Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Da Vinci'd Out !

This is really just a quick ranty post - I am tired of the DaVinci Code being all up in my face. There's the soundtrack, the book, the film, the countless Tom Hanks interviews, the cleric hunger striking in Mumbai, protests from the Catholic Church, the eurostar ads, the constant DaVinci-related shows on Channel 4 and its sister channels, the Dan Brown lawsuit coverage. I don't even have the energy to link to all these things, thats how sick I am of the whole topic. Everyone getting all in a huff about a fictional film directed by Ron Howard, I mean c'mon its Richie Cunningham people. Get some prespective please.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Random Morning Thoughts

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, my brain is on overload .... i decided to watch Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind , is there anyone I want to erase my memory of ? I am 30 years old and don't think I've experienced so much passion and yet so much pain to want that, am I missing out on something ? Are we bound to people that we will always end up having them in our lives because we are supposed to ? Its a good film but what a mind-bender it is, all these questions whirling in my head and all before my morning coffee. I was gonna pop in Donnie Darko but one mind-fuck film is enough for the day I think.

Now I am watching the music channels and there is some strange new Nelly Furtado video and I think she's sampling Maneater by Hall and Oates , what the fuck ? She's in some underground garage dancing around like she's Pat Benatar ... why is Nelly Furtado so very 80s all of a sudden. Nelly, remember 'I'm Like A Bird', remember how f'ing good that song was, that album was ? Missy Elliott was collabarting with you ... you were that good ... what happened, this song is the pits!

Speaking of great Candian singer songwriters that I used to LOVE but who have not produced anything great recently, I am going to see Alanis Morrissette in a play, The Exonerated at Riverside Studios on the 23rd. Free tickets thanks to David.

Time for my morning coffee ....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Things That I Am Reading

Ok, I have been a bad blogger lately, but sometimes you go through a week where you are not creatively inspired. I have also been reading a lot lately, more than usual.

Affinity by Sarah Waters
I mentioned before that I'm reading this for my Tales Of London course and I think thats the reason I am not enjoying this book so far. It feels like homework and I've never been good with homework, but it will get better shortly I hope, I just haven't gotten properly into this book yet.

London: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd
I am reading this as part of my course as well but its not required material, and therefore I am enjoying it much more. Ackroyd treats the city as a living being and its an extremely interesting read. The book is so long I think it will take me over 6 months to finish reading it.

The Guerilla Guide to the Music Business
I might be getting involved in helping with a record label this summer as a part-time interest and I wanted to aquaint myself with the terminology and business aspects involved. The writers have broken sections down in a very easy to digest manner, and the book is full of interviews with people from the music industry that offer practical advice.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Thursday Totti

In keeping with my American Idol mania this week (I promise not to mention the show til Finals week, ok?), I thought I'd pick this week's hottie from my favorite season so far, season 3. That person is of course Matt Rogers. If anyone wants to know what a bear looks like, look no further than Matt.

American Idol Top 5 - Elliott Yamin

(c) Fox

#1. Elliott Yamin

Musical Style
Elliott has this wonderful jazzy soulful voice, the closest thing I can compare him to is as a male-Nora Jones.

Elliott has got this goofy, friendly guy image going for him. I don't think Simon Cowell and Co. think they'll be able to market him, but I think he can do that on his voice alone.

The Good
With the exception of perhaps Paris, Elliott is the only singer left who has not given a single bad performance vocally. He has his very own unique singing style and if he were to release a record today I'd go out and buy it. His initial nervousness on the show is now gone and he has evolved into an excellent performer. For me Elliott comes in at #1 because out of all the singers remaining he does not remind me of anyone else, he has a very distinct sound that is very much his own. I do want to buy his album, and I haven't felt this way about an Idol contestant since the days of Fantasia. Chris is a good singer, but he will always be Ed Kowalczyk Version 2.0 to me. Kat is fantastic, but when she sings a big Whitney song, it makes me wish that Whitney will get sober and release a new album. I will probably buy a Paris album, in ten years time! The less said about Taylor the better.

The Bad
As much as I love Elliott, his song choices can be really really dull at times, and no matter how well he sings them they will not excite anyone!

The Ugly
Ummm, I don't know, his ever-changing facial hair irritates me ? His nervousness gets to me too, Elliott when you're nervous on stage, I am nervous for you on the couch at home!

