Pop Culture Odds and Ends – I’m sick edition

So it turns out, dear readers, that I am indeed a mere mortal and occasionally I feel under the weather. Right now I’m battling either a nasty cold or a light flu; I’m not sure if it has made up its mind yet as to what it is. This has knocked me down for the count – my boss took one look at me yesterday and sent me home, where I slept most of the day and watched a lot of wedding-related programming which seems to comprise a lot of the daytime TV schedule. I’m feeling slightly better today, but I’m also hopped up on enough cold medicine to take down an ox. The good news is that I seem to have stopped coughing; the bad news is I’m exhausted walking from one room to the next.

However, I must soldier on. I couldn’t leave you without your pop culture roundup. That would be heresy. I just can’t guarantee that everything is spelled right and that the order of links makes total sense. I tried my best, but I can’t make any promises as to coherency. So while I try the difficult act of breathing without getting winded, kick back and enjoy the pop culture goodness that I’ve assembled.

  • Charlie Hunnam has quit the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation. I think this was a good career move for him, though he was the only reason I had any interest in the movie.
  • If you love those Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy commercials for Dodge as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that he made SEVENTY of them.
  • Watch Tom Hanks play around on a giant piano keyboard (with a little help from Sandra Bullock):

 

  • Bullock also showed off her rap skills:

 

  • The Simpsons will have guest vocals from Judd Apatow, Channing Tatum, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Seth Rogan.
  • File this under things that make you go hmmm….Japanese school kids perform “Day Man” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

 

  • The A.V. Club has a story on an old favorite of mine, Homestar Runner.
  • Britney Spears’ new album has a name – her name.
  • The cast of Modern Family played Family Feud on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

 

  • Lady Gaga and The Muppets are making a Christmas special. This could either be amazing or terrible. I don’t see any middle ground.
  • The showrunner for The Daily Show has left.

Trailers

  • Michael Bay and Starz are teaming up for a new pirate show:

 

  • Sarah Silverman’s new HBO special:

 

  • I’m really looking forward to Will Ferrell’s Spoils of Babylon mini-series on IFC

 

  • George Clooney and Matt Damon head up an all-star cast in Monument Men

 

  • This documentary on Calvin & Hobbes looks great

 

  • The trailer for Avalanche Sharks, SyFy’s newest terrible movie, has been released:

 

  • Ad Week has an interesting story on how much it costs to run a commercial on different TV shows.
  • The guy from Blur is working with actor Idris Elba on new music.
  • Elizabeth Berkley revisited her Saved By The Bell roots on Dancing with the Stars:

 

  • Alexander Skarsgard stars in the music video for Cut Copy’s “Free Your Mind.”

I would totally sign up for this cult.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • An Archer/Top Gun mashup:

 

  • Someone mad a Pokemon/King of the Hill crossover:

 

  • And finally, here’s a supercut that theorizes that Tom Hank’s career is just one long movie:

12.12.12. Concert for Sandy Relief

Last night, like I suspect a lot of people, I tuned in to the 12.12.12 concert for Sandy relief. I was kind of surprised that I had so many options as to where to watch the concert; it aired on dozens of channels and was streaming live on-line on over a dozen websites. It was nice to see that so many different networks and sites came together to make sure that many different audiences could watch the concert.

Of course, I don’t know how diverse the audience for this concert was. It definitely skewed toward older white guys – the only woman to headline was Alicia Keyes and she and Kanye West were the only people of color – and there was a surprising British bias with acts like The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Who, Chris Martin, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney. It makes sense that the participants would skew toward the Baby Boomer set, as they have far more money to contribute than young adults. The tickets to this show weren’t cheap and the goal was to attract as much money as possible. I also think that younger people would me more likely to tune into a concert featuring “classic rock” that vice versa; I don’t know how many Boomers would be watching a set list featuring Justin Bieber and One Direction. I don’t know that I would watch that. I am right in the middle of these age groups, but my musical tastes skew toward the performers that were featured. In fact, I’ve already seen a large percentage of them in concert.

I enjoyed the concert, though it was pretty long. I fell asleep for the end of it, which is not a reflection on the musical performances but a result of the cold medicine I took earlier in the evening. Even with the 7:30 start time, the concert rocked out until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know how those people in the audience were still awake. At least it looked like the people on the floor had seats; the few times I’ve done the floor it has been standing room only and you have to get there hours ahead of time to get a good spot. That is a long time to be on your feet.

