Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stars are Blind

Check it out! I am blogging from vacation. In honor of my present location a block away from the beach, I thought I would review Paris Hilton's prefabricated summer single, "Stars are Blind."

Not surprisingly, "Stars are Blind" will probably not change your life, and it is also unlikely to make enough of an impression to change your CD collection (though, it may change your iTunes playlist, since one function of the online music revolution is the ability to download at a moment's notice nearly any embarassing schlock for people to later find and mock). Last week, during a party in the courtyard in the building next door, I heard somebody put this song on, and several voices protested the awful choice. I suspect the owners of these voices to be pathetic, conformist hipsters, because... be honest, I was disappointed in the song. I wanted "Stars are Blind" to be William Hung horriffic, but instead, it was just inoffensive disposable pop. The vocals are sugary and breathy, and I question how much of actual Paris Hilton voice we're hearing. Assuming a recording of Hilton's voice is the basis of this song, I applaud the producers and engineers and other technical and creative types that generated the final product. I would never be impressed by someone putting this song on, but if I had a few drinks in me, I would probably dance to it.

On the other end of the spectrum are those claiming that "Stars are Blind" is pretty good and infused with a Gwen Stefani feel. I suppose this is true, in that Gwen Stefani is another scantily-clad blond backed by the occasional reggae-esque beat. The comparison still smacks of pathetic, conformist nerds self-consciously separating themselves from pathetic, conformist hipsters, but I agree that the song can be played without anyone breaking into hives over it.

The video matches the song in bland-and-inoffensiveness. Mostly, Paris Hilton lolls on the beach, or on some anonymously-attractive man who is in turn lolling on the beach. Ms. Hilton's performance is fine. I totally believe, in watching the video for "Stars are Blind," that Paris Hilton enjoys hanging on mute, muscled boys on the sand.

And that is one more thing Paris Hilton and I probably have in common.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

So You Think You Can Dance

Despite my status as a gainfully-employed chronological adult, I find myself easily mesmerized by competitive reality TV shows. This summer, as it did last summer, Fox is running "So You Think You Can Dance," which is sort of like American Idol, only with dancing instead of singing.

The grand prize? Apparently, a background dancing role in Celine Dion's Brand New Day show in Las Vegas. Which means the show's winner can experience all of the magic of Showgirls (and Sock Puppet Showgirls) without the humiliation of the nipple-icing scene.

Like American Idol, the show started off with a series of episodes showing the good (and wonderfully bad) initial auditions. I admit that I did not see most of these episodes. At any rate, after some cuts, the field was whittled down to 20 finalists -- 10 men and 10 women, who were paired off into 10 couples.

Each week, the couples pick dance styles out of a hat, and that's the style they have to compete with that week. This has resulted in the awesome spectacle of a ballet dancer trying to pull off hip-hop, a hip-hop dancer standing ineffectually while his partner whips around him like a salsa badass, and lots of comments from the judges that begin something like, "I know you were way out of your comfort zone there..."

The viewers vote, and the members of the bottom three couples have to dance individually on the results show. The judges then choose one man and one woman to get kicked off. They can pick a man and woman from different couples, meaning that the couples can in theory get sort of shuffled around as more people get the boot.

In practice, this has meant that Dmitry the Hot is now on partner #3. I should explain that Dmitry is a Latin dancer who was born in Russia and is apparently incapable of wearing anything that covers his chest. Not that I am complaining. Dmitry generally dances well in his solos, and while I would hate to see him go and miss seeing The Chest every week, one of his solos did yield the EXTREME CROTCH CLOSE-UP SHOT that, frankly, has made the entire show for me. I really should have Tivo-ed it.

Having lost his first two partners, Dmitry is currently paired with "pop-locker" Ashlee. I was not aware anyone under 28 or so even knew what pop-locking was, so good on her. Last week, Dmitry and Ashlee did this cracked-out contemporary routine to "Dance Dance" by Fallout Boy that was apparently about a doll brought to life by a ringmaster or something. It is now among my favorite things ever. So far as I could tell, all they did was chase one another around the stage, punctuated by some weirdly-angled lifts. They somehow stayed out of the bottom three. So, thank you, America, for keeping them on the show!

