Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mini-Reviews

"F.U. Penguin: Telling cute animals what's what"
****

A funny witty book that talks about cute animals in the most sarcastic form of humor. This book will open your mind as well as your sense of humor. The author tries to explain his weird obsession with Penguins, followed by his odd obsession with cute animals. Feeling sick of being sucked into these animals cute and cuddly looks. He decides to write a book and exploit these animals as if they were doing this image for attention. "F.U. Penguins" starts off very humorous, but as you gradually read on in this novel.  The humor feels as if it were forced. There's nothing wrong with it. Although you'd wish that most of the short stories didn't feel forced to be funny. This approach sort of takes the edge out of the book in many ways. While at the same time leaving you wanting to read on. This book is highly recommended and does contain strong language.

Radiohead "Pablo Honey"
***

Radiohead's first album seems somewhat stellar compared to their other albums. This album contains their most overplayed song "Creep". This song became popular because guitarist Jonny Greenwood felt the song was too soft and decided to play his guitar very loud and aggressively during the chrous. Somehow this gave the song that angry tone and was considered the best. But there's more to this album that just that song. "You" (the first song on the album) has a very nice approach in terms of melody and lyrics. Very dark and moody track, Thom displays more emotion in this song than he does in "Creep". The lyrics aren't as depressing as "Creep", but they're a bit more dark and disturbing. "Anyone Can Play Guitar" and "Ripchord" are two other tracks that are very well worth listening to. Radiohead's guitar heavy days are well far behind them. But their first album could arguably be the least favorite by fans. With some songs sounding similar to Nirvana. Even in this case, Radiohead manages to put together a album that's entertaining to listen to and worth buying on iTunes.

iPad just an oversized iPod Touch
Apple iPad ($499)
**1/2

Likes: The simplistic approach to touch screen technology, plenty of apps to choose from, light weight design makes carrying it more portable than your conventional laptop.

Dislikes: Priced very high, even with Wi-fi from At&t, not enough memory to justify asking price, can't fully replace a laptop, battery life is just down right horrible, looks like an oversized iPod Touch.

Overall: The iPad is a good stylish chooses to the tablet PC. There's plenty of apps and much fun is offered with the iPad. But the lack of memory and the high asking price may push some away from it. Plus it looks like an oversized iPod Touch.

Devon test drives a Jeep
2010 Jeep Cherokee 4X4 ($37,400*)

Likes: Solid on road feel, comfortable well adjustable front seats, great veiw out, plenty of passing power when you need it, plenty of cargo space and all-wheel-drive system that intelligently shuts on and off when needed to save gas.

Dislikes: Engine sounds gruff when pushed, some road surfaces sends shivers into the cabin, interior materials are just plain horrible for a vehicle near $40,000, even with all the technology - there are competitors that offer it all in a better package.

Overall: Check out the 2011 Jeep Cherokee, which addresses all the complaints that I've made about this one.

Devon M

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Summer Live Part III: Against Me! @ JBTV



Felipe M


The following is part of a series to wrap up the 2nd half of my 2010 concert calendar. It is proving to be a long winded afair, but DAMMIT, I will finish it up. By the time you read through this story, we would be half way done with this journey. Coming up next: AGAINST ME! on JBTV.


July 3rd, Against Me! Live @ JBTV Studio:



Well, well, well Against Me!, we meet again! I've seen this band 5 times in my lifetime, more than any other band (I have seen both Thrice and Bad Religion 4x's). The 5th time left such a bad impression with me that I decided that I would never follow this band again. Seriously! I was going to be done with them. Their major label debut known as New Wave was pretty solid, but for Against Me! standards, it would be pretty subpar. I can sit here and talk about how mediocre New Wave is, but that would be stating the obvious. The fact is, I wasn't going to even give the new, much anticipated album White Crosses a chance either as I decided to completely turn my back on this band--well, not too complete... maybe 3/4 of my back was turned....

... Made it a lot easier to face forward when Ricardo's brother, Gabe informed me that he had an extra pass to see Against Me! perform an acoustic set at the JBTV studios, but wasn't sure who he should take.....

For those who don't know what JBTV is, it is a local TV show here in Chicago starring a hippie-looking, Gandalf the gray wizard look-a-like, Jerry Bryant. The show is awesome as it showcases local and established music acts and other bands in the world of underground, indie, punk, alternative, or simply put non-mainstream music world. The show also airs live performances from their sweet-looking soundstage where a few lucky people can see a band live perform in the most intimate of settings--and lots and lots of cameras. And it gets juicier music fans, especially if you do not live in the Chicagoland area, as not only are the previous aired episodes of JBTV availabe FREE OF CHARGE on i-Tunes, but their website is full of videos of performances, interviews, episodes and more! It's the coolest thing since All Ages Radio aired on Friday nights with Kevin and Gordon!



The most beautiful phrase in the English language is as follows:



