Monday, June 23, 2008

You Can't Take It With You

Comedian George Carlin died yesterday. You would think that in a blog like this, I would talk about his c most famous bit, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV." But the routine that comes to mind at this time is his rumination on "Stuff."

Whether or not he meant to critique our attachment to the crap we accumulate, that's how I take it. I am proud to say that I do not have a waffle maker or proper crepe pan--not that I hate brunch, I just wouldn't use these often enough to justify owning them.

And yet, I am a terrible pack rat. Junk drawers abound. The garage, which we paid someone to clean out last year, is filling up again--bad gifts that can be regifted, old textbooks I might want to read again, large cardboard boxes I might need again someday (to fill with more stuff). I am constantly filling bags for Goodwill because the last thing I want to do, as Carlin will say, is move to a bigger place for my stuff.

Talk of stuff reminds me of this article in Time about the 100 Thing Challenge, Dave Bruno's quest to pare down his personal belongings to just 100 things. That's a Sisyphean task. Thoreau may have lived simply but it sure seems hard to do in twenty-first century America; I canceled my Real Simple subscription when I realized how frequently it hawked stuff that would supposedly make your life simpler (of course, I still could not bear to part with the 12 issues that sit on my bookshelf).

And yet, when you look at the photos of what families own worldwide, as pictured in the book Material World, it suddenly seems very easy (And yes, I see the irony of including the link to buy what essentially amounts to another coffee table book).

I'd like to stick to the bottom tiers of psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs when it comes to buying stuff: physiological (food, toothpaste), safety (car with airbags), and social (dining room table for entertaining friends and family). And yet in terms of what exactly you buy to meet those three tiers, the fourth tier, esteem, the desire for approval and status, will always be a temptation. I'd rather just skip past that tier and have my higher-order purchases be motivated by cognitive (books) and aesthetic needs (a beautiful well-crafted dining room table).

In the end though, once those needs are met, what I suppose I am looking for most in life is that top tier, self-actualization--the need to strive to be the best I can and make the most of my abilities. And that's something no "thing" will ever satisfy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Peabody Awards 2008

Last year, my favorite show, Battlestar Galactica, won a Peabody Award, along side South Park (Creators of that show are also huge fans of BSG). This past Monday, it seems every other show I have ever loved and mentioned on the blog also won: Mad Men, 30 Rock, Project Runway (first reality show to do so), and The Colbert Report.

Here's a clip of the honorees

Of these shows, the only one I really want to watch but cannot is Mad Men, which will kill me when Season 2 comes back next Sunday, June 27. This is the one show that gave me second thoughts about giving up TV. If Season 2 is available on iTunes, I will definitely purchase episodes. Here's chapter 1, 2 and 3 of the pilot, available in full from AMC:

The only winning series this year I haven't seen is Dexter, CBS/Showtime's series starring Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) as a serial killing forensic expert who channels his urges into killing other serial killers--I'm sure it's good, but it's not my cup of tea.

Friday, June 20, 2008

OMG, Liam Sullivan!

Of all the YouTube celebrities featured in Weezer's video "Pork and Beans," the one I was happiest to have discovered was Liam Sullivan. The actor-comedian had been struggling to break into mainstream TV with gigs on Alias and Gilmore Girls but it wasn't until the broad shouldered actor made a music video of himself in blonde wig and glasses that his career took off.

"Kelly" is a rebellious, sullen, obsessive girl sporting the punk clothes and attitude of Thora Birch in Ghost World, the hair and glasses of Garth Algar from Wayne's World, the valley girl accent of Moon Unit Zappa, and the stripped leggings and shoe obsession of the Wicked Witch of the East. Here's the video, Shoes, that made Kelly (and Liam) into an internet star:

Kelly reacts to cute boys and shoes with a slack-jawed, catatonic stare of a zombie in heat. On the other hand, bad gifts, stupid boys, "betchy" girls, and putdowns from her conservative parents and twin brother are all greeted in the same way: incredulous stares, open-mouth, lip-curling sneers of disgust, followed by profanity-laced tantrums and the occasional bout of violence.