A few other couples of note include:

  • Allison and Ivan. Ivan sucks at pretty much everything except hip-hop. Allison is lyrical and beautiful, and I want a minitaure Allison to carry around in my pocket. Whenever I get sad, I could take out mini-Allison and watch her dance for a few seconds, and suddenly I'd be happy again.
  • Benji and Donyelle. Donyelle is lovely, but on the big side for a dancer. Despite this couple's skill, Benji lifting her up and spinning her around reminds me of the end of Victor/Victoria. I think the problem is that Donyelle needs to be matched with someone less scrawny if they want her to look delicate and lift-able. Also, at least one source with absolutely no direct knowledge insists that Benji the Mormon swing dancer is gay. Which would explain his mad dancing skills.
  • Natalie and Musa. If you like watching attractive people have sex (and hey, who doesn't?), you'll probably like watching them dance, even when they don't actually dance particularly well. Just put a condom over your TV or something before having direct contact with it.
  • Heidi and Ryan. These two are notable solely because Heidi, Benji's cousin, looks sort of like if Reese Witherspoon had grown up in a trailer park and infused a tanker's worth of espresso directly into her veins every morning.

Is the show any good? Sure, if you like watching people occasionally dance very well, and more often stagger through unfamiliar genres. The judges are sort of hit-or-miss, and Mary Murphy, without fail, always uses her horribly nasal voice to deliver the first half of her critique in a normal tone...AND THHHEEEEEEEN SCREECHES OUT THE REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEST. Do yourself a favor and mute her out before the end of her first sentence.

I note that this show tries to pack about 20-25 minutes of content into an hour for the results/solo performance show. This means, yes...musical guests. The musical guests run the gamut from bad to horrid. The absolute low point came in the form of Nellie Furtado badly lip-synching "Promiscuous" with Timbaland. For the love of God, the song has about 30 words -- she couldn't just sing them? Ms. Furtado would also do well to fire her stylist, since I've seen dying crack whores who look classier than she did on the show.

Finally, I don't blame the show for this by any means, but would it kill them to tip their hat to the South Park "You Got Served" episode? Every time they start one of those group dance numbers at the beginning of an episode, I yearn to hear, "Let's see you daaaaaaaaaaaaaance, sucker! You got nothin' on me!"


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sock Puppet Showgirls


On Friday, I became aware of the existence of Harvey Finkelstein's Sock Puppet Showgirls. Specifically, I became aware that it is playing on Saturday nights at the Ace of Clubs on Great Jones Street. I have long been a fan of the movie, and having found out that it is now being staged, in sock puppet form, about three nanoseconds from my apartment, I could not rest until I saw it.

Accordingly, tonight (or, to be technical, since I started this when I came home drunk, and am finishing it the next day: last night), I went to check it out. Over the past few years, I've probably walked past the Ace of Clubs about a million times, but I had never been inside before. It is an underground space with a good vibe, and the bartender was really nice.

The place was packed! As everyone sat waiting for the show to begin, the guy next to me turned to me and asked, "Are you here because of the sock puppets, or because of Showgirls?" To which I could only respond, "Both!"

Anyway, I can now report that Sock Puppet Showgirls is exactly what it sounds like: a production of the movie Showgirls, using sock puppets. There is a frizzy-haired blonde sock puppet playing the role of Nomi Malone (portrayed by Elizabeth Berkeley in the film), a sock puppet with a cowboy hat playing Cristal Connors (portrayed by Gina Gershon in the film), and a Lamb Chop puppet playing Molly the seamstress friend (portrayed by some chick I never saw again in the film).

Not surprisingly, a lot of abridging goes on; the plot with James the dancer is entirely cut out, as are a huge number of scenes. The sock puppets do, however, hit a lot of the movie's highlights, including:
  • Nomi's inexplicable, violent overreactions to nearly everything, including her french-fry-throwing first meeting with Molly.
  • Nomi's pole dance at the Cheetah.
  • The most violent lapdance ever!
  • Impossible swimming pool sex!
  • The Doggie Chow lunch at Spago.
  • Nomi taking revenge on her friend's assailant.
  • ...and much, much more.

While I don't understand why there would still be somebody out there who has not seen the movie, be warned that Sock Puppet Showgirls is best enjoyed with some knowledge of the film. And a few cocktails under your belt.