Against Me! to perform a live acoustic set


If at any point in your lives you come across these words, your first reaction is to pounce at the opportunity like a Love Smith Bears defense pounces on a football after a forced turnover (NORTH DIVISION CHAMPS!). There is nothing like an Against Me! acoustic set. Heck the band started off as an acoustic band and to this day, there are fans out there that are still mad at the band for switching to electronic guitars for Reinventing Axl Rose. So after trying to convince my friend Gabe that I was the right person to go with, I won out because it turns out Gabe is a loser and has no friends whatsoever!
Good weekend so far: Streetlight Manifesto the night before, Against Me! the following afternoon.
Based on the episode that was aired on November 10, 2010 and based on my fuzzy memory, the set went as follows:
  1. High Pressure Low
  2. I Was a Teenage Anarchist
  3. Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong
  4. Spanish Moss
  5. White Crosses
  6. Sink Florida Sink
Initially, before the band even got on stage, the coolest part of it all was Brendan Kelly from the Lawrence Arms was on stage introducing the band. How cool is that? Turns out, he actually is one of the hosts on JBTV. Tre cool!
If you have never heard any Against Me! songs before in your life, they're easy to get into as sing-alongs are a plentiful. For example, the first time I heard the song "Thrash Unreal" was in April of 2007 before I even knew it would come out in the very mainstream album New Wave, as I made the misguided notion that the song was a track released pre-Axl Rose days. Turned out it was a new song, and even then fans at the show were able to sing along to it because that's just the way the songs are structured. Hell, I used to hate the song "Walking is Still Honest" until i heard it live at my first Against Me! show in DeKalb, IL (the very same one where I first heard "Thrash" and found out that I can sing along to the "whoa, whoa, whoa" parts (Observe). First time I heard "High Pressure Low," I found myself in the same situation as I was, at the very least, able to sing along to the "whoa" part of the chorus. You can't help but to sing-a-long with the band.
"Teenage Anarchist" came up next and even though I never considered myself an anarchist when I was a teenager (or even through my college years), I easily found myself relating to this song. I do remember when I was young and was ready to set the world on fire, but the revolution never came because it was indeed a fucking lie!!!!!!! I almost cried listening to this song. That's the other thing about Against Me!, besides their catchiness, they write some really good songs that people like me can actually relate to. (That's why I still look for bands "who play loud and hard every night").
Despite the new songs being great listens theretofore, great disappointment in the set came when one of the band's staple songs "Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong" was next on the list. Before the show started, we were told by Brendan Kelly I believe, that this was a real concert venue and just because there were cameras around, that we should feel free to liberally do what we normally would do at "real" shows. Unfortunately, we as the audience must've either forgotten that rule, we were tired from the night before, maybe we are nervous when there's cameras around, or maybe we were all critically judging this band as only this band can get judged, but I was gravely disappointed when we all pretended that we didn't know the song that the band was performing on stage. I mean, I sang along, but even then, if I were to really sing, you could have probably heard my voice on one of the many live mics. After the song's performance, a stellar job as always by the way, Tom said something that you will not catch on any of the online episodes (and I paraphrase): "Fuck, even when we decide to play an old song, you guys just stand around like zombies. So we're just gonna keep playing the new songs." I'm sure it was meant to be half-serious, half-facetious, but it's insulting to get called out by one of the most influential people in punk rock today. But Gabel was right.

We move on to "Spanish Moss" and following "Guiness" is a tough task, but following "Guiness" AND being called out by Gabel, I still haven't gotten over it and I really don't enjoy "Moss" when I listen to it because of it. Gabel then introduced the next song "White Crosses" as a personal song based on an event that occurred to him in St. Augustin, Florida and had to do with abortion clinics. The final reason why people get into Against Me! is that the band, and most notably Gabel, wear their hearts, their social and political views, on their sleeves. They finish the set with "Sink, Florida, Sink," another fan favorite, to little fanfare as the band finished the set and left the stage faster than you can ask, "is walking still honest, Tom?"

The crowd, was one of the worst crowds at a show, but with the cameras around, I can see how people were more reserved with their actions, but with a band that is action packed like Against Me! why would we do that to ourselves? Maybe we were just in awe of a band that was not on the decline on the heels of releasing their second major label album, rather at the pinnacle of their careers. Regardless, the moral of the story is that I went out and bought White Crosses a few days after the set (along with The Gasligth Anthem's American Slang. YES, both self-titled tracks from both ablums sound extremely identical). So far, I have been pleasantly surprised on how much I have enjoyed Crosses. As cheesy as it will sound, the album has become the soundtrack to my 2010 summer. Unfortunately, this show is nowhere near a contender for SHOW OF THE YEAR. Hope they had a better crowd opening up for the Silversun Pickups that night.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Summer Live Part II: Streetlight Manifesto




Felipe M



The following article is part of an ongoing series to wrap up my 2010 second half concert calendar. The next band to be featured is ska band (the term ska will be used interchangeably to describe the genre of ska-punk music) STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO.




July 2nd-Streetlight Manifesto @ The Metro: I’ve been waiting for a very long time to see this band live and finally had the pleasure of catching their performance over the summer. In an effort to hype this band to get more of my friends to attend this show, I created a few taglines to generate interest:



  • THE BEST SKA-PUNK BAND IN THE BUSINESS
  • IT’S SKA MUSIC WITHOUT THE SIDE-EFFECTS OF LISTENING TO SKA MUSIC
  • SKA MUSIC FOR THE THINKING EVERYMAN
  • PROGRESSIVE SKA MUSIC AT IT’S BEST
  • NOT YOUR OLDER BROTHER’S SKA MUSIC
  • THE ONLY SKA BAND THAT MATTERS


For those that don’t know who Streetlight Manifesto are, they are obviously a ska-punk band (that’s how I would categorize this band) whose biggest contribution to the scene is how easily their music transcends and streamlines from one music community to another. Their musical releases have received very high critical acclaim and strong word of mouth from not only the “ska community,” but also from music fans who loathe the musical genre (including this particular author). I believe the thing that separates this band from other ska bands like Reel Big Fish (I hate those guys) is that Streetlight have a more intricate, complex sound with relatively dark lyrics and subject matter, ironically done from an upbeat rhythm, that go beyond the typical ska songs (the ones that I have heard at least) about love, partying, and white, middle class, teenage angst. It’s like listening to Rancid, but--with a horns section (just kidding)—without the over-the-top Joe Strummer-like vocals. Their latest release is a collection of cover songs called 99 Songs of Revolution.


Coming at the heels of success from having so many people come out for the Thrice concert, I was able to talk a co-worker and her boyfriend to come out to the show, only for them to cancel at the last minute, which left me with two extra tickets in my hand. That would open the door for my girlfriend to come out for our SECOND SHOW EVER AS A COUPLE! Wow! After 5 years not attending a single show, we’re together for two in a row? “Wow” is definitely the word! So she was able to snatch one ticket, and I was able to sell the other ticket to a friend of a friend of a friend—of a friend? Plus my usual posse, Ricardo and Devon, were there as well bringing the total to four in the group.


For this show, I just stood on the sidelines and watched from a flanked position. It was hot at The Metro that night. I wasn’t even in the pit area and I was profusely sweating. Naturally, as the show went on, it got muggier, more boiling, sweltering, sultry, scalding, oven-like, (add your own adjective here). And of course, the reason it was so hot for the standing-room only crowd was because Streetlight Manifesto was lighting The Metro on fire from the stage.


