Monday, November 30, 2009

December 1

It's December 1st, and if anybody deserves a mention, it's Mat Kearney. This guy's been rolling out hummable hits for the last few years, not to mention the somber songs in the final minutes of your favorite TV shows, and nobody knows his face. He headlined the VH1 Channel's first "You Outta Know" tour (I guess we see how that worked out...)
I almost got vetoed on this by MiLady, who started griping about me featuring yet another musician nobody's heard of. And then I played this video:

As soon as the yodeling chorus kicks in, she's singing along. And that's the point: everybody HAS heard him. It's just that nobody's caught on to him, although his songs are inescapable, especially if you're watching prime-time dramas, spending your Sundays in one of those hip churches that wear jeans and serve cappuccinos, or shopping for sweaters this Christmas seasons. It's too easy to lose him with all the other contenders in whatever genre you want to call the Coldplay/Fray sound. So, let me slip you some knowledge, the next time you're in a carful of people trying to remember who sings that song.
Mat Kearney's from Oregon, who found his way a few years back, and that way led to Nashville. His first album came out in 2006. His singles are: "Nothing Left to Lose" (with the yodeling chorus), which was in that episode of Grey's Anatomy, NCIS, Bones, DirtySexyMoney... "Undeniable", which was in that episode of Cold Case... "Breathe In, Breathe Out", which was on that other episode of Grey's Anatomy (when they added the interns to the cast, I think...)

and the one from his new album, "Closer to Love", which they used in Vampire Diaries, and has that piano part...

Mat Kearney - Closer To Love (Official Music Video) - The most popular videos are here

There; now I've set things straight, and the world will finally recognize and appreciate the songwriter that they've been singing to all this time. As our former President said, "Mission Accomplished!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 30

There was a time that a kung-fu movie - any kung-fu movie - would do me good. Whether the background music was a wooden flute, a wah-wah pedal, or a Casio keyboard, a kung-fu fight made everything alright. I don't know if modern times ruined me, or I just grew up, because it doesn't have the same effect.
Anyway, everybody knows about Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan... the guy I always wanted to see was Gordon Liu. Maybe it was the determination in his eyes, maybe the shaved-head/yellow-monksrobe combination made him look like Charlie Brown... but seeing him in Master Killer II (that's what they called it on Commander USA's Groovy Movies, and I'm sticking with it) convinced me for five minutes that I could look cool bald. I never saw him make the jump across the Pacific, and figured he was lost to the ages...
...until Kill Bill. Tarantino gave him two choice roles: leading the Crazy 88 in Kato gear in Part I, and playing the crazy old kung-fu master in Part II. Meanwhile, he'd never gone away in Hong Kong, segueing into a TV career for the past few decades. But the Tarantino touch put him back on movie screens around the world; this year, he played the bad guy in the Bollywood film "Chandni Chowk to China."
None of my jibber-jabber is going to get across the awesomeness of Gordon Liu like a demo, so here's the Master Killer himself taking out a horde of Manchus, and ruining the door-to-door bamboo pole salesman industry in the process...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

November 29

Looks like I'm 100 posts in; not fired up enough to pursue my next lofty goal, but I'm getting the hang of this...

Here's someone I discovered today: stage darling and poetess Sarah Jones. She has the transformative powers of Jim Carrey and the quest for social resonance of Sidney Poitier. Even Meryl Streep has her back.
Here's a speech she delivered at the TED conference in early 2009:

I know, you're saying, "Yeah, but she's no Anne Deavere Smith!" Well, does Anne Deavere Smith have her own punk anthem?

Before she embraced the one-woman show format, she was a beat poet on the Nuyorican scene, even made it on Def Poetry Jam. She's the first person to sue the FCC on censorship. Kudos for that, too...

November 28

Again, taking it easy on the holiday. Today's birthday boy is Randy Newman, the Johnathan Swift of the piano. If you're under 30, you probably know his Disney/Pixar songs the best. His first Oscar win happened on his 16th nomination, which provoked, IMHO, the best reaction to receiving an Oscar ever: he stepped up to the podium and said, "I don't need your pity!" If you're old enough to remember the 80's, you might remember songs like "I Love LA" or "Short People".
I found this clip where he name-drops my (current) home state, so it's the clip for today. If it auto-starts or repeat plays, I apologize. First time using the MUZU database...

UPDATE: That was the last time using the MUZU database... for this column anyway. Here's that Randy Newman track...

