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Mosaic_Watchmen

Alan Moore’s Watchmen was my first graphic novel, and I must say that it surpassed all of my expectations.  I’d heard good things about it from a few folks beforehand:

“Told with ruthless psychological realism, in fugal, overlapping plotlines and gorgeous, cinematic panels rich with repeating motifs, Watchmen is a heart-pounding, heartbreaking read and a watershed in the evolution of a young medium.”

Time Magazine, 100 Best Novels: 1923 to Present

“Remarkable … The would-be heroes of watchmen have staggeringly complex psychological profiles.”

New York Times Book Review

Watchmen is fucking awesome.”

Dash, Who Often Dresses Up As Rorschach

First of all, Watchmen had an unexpectedly cinematic quality that impressed me.  Check out the transition on the opening page, for instance, which makes use of a zoom-out effect very similar to the opening of a film (click for more detail):

Dave Gibbons’ illustrations also make great use of color.  I was a big fan, for instance, of his use of red-tinted panels during flashbacks of fight scenes, and of his use of color as a transition device.

I also loved how, just as in any good piece of writing, every single detail was there for a reason.  Advertisements, graffiti, the headlines on the newspapers blowing around the corners of each panel — you name it, you’d better pay attention ot it.  This richness of detail did seem to decrease as the novel progressed (although then again, that maybe have just been because I was so engrossed in the plot that I stopped noticing).

I’m definitely going to have to read it again anyway to catch all the hidden clues and artistic choices I missed the first time around.  For instance, did you know that the panels in Chapter V, “Fearful Symmetry,” are a mirror image of themselves, with the line of symmetry halfway through the chapter on page 14-15?  I didn’t.  Brilliant.

I don’t know what else I can say without spoiling anything, except: Go read Watchmen.  Now.

mosaic_bfd

Last Saturday was my first BFD, and it was awesome.  BFD is a Bay Area all-day outdoor music festival put on by San Francisco radio station LIVE 105, which features mostly alternative and mainstream rock.  I’ve wanted to go ever since high school, but never ended up making it out to the Shoreline until this year.  I’m glad I did.  Here’s who I saw and what I thought:

The Airborne Toxic Event

Blistering, majestic viola-enhanced, anthemic rock that lives up to the bands advance hype. USA TODAY  Photo credit: Band MySpace

"Blistering, majestic viola-enhanced, anthemic rock that lives up to the band's advance hype." (USA TODAY) Photo credit: The Airborne Toxic Event's MySpace

I’d heard lots of people say they liked The Airborne Toxic Event before, but I have to admit, I was ready to dislike this band.  Until they started playing.  First, there was the cool Asian guy on guitar.  Then, the girl who was singing/playing keyboard started playing viola — and not just playing it for the sake of having a viola in the band, but really legitimately harmonizing and adding to the sound.  Then, the bass player started playing his bass like a cello, with a bow and everything.  Then, the cool Asian guy swapped his guitar for keyboard duties, causing a girl behind us to remark excitedly, “Cool Asian Guy is playing the keyboard!”  The whole band had really good energy and sounded awesome live.  They have solid musical theory behind their songs, which makes me confident that their popularity will carry beyond their single “Sometime Around Midnight”.  Thumbs up.

Dizzy Balloon

Dizzy Balloon

"Dizzy Balloon, a band with an infectious pop sensibility....were like the class clowns in AP English -- juvenile without being delinquents, fun yet smart." (SF Gate) Photo Credit: Dizzy Balloon's MySpace

Alex highly recommended Oakland pop rock band Dizzy Balloon to me after they stole the show when they opened for The Jakes at UCSD.  After BFD, I will agree — they are hands down one of the most fun live bands I’ve ever watched.  The audience can tell they’re having a blast playing, and that enthusiasm and energy is infectious.  Their keyboardist was my favorite; he dances while he plays, and I think I even saw him throw in a bhangra move or two.  They’re playing at the Oakland Metro this Saturday with The Cataracs, one of Davin’s top local picks.  I’ll be out of town, unfortunately, but if you can make it out there, you should not miss it.  Catch Dizzy Balloon now before they hit it huge.  Thumbs up.

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio headlined the Bud Light Festival Stage in an encore performance at BFD 2009.  Photo credit Steve Jennings, live105.com.