(For this show’s setlist, click here) The band did a good job balancing out the song selection from both Everything Goes Numb, Keasbey Nights, and Somewhere in the Between. (If I were this universe’s sultan, I would proclaim that every band that wants to perform live HAS TO find a way to balance their setlist in this manner). The only song done from Revolutions was a cover of the Dead Milkmen’s song, “Punk Rock Girl.” During their performance of the song, I slyly used that time to serenade my girlfriend:



Punk rock girl give me a chance
Punk rock girl let's go slamdance
We'll dress like Minnie Pearl
Just you and me punk rock girl



Not even an artist would have been able to erase the smile from her face as I sang to her. Take notes fellas. Other highlights of this show was something that has gone on without much of my attention as it has become clearly empirical that the songs “Point/Counterpoint” and “Keasbey Nights” sound pretty damn similar. Observe if you will:


  • Point/Counterpoint-- “I've got a gun in my hand but that gun won't cock
And my finger's on the trigger but that trigger seems locked
and I can't stop staring at the tick tock clock
and even if I could I would never give up.
With a vest on my chest, a bullet in my lung
I can't believe I'm dying with my song unsung.
And if and when I die won't you bury me alone?
'Cause I'll never get to heaven if I'm singing this song.”
  • Keasbey Nights—“ When they come for me, I'll be sitting at my desk
With a gun in my hand, wearing a bulletproof vest singing
"My, my, my, how the time does fly, when you know you're going to die
By the end of the night." And said hey”


Streetlight did a great job putting both songs together and seamlessly streamlining from “Point” to “Keasbey” and finishing strong with “Point.” It was a very cool experience to have both songs played together in that manner.


Another highlight of this show was when they played “We Are the Few,” which starts out in a fast-paced, verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern before it slows down. Right before it gets to the “slow” part, I turn to my girlfriend and tell her, “This has been the best night of my life.” She grinned and asked, “Why? Because I’m here with you tonight?” The timing of the whole sequence was perfect as lead singer/guitarist Thomas starts crooning “This has been the best night of my life…” The look on her face as she rolled her eyes away from me was priceless. It is little things like this that makes going to these shows so enjoyable.


One exchange that occurred during the show happened between my girlfriend and I when frustrated and bothered by the heat and the long, unfamiliar songs, she turned to me and asked “All these songs sound the same! How can you tell them apart?” I thought about it for a second and replied “Repetition. How else do you tell apart one shitty Brittney Spears song from another? You hear the songs 40-50 times per day on the radio. The same rule applies.” I don’t think she was satisfied with that answer, but by the end of the night, my bubblegum pop-oriented girlfriend was observing how the people in the pit were dancing along to the songs and she picked up on it rather quickly and started emulating the dance rather well. She’s such a closet skank.


Overall, it was a great show, but I do wish they would have played “Failing, Flailing.” I also thought I could go on without having to listen to Keasbey Nights, but now I’m more curious about this album and will probably go get it. This show has potential to end the year in the top 5 of my rankings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Summer Live Part I: Thrice



Felipe M

The following is an installment for my wrap up of my 2010 second half concert calendar. I've been in the process of moving for the past few months or so, but I finally have Internet and my own laptop! So without much further ado, here's THRICE.

June 12th-Thrice @ Chicago House of Blues: I have seen the band Thrice live, thrice in my lifetime, but the first two shows, coming on back-to-back tour dates at The Metro a couple of years ago came on the heels of them releasing the weird experiment known as The Alchemy Index. As a punk rocker, it was a very surreal experience seeing a band go from traditional guitars, bass, and drums to using keyboards, drum and other electronic machines, and other musical instruments that one would expect at a rave or some other similar form of entertainment. The third time I saw this band, they opened up for both Alkaline Trio and Rise Against at the Congress Theatre, but I was too drunk to enjoy the band as I was starting to grow fond of already-mentioned album. Needless to say, I was too immature to appreciate the talents and musical progression of this band.

In comes the fourth installment of my Thrice experience and this time, I came with an open mind and with a different outlook on this band as Beggars proved to be a memorable album for this band and I couldn't wait to see them live. Also going for me that night was that my usual running mates, Devon and Ricardo were with me that night so the show is already off to a good start before it even begins. Plus our friend Donnie ("Wood Sugars" reference!) was joining us that night as he, outside of yours truly, is the biggest Thrice fan I know. Plus my co-worker and her fiancee were there too. However, the biggest news of the night is that I got my girlfriend to attend marking it the first concert we've ever attended together. After 5 years! She might just be the one! All in all, SEVEN people from my circle showed up for this show. That's a new record for me, but the real winner is mankind as I believe that I'm doing my small part in introducing good music to the rest of the world, one person at a time.

Predictably, Thrice played mostly new songs from their Beggars album and with songs like "All the World is Mad" and "In Exile" thank God! One of the few times in my life that I actually want to hear a band's new material at a show.

From The Alchemy Index, "Child of Dust," "Firebreather," and "Daedalus" were part of the setlist. Vheissu was well represented with songs like "Dust of Nations" and "The Earth Will Shake."

However, just when I thought the night couldn't get any better, they played one of my favorite songs ever from one of my favorite albums ever, "To Awake and Avenge the Dead" from The Illusion of Safety to end their set before the encore. The only song that Thrice still plays consistently from this album is "Deadbolt" as the crowd ALWAYS begs them to play that song, but I had a feeling that they would play "Awake and Avenge." Nevertheless, it was one of the most pleasant surprises ever! I've seen clips of them playing this song live and I have longed to be part of that experience. It definitely was everything that I expected and then some! There are songs that you listen from underground musical acts that change your life from a personal and, of course, a musical level and as soon as you hear it live, it transcends your being to an even higher level--this was one of those songs and moments. Without a doubt, one of the most special moments from a live performance I have ever experienced in my life.

Thrice at the House of Blues, Chicago definitely is in a heated competitiong for Show of the Year. Will definitely look forward to seeing them live for a 5th time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reviews O-o


Volkswagen Jetta

Likes: Fresh new redesign, almost Audi-like rear tail lamps, class leading trunk and rear passenger space.