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 27

I want so much to offer more intriguing discoveries, more talents that you wish you had. But it's Thanksgiving night as I write things and I'm trying to shake off the tryptophan. So Happy Birthday to Jaleel White, who broke the color barrier for nerds everywhere, in his portrayal of the seminal character Steve Urkel. Here's "The Urkel Dance." Happy Thanksgiving...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 26

Our birthday star for today is singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi; he is, from what I can tell, the Bruce Springsteen of Israel. He's been one of Israel's biggest music acts of the last 30 years, singing stripped-down and downbeat song-stories about life. Okay, maybe he's more like Bryan Adams. Seriously, probably the only reason he isn't a bigger star is that he only sings in Hebrew. But it's still easy to hear the beauty and longing in a song like "Moon":

His career also needs little translation: he started in the 70's, achieving middling chart success singing the kind of cheesy pop songs you'd expect in the 70's. In 1977, ready to give up singing, he recorded a farewell album, "He Lost His Way", writing and recording the kind of songs he wanted to sing. So of course, it became the album that resurrected his career. [Apparently, that album was the beginning of a long-standing collaboration with Louis Lahav, a record producer who cut his teeth as a technician on... Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" album.]

Here's 'Talpeni Talpeni', from 1988:

It's times like this that I'm thankful for this blog; it's a way to sift through everything this world has to offer, a forum to share it - and a way to crassly and publicly send my gratitude and love to my family on this Thanksgiving holiday. Hope you've got plenty to be thankful for...

November 25

The computer is the center of our home; as I try to write today's blog, I have two lightly pickled aspiring rock stars taking on Rock Band. Trouble is, it's hard to research today's stars if I can't, say, listen to their music videos or watch their movie clips without fear of recrimination from the She-tills.
And just like that, I found the perfect subject for today's blog: avant-garde choreographer Trisha Brown. The first female to receive the esteemed MacArthur Grant, her modus operandi is trying to eradicate the barriers between dance and daily life. For example, her 1971 setpiece Walking on The Wall actually had dancers in harnesses along the side of a wall.
As it so happens, I found footage of two routines featuring the choreographer herself, and neither routine is performed to music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 24

This one's to 70's one-hit wonder Lee Michaels, another unappreciated musical genius. He mastered the Hammond organ in the 60's, turning himself into a one-man band that gained a reputation along the West Coast for his loud and raucous performances.

Even though the studio seemed the perfect home for the multi-instrumentalist, he didn't find recorded success until his fifth album, and the 1971 top 10 single "Do you know what I mean?" He couldn't repeat that success; meanwhile, the years of Hammond blasting would add until, by the time the keyboard-worshiping 80's came around, his hearing loss had already forced him into retirement. Years later, he got into the restaurant business, starting a chain of "Killer Shrimp" establishments in the Los Angeles area. Just like his music career, they were renowned for a while, then out of the business (since this spring, but they may be back in 2010...)
For all the talent he displayed and good luck that he did have, I don't know if I'd want to be Lee Michaels. But this guy does. And so does this guy. Heck, these guys don't even make music. But let's hear the one born Michael Olson, with his one AM radio hit:

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23

Today, we remember David Rappaport, star of Time Bandits and "The Wizard." He started his acting career in his native England, in several 70's children's shows. His role of Randall, the bandit leader in Terry Gilliam's 1981 film Time Bandits, made him an international face, and he gave Hollywood a shot.

During the 1985 TV season, he starred in the CBS-TV series "The Wizard," as a retired spygadget-maker who makes toys that do extraordinary things. He committed suicide in 1990.
The Wizard series only lasted one season, but it still has its rabid fans. They have a website, and a campaign to get the series finally released on DVD...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22

Today is Terry Gilliam Day, observed in Brazil, Finland, and anywhere that people quote the Parrot Sketch. The lone American in Monty Python, he developed his style while animating the series' cartoon interstitials. His live-action films have a similar chaos, the kind that translates into wonder. For example, check out the trailer for his next film, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus":

Almost as legendary as the movies he's made are the movies he almost made: the Watchmen 10-hour miniseries, the first Harry Potter film, Theseus and the Minotaur, his Don Quixote adaptation... After a bout of Job-level setbacks, Quixote may be his next film, after all. Fingers crossed...