Alkaline Trio headlined the Bud Light Festival Stage in an encore performance at BFD 2009. Photo credit: Steve Jennings, live105.com.

Alkaline Trio was a bit of a disappointment at BFD this year.  I thought they lacked the distinctive, raw vocals that made Crimson and Good Mourning such good albums — maybe touring the U.S. and Canada with The Offspring has them tired.  Thumbs down, I’m sorry to say.

MC Lars

MC Lars headlined the Local Lounge stage at BFD 2009.  Photo Credit: MC Lars MySpace

MC Lars headlined the Local Lounge stage at BFD 2009. Photo Credit: MC Lars' MySpace

Over at the the Local Lounge stage, however, headliner MC Lars delivered a great live set as usual.  It’s pretty incredible that I haven’t blogged about  him yet, because he’s one of my favorite artists.  For now, suffice it to say that he is an English major from Stanford who blends old school hip-hop references with snarky social commentary and literary allusions.  He and his friends rocked the stage and got the crowd jumping with a mix of old favorites (“Download this Song,” “Hot Topic (Is Not Punk Rock)”) and new tracks from his 2009 album This Gigantic Robot Kills.  It’s always a good sign when the crowd seems to know all the lyrics to all the songs by heart.  Thumbs up.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O. rocks her poncho and the mic during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set.  Photo credit Steve Jennings, live105.com.

Karen O. rocks her poncho and the mic during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. Photo credit: Steve Jennings, live105.com.

On the main stage, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were busy being their loveably weird selves.  At various points during their set, Karen O. donned a large neon poncho; put a towel on her head; and jammed her microphone into her mouth, leaned waaay backward, and screamed.  At the end of the set, they fired what appeared to be hundreds of fluttering white moths out of a special white-moth-firing-cannon, much to the delight of the box seat audience below and, later, the local birds.  I can’t claim to be  the hugest Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan, but I do value their artistic statements (however inexplicable).  Thumbs sideways?

The Offspring

The Offspring headline the main stage at Shoreline.  Photo credit Steve Jennings, live105.com.

The Offspring headline the main stage at Shoreline. Photo credit: Steve Jennings, live105.com.

I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from festival headliner The Offspring.  They knew the crowd, which ranged from college students to highschoolers to families with small but awesome children, was there to hear classic Offspring, and rose to the occassion magnificently.  They hit all the favorites  (“The Kids Aren’t Alright,” “Come Out and Play,” “Why Don’t You Get a Job?,”) and made a nod to their newer ones (“Hammerhead”), sounding just as great live as they do in the recording studio.  Lead singer Dexter Holland even did a gorgeous piano arrangement of “Gone Away” he’s been working on, which was arguably better than the original.  Joining the band and 22,000 fans in sold-out Shoreline Amphitheatre singing “Self Esteem” was the perfect end to an awesome day.  Thumbs up.

The Metros are an indie rock band from south London.  Think The Libertines, if they were young enough to have gone to high school with you.

What The Metros lack in originality, they make up for in playful swagger.  Here’s a catchy single, “Last of the Lookers,” off their 2008 album, More Money Less Grief:

I love the lead singer’s suspenders, and the slangy British lyrics that make a minimum of sense to someone here on the other side of the Atlantic:

‘Cos we’re the south east lovers
Yeah we’re the last of the lookers
Wrapped up topshop coked up sweethearts know
Wrapped up topshop coked up sweethearts know

I met a girl, thought she was the bee’s knees
Turns out she’s ain’t even from Brockley, oh

The Metros, “Last of the Lookers”

Even when I know what they’re saying, I still don’t really know what they’re saying, but I have a damn good time singing along.  I think they’re worth keeping an eye out for as they continue to mature and develop their own sound.

If you like, you can view the band’s official website, watch the videos for singles “Talk About It” and “Education Pt. 2″, or read album reviews of “More Money Less Grief”.

Since school has ended, I’ve been getting my money’s worth on my Netflix subscription and then some.  Here are my two cents on a few of the films I’ve seen lately.  To spice things up, I will preface each with a haiku:

Everything is Illuminated

2/5 stars

the little hobbit

quests for his family’s past

mordor was cooler



“A young American Jewish man begins an exhausting quest — aided by a naïve Ukranian translator — to find the righteous gentile woman who saved his grandfather when his small Ukranian village (along with most of the populace) was obliterated during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. Stars Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz and Boris Leskin. Liev Schreiber directs –”

Yes, you read that correctly.