Dislikes: Styling bland, interior quality very disappointing for a Volkswagen, base engine is embarrasing for a mid-sized sedan.


Overall: The Americanized Jetta loses all that it was known for to please an audience it really didn't need to.


Chevy Cruze

Likes: A drastic change from the lackluster Cobalt, largely improved interior, plenty of space for five.


Dislikes: There are mid-sized sedans with more horespower for less money, two engines with the same output makes no sense, unsupportive front seats.


Overall: GM is in the right direction. Only if this change could've occured two years prior.


2011 Saab 9-5 sedan

Likes: Fantastic new design, interior still reflects aircraft heritage, interesting new features, turbo six-cylinder welcome addition.


Dislikes: Priced rather high, much of its sport sedan dynamics are no longer there, rather disappointing effort if you're a diehard Saab Fan.


Overall: Its still offers that 'something' no other automaker can bring to a driver's face. A smile that other drivers won't understand.


Hyundai Sonata

Likes: Large step forward for the brand, offers a turbo four-cylinder in a sea of six-cylinders, much improved everything including looks.


Dislikes: Styling rather polarizing for a mid-sized family sedan, turbo form doesn't offer a manual transmission, styling rather similar to Mercedes CLS.


Dislikes: Hyundai has become a very competitive player in the steadily growing market. With quality improving drastically, driving pleasure shouldn't disappear.


Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Likes: Compact crossover that's stylish and overloaded with features.


Dislikes: Lacks in horsepower, really needs more than stylish looks to stand out in this segment.


Overall: Offer the turbo engine from the Lancer Ralliart, and price it competitively with the Volkswagen Tiguan. You'll have a surefooted winner.


Devon M

Song Facts


Deftones 'Knife Party'

This is about going to a shooting gallery - a place where people go to inject themselves with drugs. In the first line they say "My knife is sharp and chrome." A chrome knife is another name for a syringe used for injecting drugs into your bloodstream. "Come see inside my bones" is probably talking about injecting himself. "I can float here forever" is describing getting high. The other lines in the song all work with the same theme as well. The album title is a reference to high grade cocaine.


UnderOath 'Writing On The Wall'

This song is about a family that is broken apart (step dad, dad, mom, son and step sister). The step dad is abusive and the real dad tries to stop him from abusing the daughter. The step dad and dad get in a fight and the step dad ends up killing the dad.


Rise Agaisnt 'Ready to Fall'

This song deals with pollution and its effects on the environment. The video shows how animals suffer from the actions of man. Rise Against is active with PETA, and are all vegans.


Story of the Year 'Swallow the Knife'

This song about cutting yourself and how much it bleeds. They said that it's mostly about someone who is depressed and feels like that person wants to killed himself or how much it bleeds.


Nirvana 'Pennyroyal Tea'

This song is about making a tough decision, the difficult choices around it, and the guilt following it. The reference to laxatives and cherry-flavored antacids implies the song is about heroin addiction. Many junkies have laxatives around to combat the chronic constipation that opiates bring. The lyrics could be Kurt thinking he's a lazy, weak figurehead who is depressed and sad and wants a new life. Some lyric analysis:"I'm on my time with everyone" - He was usually late for interviews."I have very bad posture" - Childhood Scoliosis made him appear hunched over."Sit and drink pennyroyal tea" - This could be a drug he took to calm his stomach pains, but it is also a play on words with penny royalty, meaning a cheap figure head."Distill the life that's inside of me" - He wants to cleanse his life and start fresh. The line, "I'm on warm milk and laxatives." could be about Cobain's dependence on DXM, scientifically known as dextromethorphan, which is available in most drug stores. As a result of consuming so much DXM (in the form of Robotussin), he developed stomach pains. One of the long term affects from this is the deterioration of the kidney and liver. The pain that you get from this physically addicting drug is unimaginable. It drove him to do heroine, which didn't last long so he used other remedies to cure his stomach pain.


Thursday 'Autumn Leaves Revisited'

This song is about a young boy or girl who loses their father in the war. The line, "Did you hear the trumpets play the day your father died?" suggests a military funeral; "Did the drums in the street make the people dance, or fall to their knees as the sound" compares it to a leaf falling from a tree in the summer (tree = family tree). The child wishes it could be summer forever: "there must be somewhere... and the leaves don't abandon their trees to the light where the skies are clear and the summer never ends" because if summer didn't end no one would fall from life as leaves. However, the father will still be there when the child dies, the message being, don't fear death.


Bad Religion 'American Jesus'

This was written in response to US President George H. W. Bush's comment that the US would win the Gulf War (the first one) because God is on their side. It's pretty much a satirical view on the general American thought that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world because it is "One nation under God."


John Lennon 'I Found Out'

In this angry and bitter song Lennon attacks a number of falsehoods such as the idolatry of the Beatles and how he is the focus for many of those involved in the peace movement. This song includes the line: "The freaks on the phone won't leave me alone, so don't give me that brother, brother." Lennon explained the lyric to the January edition of Rolling Stone. He said: "I'm sick of all these aggressive hippies or whatever they are, the "Now Generation," being very up-tight with me. Either on the street or anywhere, or on the phone, demanding my attention, as if I owed them something." Ringo Starr played drums on this track. After the break-up of the Beatles, Lennon continued to have a good relationship with Ringo. He explained why to Rolling Stone: "In spite of all the things, the Beatles could really play music together when they weren't uptight, and if I get a thing going, Ringo knows where to go, just like that, and he does well. We've played together so long, that it fits. That's the only thing I sometimes miss is just being able to sort of blink or make a certain noise and I know they'll all know where we are going on an ad lib thing. But I don't miss it that much."


Gaslight Anthem 'The '59 Sound'

The line "I hope we don't hear Marley's Chains we forged in life" is a reference to the ghost of Jacob Marley from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This is one of many quotes and references from novels, films and songs on The '59 Sound. Singer guitarist Brian Fallon explained to Jam! Music: "I look at our music as a soundtrack and I look at the lyrics like a movie script. And I try and write them so that people are watching the images go by in their head as they're hearing the lyrics. And when I reference another song it's because it's playing during a scene in that movie. At least, that's how I see it in my head."


