Archive | May, 2012

Is This the Ultimate “Summer” Playlist?

29 May

The cassette tape may have gone the way of the dodo, and the iPod may have replaced the CD-R, but the mix lives on.

Of course, now, instead of calling it a mix, we call it a “playlist.” But no matter.

Making playlists is one of my favorite activities, whether I’m compiling single-artist playlists, playlists for a purpose (e.g., working out, relaxing, or driving), playlists for holidays (Christmas, yes, but also Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day), or time-capsule/state of the iPod/things I’m listening to right now playlists.

But those don’t hold a candle to the thematic playlists I create.

For example, I have a patriotic playlist called “American Tunes” that’s mostly a collection of songs where “America,” “USA,” or some related word figures prominently (“Surfin’ USA,” “Pink Houses,” and “America, Fuck Yeah,” to name just three).

I’ve made a similar mix for rainy days, where some form of the word “rain” figures prominently in each tune, and for when I’ve traveled to various cities, like Las Vegas.

It’s a hobby reminiscent of those days when I went to summer camp and we did “Sing Downs,” where a counselor would throw out a word and we’d have to think of as many songs as we could that referenced the word. The team that thought of the most songs won.

The idea’s not so stupid: The recent “Big” issue of Rolling Stone included a “Big Playlist,” with every song on it featuring the word “big” in the title or in the artist who sings it — or both (e.g., Bob Dylan’s “You’re a Big Girl Now,” and “Big Time” by Big & Rich).

Anyway, I realized this weekend that I’d never created a “Summer” mix, so I finally made one. Continue reading

What Am I Going to Do This Summer?

25 May

Summer is the time for doing things.

It’s not the time for staying inside and being bored.

Last year, I was inspired to create a summer to-do list, and while I didn’t accomplish everything on the list, it was helpful for setting goals and making plans (however loose) for how I wanted to spend my time.

This year I have even more free time on my hands, and I don’t want to waste any of it.

So that’s right, I’ve come up with a second Summer To-Do List. And since Memorial Day Weekend is here (hooray!), that means it’s time to share it.

Here’s what’s on my list: Continue reading

This Is the One that Ends Well

24 May

Ten years after the last Austin Powers movie, there’s been talk that the British super spy is returning to the big screen. (Yeah, baby.)

Coincidentally, 2002 was also the year we last saw a Men in Black film.

That both of these series have been dormant for so long is probably a good thing — especially, in the case of Men in Black, because the second film was not very good, and it’s not like Agents J and K were the most beloved characters of all time. (At least, they weren’t as far as I was concerned.)

And yet, those dapper secret agents are now back (yes, in black), and providing a good example for how to relaunch a film franchise.

Mike Myers, please pay attention. Continue reading

What Makes a Man a Man?

21 May

There’s a game I like to play from time to time called “Fun with Facial Hair.”

The rules are simple: Stop shaving around my mouth, grow a goatee, and see how long I can stand it before my appearance is a complete turnoff, either to myself or to others.

Why do I do this? I’m not really sure.

Sometimes it’s because I’m lazy and don’t feel like shaving (though having to “sculpt” the goatee does take some work).

Sometimes it’s because I need a new look for a little while; friends have taken to calling me “Evil Martin” when the goatee is there, and I kinda like that.

But if the folks in Morgan Spurlock’s new movie Mansome are to be believed, there are three main reasons:

  1. I do it to assert my masculinity.
  2. I grow hair on my face simply because I can.
  3. And I do it to show I’m a man, not a boy.

So there you go. Grunt. Continue reading

A Letter to Sacha Baron Cohen

19 May

Dear Sacha Baron Cohen,

When most of America first met you in the film Borat, your brand of comedy was new and novel.

The way you didn’t just play a character, you became that person — on screen and in every promotional appearance — was a brilliant display of performance art. You drew laughs from our discomfort, and I loved it.

Your next such movie, Brüno, was less successful largely because you basically did the same thing all over again, just with a gay German fashion reporter instead of a clueless Kazakh reporter. Yawn.

Now you’re starring in The Dictator, playing Admiral General Aladeen, a despot from the fictional North African country of Wadiya, who sees himself as a peer and friend of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, etc. The film is a satire of current world politics, a sendup of the Middle Eastern dictator culture, and again, you’ve been out promoting the film in character.

