Broken records

I like to think that there are two kinds of broken records, the first being the overplayed. Ask anyone to name three or four Jimi Hendrix songs and there is a strong chance that those songs would be off his debut, Are You Experienced. To me, that is an overplayed record, which was vaulted into the high and mighty rock playlists where it will stay throughout time alongside “Stairway to Heaven,” “Baba O’Reilly,” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

The second kind of broken record is the opposite—a record that contains a song that is so devastating, so great, that you simply cannot listen to the rest of the LP.

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In case you’ve been sleepin’ (part 2)

I’ve already listed 12 of the 25 albums from 2010 that iTunes tells me I listen to a lot, but read on. The best is yet to come. This week, as promised, some new classics, some classics with new stuff, and a disc that manages to be both at the same time.

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September 6-11, 2010

Today, in “Dysphonia,” Mike Vincent shares the two ways to ruin a great album in “Broken records” and Travis R. Wright finishes out his list of the best of 2010 so far in “In case you’ve been sleeping (part 2)”

In “The Cinephiles,” Adam Simmons resurrects Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper in “The failed career of Tobe Hooper” and Kevin Mattison chuckles deviously as he shares “The decade’s best in film villainy”

In “In the Queue,” Tim Carmody says that Dave Chappelle was our comedy Tupac, and listening to the laughter can tell us something about why Dave quit. Read “When the laughter stopped”

In new column “PopHeart,” Ana Holguin reclaims sparkle motion in “Bad (so bad that it’s good?) romance”

In “Diary of a Casual Gamer,” Gavin Craig finally makes it to the end of Red Dead Redemption, and gets just a little weepy. Read “Red Dead Resolution”

In “Rounding Third,” Angela Vasquez-Giroux says the name’s the thing (Or The Bambino is the Bambino is the Bambino), in “The importance of being Ernie, not Ernest, or, How nicknames make legends”

In “The F Word,” Jill Kolongowski gives pad Thai another go (and she tells you what happened the first time) in “Eating out, or, The lazy hostess”

The failed career of Tobe Hooper

For horror fans, few films are as influential as 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Visceral. Atmospheric. Grotesque. It’s a living nightmare.

Only 30 years old, director Tobe Hooper had announced himself as force to be reckoned with. The beginnings of a long and illustrious career had begun to take shape. 8 years later Hooper would work alongside one of the behemoths of the industry, Steven Spielberg, directing an original script by Spielberg himself. That was 1982 and the film was Poltergeist, another horror classic. The stars seemed to align for Hooper but in fact, Poltergeist would be the director’s death rattle.

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The decade’s best in film villainy

There is nothing like a truly great villain.  Heroes are simple. You get the kitten out of the tree because it’s the right thing to do.  But what kind of diabolical mind would even think to put the kitten there in the first place? Great villains peel back the layers and reveal our darkest nature. They make us think.

And so, with my “kitten in the tree” argument in place, I submit that the past decade has offered us five truly phenomenal movie villains.  Here they are, in order of haircut originality:

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When the laughter stopped

Chappelle’s Show is a strange hybrid. The cinematic clips uproot it from the live experience, but the recorded audience pulls it back down again. The big laughs are all things that a 2004 audience found funny or shocking. And some of them just aren’t that funny or shocking any more.

On top of this, so many of Chappelle’s sketches have become comedy classics that it’s hard to genuinely find them surprising anymore. “I’m Rick James, bitch!” was hilarious. Then your mom’s skeezy brother said it ten times at one holiday party a year after the show aired, and it didn’t feel so funny anymore.

Chappelle’s Show also gets bound up with what we know about Dave Chappelle’s history afterward. Dave famously quit the show because he felt that he was creatively tapped and was increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that jokes he’d intended as racial satire were getting laughed at for their silly, minstrelsy qualities. He even felt that his co-creators were complicit in this—he no longer felt comfortable working with them, so after recording several sketches for a much-anticipated third season, he briefly disappeared. There were rumors about his mental health and the possibility of drug abuse. Nobody could seem to grasp that somebody so successful didn’t like what he was doing anymore.

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Bad (so bad that it’s good?) romance

As a youngish academic in English I should adhere to many cultural stereotypes. I should “use” my television as a decorative art piece and never actually watch it. I should sport shoes that promote foot health like a good pair of Birkenstocks, or a Dansko clog if I’m feeling fancy. I should revel in French film and have a taste for curious and inventive cuisine. And I should probably refrain from employing self-coined terms like “mo-mo” when proper names for such objects (“remote control”) already exist.

Although the list above is clearly exaggerated, it’s still difficult for me to not measure myself by an imaginary yardstick of academic propriety. Or by more general yardsticks like adult sophistication, for that matter. As a result, I feel ashamed that I consider Television a part of my family and that my favorite shoes are 4+ inches high and stained with the blood of tootsies intensely dedicated to sparkle motion. I feel guilty that I prefer watching the cartoon adventures of an orphan boy and his favorite pirate (they live in a whale!) to more edifying cinematic encounters. And while “Top Chef” remains a must-see program, I take more epicurean delight in mixing various other junk food desserts into my ice cream than in spinach foams and genius takes on ceviche (seh-whoochie?!). As for language, I love me a $10 word as much as a Rachel Zoe-ism. What’s a grown-up material girl to do?

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Red Dead Resolution

I bought Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption the day it came out, May 18, 2010, and I just finished it this past weekend. Of course, I say that I finished the game. The game itself seems to think that I’m only 85.4% done. Red Dead Redemption doesn’t end when the credits roll. You can just keep going if you want, playing poker, hunting, gathering rare herbs, helping or assaulting people as your wont may be. I will admit to having done a little of all of these things.

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The importance of being Ernie, not Ernest, or, How nicknames make legends

Now think again of the legends. Think of their names – their nicknames, infinitely more powerful and weighted with meaning than their given names.

The Great One. The Intimidator. The Great Bambino.

Now think of the names of the men who hope to be legends, or who played hard enough to perhaps, one day, be a footnote to legendary days:

The Perfect Storm. The Answer. Little Ball of Hate. King James. Prince Albert.

Now think of the great athletes of our time, and how devoid they are of excellent, aspirational names: Miggy. Manny. A-Rod. K-Rod. And so on and so forth.

None of these men will ever be great men (here I am reminded of the absurd song from Gang of Four) so long as their names offer no direction, nothing to become (an intimidator, a bearer of greatness) and begin no prophetic cycle of legend.

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Eating out, or, The lazy hostess

For the past two weeks, I have had houseguests. Dad and sister and my boyfriend, Charlie, all needing to be fed, even if they’re not expecting anything gourmet. They know me, after all. I have aunts who act surprised when I tell them I make homemade tortilla soup. And that only requires adding corn, chicken, and salsa to chicken broth, heating and stirring. My aunt and her wife are ridiculously good cooks; they will often whip up a “quick” dinner of hand-breaded chicken parmesan with homemade tomato sauce, and fondue for dessert. No big deal.

So I had big plans for my dad and sister and boyfriend last week—lemon chicken parmesan (which is my go-to fancy-sounding food), pad Thai, and for breakfast, they’d wake up to warm blueberry cobbler. Both the pad Thai and blueberry cobbler I’d only attempted once before and both had failed. The first time I made pad Thai, I ended up with an inch of noodles and peanuts and other detritus stuck to the bottom of the pan, so I just called it “smoke-infused” and choked it down. I hadn’t made the blueberry cobbler since high school, when I forgot to thaw the blueberries first and ended up with a blueberry juice, sugar, and raw dough stew. I can’t imagine why I thought making them again was a good idea.

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