Monday, December 21, 2009

MyTwitFaceFriend: Thoughts on social networking with a slight focus on Twitter

Oh the world of social networks. First was Friendster who was mimicked and mastered by MySpace, who was followed by Facebook which took us into Twitter. Everyone has something to say. Everyone feels important. Everyone self-promotes. Now, I realize the inevitable irony of posting this on a blog, which I will most likely hyperlink on my Twitter page and maybe Facebook (if the mood's right). Let's move past that. Let's focus on a specific area that most of these hold in common. The status.

Myspace started the early form of a status by giving you a limited amount of space by your profile picture to insert anything on your mind. People used it for good quotes, lyrics, dumb jokes, promotion, or just plain wit. Then Facebook gave us a new vessel and placed our name in front of our status with the word, "is" and then a blank slate to inform the world of our doings. After the reformatting of FB(which also brought about thousands of useless applications which plague my newsfeed to this day), they decided to erase the word "is" and add a seemingly unlimited amount of characters to give people more freedom to post their thoughts ("What's on your mind?"). Then, Twitter came along and mastered the status. It stripped and simplified it to 140 characters or less. A format that would be world renown and celebrities and common-folk alike would join this revolution of information overload.

The 140 characters or less rule is brilliant. it keeps people from going overboard. People need rules. Nothing is more annoying than when you post a tweet in 3 parts. If you feel compelled to write a paragraph, save it for Facebook. Twitter has become a sanctuary for braggers and whiners. But maybe more importantly, it was become a sanctuary to people who posses the word trapped inside of "Twitter". Wit.

Examples (actual tweets): "You know what this guitar needs? Lessons"-(Tony_D)

"I just realized Chewbacca carries a purse"-(unknown)

"It's happened. I've developed real emotions for my iPhone. Actually, its no surprise because i was raised by a TV and a microwave."-(stuartpaap)

This is why the funnest people to follow are those with the one-liners. Mitch Hedberg would have ruled the Twitter-verse with the most followers had he lived to 2006. Stephen Colbert is one of my favorite people to follow because of his amazing commentary. And what list of witty tweeters would be complete without the Twitter celebrity who got a sitcom deal with CBS solely based on his twitter account called "shitmydadsays" which is simply shit that his 70 year old father says, usually conversational. He has rightfully earned 968,568 followers. (Warning: tweets are often senile and inappropriate....and usually hilarious)

Example: "A mule kicked Uncle Bob once. Broke his ribs. He punched it in the face...My point? You have an ingrown fucking toenail. Stop bitching."

I once asked a friend why they didn't have a Twitter account and she said, "I'm just not witty enough." As I was going to try to convince her, I realized I wish more people had her self control. People use Twitter as an outlet to whine to the whole world wide web. Others use it as an overly-detailed narrative of their lives. People post anything. The following is a compiled list of things which I have deemed acceptable to post on Twitter in the order of their importance:

1. Wit
2. Observational Humor
3. Puns
4. Big news (baby, weddings, deaths, ect.)
5. Hyperlinks to other things worth note (use discretion please!)
6. Pictures
7. Updates (use discretion)
8. Condensed Anecdotes (make them be at least somewhat amusing)
9. Quotes (whether inspirational, applicable, humorous. RT count in this category)
10. Replies (sometimes a tweet just asks to be replied. don't go overboard with these)

REMINDER: this list mainly applies to common-folk. Celebrities like Ashton or Shaq, or bands like Coldplay play by very different rules on very different playing-fields. For them Twitter is all about the public relations aspect, less about the heart of it. They are just in it to sell. Let me know if you deem anything else worthy of making it to the list that I missed.