You’ve been at the Oscars, where you dumped Kim Jong-il’s “ashes” on Ryan Seacrest, and on Saturday Night Live with your Hugo director, Martin Scorsese. And you’ve made multiple other appearances as Aladeen, making many of the same jokes we saw in the film’s trailer and that we see in the film itself.

If your intention is to shock and offend us, then why ruin the gags for us before we’ve even paid for a ticket?

I’m sorry to be the one who has to tell you, but at this point, it’s not just “been there, done that” … it’s over. Continue reading

31 Reasons Why I’m Unfriending You on Facebook

18 May

I joined Facebook in 2005 — April 27, 2005 to be exact — and back then, I had no clue the site would turn into such a central part of my online existence.

I doubt Mark Zuckerberg thought it would be this big either.

And yet, here we are on the day Zuck’s website is going public. Hooray for him, and for anyone out there who’s purchased shares. Try not to spend all your earnings all at once.

While everyone’s celebrating the world’s biggest social network today, I thought it’d be a good time to look at the other side of it. After all, there’s a truth that some people like to admit more than others …

Facebook, while it’s a fun site to use, can also be really annoying.

I’m not talking about the privacy concerns or the increasing presence of marketers and advertisers.

I’m talking about the everyday use by our friends, and how so many of them just get on our nerves.

I asked around, and here’s a list I’ve compiled of 31 annoying things that people on Facebook do, things that may be grounds for unfriending by me or another one of the people in your network: Continue reading

15 Things I Just Don’t Understand

9 May

Can you smell the wood burning?

I’ve had lots of time to myself over the past month or so, which means I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

Now, I’m pretty confident in the things I know. But some things I just don’t get.

And those things I spend a lot of time debating in my head. (It’s a very productive debate. Believe me.)

So in the spirit of presenting another side of my thought process(es), here’s a list of 15 things I don’t understand. Continue reading

Must See TV, According to Me

7 May

For the past few years, at the start of every TV season, I’ve written a blog post about what shows I plan to watch.

But a funny thing occurred to me last week: I never do close the loop and let y’all know what shows I followed through on and am still watching at the end of the season.

After all, my “plans” are rather ambitious in September, what with so many new shows looking so promising and others getting a clean slate with a new TV season. That’s why it doesn’t take long for my DVR to get backed up, and for me to get behind on some shows.

If you’re like me, that may make you concerned that I’d spend all day and night watching TV.

Well, it gives me great pleasure to let you know I’m not a total couch potato.

And to prove it, here’s a week at a glance of what I’m watching now, or was watching until the show’s season ended: Continue reading

Plays Well with Others

6 May

Summer is here!

With The Avengers now in theaters, we have our first big slam-bang, star-studded, popcorn action film of the season.

And what a good time it is.

Bringing together more than a half-dozen of the brightest stars in the Marvel universe, The Avengers is kind of like Ocean’s 11 for comic book geeks. (If you prefer Marvel, that is. Personally, I’m more a DC universe / Justice League fan. But that’s not really important here. I’m just sayin’.)

The movie begins with a portal to another universe opening (how does that keep happening?), and Loki, Thor’s megalomaniacal adoptive brother, arriving to cause mischief. After Loki tells Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, head of the peace-keeping alliance S.H.I.E.L.D., that a global war is coming, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the planet — even though, really, it’s only the U.S. that seems to be in danger.

So Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo), all with their own egos and issues, are forced to work together. (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, too, but not until he can break free from Loki’s mind control.) Of course, it doesn’t go well at first, but eventually they get their act together and they take on the Big Bad in New York City. Because if aliens descend on Earth, where else would they go? Continue reading

Thankfully, He’s Not There Yet

2 May

If you’ve never heard of Eric Hutchinson, that’s alright.

Despite releasing two highly enjoyable albums of soulful pop songs — including his latest, Moving Up, Living Down —having a couple of videos that’ve made VH1’s Top 20 countdown, and being an opener for Kelly Clarkson’s tour a couple years ago, mainstream success has so far eluded Hutch.

And I’m cool with that, because I like him (actually, I have for a while), and sometimes being a fan of a singer or band is more fun when they’re on the verge, and success hasn’t yet tarnished their vibe or image.

That’s why last night, Hutch played the Paradise here in Boston — as opposed to, say, the House of Blues, where fun. played just a couple weeks earlier — and it was a more intimate, laid back show that allowed Hutch to better connect with his fans, many of whom were from the area’s colleges. Continue reading