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Monthly Archives: August 2009

In honor of yesterday’s passing of one of the giants in American pop songwriting. Rest in peace, Ellie Greenwich.

10. “Doo Wah Diddy,” Manfred Mann
The penultimate “I’m hers!/She’s mine!” A thrillingly emphatic declaration of love and fidelity, especially when followed up with “wedding bells are gonna shine.”

9. “You Don’t Know,” Ellie Greenwich
The quiet, minimalist tension of the verses which then meet the oomph key change in the constantly spiraling bridge before culminating with a helpless “Help me” chorus.

8. “Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home,” Darlene Love
The breathless tumble of “Sure do need some lovin and a-kissin and a-huggin/But I’ll wait until my Bobby gets home,” which would trip up any singer that isn’t Darlene Love.

7. “Out in the Streets,” the Shangri-Las
“He used to act bad/Used to, but he quit it.” That quick “it” proves that Mary Weiss, adenoidal Queens brogue and all, was a fantastic singer.

6. “Then He Kissed Me,” the Crystals
Opening guitar line + interplay of castanets = the sound of lust rushing over you. (note: When I found out Ms. Greenwich died, this was the first song I played, and instead of feeling sad, this sound caused a wide grin to form)

5. “Goodnight Baby,” the Butterflys
“One kiss can lead to another/and baby, you know they always do.” Who says pop music can’t be poetic?

4. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love
This thing is like a stocking packed with hooks, too many of them to choose just one, but the impassioned call-and-response of “please! (please!) please! (please!)” towards the end is like the dam finally breaking.

3. “He’s Got The Power,” the Exciters
Not many songs are absolute undeniable monsters. This one is, straight out of the gate. And then it tops itself with the chugging “Can’t stop saying I adore him/Can’t stop doing things for him.”

2. “The Train From Kansas City,” the Shangri-Las
The whole narrative of the song is devastating, but “I’ll be back in the time it takes to break a heart” kills it. (No Youtube of the original, so here’s Mary Weiss doing it during her comeback tour, which is still totally swoon-worthy).

1. “Be My Baby,” the Ronettes
My favorite song forever and ever. Hal Blaine’s iconic, oft-copied drum beat to begin the song is fantastic, but it’s its reappearance in the middle that makes the song transcendent. Eh who am I kidding, it’s Ronnie Spector’s “whoa oh oh oh oh.”

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YES PLEASE.

I’ve had season 2 of Mad Men sitting at home for a while now and have yet to muster the courage to watch it, considering my qualms with the first season, though I do hear that season 2 delves deeper into the thematics and characters that interested me the most in season 1. And I guess season 3 is about to start too? And everyfuckingbody in the world has an avatar of themselves in the Mad Men style? So I suppose to combat the slobbering fanboy response to this show I wanted to read a good critique of the show, because I have not seen one. Lo and behold, I have to go across the pond. Far be it from me to give it up to a British paper for taking down an aspect of American culture, but this piece of criticsm is so full of Right Ons:

Mad Men is an unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better. We watch and know better about male chauvinism, homophobia, anti-semitism, workplace harassment, housewives’ depression, nutrition and smoking. We wait for the show’s advertising men or their secretaries and wives to make another gaffe for us to snigger over…Mad Men is currently said to be the best and ‘smartest’ show on American TV. We’re doomed.

How it works better as eye candy than intellectual stimulation:

The less you think about the plot the more you are free to luxuriate in the low sofas and Eames chairs, the gunmetal desks and geometric ceiling tiles and shiny IBM typewriters. Not to mention the lush costuming: party dresses, skinny brown ties, angora cardigans, vivid blue suits and ruffled peignoirs, captured in the pure dark hues and wide lighting ranges that Technicolor never committed to film. Sooner or later, though, unless you watch the whole series with the sound off, you will have to face up to the story. It’s a commonplace that portrayal of the past can be used to criticise the present. What of those cases in which criticism of the past is used to congratulate the present? I suppose it does at least expose what’s most pompous and self-regarding in our own time: namely, an unearned pride in our supposed superiority when it comes to health and restraint, the condition of women, and the toleration of (some) difference in ethnicity and sexuality. Mad Men flatters us where we deserve to be scourged.