Yes, you read that correctly.

“–Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.”  (Netflix)

The first half of this movie is great, with “Royal Tenenbaums”-like quirkiness and charm, displayed wonderfully in the trailer.  Eugene Hutz, especially, is hilarious as Alex, the young Ukranian translator who makes hapless attempts at Americanisms.  But when Schrieber attempts to get all poignant about the Holocaust, he ends up overdoing the sad music and close up shots of people crying, and the movie just kind of grinds to a halt.

Across the Universe

3/5 stars

love it or hate it,

unless you’re high, you’ll agree:

bono’s no walrus



“An American girl (Evan Rachel Wood) and a British lad (Jim Sturgess) fall in love amid the upheaval of the 1960s in this musical featuring classic Beatles songs and a mix of live action and innovative animation. On an excursion to America, Liverpool dock worker Jude (Sturgess) falls for Lucy (Wood). When Lucy’s brother (Joe Anderson) is drafted, Jude and Lucy take a stand as anti-war activists. Dana Fuchs, Bono and Eddie Izzard co-star.” (Netflix)

I really enjoyed the beginning and the end, but thought the middle could have withstood some judicious cutting and come out for the better.  Bono’s cameo cover of “I am the Walrus” was one of the most painful things I have watched; the director could have recruited a tone-deaf, slightly-sloshed nobody from a random karaoke bar, and the scene would have turned out the same (if not slightly better).

He plays a douche remarkably well, though.

He plays a douche remarkably well, though.

Bono aside, the soundtrack is a real gem and what saved this movie from being a 2-star.  As long as you’re not a purist, you’ll enjoy the unique spin the film gives to classic Beatles songs.  “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “Come Together” are two examples that also have good dance sequences:

Star Trek

5/5 stars

blending old and new

this film kicks ass.  credits roll,

i applaud madly



“Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his trusted team on the starship USS Enterprise boldly go where no man has gone before in this installment of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi franchise that follows the early days of the intergalactic adventurers. The crew includes Spock (Zachary Quinto), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Sulu (John Cho). Eric Bana co-stars, and Leonard Nimoy appears as an older version of Spock.” (Netflix)

I was already a fan of the previous work of  John Cho, Anton Yelchin, and Karl Urban, so I was super delighted that they would all be in a movie together.  And how cool is it that John Cho as Sulu had a sizeable part in the script?  I am all for the correction of underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in film.

Nish described this movie on opening weekend as “Pirates of the Caribbean in space.”  I would have to say that’s not far off the mark, and would like to append “…but awesomer”.  It was well-written, well-directed, and if I had any quibble, it would be that the film felt a bit too short.  Five stars not because it was a pinnacle of cinematic achievement, but because it was the first film in a long time that I walked away from feeling completely satisfied.  You’ve got me, Star Trek franchise.  I eagerly await a sequel.

Mosaic_Green Doors

Once in a while, you come across an exceptionally well-written piece of prose that stays with you long after reading.  It’s hard to describe why, but for some reason it speaks to you.  Today, Deanne and I were talking about short stories, and I mentioned that the opening paragraph of American writer O. Henry’s short story “The Green Door” is one of my all-time favorites:

“SUPPOSE YOU SHOULD be walking down Broadway after dinner, with ten minutes allotted to the consummation of your cigar while you are choosing between a diverting tragedy and something serious in the way of vaudeville. Suddenly a hand is laid upon your arm. You turn to look into the thrilling eyes of a beautiful woman, wonderful in diamonds and Russian sables. She thrusts hurriedly into your hand an extremely hot buttered roll, flashes out a tiny pair of scissors, snips off the second button of your overcoat, meaningly ejaculates the one word, “parallelogram!” and swiftly flies down a cross street, looking back fearfully over her shoulder.”

O. Henry*, The Green Door

*You may know O. Henry for his most famous work, The Gift of the Magi, a tale mostly about the importance of good communication between spouses.

I guess I love this because it is bursting with fantastic description, but also because it’s a tongue-in-cheek take on the fantastical nature of classic mysteries.  Also, in context, it’s about the spirit of adventure, and recklessness is usually something I could do with more of.

I loved how many of you responded on this blog and on Facebook to my last post with your summer plans, so let me ask you this: Do you have any favorite clippings of prose (or poetry) to share?