Aw, what the hey; let's add some Python madness:

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 21

Today's the birthday of Brian Ritchie, the undercelebrated Violent Femme. He started the band with Victor DeLorenzo, before Gordon Gano made the Femmes a trio. Over the years (and several drummers), the Femmes persisted, although classic songs became soundtrack fillers and jingles for sticoms and hamburgers. No wonder the Femmes finally called it quits in 2009.
Of course, he's recorded several solo albums over the years, and jammed with other bands, waiting for Gordon to get through his writer's block. Here's a song he did with an Italian punk band called the Zen Circus:

And let's listen to a Violent Femmes song with some new ears. Just listen to the rumbling, looping bassline that threads together "Blister in the Sun", and tell me that's not your favorite part of the song now:

November 20

The rock continues with today's featured artist, Yoshiki Hayashi, drummer and co-founder of 90's "visual kei" metal band X Japan. "Visual Kei" seems to be another phrase for "Cosplay", while their flavor of metal is the power variety (like Dragonforce.) So basically, Japan X (as opposed to the seminal punk band X) is Japan's answer to Kiss.

Yoshiki's the one in the middle.
As you can see, the Japanese take their hair metal seriously. Mind you, this is 1993, two years after Nirvana came along, when they were at the 'height' of their popularity. (Man, do I crack me up...)
Here's the band's video for "Rusty Nail", which is not a clip job of some other anime. The band just looks like an real life anime superteam...

The band went their separate ways in '97, recording solo albums and forming supergroups. In 2009, the reunited but less hairy Japan X went on their world tour, further complementing their Kiss doppleganger status. Still, I'll take them over the Psycho Circus any day of the week.
Here's a song they recorded for the Japanese release of Saw IV:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19

Sometimes it's about the clip. I mean, Happy Birthday, Jodie Foster; Happy Birthday, Grizzly Adams; Happy Birthday, Allison Janney and President Garfield and Savion Glover...
But today is Keith Buckley Day - as in, lead singer of Every Time I Die. You can consider this a belated nod to Keith's brother/bandmate, who celebrated his birthday on the 15th (when he celebrated Judge Wapner Day.)
Their new album came out in September, and they've got this new video, which feels like a stroll through a house full of psychotic tattoos...

They're finishing up the year in Europe, touring with Killswitch Engage. So, it looks like a few more years before Keith goes back to teaching high school English...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 18

Today's blog is about Duncan Shiek, an artist that I personally underestimated.

I remember "Barely Breathing" when it first hit the radio, and I thought all he had to offer was one hit and a fauxhawk. I practically said as much when I met the guy years later, at a radio show, when 'On a High' made him a one-and-a-half hit wonder.
At that point, he had already started writing scores for films and the stage. In 2007, the musical Spring Awakening would win 8 Tonys - Shiek would personally win two of them. But this is the same Broadway that was making room for Monty Python, Rock of Ages and Shrek, so I still wasn't that impressed. Someone burned me the cast CD, and I gave it half a listen.
Researching today's blog, I finally watched the cast performance at the Tonys:

...and I'm starting to get it. I definitely hear Duncan Shiek in the music, and it's a refreshing departure from all the aspiring Andrew Lloyd Webbers. At the same time, the unreservedness of a Broadway stage is exactly what's been missing from Sheik, for me. Shiek's own performing style is so mellow (he's a practicing Buddhist) that I reflexively group him with all the Music To Shop By. Shiek's newest album, Whisper House, is becoming a musical as well, which will better gauge what he brings to the table, but I'm giving him the benefit of a doubt. Heck, I'm apologizing for all the years I've been selling him short. Now I gotta find that CD today...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17

Happy Birthday to the indestructible Kiwi known as Zoe Bell. She couldn't have come at a better time; as CGI threatens to render movie making completely safe, Zoe reminds audiences the irreplaceable value of a skilled stunt professional. Growing up in New Zealand, she studied competitive gymnastics and Taekwon-Do. She first wowed a global audience as the stunt double for Xena: Warrior Princess. Later, she doubled for Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill films, and impressed Quentin Tarantino enough to write her into his next project, Death Proof.