And finally, an honest takedown of Jon Hamm:

Whether one finds all of this claustrophobic and ludicrous or tightly wound and compelling depends very heavily on one’s opinion of Don Draper. Draper, as written, is a kind of social savant. He knows how to act in every emergency. He deploys strategic fits of temper to attain his ends. He’s catnip to women. As played by Jon Hamm, though, his manner hardly matches his activities. Hamm looks perpetually wimpy and underslept. His face is powdered and doughy. He lacks command. He is witless. The pose that he’s best at, interestingly, is leaning back in his chair; it ought to be from superiority, but it looks as though he is trying to dodge a blow…One never sees hunger or anger in Hamm’s eyes, only the misery of the hunted fox. Either he is playing the hero as a schlub in deference to a 21st-century idea of masculinity as fundamentally hollow and sham, or he’s completely underequipped to convey male menace…In the classic Hollywood cinema, there was a name for the role Hamm should be playing: the Mug, who seems OK at first but in the end has to give up the girl to Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy.

And then there’s the final paragraph, which gets to exactly why Mad Men is so frustrating: This show really can reach a painful level of truth, pathos and tragedy in our country’s imperfect history, but soon after reverts back to the norm of winking, smug condescension. But whatever, it’ll win the Emmy. Friday Night Lights was robbed.

So ever since I saw my first ever episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit last December, which involved I don’t even know what because ohmygod how did all of that happen in 40 minutes?, I decided to begin a quest of finding the most ridiculous episodes of SVU. Only now have I started, and will only recap the ones that reach zany heights. Such as this one:

Martha Plimpton is raped at a party. She is a junkie. In her purse is a decomposed/fossilized human finger. It belongs to her dead baby sister, whose body has been kept in a trunk in the closet. Benson and Stabler ask Mary Steenburgen (Plimpton’s mother) about it, she says nothing. She is followed late one night by Ice-T as she tosses the body into a dumpster. She is arrested. Plimpton tells Ice-T she is a junkie so that she can remember her sister’s face. She accuses Steenburgen of killing her sister, Steenburgen accuses Plimpton. Steenburgen is brought to court for homicide, but Tina Fey’s lesbian date on 30 Rock is put in jail for contempt when she refuses the judge’s order to charge Plimpton as an accessory. Judith Light forces 30 Rock lesbian to charge Plimpton. Estelle Parsons (Steenburgen’s mother) bails out Plimpton. Plimpton overdoses, is revived by Ice-T. Benson and Stabler talk to Parsons about the death of Steenburgen’s first child (a boy this time). Parsons is brought to Riker’s Island for a face-off with Steenburgen where they each blame the other for the boy’s death. Steenburgen basically confesses, but Parsons is arrested for being an accessory to that murder. Ice-T sees Plimpton and gives her a picture of her baby sister that was made via some fancy technology used on her sister’s skull (since they never took a picture of the baby when she was alive?), so Plimpton never has to take drugs again. She wants to give Ice-T a hug but is sure he doesn’t like to be touched. She hugs him anyway. Ice-T resists, then hugs back.

ALL OF THIS HAPPENED IN 40 MINUTES.

Zaniness Score (out of 100): 88

To the people who are Mad Men-ing themselves, is there an option if you are not white? I don’t actually want to do it, since I don’t really like the show that much (I do have season 2 at home thanks to Netflix), but I was just curious.

I know she professes to be some kind of “performance artist,” but she’s gone too far this time.

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Video here. If you can make it past, oh, let’s say the one minute mark, you win unlimited blowjobs for life by Rachel Weisz and James McAvoy.