Let's remember that Twitter is a tool to be used to stay connected to those we cannot spend every waking moment with, yet we can carry their words in our pocket hiding inside our cell phones. Above all remember to USE DISCRETION. If people stop following you for no reason, you are probably tweeting too much about nothing. We don't want to hear every little detail about every little thing. Don't waste our web space with mindless jibber-jabber (thanks Mr. T!) that nobody cares to hear just to remind us that you are alive. I am trying my hardest not to sound as bitter as I really am and I myself am not innocent of all the crimes that I have just named. I am just trying to make the internet more enjoyable for all of us. Just because you are having fun posting those tweets, doesn't mean we are having fun reading 'em. Momma used to tell all of us that "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all". I think that if momma was hip enough to even know what Twitter was, she would say, "If you don't have anything worth saying, DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL."

#Twitter #isnt #for #everyone

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Cheer (REVISED FOR 2010)

I hate christmas music. It's obnoxious, cheesy, loud, repetitive, and overkill "jolly". Whether you decide to make up words in order to make your song rhyme with a cutesy Christmas feel (i.e. "O by gosh by golly, its time for mistletoe and holly") or a skanky seductive song to an old man who brings presents, Christmas music is usually my least favorite part of the season. Not to mention the quantity that we receive it in. Every store is playing it (and its usually the same 10 songs everywhere just different versions), everyone is whistling it, and it is stuck in everyone's heads. My friends call me a Grinch or a Scrooge. This is not the case. I love Christmas and most of its traditions. I love baby Jesus. Some Christmas music can get pretty deep and I like that. I just hate singing about jingling bells, I don't care how much they rock. But like every good rule, here are the exceptions to the rule (I made 12 to be more in the holiday spirit [parenthesis inside the parenthesis, the revised version is going to have 13 instead of 12. My true love would not be happy...]):

1.Jason Upton-"Glory To the Newborn King"
An original song thats my favorite Christmas song ever. Great lyrics, lots of truth, and Jason Upton is one of my favorite artists. It helps us brush aside all the junk that has come along with the Christmas season and brought it back to some real meaning. I know that Jesus wasn't really born December 25th so don't bother pointing that out, yet I think that what the season symbolizes is brought back to something bigger than ourselves. The song does a great job of changing from just a pretty song to sing on Christmas to something beyond it. There's a reason why we celebrate His birth, and this song brings it full circle. Here is a free download of it so you can hear it yourself because it's a pretty rare track. He's never technically released it. Just click DOWNLOAD after clicking on the link. Jason Upton - It's You Lord">

2.The Sufjan Stevens Christmas album, "Songs For Christmas" is the best Christmas album around. The way he does the old hymns is awesome. My personal favorite track of it is "Sister Winter". It's pretty epic. Here is a link so you can have a taste of what you are missing. Great build up.

3. Coldplay-This year they released a song called "Christmas Lights" that is quickly becoming a classic Christmas song in my book. I am probably going to be playing this song every Christmas for the rest of my life. Here is the link

They also do a great rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" but it's nowhere near as the greatness they achieved with "Christmas Lights"

4. U2 has two good Christmas tracks. "Baby Please Come Home" and "I Believe in Father Christmas". Neither are originally by them, but they are both great covers and not cheesy.

5. Death Cab For Cutie also does "Baby Please Come Home" on an album called "Maybe This Christmas Tree" that is pretty good. it also has Copeland doing "Do You Hear What I Hear"

6. Dave Matthews' "Christmas Song"

7. Ben Kweller-"Rock of Ages on The O.C. "Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah? Weird place to find a good Christmas song, but it's great nonetheless. Link:

8. On the Elf soundtrack, Zooey Deschanel does the best version of "Baby it's cold outside" I've ever heard.

9. The Fray singing Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is over)"

10. Pedro the Lion's "I heard the bells on Christmas"

11. Sting's recently released "If on a Winter's Night"

12. Rosie Thomas singing "Why can't it be Christmastime all year" is surprisingly good.

13. "Carol of the Bells" is a classic I can get behind.

...and a partridge in a pear tree.

Honorable mention: "O Holy Night" is an excellent song if done right. Good lyrics. It's just gotten butchered over the years by bad rendition after bad rendition. Everyone wants to sing it to try to showcase their singing talent, yet the song is about so much more than that.