Taking Back Sunday 'You Know HOw I do'

This is a song about a guy and his girlfriend who both lead a life of partying, drinking and drugs. The guy says he's had enough of it, but his girlfriend hasn't so it's either give it up or he's going to dump her. The song title came from the movie Made starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Faverau. Vaughn's character, Ricky Slade, says, "You know how I do" throughout the film.

Devon M

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Minute Reviews


2010 Mazda6

Likes: Sporty design, punchy four-cylinder engine, roomy interior with great attention to details, trunk that looks larger than the class leaders.

Dislikes: Less 'zoom-zoom' more comfort, exterior mirrors don't fold in, alloy wheels should be standard.

Overall: Great sedan that's capable and fun to drive, but the larger more heavier feel ruins the sporty nature of the car.

2010 Toyota Corolla

Likes: Solid car for size, little wind noise at highway speed, very spacious and refined for this price segment.

Dislikes: No driving excitement behind the wheel, styling is rather bland than flashy, recall has damaged Toyota's Reputation.

Overall: It suceeds in refinement and comfort. But leaves the driver feeling disconnected from the driving experience.

2010 Jeep Cherokee

Likes: Floats over pot holes and bumpy surfaces, punchy six-cylinder engine, very roomy and well equipped.

Dislikes: Awkward rear door shape, two piece tailgate can get a little annoying at times, ignition switch requires you to turn the key awkwardly.

Overall: Great vehicle for those who love Jeep off-road hertiage. Other than that, you can buy lighter more fuel efficient alternates for the same price.

2009 Volkswagen Rabbit

Likes: Solid feel, refinement somewhat higher than competitors, punchy five-cylinder engine, tons of space for such a small car.

Dislikes: Five-cylinder droan when revved hard, feels heavier than it looks, fuel economy isn't its strongest point.

Overall: Although its been replaced by the slicker looking Golf. The Rabbit is still a great buy compared to the more boring Honda Civic.

2009 Saab 9-5 sedan

Likes: Punchy turbo engine, quirky interior design, hints of aircraft hertiage through out design, comfortable highway ride.

Dislikes: Front wheel drive limits performance, hints of torque steer, often overshadowed by German and Japanese rivals.

Overall: Wait for the next generation to arrive shortly. Saab is going back to its roots, which is a good thing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

'The Suburbs'


The Suburbs is the upcoming third album by Canadian Indie Rock band Arcade Fire. The album was announced May 27, 2010, and is scheduled for release on August 3, 2010 in North America. Coinciding with the announcement the band released a limited edition 12-inch single containing two tracks from the album, "The Suburbs" and "Month of May". Band Members Win and William Butler discussed the album in an interview with National Public Radio on May 27. The album, which will be relased by Merge Records was recorded in win Butler and Regine Chassange's residence in Montreal, in the band's recording studio in Quebec, and in New York City. The Butlers indicate that the album's title and songwriting were inspired by their upbringing in the Suburbs of Houston, Texas.

Devon M

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Summary to end all Summaries


Felipe M.

The following is a recap of movies that have been reviewed on this website (by yours truly) along with the score given to each film and a quick synopsis:

Ninja Assassin-- 1 Star (out of 5): Marketed as a blood bath, you get exactly what you pay for--and not much of anything else.

Sherlock Holmes-- 2 Stars: Robert Downey Jr. takes a break from being a robot to portray the world's most famous detective--in the vision of director Guy Ritchie. Think an ultra-intelligent person with the fighting skill set of an MMA fighter.

The Princess and the Frog-- 4 Stars: Charming, old-fashion, hand-drawn animated feature from the Disney company full of memorable characters, toe-tapping musical numbers, and inspiring images of New Orleans in full nostalgic form.

Up in the Air-- 4 Stars: Basically the biography of the country we love in post-911 era.

Avatar-- 5 Stars: After seeing Oscar nominated films, District 9 and The Hurt Locker, I am more and more convinced that James Cameron was robbed big time from getting the Best Picture award for this film.

The Lovely Bones--1.5 Stars: This film was better off left to be showcased on the small screen, preferably on an obscure cable channel (coming up next after Project: Runway, it's the Lifetime Channel Movie Event of the Week: The Lovely Bones).

Shutter Island-- 3.5 Stars: Solid effort by legendary director Martin Scorsese and great performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, but the suspense/mystery genre is unfortunately over-saturated with films just like this one.

Alice in Wonderland-- 3 Stars: See Tim Burton and Johnny Depp running all the way to the bank with this one.

The following are movies yours truly has watched at the movie theatre, but has yet to review along with their scores and a quick summary:

Death at a Funeral-- 3 Stars: It is full of cheese, but the acting cast is a phenomenal collection of talent that overcomes Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence's blase performances.

Iron Man 2-- 3 Stars: Robert Downey Jr. was great as Tony Stark, but not as interesting when he was Iron Man. On the other hand, Don Cheadle, without much effort by the way, was outstanding as War Machine. The disappointment came with the inclusion of Mickey Rourke as Omega Red as he didn't have many lines in this film and most of the things that came out of his mouth were Russian grunts. Makes me wonder what the point was of getting an actor of Rourke's caliber if all he was going to do was just make grunting noises. They could have just gotten some no name Eastern European male to do the same thing and the movie still would have made a killing at the box office. Besides the acting, the storyline was dull and something about robots fighting other robots is such a major turnoff, but the great acting from the two headlining actors makes this, at the very least, much better than Transformers and proves to be this film's saving grace.

Shrek Forever After-- 3.5 Stars: I had my doubts when I first heard that there would be a 4th installment released this year. Even though this film is still full of cheese and unnecessary "awwwww" moments, the fantastic voice-over acting and dialogue among characters, the solid visuals, and the endearing (though far-fetched) storyline was enough to overcome my doubts and made for a great movie theatre experience. Of course, the best part about this film was falling in love with the Shrek series all over again!

The following films are movies that were watched much later than their original theatrical release along with score and short synopsis:

District 9--4.5 Stars: Amazing Sci-Fi film, but I'm not buying the parallels with South Africa's Apartheid era as I refuse to make the comparisons to human lives with those of insect-looking aliens that we gleefully were cheering for their destruction in such Will Smith films as Independence Day and Men in Black. I'm not even convinced it should have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, but regardless, in terms of acting, character development, storyline, etc., this film deserves all the high marks and praise it has received thus far.