Some random thoughts that I had during the concert:

  • Kicking it off with the Boss. The right way to do it. BRRRRUUUUUUCCCCCCCEEEEEE!
  • Liking the song selection – you really can’t be more on the nose that “My City in Ruins.”
  • The Boss’ pants are awful tight. They leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
  • Bon Jovi and The Boss together on stage? That might be too much for the good people of Jersey to handle.
  • Text of the night goes to my brother who asked me if Jon Bon Jovi and Chris Jericho (WWE professional wrestler) are the same person. He’s not wrong; I never noticed the similarity before.

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  • I was a little disappointed in Roger Waters – he doesn’t really have a good voice anymore. Now I’m wondering if I didn’t notice this over the summer when I went to see The Wall because there were so many other cool things going on visually. Maybe that is the whole point – distract the audience with the special effects.
  • If you are going to announce that Eddie Vedder is making an appearance during the Waters set, it is probably best to not have a guy who looks slightly like Vedder sing some of the songs before Vedder appears. Twitter was freaking out – they thought Eddie had bailed and they were using a reasonable facsimile of Vedder to stand in. I knew that Vedder wasn’t appearing until “Comfortably Numb,” as Waters had said so the night prior on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I had inside information that apparently no one else had.
  • It is amazing – every time I see Vedder, I am immediately transformed to being 14 years old again. Pearl Jam is allegedly working on a new album and will tour next year; if so, count me in. I haven’t seen them live in over a decade.
  • Brian Williams seems like he’s losing it. He was goofy. At one point he said something about swinging a dead cat.
  • Reaction seems split on Adam Sandler’s rewriting of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as “Sandy Screw Ya,” but I thought it was pretty funny. I’m a sucker for a Sandler song parody.
  • Ugh. What is Kristen Stewart doing here? And more importantly – why does she look so terrible?

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KStew bought her patented joy and sunshine to the proceedings. She looked so miserable and unhappy to be there that you would have thought that she lost her home in Sandy.

  • Bon Jovi got to do their own set, but it is hard to rock out in a black turtleneck (I’m looking at you, Jon). Questionable fashion choices abounded.
  • If anyone was wondering, Clapton is still God. I love him; I pretty much wore out my Timepieces cassette back in the day. It took tremendous restraint not to buy tickets when I heard he was coming to Mohegan Sun Arena. I really, really want to see him live, but I need to remember I afford to go see everything.
  • The Rolling Stones set was only two songs. I was really surprised that they were on stage for such a short amount of time. I know that they were a late edition, but I wish they had been given more time.
  • Alicia Keys looked beautiful and was great; I was curious why she didn’t play “Empire State of Mind” during her set, but it turns out that was saved for later in the show. Otherwise that would have been a curious choice.
  • Very cool to see so many cast members from The Sopranos answering the phones in the phone bank.
  • Oy. Poor Steve Buchemi. What should have been a nice segment about the rescue and relief work that The Graybeards, a community organization in Rockaway, did after Sandy. Instead it was a bunch of drunk guys who totally derailed the segment by interrupting Buchemi and manhandling the poor guy. Probably should have waited to knock a few back until after they were on TV. Still, good on them and the work they do.
  • I’ve never considered myself a big The Who fan, but they put together a solid set. Nice tribute to Keith Moon during “Bell Boy.” I also never fail to think about Paul O’Neill when I hear “Baba O’Reilly,” as that was his at-bat music when he was a Yankee. And no, the name of that song isn’t “Teenage Wasteland.” Get it right people.
  • I probably could have done without Roger Daltrey undoing his shirt, but if I’m in that good of shape at his age, I’d probably flaunt it too.
  • Funniest line on twitter: Someone pointing out that Daltrey has more than a passing resemblance to Mama from Mama’s Family (a show that I admit to loving, even if it isn’t very sophisticated). It’s the hair.