There. I have just made your holiday season a lot more enjoyable. Most of these can be found on iTunes, so for a small price you can have the perfect Christmas playlist. Remember, this Christmas drink eggnog, watch "It's a Wonderful Life", love your family, friends, Jesus, and by any means necessary stay away from Celine Dion's Christmas album. Your ears will thank me. Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Best Albums of 2009

Best Albums of 2009

No Line On The Horizon-U2
definitely not the greatest U2 record ever, but a solid one that provided us with new tunes to sing. It shows growth since the last one which is hard to achieve after being a band for 30 years. Has great new classics like "Breathe" and "Moment of Surrender".

download:No Line On The Horizon

Hello Hurricane-Switchfoot
the band's 7th studio album, and their best. they showed that becoming and independent paid off. More musical creativity, some of their best lyrics, and all around a great record. Deals with pain, storms, surrender, commitment, and hope. there is a past blog reviewing this album to its entirety. convicting and unashamed. buy it.

download: "Always" and "Your Love is a Song"

Noble Beast-Andrew Bird
i couldnt get this cd out of my cd player for months. sometimes i would listen to a song and as soon as it was over listen to it again. its that good. Mr. Bird at a career high.

download: Privateers

It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright!-mewithoutYou
mewithoutYou took a wild turn in their discography that was foreshadowed by their previous album, "Brother, Sister". They went soft on us. A band that was once categorized with other hardcore bands changed their sound dramatically to that more of an indie rock band. The album has a tuba in it. But this is a good thing. Aaron Weiss' lyrics are still strong, but he has fallen in love with a storytelling songwriting that is different from the past. Good different.

download: Allah, Allah, Allah

Wolfgang Amadeus-Phoenix
SNL had to introduce me to this band that has been around for quite some time. I am embarrassed to admit that. Regardless, i was very impressed and grew to respect this French import. Solid album that is getting them noticed around the world.

download: Lisztomania

Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King-Dave Matthews Band
First band release since the death of LeRoi, a key member of the band. However, the album is an homage to him, and one of DMB's best. They captured their live enthusiasm and energy into a studio album.

download: Alligator Pie

Middle Cyclone-Neko Case
She will sing your face off. Enchanting voice in an enchanting record. A very under-hyped artist with original and creative ideas.

download: Next time you say "Forever"

Monsters of Folk-Monsters of Folk
called by many the greatest collaboration since Traveling Willburys, composed of M.Ward (She&Him), Jim James (MMJ) and Conor Oburst (Bright Eyes), a folk band for the ages. Its always great to see things like this happen and work. M.Ward's breathy voice, Jim James' haunting sound, Conor Oburst's Dylan-esque songwriting, whats not to love?

download: Say Please

The Blueprint III- Jay-Z
i'm not usually a rap listener, but when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performed this at the VMA's i was forced to take notice. i have always been a Jay-Z fan and i consider this one of this best works. If anything, he has too many guest appearances on the record (have some faith in yourself Jay!). Youtube the VMA performance of Empire State of Mind. Will leave you breathless.

download:Young Forever

Far-Regina Spektor
The follow up cd to the one that made her mainstream, she gives her fans a good and solid record. Sadly it is missing some of the "strangeness" that was Regina, and the personality that it gave her albums. maybe she was too "out there" for some people and when she toned it down she got airplay? who knows, but her sound is definitely honed and perfected. A beautiful record.

download: Eet

Honorable Mention:

New Moon-Various
as much as we all hate to admit it, the Twilight series did something right. At least when it comes to the music. With new tracks by Death Cab, the Killers, Thom York, Muse, Bon Iver and more. an indie dream come true.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reaching Maturity

Switchfoot is releasing their 7th studio album, Hello Hurricane, this November 10th. They have come a long way from their freshman album, "Legend of Chin". They have grown in multiple ways. First in the most obvious is the fact that they now have 5 members as opposed to the 3 they started out with (Jon and Tim Foreman and Chad Butler). In addition this has caused them to grow in their music. They have evolved. They dont find a happy formula and stick to it because it has worked before. Because of this, each new album they release is filled with something new, something that they have never tried before.