The Hurt Locker--3.5 Stars: Even though I enjoyed the political and social commentary that this film was extrapolating, after watching this film after it had won the Oscar for Best Picture, I still didn't see the hype that was surrounding this movie.

If this film is Oscar-worthy, then other war films such as Blackhawk Down and The Kingdom should be nominated as well, right? I appreciate the first-hand look that this film gives the viewer to the current state of foreign affairs, especially in Iraq (better than anything Fox News Channel or CNN can muster up when reporting the Wars in the Middle East), but it just didn't feel like we were watching the reincarnation of Platoon and even the overt message that this film was trying to send didn't not have the same bite or venom as Full Metal Jacket.

The characters were expendable and even the most interesting character, Staff Sgt. William James (played by Jeremy Renner) was hit or miss in terms of war film characters. The fact that this film won the Best Picture Award is leading me to believe that the only reason it won was because it dealt with the hot topic issue of the past 5-7 years--should the U.S. launch a war against Middle East nations who are accused of harboring terrorist groups who were held responsible for the Twin Tower Attacks of 2001? The answer is a complicated one, but the question about this film's win for Best Picture can be answered with one word: no!

Fashionably Late Review: Alice in Wonderland



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Felipe M.
Alice in Wonderland is one of the most enduring stories in the history of Western Civilization, helped with the golden touch of Disney who has decided that they needed to revive the already popular tale about a girl who falls down a hole after her undying curiosity attracted her to an albino rabbit.
Tim Burton is famous for showing his audience some of the most bizarre plots, visuals, and settings ever known in Cinema. However, in “Alice” he feels right at home—a little bit too comfortable with just settling for his own standards of status quo as this film’s aesthetics is missing a lot of Burton’s weirdness. As if Burton had decided that he was going to rest on his laurels and take a lackadaisical approach in directing this film. To his credit, he did, predictably so, made this new “Alice” into a very dark world, which undoubtedly was one of his goals. Mission Accomplished!
The real treat in this movie was in the wonderful performances from all actors involved, especially the voice acting, beginning with the always fantastic Alan Rickman (as a hookah smoking, blue caterpillar), Stephen Fry (awesome performance as the Cheshire Cat), and Barbara Windsor (providing the voice of Dormouse). Also worthy of note was the stellar performance of Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen as the author never got tired of hearing her famous catchphrase, “off with their heads!” And of course, Johnny Depp was being Johnny Depp, proving why he and Tim Burton should always be attached at the hip.
The movie, undeniably entertaining, was however missing something. There was no hidden message to decipher as this film should be taken at face value meaning everything that happened in the film should be taken literally. The closest the film comes to commentating about any social issues, past or present, occurs before she falls down the hole and her future mother-in-law asked Alice, at her upscale engagement party, if she knew what her biggest fear was, to which Alice sharply replied, “Is it the decline of Aristocracy?” That’s as far as satirical this movie gets as the rest of the film is very clichéd and has very little originality and creativity (good vs. evil, dark world vs. light world, ordinary protagonist needs to tap potential to save the world, etc.). Also, the film’s supposed bread and butter, the CGI, is not used to enhance the movie, but rather it feels like a gimmick—worse if you paid the extra money to see it in 3D—a style that was implemented because that style is the status quo of the current era.
Nevertheless, let’s not forget that this film was not a vehicle for Tim Burton to take risks; rather it was a chance for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to make lots and lots of money for the Dinsey (sic) Corporation. Mission Accomplished!

Fashionably Late Review: Shutter Island


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Felipe M.
Martin Scorsese takes a break from directing movies about corrupt cops, aspiring gangsters, and the crime bosses that are the epicenter of most of his films and went ahead and adapted Shutter Island into the big screen, a novel originally written by Dennis Lehane. The film’s trailer makes it seem that Scorsese and his latest “franchise player” of the last 10 years, Leonardo DiCaprio, are teaming up to release a horror or perhaps a hack-n-slash film. No matter what the trailer was trying to sell us, let’s face it, we as movie-goers would have supported this film because it is Scorsese and DiCaprio after all. Lucky for us, this didn’t turn out to be a horror film, rather a mystery/suspense/thriller about two U.S. Marshalls who are sent to investigate the disappearance of a murderess from an isolated, prison island for the criminally insane (cue Slayer).
The acting is solid at worst as every character in this film is memorable. That’s the greatness of Scorsese’s work whose attention to character detail is second to none. The best character of this film is without a doubt the protagonist being portrayed by DiCaprio as he fights the prison—err, hospital--and its red tape, his violent past, and his mind to maintain his sanity while staying in this insane asylum.
The film’s plot itself takes you through so many twists and turns that, as often is the case for the genre’s viewers, you’d think you were part of a roller coaster. Arguably the film’s biggest achievement is making the audience believe that they’re part of the prison-hospital, either as part of the staff or as one of the prisoners/patients. It sometimes felt as if the author was playing a video game. The viewer can only succumb to the feeling that they are being put in DiCaprio’s shoes as he navigates through the crazy world that Scorsese put him in.
The problem, and it’s a big problem, is the fact that this film is so full of clichés apropos to this genre of films. It doesn’t feel like the original, film-watching experience one would get from watching a Scorsese film. Rather it feels as if one is watching a summary of all the tricks one would expect of the suspense genre of the last 10 years. It was like watching an episode of Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken and having M. Night Shyamalan reminding the audience about the “the twist” of the film that will predictably come near the end. When the aforementioned twist finally arrives, it doesn’t feel like the film has reached its climax, rather it has reached its punchline.
As many more critics have mentioned before, this film literally leaves you guessing throughout its entirety, however, despite the film’s unpredictable story, the film’s structure is very predictable and plays like a standard checklist for the suspense genre.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Man with a Mission


By: Felipe M.

For those looking for free music, punk rock legends are giving away free downloads of their live album 30 Years Live to celebrate the band's 30th Anniversary. All you have to do is check out the following site:
http://www.badreligion.com/mailinglist.html

Sign up to their mailing list and in no time you will receive an email with further instructions, which will eventually land you to the new, 17 tracked, live album. There is no catch!