Shoes came out in 2006 and Sullivan already won a People's Choice Award for user-generated content in 2007, so I'm a latecomer, but I'm making up for lost time.

Lest you think he's a one-note wonder, Sullivan also plays Kelly's father, brother, grandmother, and aunt, each so distinct and hilarious, it's hard to believe you're watching the same guy except that they are all sporting the same gap-toothed smile. Sullivan's also followed on the success of Shoes with videos Let Me Borrow That Top, Text Message Breakup, and No Booty Calls and is currently on tour with comedian Margaret Cho.

His streams of income right now appear to be from downloads of his iTunes videos, Kelly merchandise, advertising off of his site, and touring gigs. I selfishly hope this can keep him going and putting out more videos.

Comedy Online

The internet is crawling with people trying to be funny, here are some posts I've written on people who actually are.

Posts on funny men (and women*) getting their start online (or making it their permanent home)
Let's Give It Up for Nate Dern
Evan Meets a Leprechaun
Big Fat Brains Behind You Suck at Photoshop
Funny Man, Straight Man, No Middle-Man?
Cop Nation
OMG, Liam Sullivan!
Local Boy Makes Good: Ryan Higa is the most subscribed teen vlogger on YouTube
*If "The Office" Was Populated by Unemployed Gamers, You'd Have "The Guild"

Posts on other comedians
Comedians Who Like Word Play
The Only Way I'll See Eddie Izzard

Parrot for State Bird of California?

I don't often click on online ads, but reading CNN, I had to know what this ad, "Parrot for State Bird," was about. Could someone seriously be spending money to petition our legislators to replace our state bird, the quail?

Turns out it's just an ad for Parrot Cellular, reminding consumers that they have plenty of Bluetooth devices at their stores to buy before California's new hands-free driving law goes in to effect on July 1.

The reason I half-bought the premise of the petition is because there are wild parrots in California. One of my favorite documentaries of all time is The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Judy Irving's film about San Francisco hippie Mark Bittner and his relationship with an urban flock of cherry-headed conures is a surprisingly touching meditation on life, loneliness, and love with the ultimate feel-good ending. If you don't believe that this movie has appeal beyond the Animal Planet set, check out the positive reviews of 100% of the top critics at Rotten Tomatoes, then view the trailer:

Monday, June 16, 2008

David Cook Blew Out My Sound Card

Because I stopped watching TV and canceled even basic cable, I didn't follow American Idol at all this season. But I was reading the entertainment magazines online and they kept talking about David Cook's rendition of Billy Jean and how this guy was coming from nowhere to possibly claim the title from the presumptive winner David Archuleta. So I looked him up on YouTube.

Holy crap, that song made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. So I looked up his audition, which was Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer, which was equally powerful and unexpected. Knowing who he was allowed me to participate in water cooler conversation. I was coming back from a business trip the night of the finals and as soon as we touched down the 50-year old woman next to me whipped out her phone and it was apparent she was talking to her husband about Idol. "Who won?" I asked. "David Cook...Thank God," she said, relieved.

So that was that--till this weekend. I don't know why I looked up David Cook this weekend--it's been a month or so since he won. But I've now seen about a hundred YouTube videos of his performances and interviews, and I have OD'ed (I had to stop when I overheated my sound card and it died, but my computer seems to have healed itself).

So now that I've binged, let's purge: here are the top five reasons why I like David Cook:

5. He's well rounded: He does the New York Times crossword puzzle (he pegs him self as a Wednesday kinda guy) but he's also a jock (pitcher in high school) and he majored in graphic design.

4. He loves his brothers. Came out to support his younger brother's audition with no intention of auditioning himself, and has the initials of his older brother, who is fighting cancer, on his guitar and tatooed on his bicep.

3. He sings as well as any male recording artist out there, perhaps with the exception of Steve Perry. And he plays his own guitar.

2. With a background in theater, he knows how to perform, and not just music. Check out his appearance on Best Week Ever. He even made the best of an otherwise uncomfortable Mike Myer's cameo. And he literally rocked the pants off David Archuleta in that Guitar Hero commercial. Get him a guest spot on SNL, pronto!