Favorite Performance
Without a shadow of a doubt, his strong soulful take on Donny Hathaway's 'A Song For You' in week 11 turned him into a real contender.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

American Idol Top 5: Paris


#2. Paris Bennett

Musical Style
Barry Manilow said it best when he compared Paris to Ella Fitzgerald. She is definitely an old soul, with a beautiful husky bluesy sound. And she’s only 17.

Oh, where do I begin with Paris? I love the girl, but its like she’s on her very own Reinvention Tour each week. She gives us a varying look every week with weaves coming and going. She’s a little girl playing dress-up but her constant changing looks have been confusing.

The Good
That fantastic voice, this girl can truly sing and as Randy once put it ‘you can sing anything.’ There is such control there, such command of her instrument that you know this girl could make it on Broadway tomorrow if she wanted to. Also, as much as I like to criticize her fashion sense, it seems Paris is the only one trying to liven things up by switching up and playing around with her image week in, week out (unlike say Chris, whose only radical look was wearing eyeliner during Queen week!).

The Bad
Not much I can say to criticize Paris, she sometimes picks the worst songs for her age (‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’? C’mon, Paris) and her lack of life experience sometimes fails her when she tries to connect with the audience, but these are only minor quibbles.

The Ugly
Her phrasing on some of the songs can be a tad hard to decipher. Those outfits can be atrocious at times, she’s been compared to Rudy Huxtable on TelevisionWithoutPity more than once, ouch.

Favorite Perfomance

Again we have to go back to week 10 when Paris sang ‘These Foolish Things’ in such a way that I could picture her doing that performance 50 years ago on the Ed Sullivan show. I also loved her take on Beyonce’s ‘Work It Out’ showing us that she is able to tackle a current song.

American Idol Top 5 - Kat McPhee

(c) Fox

#3.Katharine McPhee

Musical Style
Big voiced soul-diva, with a pop sensibility, she comes off as a more polished version of season 1 winner (and now superstar) Kelly Clarkson.

By far she is the easiest on the eyes of any of this year’s Idol finalists (sorry Ayla, you didn’t make the finals), she’s tall, gorgeous and has that ‘fun girl next door’ thing going for her.

The Good
The girl can really belt out those ballads and she does it with a big smile and immense stage presence. She has charisma oozing out of her and she is very marketable. She has been very consistent all season long and if there is anyone who can fit the ‘perfect idol’ mode its her.

The Bad
I think with Katharine, the comparison to Kelly Clarkson can only hurt her. She comes off as too polished a performer and at times too precocious for her own good, unlike Clarkson at the time who turned into a star right before our eyes. Hey Kat, when you start breaking into impromptu duets with the guest coaches (Rod Stewart week; Andrea Bocelli week) you’re not making us root for you, you can hang with these big boys already, why do you need us to vote for you?

The Ugly
Kat has the tendency to sometimes pick songs that are way too big for her and she can hit some sharp notes on the way. This was most evident during her take on Christina Aguilera’s ‘The Voice Within.’ Oh, and the producers need to stop cutting to a shot Pappa McPhee tearing up every single week during her performances. Producers, please, cut that shit out.

Favorite Performance
In what was the best week for most of the top 5, her rendition of ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ in week 10 was her shining moment on the show and arguably the best performance by any singer this season.

American Idol Top 5 - Chris Daughtry

4. Chris Daughtry

Musical Style
Alt-rock music; Creed meets Live by way of Three Doors Down, which is great if you are into that type of thing.

Shaved headed muscley rocker dude, but with a sensitive side (he's like a loving husband and father of two, you guys!)

The Good
I love Chris's voice, it is so clean and with such a nice tone to it and he hardly ever hits a bum note. He has evolved as a performer throughout the competition and can command the stage, and in his case unique is a good thing. He is best when he goes soft and doesn't sing inaccessible rock tracks (even on Queen night he managed to sing an obscure single). He managed to soften up in the in the past two weeks so there is potential that he will go all the way.

The Bad
Chris has a tendency to be 'very indulgent' as Simon has mentioned before, and you feel like his CD collection doesn't have anything that won't be played on alt-radio, circa 2001. He is a bit one-dimensional and most of his mid-season performances meshed into one.

The Ugly
There is a definite sense that the producers are pushing for Chris to win, and its part of the reason why I don't want him to anymore. He may be a worthy winner, but no other contestant has gotten a (perceived) better treatment from the producers of the show, smoke machines and guitar players (twice) when he is on stage just reek of favoritism.