This is the first album released on their new independent record label lowercase people records. This is good news because it gave them creative rights over all of it and took the pressure off from the big time labels. And it shows. They tackle issues like God, pain, drug abuse, commitment and much more layered things. The band's personal beliefs bleed into the record making it very personal.
I have listened to the album several times and am flabbergasted (yes I just used that word) by it. It is a window to the human soul. The album is full of hurt and sometimes despair. But more than anything its full of hope. The title track, Hello Hurricane, is an amazing glimpse into the identity of the record. The chorus is welcoming the storm, letting it know that it cannot prevail. "Hello hurricane, you're not enough. Hello hurricane, you can't silence my love". It is a "though storms may come" kind of track of someone holding on to real hope. Lead singer Jon Foreman quotes the Apostle Paul and says, "everything I have I count as loss". It is a song about surrender to something bigger and greater than himself. The first single, Mess Of Me, is a harder, full on rock kind of song. With a driving guitar riff, Jon Foreman has referenced the infamous line of the film Braveheart as being the inspiration: "Every man dies, not every man really lives." This comparison is seen easily as in the chorus he says, "I wanna spend the rest of my life alive". It is also a cry against drug abuse and showing them that it is not the answer. When they first released this single, they hid thousands of copies of it all over the world and on Twitter posted the locations. Followers of Switchfoot would find them, and upon Switchfoot's request copied it, hid it somewhere else, and Tweeted the location. A great launch.
My personal favorite is the song Always. It is a track of commitment to the Heavenly Father. It talks about surrender, scars from the journey, sin, and second chances. It is ultimately a worship song sang in thanksgiving to someone full of grace.
Needle And Haystack Life is the opening track, and is very U2-esque. The tempo of the song is like U2 around Unforgettable Fire, but the maturity of the lyrics and vocals are like U2 around How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
The album has a great variety of songs that range from upbeat guitar rock songs to great ballads and heart-wrenching songs. Cover to cover this is an amazing album and is in my opinion Switchfoot's best. Jon Foreman did a few solo E.P.'s before this album was made and you can see that he learned a lot about songwriting from that experience and has since carried over to Switchfoot. Mark your calendars, on November 10th, go and get one of the best albums of the year.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jon Stewart is the new Cronkite. And thats the way it is

In maybe one the most hilarious social tragedies i have ever seen, it states that Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, is the most trusted name in news. This is bittersweet to me.

Let's start with the sweet. I love Jon Stewart. Although he is very Liberal, at least he is honest about where he stands. This is contrary to Fox News who claim to be "Fair and Balanced" (insert puking noise here) yet are more right-sided than Ronald Reagan's balls. Also, when i first started watching his show, i realized i had been accidentally learning. All of a sudden i could join in on political conversations that i had avoided before with the risk of looking foolish. I also found myself finding particular stories interesting or bizarre and researching them to look for the facts. I enjoyed seeing Stewart call people out on their hypocrisy. Sometimes to the general audience by showing two contradicting statements made by the same person in clips, other times to the person themselves. This man was educating me on things that i had never been aware of, or even cared about before...and was making me laugh while doing it. Even on depressing issues like war and recession, Stewart managed to squeeze some laughs out of us. And this is no easy feat. Satire, bathroom humor, high-brow, and interviews were all weapons in informing the public. Although my political views are on the other side of the map, this liberal had more honesty than Rush or O'Reilly. In painful interviews with Jim Cramer or his appearance on CNN's Crossfire (which Stewart gets the credit for getting it canceled after the interview. also he called Tucker a "d***" on national TV), you can trust what this man is saying (keeping in mind that it comes from a left mindset) and know that he is not lying to the public. He calls out democrats and republicans alike on their political B.S.. In fact, some conservatives are prefferring to be interviewed by him than some of the jackasses on the "news". Cliff May said of Stewart, ""There is genuine intellectual curiosity. He's a staunch liberal, but he's a thoughtful liberal, and I respect that.". John Bolton (Bush's ambassador to the U.N.) said "He always gives you a chance to answer, which some people don't do", he continued to say "He's got his perspective, but he's been fair. In general, a lot of the media, especially on the left, has lost interest in debate and analysis. It has been much more ad hominem. Stewart fundamentally wants to talk about the issues. That's what I want to do." Real discussion happens on the Daily Show, not just scripted fluff.