Also, if you go, try and arrive early, because some of the folding chairs really suck. And the drinks are rather weak. Other than that, though, this is easily the finest live entertainment I've seen since Lee Payne performed "Enjoy the Silence" at Jamaica's dinner party at the end of our first year in law school.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Free Cookies! from The Medleh Group

I don't know if this is common in other professions, but working in a law office generally permits you to collect a certain amount of low-rent swag (swag in the Oscar-presenter gift bag sense, not goods acquired illegally). Since I first started practicing law, I have periodically been assailed by pens, clocks, popcorn, candy, baked goods, fruit, folders, a water bottle, and probably other items that I no longer recall. The businesses providing these goods, not surprisingly, have functions related to litigation: deposition services companies, document wranglers, graphic arts centers, and even services that will track your appeal's schedule in addition to binding and copying your briefs. I have never met anybody who actually hired one of these businesses based on the strength of their logo-emblazoned candy jars, but at least it gave me a place to store my pens.

Today, the familiar pattern repeated itself. There I was, sitting at my desk, when our HR lady came in and gave me a little white box. It was addressed TO: me, FROM: some guy I had never heard of. Somebody had scrawled my firm's initials in the upper-left-hand-corner. The logo on the box top read: "The Medleh Group: We're here to serve you" and listed locations in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, and New York.

If you live in California -- you're out of luck, fool! Inside the box -- two cookies!

I hope you enjoy your fish tacos and Jamba Juice, California, because I was living large with my free cookies. The first one was oatmeal raisin. It was soft, as an oatmeal raisin cookie should be, with just a hint of cinnamon underneath the oaty bounty. Happily, the chewiness really let me taste the sweetness of the raisins, which did not disappoint. Unlike the raisins you sometimes get in petrified, store-bought cookies, these were one with the cookie and blended in with their surroundings like so many highly-trained secret agents.

The second cookie was your standard-issue peanut butter. It was soft though, fittingly, not so soft as the oatmeal raisin. It was more than acceptable, and I could definitely buy it as a bake sale offering from a harried suburban mom with a part time job. It was not, however, the transporting experience of its oatmeal raisin neighbor. I can only suggest, Medleh Group, that in future giveaways, you put the oatmeal raisin cookie on the bottom of the box, so that it is the last thing the recipient remembers.

Oftentimes, once the swag has been delivered, the sender calls each recipient later in the day to pitch his or her services. Sure enough, a couple of hours after I downed the cookies, I got a call from the guy on the FROM line, asking to come in and meet with me about his document services. I explained that there probably wasn't much I could do for him at the present time, but he persisted. So, sucker that I am, I agreed to give him five minutes next week. Maybe he'll bring brochures or something that I can peruse the next time I need some document wrangling. Anyway, the oatmeal raisin cookie was so good, I felt sort of guilty not giving him a chance to say his piece.

Damn, that was a good cookie. If the Medleh Group ever sends you such a gift, I highly recommend consuming it. But if you're counting calories, just go for the oatmeal raisin and give the peanut butter to your secretary or some other worthy person.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, by Neil Strauss

Do not read this post if you don't want to know how this book turns out!


Last warning.

Now then.

I first became aware of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, through the George Clooney-hated website Apparently, it (the book, not the website) has become something of a resource for pick-up artists, and the Village Voice assigned a young writer to investigate the issue. Then he fabricated the end of his article and heads rolled. Nevertheless, I was intrigued. What the hell was in this book? Did it really contain the secret to picking up hot babes in low-rise jeans and backless blouses? Could it help me pick up...whatever the male equivalent of hot babes in low-rise jeans and backless blouses might be? I had to find out, much as I regret giving this Neil Strauss hack the royalties for the copy I bought.

The packaging of the book is impressive, in its own way. It resembles a bible, complete with black, fake-leather cover, gold lettering (and gold figures meant to represent, I assume, the author and some of his babelicious conquests), gilt-edged pages, and one of those red ribbon bookmarkers attached to the top of the book. My cats had a field day with that thing.