Now she's transitioning to acting work (Gamer, Whip It) while still making other movie stars look good (Inglorious Basterds, 27 Dresses.) I don't have a folding chair or a pane glass window to throw her through, but Happy Birthday anyway, Zoe...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 16

Today's birthday girl is Missy Pyle, who was starting to enter 'Oh Yeah, That Girl...' status [that actress you see on-screen that you immediately recognize as soon as somebody tells you another movie she was in that you LOVED...]
She's almost 6 feet tall, with those eyes that are two sizes away from those people in Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun video. Add to this her knack for fearless physical comedy, and you got a go-to girl whenever you need an interesting female in the supporting cast. She was the alien girl Lailari in "Galaxy Quest"; she went toe-to-toe with Queen Latifah in "Bringing Down the House"; she rocked the unibrow as Fran Stalinofskivitchdavitovichsky (sound it out) in "Dodgeball"... She even gave it a shot in direct-to-video paychecks like "Home Alone 4" and "Still Waiting." She's a pleasant addition to any film comedy, like finding out your TV dinner's got tater tots instead of crinkle cut fries. A couple of the right roles, and she might be another Carol Burnett...
Her real life's almost as funny: In 2008, she got married, and the grizzly bear that her husband-to-be had raised as a cub (part of his job with National Geographic, perhaps?) was a guest. In the same year, her high-profile role in a Broadway play presented her the chance to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange - on September 29th, a day the market dropped almost 800 points; she declined the opportunity.

I missed the Pacquaio-Cotto fight last night, so here's Pyle-Latifah:

November 15

It's time to salute the original TV judge, Joseph Wapner, the most popular arbiter of justice the 80's ever knew. As a kid, I always had a sense that he was a badass, but I thought that was just because he was a dude on TV with a hammer. But he earned his robe, for sure...
In the 1930's, Lana Turner was his high school girlfriend. In World War II, he was an Army lieutenant who saw action in Cebu, Philippines. He served as a judge in L.A. County for about twenty years; after retirement, he was offered the People's Court gig in 1981. For the next twelve years, he would preside over 2,484 real cases before the American television audience.
For his 90th birthday this year, he presided over case #2,485, on the current incarnation of "The People's Court." He also witnessed the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's a fitting tribute for a man who inspired an entire genre of courtroom TV (not to mention a cable channel - for a while) that continues today.

Here's the theme to the iconic show; provide your own typewriter noise:

And because I've been wanting to use Hulu's clip-n-embed feature (before it costs me a penny,) here's his appearance on the sci-fi series Sliders, playing his doppelganger from an Earth where the Soviets won the Cold War.

Commie justice wished it had been this efficient...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 14

Today's undercelebrated celebrity is songwriter/guitarist/producer Butch Walker. He used all these skills to mastermind the 90's alt-rock band Marvelous 3, whose highest charter was "Freak of the Week": a perfect title for a one-hit wonder tune, right? But that's not how the story ends, of course...
With the band dissolved in 2001, Butch started using his skills to write songs, play guitar, and produce hits for other artists. In 2002, he produced Bowling For Soup's major label debut; "Girl All The Bad Guys Want" hit the charts, got nominated for a Grammy, and Walker had his golden ticket. I've been trying to figure out how to encapsulate what he's been up to in the last decade; how about some of the songs he's written/co-written?

Happy Birthday, Butch. Thanks for the music.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13

I told you this day would come.

Today, we turn our attention to Nikolai Fraiture, bassist for the Strokes. The Strokes have some of the best intros in rock, like Fraiture's setups for "Reptilia," "You Only Live Once," or "Juicebox." He received his first bass guitar at 18 - and gave it to future bandmate Julian Casablancas; a year later, he took the bass back and learned to play it.
Like the rest of the guys in the Strokes, he's got more going on than the Strokes. Earlier this year, his side project Nickel Eye released their first album, The Time of the Assassins. But his moment as a frontman was short-lived; the Strokes marched back in the studio this summer to record album number 4. Nickel Eye will have to wait until the next hiatus.

Here's some solo Fraiture:

And here's the Strokes in action:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12

Okay, it might be bending the rules a bit to talk about Anne Hathaway; I mean, she's a certifiable celebrity: box office smashes, award-nominated performances, scandalous ex-boyfriend... But I can't miss an opportunity to show her Mary Poppins sketch on Saturday Night Live, from an episode that she hosted - and totally killed.

What turns this bit from a funny joke to a classic sketch is Anne's performance: she's a pitch perfect mimic of Julie Andrews (due to exposure, I'm sure,) and her timing - the head turns, the vocal delivery - is so spot on. That's when I thought, "man, whatever she's doing next, I'll give it a shot..."

No, I did not see Bride Wars...