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  • Ellen DeGeneres apparently looks like a lot of aging rockers; lots of people were compared to her throughout the night on Twitter.
  • We’ve hit the part of the night I was most looking forward to – how is this audience going to react to Kanye West, who they probably know mainly as the guy who was mean to Taylor Swift (in retrospect, West may have been on to something. Swift is super annoying).
  • Dear God, what is Kanye wearing? It’s some sort of hoodie/leather kilt ensemble. Fabulous. (Kanye’s skirt now has its own twitter account)
  • Look, I like Kanye, but I think he is totally miscast on this concert bill. This isn’t his crowd and they are giving him too much time. I’d love to see him live, but I don’t think he fits at this show.
  • At this point, I fell asleep. I really, really wanted to see the later acts, but it was just getting too late.
  • I was supper pissed that I missed a surprise appearance by Michael Stipe with Chris Martin
  • Billy Joel was reportedly solid as always. He’s really the best; I don’t care if it isn’t cool to like Billy Joel, I totally do.
  • Of course, the big news of the night was that the surviving members of Nirvana were reuniting to perform with Sir Paul McCartney. Courtney Love was none too pleased, but who cares what she things anymore? (This coming from someone who liked her band Hole). I am more likely to entrust Cobain’s musical legacy with his former band mates than with her at this point. She really needn’t have worried; they didn’t even play any Nirvana songs, but instead unveiled a new song, “Cut Me Some Slack” that will be in the movie that Dave Grohl’s upcoming movie. And Sir Paul still knows how to rock.

My main complaint about the evening, other than the length and Kanye not really fitting in, is that is difficult to find any footage of the performances online. Perhaps that will change in the next few days, but if they want to boost album sales for the benefit album, they should probably make the music more accessible to people who were unable to stay up until the show ended. I think the show even went over the scheduled time, so anyone who DVRed it probably missed some performances.

Otherwise, it was a nice evening for a good cause. I’m not usually a fan of watching concerts on TV – if you aren’t there, what’s the point – but this was a rare exception. I just hope that all the people that were watching opened up their wallets to contribute something for all the free entertainment that they received. All the performers donated their time –no one was paid for their performance. You can still make a donation here.

Jersey

This past weekend I was in New Jersey for the wedding of one of my sorority sisters. It was a nice time and I was glad to be part of the couple’s special day and catch up with some old friends, but it also meant that my pop culture consumption was pretty limited this weekend. However, you can find inspiration anywhere and my road trip got me thinking about the plethora of pop culture that I enjoy that have a connection to Jersey. I was surprised what a lengthy list it wound up being. Who knew that Jersey had so much to contribute to the world of entertainment? So as we await the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy, here are some of my favorite things with ties to the Garden State:

The Sopranos

Probably not the stereotype that New Jersey was hoping to get saddled with, but David Chase’s examination of “connected” men and their families – both of birth and business – really couldn’t have taken place anywhere else. Tony Soprano was a terrible man that did terrible things, but you somehow couldn’t help but root for him on some level. The audience’s acceptance of his moral ambiguity helped open the door for other great shows like Breaking Bad, so for that alone we owe Chase a great debt.  I’ll probably always remember where I was during the series finale – we first thought that the cable had gone out – and the ending will continue to be debated for years to come (my take – Tony wasn’t killed).  Re-watching the series is on my to do list; I have all the seasons on DVD, but just have to find the time. My favorite episode is an early one as it was only the fifth episode of the series. In “College,” Tony takes his daughter Meadow to look at colleges in Maine and runs into someone from his past. Not as bloody or complex as some of the later seasons, but this was the episode that had me completely committed to the show.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

I mentioned how much I enjoyed the musical Jersey Boys when I went to see it with my mom earlier this year, so it’s not a surprise that they made the list. Though I don’t do with the same frequency that I did immediately after the show, I do often play their music at work, especially if I’m having a bad day. The songs are just so catchy that you can’t help being in a better mood after you hear them. I also enjoy the puzzled looks that people have when they walk into my office and hear Frankie Valli coming through the speakers. Not what you expect someone my age to be rocking out to.