As for the book itself? It is a complete and utter trainwreck, both in execution, and in the events that befall the characters. Apparently, the author got involved in an online community of awkward men seeking to score with women, which eventually led to him living in a house full of fellow pick-up artists in Los Angeles. This is the same guy who wrote Jenna Jameson's "autobiography," and it shows -- it's like Short Attention Span Theater in book form, but the flip side of that is that the pages really do turn quickly. The author is self-aware enough to realize that at heart, most of these guys who are getting together to trade techniques are pathetic bozos.

Well...yeah. If they weren't pathetic bozos -- if they were, say, in any way attractive or interesting or wealthy -- presumably they wouldn't have to use magic tricks to pick up women. It isn't like most of the females in The Game are testing off the charts on the self-esteem-o-meter (which sounds like one of the many ploys used by the men in this book -- Hey! Want me to test you on my self-esteem-o-meter?).

Seriously, though, some of them use actual magic tricks. And runes, if memory serves. I'll be damned if I'm going to open the book again to check.

The moral of the story winds up being, predictably, that it is True Love with One Woman, not constant sex with hot babes, that makes an insecure man complete. Provided, of course, that that One Woman is a smoking hot member of Courtney Love's band. It's not like Strauss fell for an accountant with small tits or something.

In parting, I have to share what is easily the funniest passage of the book:

Every woman is different in bed. Each has her own tastes and quirks and fantasies. And someone's surface appearance never accurately indicates the raging storm or the dead calm that lies beneath. Reaching that moment of passionate truth -- of surrender, honesty, revelation -- was my favorite part of the game. I loved seeing what new person emerged in bed, and then talking with that new person after our mutual orgasms. I guess I just like people.

In just about any other context, I'd assume this passage was meant to be a joke, but given the tone of the rest of the book, I'm really not sure. If the humor was intentional, then...hats off to you, Neil Strauss! For this one shining moment, you were awesome.

If you know me personally and want to read The Game, I'll loan it to you. Don't you dare buy it and reward this guy for sucking so much. Anyway, since the author boasts of outsmarting Britney Spears, he is obviously a devious genius who doesn't need your cash, in any event.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lush Veganese Conditioner

Welcome to the first official post of my reviews blog! In order to give this thing some gravity, I will probably put up a few reviews that some of you may have seen in other formats before. Feel free to skip them or relive the glory as you see fit, once they're up.

Anyway, first up is my review of Lush's Veganese hair conditioner.

I must admit that I was a skeptic at first. My hair is not meant to look fabulous. I'm lucky if my hair looks combed. I thought I was doomed to a life of frizz and horror. Veganese has alleviated that, somewhat.

Lush bills it as a completely Vegan hair conditioner. As a disclaimer, I am not a Vegan. I love meat. In fact, I wish I was eating a steak right now, preferably while wearing an awesome leather jacket. Nevertheless, the conditioner has a smell that is weird at first, but then grows on you as you realize that it is very pleasant and lemony.

The effect on my hair has been noticeable. I am not completely free of frizz, but my pitifully thin hair now does have some shine and manageability, and hey, isn't that what conditioner is all about? I use this conditioner in combination with Lush's Seanick shampoo (which is a solid blue bar with seaweed sticking out of it). So maybe I should be throwing some props Seanick's way, too.

Let me just add that there appears to be some conflict regarding the earth-friendly, Vegan nature of the conditioner and its packaging. When I ran out of the tiny bottle I had bought to try it out, I went back to Lush for more. I bought the medium bottle, as opposed to the large one, and brought it up to the register to pay.

The girl at the register gave me a concerned look. "You know, you save money if you buy the larger bottle, and it's better for the environment..." because of something to do with the packaging versus the amount of conditioner within. She squinted and nodded a bit when she finished, as if to say, of course I'd want to do the right thing by our beleaguered Mother Earth and buy the larger bottle.

I looked at her blankly for a few seconds. I then responded, "But can I buy this one?"

My cashier rang up my purchase, despite my obvious unworthiness to have shiny hair.

But my question is this -- if the medium bottle of Veganese conditioner is so much worse for the earth, why do they sell it?

Why do you hate the earth, Lush? Whhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy?

So, in short: Veganese conditioner is wonderful. The clerk who tried to upsell me was less wonderful. Lush might be plagued by ethical conflicts regarding their plastic packaging for their vegan conditioner.