“I Fought the Law” was originally recorded in 1959 by rock & roll group Sonny Curtis and the Crickets.

Sonny Curtis (second from right) and the Crickets

Sonny Curtis (second from right) and the Crickets

It has since been covered by pretty much every artist ever, and then some.

You know you have a hit on your hands when Colin Farrell asks to cover your song.

You know you have a hit on your hands when the venerated Colin Farrell asks to cover your song.

By far the most famous covers of “I Fought the Law” are by the Bobby Fuller Four, the Clash, the Dead Kennedys, and Green Day, whose version was used in an early iTunes commercial.

I’m partial to the cover by the Dead Kennedys, a 1980s hardcore punk group, because I once did a report on its lyrical meaning for history class.

The Dead Kennedys (Klaus Fluoride, Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, and Ted) protest the commercialism of the music industry.Early Dead Kennedys: bassist Klaus Fluoride, vocalist Jello Biafra, guitarist East Bay Ray, and drummer Ted, protesting the commercialism of the music industry.

Jello Biafra, one of the most bad-assed and politically incendiary frontmen in the history of punk rock (and that’s saying something for an inherently bad-assed and politically incendiary genre of music), rewrote the lyrics of the song in a sarcastic derision of the controversial trial of Dan White.

You’ll recall from this blog’s reviews of Milk that White was the San Francisco city supervisor who assassinated fellow supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone in 1978.

Former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White

Former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White

What Milk doesn’t cover is the aftermath of the killings and White’s subsequent trial in 1979.  White, a former police officer, turned himself in to authorities as the shooter later that day, whereupon his old coworkers allegedly applauded him.

His trial saw the introduction of the infamous “Twinkie Defense”.  White’s lawyers argued that he should not be convicted of murder because his capacity for rational thought was diminished in the days leading up to the shootings.  His lawyers offered as evidence of White’s altered state of mind his uncharacteristic consumption of junk food.

They did not argue, as the film misstated, that a chemical imbalance resulting from eating junk food prompted White to carry out the shootings.

In any case, the jury bought the argument and found White guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first degree murder, convicting him to only seven years in prison as opposed to a life sentence.  This sentence, criticized by many as being an overly lenient one delivered by a jury sympathetic to White’s status as an ex-policeman, sparked the White Night Riots in San Francisco.  Jello Biafra rewrote the song from Dan White’s point of view, and many of his lyrics reflect this anger as well:

“The law don’t mean shit if you’ve got the right friends

That’s how this country’s run

Twinkies are the best friend I’ve ever had

I fought the law and I won”

“I’m the new folk hero of the Klu Klux Klan

My cop friends think that’s fine

You can get away with murder if you’ve got a badge

I fought the law and I won”

Jello Biafra, the Dead Kennedys

For your comparison, I’ve compiled the Youtube videos of the five most famous versions of “I Fought the Law”.  I chose live performances over studio recordings wherever possible.

Sonny Curtis and the Crickets: “I Fought the Law”

The Crickets disguise themselves as wildflowers.  Thrilling hilarity ensues.

Bobby Fuller Four: “I Fought the Law”

The Four play in a jail cell to the delight of an appreciative fellow inmate/go-go dancer.

The Clash: “I Fought the Law”

The Clash radiate pure awesome at a live show at the Lyceum Theatre in London.

Dead Kennedys: “I Fought the Law (and I Won)”

Jello Biafra sings with vitriolic sarcasm at an L.A. show while the audience? (bouncers?) mosh onstage.

Green Day: “I Fought the Law”

Billie Joe gamely tries to blink his eyeliner out of his eyes.  A female audience member and probable Hot Topic patron at front and center shows off her startling proficiency at pointing in the general direction of the band, frustrating the event’s cameramen at every turn. Unfortunately, near 1:58, her clapping is temporarily thrown off beat when she attempts to point and clap simultaneously.

While theaters have recently been filled with many films that promise to entertain, few promise to educate, and even fewer do so in the thought-provoking way that Gus Van Sant’s new movie, Milk, does.

Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

harveymilk

The film follows Milk’s life from from the moment he decided he wanted to be a politician, to the moment he finally won a seat a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors . Milk  ran unsuccessfully for political office on three separate occasions; with each attempt, he gained more and more support. Milk, however, had  short-lived political career. Dan White, a fellow San Francisco supervisor, shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk  on November 27, 1978.

milkmosconeslainpaper1

While each person has his or her own views on the sensitive issue of homosexuality, the film’s release could not have come at a more appropriate time. When Proposition 8 passed at the end of last year, many felt Californians had taken a huge step back in the fight for equality. Although that may very well be the case, Milk puts a face to the fight for gay rights. Harvey Milk’s touching and motivating story is guaranteed make you think a little before treating anyone poorly.

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I have been recelebrating the awful comedic brilliance of The Office (UK) of late.  If you aren’t familiar with the antics of David, Gareth, and Tim (that’s Michael, Dwight, and Jim, respectively, to those of us across the Atlantic), you should check out these two little musical gems, as well as my strange spelling, in honour of my ChunkIt! coworker Elena, who is leaving for England this week.

Ricky Gervais, who plays office manager/idiot David Brent, is my absolute favourite.

David’s Dance

Free Love on the Freelove Freeway

If you can’t stop busting out “Freelove Freeway”, the BBC has provided the guitar tabs, courtesy of Gervais, who actually wrote and composed the song.

Over the past few days, I’ve sifted through multiple year-in-review lists, watched scores of trailers, and prowled Rotten Tomatoes for ratings.  Somewhere between The Dark Knight and Iron Man, the following 8 films may have escaped your viewing in 2008 but are now at the top of my to-do list.

These films aren’t necessarily Academy Award nominees or critics’ picks, though many of them are.  They were chosen for having an interesting premise and a fresh approach to their subject.

I’ve taken the liberty of compiling everything — movie posters, cast lists, ratings, synopses, trailers, and critics’ reviews — into one handy package for you.

So if you’re at the movie theater looking forlornly from The Day the Earth Stood Still to The Spirit, here are 8 alternatives for your consideration:

American Teen

Because it’s billed as a real-life ‘Breakfast Club’.

Directed by: Nanette Burstein

American Teen Rotten Tomatoes Rating

Documentary following the lives of four teenagers–a jock, the popular girl, the artsy girl and the geek–in one small town in Indiana through their senior year of high school. We see the insecurities, the cliques, the jealousies, the first loves and heartbreaks, and the struggle to make profound decisions about the future. Filming daily for ten months, filmmaker Nanette Burstein developed a deep understanding… See Full Description

Excerpts from critical reviews, courtesy of ChunkIt!’s My Chunks beta feature:

Cinematical.com’s James Rocchi’s Sundance 2008 review defends American Teen against concerns of overproduction and glossiness, and calls it “an engaging, stylish, and surprisingly smart piece of non-fiction entertainment”.

Next: Be Kind Rewind

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Hi everyone!  Today we have a guest blogger.  Katelyn was my roommate last year in the dorms, and now she interns at ChunkIt! with me to show Cal students how they can research faster and more effectively.  She’s pretty awesome.  She got me addicted to The Hills, and today she’s going to tell you about Britney Spears’ new album, Circus.

2994635477_1f1511c942

Alright, hello everybody! While my Saturday nights have recently been occupied by Spanish tests and Political Economy papers, I have discovered one of the best stress relievers- just in time for finals; Britney Spears’ new album, Circus, debuted last Tuesday. And, although her previous album provided the aging Britney fan base with one intriguing single, Womanizer, the new album is jam packed with techno-influenced dance songs perfect for a study break dance party.

Britney has experienced quite the transformation since she first appeared on MTV’s Total Request Live over ten years ago as a “not that innocent” teenager. Over the past decade, Britney has managed to produce six albums, two not-so-successful marriages, two baby boys, one blockbuster bust and the infamous bald fiasco we all wish we could forget.

Britney's close shave

Since then, however, Britney’s hair has grown out and she has managed to reclaim the hearts of her unwavering fan base. Last Sunday MTV premiered  Britney’s documentary, “For the Record,” in which Britney explained that there was a lot the public did not know about her life over the past few years.

“People think that you go through something in your life and you need to go to therapy, but for me art is therapy,” says Britney. “I sit there and I look back and I’m like I am a smart person, what was I thinking?”

Britney Spears

So, before you typecast Britney as another one of those pop artists gone insane drug addict, try to look past the superficial facade of Circus’ album cover, and listen to some art therapy.

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