Album consists of three songs from 2007 album
New Maps of Hell & 2004 album The Empire Strikes First; 2 songs from How could Hell be any Worse? and Receipe for Hate with surprise track "Man with a Mission."

And there are even two new songs included! Which is appropriate because at their shows in San Diego, they have announced plans to release a new album later this fall as the band begin their new project to continue to rock for the next 30 years!

Coming Soon to a Home Theatre Near You—The Lovely Bones



By: Felipe M.

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The first thing that grabs you about this film was the impressive trailer that was released to hype this movie up. When you hear the voice of a young girl named Susie Salmon (“like the fish!”) announce that she was murdered at the age of 14--way back in 1973--it brings a chill down your spine. Plus we find out that Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame and Producer of the amazing District 9 will be the director. As the trailer continues, you see these beautiful worlds that Susie traverses. We quickly realize that this film is a suspense/thriller; it looked promising. What was quickly realized is that not only is this film an adaptation of the novel written by Alice Sebold, but it’s also a novel that many people have read and felt a connection with it. Everybody knows at least one person that swears that this novel is incredible. Unfortunately, the movie would fail to live up to the hype.
Susie, played by young actress Saoirse Ronan (who gives a solid performance), is your typical suburban teenage girl. She goes to school, likes to shoot pictures, tries to enjoy life, is falling in love with the new boy at school, and, of course, is growing distant from her family, especially her mother. Mark Wahlberg (who looks and sounds like his John Holmes character in Boogie Nights), plays Susie’s father Jack—the wannabe Charles Bronson who will stop at nothing to solve her daughter’s murder. Susan Sarandon provides much needed, though very limited, comic relief to this film as Grandma Lynn. But the one actor who stood out in this film was Stanley Tucci--who plays the murderer George Harvey--not only had the best performance in this film, but also had the most interesting character as Harvey was not your run-of-the-mill hack-n-slash axe killer, but a master craftsman of doll houses and intricate animal traps (two things that all Tweener girls find hard to resist apparently).
Movie starts out well, but after Susie gets murdered, the movie just drags to an almost standstill as Susie aimlessly walks from one digital graphic to another in the afterlife (which as many, many movie critics have mentioned before, a lot of these worlds are reminiscent of allergy medication commercials), and mulls over perpetually if she should stay in a state of purgatory or heaven as she is accompanied by an Asian girl about her age who is constantly talking in unintelligible riddles. Even when Susie is alive, as mentioned before, she is playing the role of your typical teenager—full of angst, uncertainty, frustration, as well as youth, optimism, and curiosity—who you have probably seen in many generic, adolescent TV shows before. You’ve seen one teenage girl who’s either an outcast or Ms. Popular, you’ve seen them all! Meanwhile, back on Earth, we watch the cat and mouse game that Mark Wahlberg plays with himself because he’s just too stupid to catch the cunning and surprisingly resilient Harvey, who lives across the street from him.
The film did attract some controversy as Peter Jackson (seemingly) decided that it was best to remove the rape and murder event of Susie for the film adaptation of the novel (supposedly, one of the most graphic and chilling events in the novel itself). This omission would create countless discussions in the following months among peers. Should it have been kept? Why would anyone want to see a little girl get killed? There are no clear cut answers to these questions, but one thing is for certain, this movie had its target audience set and adding the murder would have easily given this film an R-rating, something that had to be avoided by any means. An R-rating would have made this film pointless because their target audience wouldn’t have been allowed to watch it anyway. Credit is given to the studio for having direction as to where they wanted this film to go, but the bottom line is that their safe, but gutless approach would have made more sense to appear on a channel like Noggin, The CW, or some other popular “Tweener” Channel (undoubtedly to be scheduled in front of the latest popular primetime vampire show).
The after school special feel for this movie is very uninspiring, but it streamlines very well with the uninspiring performances from the actors, especially Wahlberg, and let’s not forget the horrible CGI that was used throughout this movie. In conclusion, this movie shouldn’t have made its way to the big screen. At best, this movie had the potential to be a “Lifetime Movie of the Week.” It is meant to be avoided , at all costs!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Song Facts Part Two


Nirvana "Serve the Servants"
This is Kurt Cobain's most autobiographical song. The lyrics contain references to his father, his wife Courtney Love and his own success.
The witch reference about Courtney Love in the first verse was Cobain's frustration with the press for constantly vilifying Love as a horrible house wife, mother, drug addict and detriment to Nirvana.
The divorce of Cobain's parents inspired the line "That legendary divorce is such a bore."

Radiohead "Paranoid Android"
Lead singer Thom Yorke decided to bar-hop in L.A. one night, but what began as a festive evening soon became a nightmare as Yorke found himself surrounded by parasitic scenestalkers intent on extracting a pound of Yorke-flesh. "The people I saw that night were just like demons from another planet." That night inspired "Paranoid Android", a song that sums up "OK Computer's" claustrophobic blend of melancholic beauty and nerve-rattling aggression.
Yorke: It's about being exposed to God. It was that one night, really. We'd been rehearsin the song for months, but the lyrics came to me at five o' clock in the morning. I was trying to sleep when I literally heard these voices that wouldn't leave me alone. They were voices of the people I'd heard in the bar. It turned out to be a notrious, coke-friend place, but I didn't know that. Basically it's just about chaos, chaos, utter f--king chaos".
The song's structure is patterned after "Happiness is a warm gun" by The Beatles. Both clearly a collection of other, shorter pieces of songs put together into one.
Many radio stations asked for a shorter version, but Radiohead refused.
The guitar solo at the end of the song was written by guitarist Jonny Greenwood. It was not originally intended for the song, but something was needed to close the song and this solo was in the right key and right tempo. Some parts of this closing solo are played forward and other parts are played backward.

