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I don’t know how many people from Chicago (a dozen?) I’ve met who are ready to GET INTO FISTICUFFS about how much more AWESOME their city is than New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Seriously Chicago has the best pizza AND burritos AND tacos AND sushi AND midgets AND beer AND teleportation modules AND meth-hookers, did you know?

And not even precious Barry could get them an Olympics.

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There’s a reason you’re called Second City, dudes. But buck up: you’ll always have the Cubs!

P.S. Not that I care, but I hope it’s Rio. Because it would be SEXY.

I am contributing to a new website called 10 Listens, started by my buddy Jeff, and my first review is up today. I’ll say this about listening to a Yo La Tengo record ten times before reviewing it: it allowed me to get over any kind of kneejerking I had regarding this band (about whom I always felt I’d missed the boat) doing anything relevant in 2009, instead going “Oh so what?” as well as grappling through some related issues regarding my indie rock past. I don’t listen to indie rock anymore! Which is maybe why I’m down with this YLT record. But I basically feel the same way as I did to all their records: Good, kinda boring, but I appreciate it and them.

I also enjoyed getting a dig on Mets fans like me. Oh, what a terrible season it has been. You can tell how terrible because I haven’t written much about it. What is there to say beyond “Boy, we fucking suck”?

Also, Taylor Swift finally recorded something I hate.

The two dominant sounds of mainstream pop in 1999 were undoubtedly the melodic perkiness of teenpop (Britney, Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, and NSync) and the shouting misogyny of mook-rock (Limp Bizkit), while the underground saw the beginnings of the short-lived robo-synth hipster fagginess of electroclash (Le Tigre, Fischerspooner, Peaches). The ungodly spawn of this threesome is now making headway onto American pop radio a decade later in the form of the horribly named bands 3OH!3 and Cobra Starship. 3OH3+30H3

Pictured above is 3OH!3, named for the area code of their native Boulder, CO. Don’t they look like they come from Boulder, CO? And they make music that sounds like it too. (Doesn’t blondie look like beardo Jesse McCartney?)

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And this is Cobra Starship, named for no reason that I can see except that they contributed a song to the Snakes on a Plane soundtrack.

3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me” and Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad” have both incredulously peaked at #7 on the Hot 100, which is apropos considering they both feature synth-fueled rave-ups supporting standard issue emo boy whine-vocals which undercut the bravado both songs/bands aim to project (main goal: treating girls like shit) while also shoe-horning cheerleader chant middle eighths that are completely unnecessary.

“Don’t Trust Me” is interesting in that in seems to aim for Lady GaGa-esque metajokeness and falls as flat as GaGa in the clever sweepstakes while also lacking her natural songwriting talent, but there’s something nearly breathtaking about the song’s (and the band’s) commitment to being Completely Wrong but sounding as if they’re Having Fun doing it. Sample lyric: “Don’t trust a ho/Never trust a ho/Won’t trust a ho/’Cause the ho won’t trust me.” Charming. And why would she?

“Good Girls Go Bad” is, in contrast, a joylessly shouty piece of braggadocio featuring actress Leighton Meester, who fulfills this song’s apparent need for a female voice to repeat the protagonist’s point of view, reinforcing his awesomeness (and her complete lack of agency, so who better than a Gossip Girl star?). Look, bravado is fun and great when people like Beyonce or Courtney Love or Tupac or even Toby fucking Keith do it, but this lead singer kid named Gabe Saporta? He has negative sexual charisma, so his boasts need a little bit more color to be convincing. And he doesn’t even provide that. Sample lyric: “I make them good girls go bad.” Oh? How? “You heard that I was trouble but you couldn’t resist?” Why is that?! “I make them good girls go bad.” Classic example of tell-not-show writing.

Both songs don’t hold a candle, however, to the repugnance of 3OH!3’s current song “Starstrukk,” which flopped so bad on release that they decided to do a remix with Katy Perry (as if this wasn’t hate-worthy enough). It sounds ugly, for one, and also has the jaw-dropping lines “I think I should know how to make love to something innocent without leaving my fingerprints out now/L-O-V-E’s just another word I never learned to pronounce.” This has none of the supposed Fun of their previous hit, and instead shows that any attempt at humor or self-awareness in “Don’t Trust Me” veiled exactly how much these two were actual sociopaths.

When I first heard these songs I thought, “Popped-collar music.” But these two bands’ self-presentation indicates how far scenesterism’s American Apparel
stunted-growth appeal has drifted into mainstream culture, now becoming Cool and Edgy. Because hipster men have always been misogynists (what do you think Exile In Guyville was reacting to?), and now the mooks are wearing the same clothes and highlighting the gross anti-woman subtleties of scene culture. And making it seem “fun.” 3OH!3 is much worse though; if Cobra Starship is just some frat dude hounding you at a bar thinking he’s all that (and calling you a bitch if you turn him down), 3OH!3 is that dude using his peculiar charm to bring you back to the house to get gang-raped. In your ears especially.

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.

Jonah Goldberg, one of America’s greatest clowns, thinks that we shouldn’t bother trying to stop climate change because WHAT IF WE GET HIT BY A METEOR.

I’m going to use this line of reasoning all the time now. Why didn’t I pay my taxes? THE COMING METEOR, THAT’S WHY. Why did I kill Jonah Goldberg? I’d never killed anyone before, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Also he calls Henry Louis Gates a black swan.