As mentioned, this show is on Comedy Central, a cable channel with other shows that have obese kids eating cheesy poofs and prank calling puppets. Not the place i would go to for news. So it is actually really sad (this is the bitter part) that i would have to resort to coming here for a trusted source. And i am not alone. According to TIME 44% claim to trust him over Couric and Williams. This is the public making a statement. Like when fellow comedian Stephen Colbert ran for president in South Carolina and was actually ahead of real politicians in the polls. The public was saying they would rather vote for a comedian than another lying politician. It's depressing that in the world of 24-hour news networks, at least a significant part of the American public would rather tune in to a half hour comedy show for their information. Fox has to be able to admit that not everything that Obama does is evil. MSNBC has to realize the good that Bush did do. But both sides are so set in their ways that America is starting to lose taste for that kind of reporting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Still Sunny

The new season of "It's Sunny In Philadelphia" is in full swing. i have laughed hysterically thus far. from Charlie becoming a crab-man, to milksteak, to playing "nightcrawlers" (the visual picture that comes with this when you watch it is amazing), to baby surrogates, to danny devito hanging himself, to bird law and fillibuster. i beg of you to watch this new season. all of the episodes are on right now (although they are 8 days behind the date which it originally airs). this new season has not dissapointed. in fact, i think it has set the bar higher. if you have never seen Sunny, please make this a priorety in your list of TV shows to watch. although it can run on the risky side of the fence, i think this is what we love about it. its unpredictability. also the characters and their lack of decency is a factory of endless laughter. i have come close to pissing myself multiple times because i have laughed so hard and is definately great to quote.

Wild Thing

tonight i saw Where The Wild Things Are on its opening night. Not knowing what to expect from a movie based on a short picture book, but placing my trust in Spike Jonze's hands, i went along for the ride. i will try to stay away from spoilers as much as possible. Max Records plays Max the main character with the imagination style that i remember having as a kid his age. It was actually a very personal movie for me because in a lot of the harder things i experienced in my childhood, i always had this make-believe land that i could run away to.

The film itself is visually stunning. the Wild Things are all amazingly done. the great part about it is that the book doesnt even name the wild things, yet here they all have names, personalities, and work as a dysfunctional family. the dialogue is hilarious and i was seriously not expecting it to be as funny as it actually was. the cinematography and camera angles are top-notch from a director who clearly knows what he's doing. i couldnt have been more impressed. the imagination that went into bringing this full legnth film out of a small picture book is unfathomable. There are a lot of callbacks between the real world and this place of where the wild things are. the movie is about imagination, so all of the Wild Things have a characteristic of Max that he is subconciously displaying and finally seeing the for what they really are. he learns a lot from hanging out with these wild things because of their similarities to him.

You grow to love every single one of the Wild Things (except the bull, he only speaks once) who are voiced by an all-star cast. James Gandolfini voices Carol the main Wild Thing form the posters, others include Paul Dano(There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine), Forrest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland), and Chris Cooper (Bourne Identity, Seabiscuit). A very emotional movie with a lot of heart and soul to accompany it. it brings out the inner-child and the inner-wild thing out of all of us. i was anticipating this film at first mainly because of the use of Arcade Fire in the trailer, but i was seriously impressed. also Max Records is astounding in it.

