hate us.

4) The dead grandfather, no matter how good Arkin might have played him, is as cliched and un-funny in 2006 as it was when Chevy Chase did it in Lampoon's Vacation in 1985.

5) The joke about the VW with a bad transmission? Not funny. Just really not funny. The long shots of them running to pop the clutch? Boring after the eighth time.

6) Constant interjection of profoundly depressing topical matter that not only was better acted than the humor, but took up more screen time. It seems almost like the people who made this film set out to make something funny, but then halfway through they decided that it would be better to just paint a portrait of a family who are all on the edge of emotional breakdown. Well, I have news for you Michael Arendt (whose only other writing credit is Toy Story 3), you can't even hold a dim candle to the Todd Solondz films you were trying to emulate. Little Miss Sunshine tried to be a cross between Road Trip, American Beauty, and Welcome to the Dollhouse, and ended up being more like a cross between The Royal Tannenbaums and Jerry Springer.

Most importantly, and perhaps most telling about why I hated this movie was the snarky, intelligensia attitude that it had. It was completely non-transparent, and I felt like I was sitting in the room with the writer as he pounded out his little joke about middle Middle America on his Apple PowerBook while sipping some overpriced designer coffee. This movie felt a lot to me like The Royal Tannenbaums. I know a lot of people that liked that movie. Does anyone really think that winsome, wistful, depressing cliches equal laughter? Where's the cleverness in showing people getting hurt or setting themselves up for real-life disappointment? I don't mind movies that try to mix humor with some seriousness. Something like "Forrest Gump" walked this tightrope admirably. Maybe if Ron Howard had directed Little Miss Sunshine, it would have a) not included the just godawful Kinnear, and b) actually had some genuinely funny jokes in it. No, I didn't think the cop/porn bit was funny, no I didn't think that the Nietzchie/silence thing was funny, and NO, I absolutely did not think that the child beauty pageant sequence was funny. I really found this entire film to be flat, emotionless, depressing, and un-funny.

So you know what, all you people who told me that this was a great film? You're full of shit.

From the Rotten Tomatoes forums:

"That was comedy? Was there anything at all funny in this whatsoever? If that is comedy than I'm a comedic genius. You should see my impression of Christa McAullife's dad watching the Challenger explode."

My thoughts exactly.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Installing Vista is Hell on Earth

Ok, so why anyone would want this retarded operating system is a little beyond me to begin with. It's basically just a Mac OSX clone for the PC. It brings literally nothing new, not to mention the Home Basic version doesn't include most of the features that it brags about. But lets get right to it...

I am installing, on someone else's machine (thank christ), a copy of Windows Vista Home Basic, and not only is it the biggest pain in the balls I've ever had installing an operating system, but I literally had to reformat the hard drive on a BRAND NEW MACHINE in order to reinstall XP, and then use the stupid Dell Upgrade Assistant so that when I finally re-reinstall Vista, the brand new laptop doesn't go completely balls-up.

I tried installing Vista without the Upgrade Assistant program from Dell, and I got:
- A non-functional sound card. (WTF?)- A video card error.- Inability to run Office 2003 products.

Let's talk about this for a second here. Vista refuses to support ATI graphics cards? Nice job, Microsoft, ATI is only... oh... 50% or so of the chipsets of all video cards in existence. Never mind poor SigmaTel, the company that makes the chipsets for the sound cards. The laptop's motherboard speaker beeped cheerfully at me as though I had brought the computer with me through a time worm-hole from 1984.

Finally, the system came pre-installed with Microsoft Office 2003. A LAME-O 60 DAY TRIAL VERSION. Thanks an assload, Microsoft, because after 60 days I plan on either a) rediscovering the pencil as a great way to type documents, or b) hanging myself. And that's AFTER I turn off your retarded Account Manager gatekeeper program that didn't even let me set it up to activate your obnoxious copy protection scheme.

So basically my first twenty minutes of Microsoft Vista went something like this:
"Whoa, they don't like ATI for some reason."
"Whoa, the sound doesn't work."
"Whoa, I can't get into Word."
"Whoa, Word's going to stop working in June."
"Whoa, Vista is one great big advertisement/copy-protection scheme by the biggest company in the world."
"Whoa, I need to reinstall XP, because Vista has crippled this BRAND NEW MACHINE."

And then, most importantly:
"Whoa, wait. Why the hell would I want to RE-INSTALL IT?"

Thursday, April 05, 2007

New respect for an old tune

Have you ever read the lyrics to that old tune "Mac the Knife"? It's seriously about a hitman who murders people with a knife. Holy. Shit. I had no idea until I looked up the lyrics.

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth dear
And he shows em, pearly white
Just a jack knife has macheath dear
And he keeps it way out of sight
When that shark bites with his teeth, dear
Scarlet billows begin to spread
Fancy gloves though has macheath dearS
o theres never, never a trace of red
On the sidewalk, one sunday morning
Lies a body, oozin life
Someones sneaking round the corner
Could that someone be mack the knife
From a tugboat, on the river going slow
A cement bag is dropping on down
You know that cement is for the weight dear
You can make a large bet mackies back in town
My man louis miller, he split the scene babe
After drawing out all the bread from his stash
Now macheath spends like a sailor
Do you suppose our boy, hes done something rash
Old satchmo, louis armstrong, bobby darrin
Did this song nice, lady ella too
They all sang it, with so much feeling
That old blue eyes, he aint gonna add nothing new
But with this big band, jumping behind me
Swinging hard, jack, I now I cant lose
When I tell you, all about mack the knife babe
Its an offer, you can never refuse
We got patrick williams, bill miller playing that piano
And this great big band, bringing up the rear
All the band cats, in this band now
They make the greatest sounds, youre ever gonna hear
Oh sookie taudry, jenny diver, polly peachum, old miss lulu brown
Hey the line forms, on the right dear
Now that macheaths back in town
Youd better lock your doors, and call the law
Because macheaths back in town

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"The desire for private space, for separation, for movement away from the putative comforts of home accounts for such conundrums as long commute times in single-driver cars and needless business travel. Cocooning, nesting, staying connected, hiving, homeshifting - call it what you will, the idea, at least for the male, may prove to be better than the reality. For many men, going to the job is a function not of need, but of desire."

"As pathetic as the territorility of the male worker may be, it is not to be easily dismissed, as commentators from C. Wright Mills to Studs Terkel can attest. Men want their space. But why? And here it is mixed in with status displays, pecking orders, and modes of aggression, that we might also consider the need to hide, to get away, to be alone, to be momentarily safe. While the home may be a refuge from work, modern work is also a refuge from the home."

James B. Twitchell's Where Men Hide