I did, however, see her special appearance on the Oscars, where she killed, again. Imagine if she hadn't given up the lead in Knocked Up to Katherine Heigl.
So, since she's still clawing her way out of the kiddie film ghetto (Hello, Rio) through the rom-com slums (Hello, Valentine's Day), she's under-celebrated; you're worth a birthday cake, Annie. (And wish for another host spot on SNL; they really need you this year...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11

Here's a pick from milady: Johnathan Winters. This comic institution made his reputation on improvisational comedy in the 50's, combining vaudeville timing with chameleonic expressions. His style paved the way for Robin Williams (who played his dad on Mork and Mindy), Jim Carrey, and the entire cast of Whose Line is it Anyway?
Here's a prime example of his style, in a 'sketch' on the Dean Martin Variety Show: Winters wanders around an 'attic' and makes jokes from whatever he finds lying around.

Retired, he reportedly spends his days wandering the weekend antique shows near his home, doing the same thing, just for the heck of it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 10

There's plenty of birthdays to celebrate today, but I can't turn down a cool theme. So, for today's "Grindhouse Cinema" birthdays, let's light up the candles for Michael Jai White, mastermind of Black Dynamite, and the Irwin Allen of the 21st Century, Roland Emmerich.

Now I'm sure there are those out there who wonder how somebody so rich and successful deserves a shout-out on this blog. Well, for the fans (and I'm one) I have an excuse to run the 2012 trailer:

And for people who hate Emmerich's movies, here's some nutjob ranting about how racist Emmerich's Godzilla remake was...

Now, let's talk about Michael Jai White. Not only was he in the best Batman movie of all time (The Dark Knight), but he's played the Batman from Hell, the caped avenger known as Spawn. And he's a different type of superhero in Black Dynamite, a nod to such blaxploitation heroes as Shaft, Dolemite, and Jack of Spades.

That was groovy...

November 9

Today's birthday girl is Jennifer Ayache, lead singer of France's answer to No Doubt, Superbus (I think that's more "superb-us" than "super-bus", from how they acquired their name out of a Latin dictionary.) How much like No Doubt? They like genre-jumping rock music that you can dance to - it's ska-pop one day, new wave the next - sung by a chanteuse that likes to doll up in that 40's bombshell style. If you've beaten Guitar Hero III, you've unlocked their song, "Radio Song" (which is not an REM cover.) There seems to be an embargo on the videos from their new album, which might mean they're going to try to make a push in the US (After all, No Doubt is back together...)
Until America can discover the latest and greatest of Superbus for themselves, here's a ska-poppy track from the band:

superbus - superstar

mystika | MySpace Video

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 8

After the blustering about in the last week, today's kind of quiet. Let's take a little more time with a short film from director (and birthday boy) Carlos Atanes, who fights for true independent filmmaking and an appreciation of sci-fi in his native Spain. Check his website for all the weirdness he's brought to the world. One of his more accessible works is this 1993 short, "The Metamorphosis of Franz Kafka" :

Friday, November 6, 2009

November 7

I write this blog day in, day out, despite my daily dramas; maybe it can help me with one.

Today's birthday boy is Neil Hannon, the founder, long-standing, and occasional only member of the British band The Divine Comedy. He fits in that clatch of songwriters too clever for their own good; he'd be a bigger star if our world was a bit smarter, and still appreciated double entendres. He was a great opening act for Ben Folds in '97 (and Ben returned the favor on the other side of the pond, as well as covering "Songs of Love" a few years later.) Still, if you're an American, the most likely thing you've heard him sing is that dolphin song at the end of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie.
Anyway, I was trying to choose a clip for today... I saw this song, and immediately thought of a particular situation I'm currently in. And now, I post, in hopes that once again, a song can elucidate to someone in ways that my own words can't....

His/their next album is currently expected next March; there's plenty of time to catch up of what's he been up to so far...

November 6

Here's two for today:

Paul Gilbert is the prototypical B-Blog subject. He's a phenomenal talent that's sneaked under most people's radar for years. In this case, his biggest gig was playing for Mr Big, which has been just another bunch of hair metal balladeers to me. But he co-headlined the 3G Tour with Satriani and Eric Johnson, so he's definitely got powers.
Oh, okay; just listen to this:

Great; now I'll have to listen to a Mr Big album now. (Unless a reader can direct me to the good parts...)