1. He had the wherewithal to realize that pipes aren't everything-- he was going to have to change his looks. He started with a pasty white face, soul patch, and hair in his eyes and looked like Garth Brooks' alter ego, Chris Gaines, which is to say, horrible (here's his official photo from the start of the season). While he says he just forgot to shave and he's just been busy, the fact is he's lost 15 pounds, grew some stubble, spiked his hair up and obviously had a chance to work with a stylist, because now he's drool worthy (and believe me, from what I've read, women from 18 to 50 are flocking to him). It's a transformation straight out of Queer Eye and he is reaping the benefits right now.

Here's a clip of him singing the Foo Fighter's My Hero for the the Mercedes-Benz Summer Concert Series.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Commercialism Saves Lives

I was reading GQ recently when I came across an article about Errol Morris, the documentary filmaker behind The Thin Blue Line, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, and most recently Standard Operating Procedure. What you may not know is that he also films commercials for companies such as Nike, Miller, and Apple. Not only is he unapologetic, he has this to say: “I love commercials, unreservedly. The haiku of the West. And I like to think of consumerism as the most effective preventative to genocide yet devised. If someone shows up at your door and asks you to hack your neighbor to death with a machete, you’re less likely to do it if you have prior plans, say, to go and buy a DVD player.”

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What Jeopardy Champ Thinks of Joss Whedon's Firefly

Ken Jennings is best remembered as the longest running Jeopardy champ who won $2.52 million in a record 74 games. He also happens to be a darn funny writer (I'd say "d*mn" but I don't want to offend his Mormon sensibilities). Here's a post from his blog on how he was recently introduced to the cult hit Firefly, what he thinks of it, and why he confuses it with Keri Russell's show Felicity.

Incidentally, the leads of Felicity and Firefly have starred together in a movie that came out last year. I know it's not time to play One Degree yet, but does anyone know what movie I'm referring to?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Interactive TV: YouTube Video Annotations

My husband dragged me to see Starship Troopers when it came out in 1997 and there was a scene of what media coverage would be like in the future. You would watch a news clip and click on the screen after the question "Would you like to know more?"(and yes, that really is Neil Patrick Harris, in one of his few roles between Doogie Howser MD and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle)

In 1997, the internet was new, and there was this feeling that interactive TV was around the corner (WebTV anyone?). But it wasn't really. Yes, videos were soon embedded in web pages, with additional links to related videos. But nothing popped up in the middle of the screen during a broadcast that could be clicked for more information. (Both TiVo and Hulu kind of do this, but these generally link to ads)

Today, I was visiting Nate Dern's channel on YouTube and he had posted a Choose Your Own Adventure video series. Apparently, on June 4, YouTube announced on its blog that it had released an annotation feature to it's users, such that they could add pop up messages and links in a time and place of your choosing throughout your video.

For instance, here's a link to an interactive card trick. And here's a link to how to create annotated videos, from the card trick's producer (I'd embed these videos here, but if you do, the linking doesn't work).

For more info, visit this page about Video Annotations.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Comedians Who Like Word Play

I like my comedians nerdy. Recently I've come across two videos featuring comedians who might give Will Shortz a run for his money.

Here's Weird Al Yankovic with his song composed entirely of palindromes. Bob.

And while I don't think Weird Al comes up with his own palindromes, Demetri Martin does. Here's a video of Demetri Martin from his special "If I" and a link to 224 word Palindrome that he wrote.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Not Easy Being a Green Network

Tomorrow, The Discovery Network launches a new network, PlanetGreen. I won't watch it, because I canceled cable. They are clearly hoping that TV-watching LOHASians will tune in, but will they? It's advertised in Newsweek this week with the tagline "Organic Couch Potatoes Unite," with a little logo in the corner from sponsor General Motors. With sponsors like that, I can't help but think that this network will lack any serious environmental teeth.

For a satire of green programming, see this clip from NBC's 30 Rock, or better yet, the entire show, which features David Schwimmer as GE's corporate environmental mascot, Greenzo.

And for non-network environmental tips, visit, including this clip that features another dig at GE.
Copyright 2008