Alkaline Trio "Stupid Kid"
This song is about how miserable life can be if you develop a crush on one of your teachers in high school. The video tells a story of a little boy in elementary school who is in love with his teacher, doing whatever he could to please her. He gets made fun of my the other students, and soon the teacher ridicules him in front of the whole class, making him a laughing stock. After he leaves outside the room toward her window, he takes off the hat that he's been wearing the entire video, revealing two horns. The teacher can be seen struggling, surrounded in flames. Of course this video lead to controversy, and it was banned until it got edited so the student has no horns and the teacher is wrestling with nothing

Blind Melon "St. Andrew's Fall"
This song tells the story of a man who becomes overwhelmed with grief and throws himself off a 20 story building.

Faith No More "Epic"
This is a mix of funk, white-boy rap, crunchy heavy metal, and faux-Classical keyboard/piano. It contains utterly nonsensical lyrics. The lyrics frequently allude to "it," without ever explaining what "it" is. The chorus simply consists of the band shouting, "It's it!," while vocalist Mike Patton responds with "What is it?" The title is not mentioned in the lyrics.

Kings Of Leon "Molly's Chamber"
This song is about a girl that is very attractive and can make any man drop to his knees and worship her. She can be a tease: "And when you think she's let you in that's when she fades away." And if you're thinking about abstaining from sex, she'll break your will: "Molly's Chambers goin' change your mind."
The title comes from a line in the Thin Lizzy version of "Whiskey In A Jar": "Being drunk and weary I went to Molly's chamber.

Nine Inch Nails "The Perfect Drug"
The "Perfect Drug" is Absinthe, which is a French green liquor. One of the ingredients contains wormwood. Wormwood contains a substance called thujone, which is an epileptic and can cause renal failure in extremely high doses. The effect of absinthe is sometimes compared to the effects of opium and marijuana.

The Rolling Stones "Paint it Black"
This is written from the viewpoint of a person who is depressed. He wants everything to turn black to match his mood.
The song seems to be about a lover who died:
"I see a line of cars and they're all painted black" - The hearse and limos.
"With flowers and my love both never to come back" - The flowers from the funeral and her in the hearse. He talks about his heart being black because of his loss.
"I could not foresee this thing happening to you" - It was an unexpected and sudden death.
"If I look hard enough into the setting sun, my love will laugh with me before the morning comes" - This refers to her in Heaven.
The Rolling Stones wrote this as a much slower, conventional Soul song. When Bill Wyman began fooling around on the organ during the session doing a takeoff of their original as a spoof of music played at Jewish weddings. Co-manager Eric Easton (who had been an organist), and Charlie Watts joined in and improvised a double-time drum pattern, echoing the rhythm heard in some Middle Eastern dances. This new more upbeat rhythm was then used in the recording as a counterpoint to the morbid lyrics.

The White Stripes "Icky Thump"
Jack White explained that he had heard his British wife, model Karen Elson, use the expression "Ecky Thump," a Northern English phrase that means "What The Heck." He changed it to the more American sounding "Icky" (meaning disgusting) so that teenagers would get it, citing how Led Zeppelin dropped the "A" in "Lead" for the same reason. Jack liked the expression and wrote the song around it with his bandmate Meg White.
The song is a commentary on immigration, and how immigrants are treated unfairly in America.
The lyrics, "I'm gonna sing around the collar" is a play on "Ring around the collar," which refers to the tough-to-remove sweat and dirt stains on the inside of shirt collars. It is typically used in laundry detergent commercials.
Candy cane is a traditional American red and white striped Christmas candy. The White Stripes use only these colors (often in stripes) and black in their sets and costumes.
The "Dry Ice" mentioned in the lyrics refers to solid carbon dioxide, which is typically used in horror films to create artificial fog.


The Beatles "Blue Jay Way"
George Harrison wrote this in a house he rented in Los Angeles on a street named Blue Jay Way. He was waiting for his friend Derek Taylor when he came up with the song.
The line "Don't Be Long" is repeated 29 times.
The vocals, organ, and drums were played on 2 tape machines slightly out of sync to get the phasing effect.
When the ending is reversed, it sounds suspiciously like "Paul is bloody." This added to the "Paul is Dead" hoax.

Saving Abel "Addicted"
Vocalist Jared Weeks wrote this song about sexual escapades in the early days of Saving Abel. He recalled on the band's website: "I used to work at a hospital. I'd have to be there at 4:30 in the morning drawing blood. I'd wake people up and stick a needle in their arm. I'd be walking around the hospital, singing 'Addicted' in my head, writing down the lyrics on patients' clipboards and doctor script pads.
"Saving Abel got its name from the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Guitarist Jason Null explained on his band's website: "I googled the story of Cain and Abel and found a line about 'there was no Saving Abel,' which just jumped out at me."
Abel was a son of Adam and Eve. As a shepherd, he made burnt offerings of meat to God, which were more acceptable than the fruits offered by his brother Cain. The jealous Cain then murdered Abel.

Local H "Bound for the floor"
This song is written from the viewpoint of someone who is concerned for another. The verses are this person mocking what he thinks the other is feeling, saying that the person he is concerned about is acting as if there is no point to life, that he was born to have bad things happen to him. The chorus is the concerned person telling the other to fight against it.
The key to unlocking the song is understanding the chorus, and in order to do so, you must know the term "copacetic." Copacetic is a slang term meaning fine, completely satisfactory, and okay. The lyrics, "And you just don't get it, you keep it copacetic" mean that this person doesn't understand that he can't keep it all inside and pretend that everything is okay. The lines, "And you learn to accept it, you know you're so pathetic" mean that this person is pathetic for trying to hide his true feelings and accept all the bad things that are happening to him.

Thrice "The melting point of wax"
There are references to Greek Mythology in this song. The speaker is Icarus from The Flight of Icarus, who created wings made of wax that melted when he flew too close to the sun. The song is about determination and the joys of flight, both literally and metaphorically. The Thrice song "Daedalus" is written from the perspective of Icarus' father.

Red Hot Chili Peppers "Can't Stop"
For this song, lead singer Anthony Kiedis wrote the lyrics around the music. The words are a somewhat random collection of thoughts, with some creative rhyming thrown in to fit the rhythm of the song ("Can I get 2 maybe even 3 of these, come from space to teach you of the pleiades"). The song encourages the listener to live with passion and individuality ("This life is more than just a read-through"), something the Chili Peppers have done throughout their career.

Devon M