Our second feature is to Trace Beaulieu, one of the co-conspirators on Cinematic Titanic, and the original voice of Crow T Robot for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Nobody debates about the merits of Trace's Crow versus Bill Corbett's Crow with the gusto of Joel vs Mike, but any MST3K fan knows to give props to Trace. Even if he was head writer for America's Funniest Home Videos...
Anyway, this may be as close to Christmas as I get to posting this song (Kevin Murphy's was three days ago, and Joel's is in March, I think.) And the World Series is over, so it's legal to play Christmas music in public again. So, as a birthday nod to Trace, a belated birthday wink to Bill, and a tribute to the Swayze, here's "Patrick Swayze Christmas":

Here's hoping we can keep that spirit on to Christmas, and the rest of our days....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5

Who do we talk about today? Who gets to wear the paper crown at our little birthday party?

Johnny Damon? I liked you better when you looked like an Apostle. I liked you better when you looked like a Geico caveman. I liked you better when you didn't steal a World Series from my Phillies. Is that petty? Sure it is, but you just got another World Series ring, so you already got a present. No cake for you! Go drown your sorrows in your victory champagne, and your other World Series ring, and your hot baseball wife, and your mansion, and your money bin where you can swim like a porpoise in piles of Sacagaweas...

Ryan Adams? You really have the same birthday as Bryan Adams? Ryan, did your parents really not know? Or are they really really big fans? Or did they think it was funny? No wonder you're so surly...
It would be so easy to feature you today; you released that "Happy Birthday" song barely over a month ago! And now it's pulled? Because you can't decide if you're going to self-release, reunite Whiskeytown, or retire from music altogether? Heck, you turned Mandy Moore into Mandy Moore-Adams anyway, so NO CAKE FOR YOU!!

Bryan Adams? Didn't you used to be cool? Why did you write a song like "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You"? Why did you have to write a song like "(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear"? (What is up with) This Schtick? Anyway, you got your own postage stamp, so...

No; today, the birthday tiara goes to Angela Gossow. Not because she deserves to be more reknowned than she is. Not because she's attractive, even by Swedish standards. Not because she's the growler in the death metal band Arch Enemy. Not because she used to be a music journalist who gave the guitarist her demo tape months before the band needed a new singer. Not even because she's the voice of Lavona Succuboso on Metalocolypse.
No, she's our birthday girl today because she scares me.
Here, let her band scare you too...

Angie and the boys are celebrating her birthday in Australia; they'll be in the US in early 2010. You can check the tour dates here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 4

Happy Birthday to Cedric Bixler-Zavala, one of the most frightening talented vocalists out there today. Not sure what to make of Octahedron, but it's only been out since June. And we can almost certainly count on Mars Volta album number 6 not sounding anything like the last...

November 3

Lots of great birthdays today; days like this, I defer to the ukelele players. Jake Shimabukuro is recognized as a ukelele virtuoso; he's lightning-fast on the strings, and he's fearlessly exploring the versatility of the instrument (he currently plays a custom-built electric.) He occasionally tours with Jimmy Buffett and he's jammbed with Yo-Yo Ma, but he's mostly busy with his solo work. He's big in Japan; he tours frequently, he's written music scores for two Japanese films, and what would probably be my favorite CD, his all-Beatles covers album Across the Universe, is a Japan-only import that goes for $40 bucks stateside.

Oh, well... at least I have "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I first learned about Shimabukuro years ago, when I stumbled upon this instructional clip of him in Central Park.

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2

No contest about today's birthday artist. Shahrukh Khan is one of the biggest stars in Bollywood - like Will Smith big. Seriously, Newsweek named Khan one of the 50 most powerful people on the planet. Personally speaking, the Indian movies that I've watched and re-watched all feature him.
For anybody who wants to dip their toes into Bollywood cinema, I'm going to recommend "Om Shanti Om". It's the perfect example of what Bollywood does best: offer a buffet of genres in one film, with exuberance and wonder. You can find the entire movie on Google video here; if you don't have two and a half hours, here's a sample...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 1

Welcome to November. Let's all sing "Happy Birthday" to Caprice Crane, wordsmith for the smirky feminine mind. She's on her third novel, which might get her a third consecutive Romantic Times Reader's Choice Awards. If you're not the type that would be caught buying a 'chick lit' book in a store, you can wait a little bit for the movie; Forget About It (novel #2) is turning into a Scarlett Johansson vehicle. If you can't wait that long, she writes scripts, too: she's written episodes for this year's 90210 and Melrose Place, and she's got a Dermot Mulrooney film starring Christopher Walken coming soon.
If you want some wisdom right now, her dog Max has an advice column on her website. And here's a film short that she wrote and directed, in case you're wondering what plateau she'll conquer in the next ten years:

Passing The Time

Passing The Time | MySpace Video