Kevin Smith

Though not everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoy the works of director Kevin Smith. Jersey Girl was probably my least favorite, but it was a sweet movie that was primarily a causality of everyone being sick to death of “Bennifer” (it’s hard to believe that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were almost married). His movies can be crass, but they are also clever, smart and a lot of fun. Dogma has some very interesting things to say about religion and Clerks helped to inspire a whole new generation of independent filmmakers. His latest film, Red State, is a scary look into religious extremism and is one of his best movies. My favorite of the bunch has always been Mallrats, which is actually one of his least popular films. Maybe it is the presence of Shannen Doherty, maybe it is because I used to like hanging out at the mall or maybe it is the New Kids on the Block joke that the movie contains – for whatever reason, Mallrats always makes me laugh. His movies are endlessly quotable; just the other day I dropped an “I’m not even supposed to be here today” on someone, who thankfully got the reference. And even as a non-Star Wars fan, I’ve always enjoyed this scene from Clerks:

Kevin Smith the man is also pretty interesting. He can be brash and over the top, but he speaks his mind and stands behind his convictions. I’ve watched a few of his specials and they are always amusing, even if he usually only answers one question from the audience because he is so verbose.

Garden State

I will admit that I didn’t immediately take to Zach Braff’s movie Garden State. It took a second viewing for the film to really win me over. The quirkiness of the film felt a little forced the first time around – and I’m not sure that it isn’t – but once I went with it I really enjoyed it. I knew Braff from his zany antics on Scrubs, so it was interesting to see him in a smaller and somewhat quieter role as he stars as a man who must return home for the funeral of his mother. Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard co-star and Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) even has a small part. The film also has a tremendous soundtrack and helped to introduce me to many bands that at the time I wasn’t familiar with at the time, like The Shins and Iron & Wine. The film also features one my favorite heartbreaking songs, “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” by the amazing Colin Hay.

Bruce Springsteen

I don’t think it is possible to think of New Jersey and to not think of The Boss. My love of Springsteen is well documented on the blog, but to not include him in this post would be heresy. He’s never shied away from referencing his home state; odes to Jersey are peppered through his entire discography. If I could figure out where to put it, I would order this map of New Jersey that is based on Springsteen lyrics.

Jon Stewart

Though he was born in NYC, Stewart grew up in New Jersey and makes frequent reference to it. I was a fan of his before he took over The Daily Show – I am one of a handful of people who actually liked Death to Smoochy – but my admiration of him only intensified afterward. Under his tenure Stewart managed to make a show on basic cable that satirizes the news into one of the most respected and honest sources of political coverage that we have today. It’s still silly and still satirical, but The Daily Show has become a way to hold politicians accountable and to point out hypocrisy. Somewhere, Craig Kilborn is kicking himself for ever leaving the show. Stewart is a smart man and while he is not covert about his political affiliation, he is an equal opportunity offender. I would always encourage my students to watch The Daily Show back in my teaching days and it is one show that I always try to watch. Stewart is the reason for that. Though they have an amazing team on the program – working for them is actually my dream job – it is Stewart’s presence that really makes the show as great as it is. He’s kind of my hero. If you missed his debate with Bill O’Reilly, it’s on Youtube:

Cheaper By the Dozen by  Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books to read was the 1948 book Cheaper By the Dozen. I’m not 100% sure how an older book found its way into my hands, but I re-read it and its sequel, Belles on Their Toes, religiously. The books are biographical and chronicle the Gilbreth family and their 12 children in Montclair, NJ. Their father was a motion study and efficiency expert who often used his brood to determine the best ways to do things. These books were partially responsible for my early desire to have a lot of children, back before I understood how much work having kids really was. Now I’d be happy with just one and even that seems daunting. The books also provide an interesting glimpse at what life was like in the early part of the twentieth century; as a girl, I remember being especially intrigued by their discussion of the Roaring 20s and flappers. Even today, I try to re-read these books once a year and I rarely re-read books so that gives some insight into how much I enjoyed them. And thankfully the book has nothing in common with the movie abomination starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, other than a name and twelve children.

Bon Jovi

I’ve been a fan of Bon Jovi for almost my entire life; I remember Slippery When Wet coming out when I was in elementary school and it was the only album that gave Madonna and Michael Jackson any competition for our attention. And even at ten years old, I knew that Jon Bon Jovi was very good looking. I’ve liked their music ever since. Their run of hits has been pretty impressive and though Jon can’t hit all the same notes anymore, they were still a lot of fun when I saw them in concert a few summers ago. Play this song on the jukebox of almost any bar and you’ll have people singing along in no time:

So hopefully I have done my extended family in Jersey proud with this post. Now it’s your turn – what is your favorite Garden State inspired pop culture?

This post seems especially poignant given the destruction that Hurricane Sandy caused to much of the East Coast. If you are looking for a way to help, please consider donating to the Red Cross at  www.redcross.org, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999.