Favorite Performance

His rendition of What A Wonderful Word two weeks ago finally got me back on the pro-Chris side after weeks of getting annoyed with his one-dimensional performances, but its not enough to land him in my personal top 3.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

American Idol Top 5 - Taylor Hicks

Now that we are coming to the home-stretch of the new season of American Idol, it is looking like they have what many have dubbed the strongest top five in the history of the show. The American public have got it right the past three weeks by voting out Bucky, Ace and Kellie (finally!) at just the right time. I think this is a very strong top five, and I think I would be happy if any of them won, with the exception of Taylor (why did Mandisa turn out to be such a preachy Bible-thumping diva!). An run-down of the final five ranked based on personal preference:

5. Taylor Hicks

Musical Style
Joe Cocker meets Bob Seger (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds, zzzzzzzzz)

Jay Leno without the enormous chin dressed like a drunken uncle at the family picnic.

The Good
The reason why Taylor has made it this far (and been the only contestant left not to have been in the bottom 3) is because of his 'uniqueness' value. It's Bo Bice syndrome all over again, he's not your typical Idol contestant so the public keep voting him in because of his originality. I grant him that he is unique and different.

The Bad
Unique isn't always a good thing and Taylor's style is very boring. He sounds dated, his song choices have been bland and he just seems to give the same performance week after week and he seems to be bored himself by the whole thing.

The Ugly
That awful dancing and all those body-hugging ticks. I know its supposed to make him endearing but its very affected and fake and makes me dislike his showboaty ass even more. Stop clapping for yourself, Taylor! Thankfully they managed to yank his harmonica away from him.

Favorite Performance
His semi-final performance of 'Taking It To The Streets' was full of energy and life and he still seemed fresh and unique at the time.

The BBC - Part I (Doctor Who)

Ok, so when I first moved over to London there was a lot of things I had to adjust to, and not only because I was living on my own without the safety net of my parents for the first time. I also had to adjust to these odd UK only things, like 'Stand On The Right' on tube escelators and (at the time) last call at 11 pm down at the pubs.

The oddest thing however is the TV License, which is basically a tax for having a tv in your home that from what I understand many people avoid paying. The money from paying this tax goes to fund the commercial-free BBC channels (something else to get used to, no commercials during shows, so no bathroom breaks). There has been a lot of talk about scrapping the TV License lately, which is understandable during the digital age. Why pay for a public service channel when most people are already paying for digital/ satellite services?

I for one am happy to pay for my license, because I think the nature of the programmes on the BBC are enhanced by this. When profits and ratings do not become the sole way to measure the success of a show it gives it much more freedom to be creative and innovative. Of course, ratings are still a major factor for BBC programmes but it is not the only one and I think that's the key. There are some missteps and not everything on the Beeb is worth tuning into, but for the most part it works. Can you imagine a show like The Office being green-lit by any other channel at the time that it aired, I can't imagine it myself. This week I will be looking at some recent shows aired on the BBC. First of all is the grand-daddy of science fiction shows.

- Doctor Who (BBC1) : I remember seeing some Doctor Who episodes on tv in Canada, but to be honest I was never really into it. I just thought it looked really cheesy and cheap. The show made a triumphant return last year with a bigger budget and a much more polished look, written by Russell T. Davies (Queer As Folk) with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as his assistant Rose and I soon became a big fan. The finale of the last series was some of the best written television that I have seen in a very long time. Sadly, Eccleston is gone and has been replaced by David Tennant, and I guess its true that you do get attached to your first Doctor as I have yet to completely warm to Tennant. His Doctor is a bit too manic for my taste, and he seems to go through extreme emotions very quickly, losing much of the subtlety that Eccleston gave his Doctor. The true star of the show has emerged in the form of Billie Piper, whose Rose provides the heart and soul that anchors the entire show. If rumors of Piper's departure at the end of this series then I am not sure how I will handle it.

(I wrote this before seeing this week's episode School Reunion which redeemed Tennant somewhat in my eyes. His line of 'I used to have so much mercy' indicates a very dark side to the Doctor).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Quick Links

Happy May Day everyone, the reason we have a bank holiday today in the UK (even though I am actually at work today, but nevermind that). A couple of quick blog links:

1. I have decided to start posting the more 'personal diary' type blog entries on the myspace blog that I have and free this one up for the more entertainment type entries. So for example, my pasta bolognese entry would show up on the myspace blog and not here. And so forth. I am only experimenting with this, so I might integrate the two blogs at some point in the future.

2. Please check out my friend Sue's blog page lightness-and-weight. Sue is one of my closest friends and I can say without reservation that she is the SMARTEST PERSON I KNOW.

Ok thats it for now, I promise a more exciting entry soon.