The music by Karen O (lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), was also beautiful and very fitting in every area. it set the mood to each scene. after the movie was over i went home and bought the OST on iTunes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fall TV

Well, its that time of the year again. A beautiful and glorious time when that box in the middle of your living room comes to life. The new seasons of the best shows on television are returning. 30 Rock is on its way to us, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is on its 5th season that premieres on the 17th (the kitten mittens preview on hulu has me laughing hysterically already and its only 30 seconds long), Michael Scott makes his way back to our homes (and our hearts) after giving me a scare that the series was ending when he quit last season. The Office does have a challenge though to keep its viewers because the Jim/Pam (Jam?) relationship is going so great that people are beginning to lose interest in that area of the show which was their biggest draw. Personally i always thought that the Jam(yes, i went for it) relationship was getting in the way of the good comedy. the 30 minute long episodes would be filled with 15 minutes of "will they, won't they" and i just wanted to see Dwight pepper spray someone, or Andy Bernard harmonize with himself. How I Met Your Mother is possibly the only current show that i love that still has a laugh track. I think laugh tracks are silly and outdated. i dont need a crowd of people telling me when to laugh (be sure to thank Ricky Gervais for getting us past those into a new era of sitcoms). But still, Jason Segal as Marshall practically makes the show for me (and i wouldnt mind seeing him in more movies seeing as "I Love You Man" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" were both fantastic) but the other characters are strong and the show is original. The Simpsons come back and hopefully this season they will come out of that 4 year slump they have been in. I do still chuckle and laugh at the episodes, but they are nothing like the golden years (Season 3-Season 8).

Interestingly enough, "Sit Down, Shut Up" is back for a new season i think (they were supposed to be cancelled but a new episode just hit Hulu). Mitch Hurwitz(Creator and writer of Arrested Development) is the writer of this offbeat cartoon which features the voices of Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Henry Wrinkler (barry zuckercorn on AD. he's very good), Kenan Thompson, Will Forte, and Cheri Oteri. Its nowhere near the greatness of Arrested Development, but it is still a fresh cartoon that isnt constantly trying to put us over the edge like Family Guy. Also unlike Family Guy, it doesn't rip off half of it's material from the Simpsons. So watch this before it gets cancelled (again. its bound to happen. the american public cant handle mitch's creativeness as they have shown time and time again).

VMAs, MTV and a nice surprise

So last night i decided to momentarily lift a personal boycott that i have had on MTV for as long as i can remember. Before you scoff in judgmental preconceptions, hear me out. MUSE made their american television debut on the Video Music Awards last night. So i decided to catch it. It was a great performance of a new song from their recently released album "The Resistance" with a great but brief guitar solo from Matt Bellamy, and lived up to my expectations. Surprisingly, it wasnt the highlight of the night. More on that later.

But since i was already on that channel, and since i happen to like russell brand a lot, i decided to keep watching. i would flip back and forth from this and other channels so i didnt catch the whole show, but it was a pretty eventful night. All of you have heard of Kanye's outburst and Beyonce's heart of gold (funny thing about kanye is that he swore never to come back to MTV a few years back but yet there he was) I'm not gonna beat that dead horse. Janet Jackson paid tribute to her late, great brother, and the man who practically owned MTV in the 80s. Sadly they didnt give Russell Brand enough of the show, but when you compare the time he did have to his stand-up, this didnt really...stand up (all puns intended). And Mr. Brand also called Jimmy Fallon the "David Letterman of our generation" which i dont know if he meant sarcastically, but i hope he did.

What stole the night away for me wasnt the Kanye and Taylor Swift's "feud", or Beyonce's single ladies, or even the highly anticipated MUSE performance. It was Jay-Z and Alicia Keys(whom i highly underestimated) performance of "Empire State of Mind". Alicia Keys seriously killed onstage as an amazing counterpart to the Mayor of New York who in this song calls himself "The New Sinatra". It was a phenomanal. Chills went down my spine. here is a link to the best part of the night.

BTW watch out for the girl's outfit sitting next to Beyonce. i think its lady gaga. also here is a great article addressing the stupidity of the girl who went onstage at the end.