Thursday, December 30, 2010

This is literally my "Rock Box"

Greatest product Adidas ever made: the sneaks Run-DMC used to rock. Worst product Adidas ever made: those goddamn sandals Mark Zuckerberg always wears--even to formal business meetings, for Christ's sakes! The Adidas brand and ugly-looking sandals go together like Motown and Phil Collins.
I like to use shoeboxes to store the complete runs of three of my favorite comic book series--Y: The Last Man, Gotham Central and the Vertigo version of Human Target (Y ran for 60 issues, Gotham Central lasted for 40 and Human Target had 21, so the complete run of each title can easily fit in a shoebox). I also sometimes use shoeboxes as portable filing cabinets for CDs that have to be utilized for AFOS. One of these boxes contains the CDs that carry all the non-score music tracks (a.k.a. existing songs) I have to presently re-edit and re-upload to my Live365.com music library without the old AFOS "F Zone" sweepers they used to open with--all in time for the "F Zone" programming block's name change to "Rock Box" on January 3.

The time slots for "Rock Box" on AFOS are 4-6am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Mondays and 5-7am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Fridays.

I'll miss the Boondocks animated series. It had the most interesting soundtrack for an animated series from 2005 to 2010 outside of The Venture Bros. You'd never hear a DOOM track on The Simpsons or South Park, that's for damn sure.
"Always funky fresh, could never be stale"--Run, "Rock Box"

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year's Day means changes to AFOS programming

My brother and sister like this new station logo. It was inspired by the opening Batman logo graphics in The Dark Knight.
I'm renaming one of the AFOS programming blocks. Starting January 3, "The F Zone," which focuses on "needle drops" (non-original songs during films like High Fidelity and the Harold & Kumar series and shows like Breaking Bad and Community), becomes "Rock Box." The time slots for "Rock Box" are 4-6am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Mondays and 5-7am, 9-11am and 3-5pm on Fridays.

In November, I created a block called "New Cue Revue," which streams selections from new releases (or albums that aren't exactly new but are new to the "Assorted Fistful" playlist). It moves to Wednesdays at 10-11am and 4-5pm and Fridays at 11am-noon.

A new block called "The Street" will focus on my favorite kind of film or TV score album: the funky-sounding kind, the kind that gets frequently sampled by beatmakers. Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, David Holmes and newcomer Adrian Younge will get tons of airplay here. "The Street" airs on Mondays at 6-9am and noon-3pm, Tuesdays through Thursdays at 6-9am and 1-4pm and Fridays at 7-9am and 1-3pm.

The listeners who evaluate my playlists' tracks on Live365.com tend to give low star ratings to the funkier or more soulful-sounding ones. Live365 has listeners rate tracks because the site thinks this helps its station programmers decide which tracks to keep and which ones to get rid of. Well, it doesn't help this station programmer because I don't care about those listeners' ratings anyway. Every time someone on Live365 gives a track one and a half stars, it makes me want to find ways to stream it more often.

Whenever I upload a new track to one of my playlists, I always have to block my eyes from the ratings to keep myself from getting pissed off at a negative one. What the hell are those listeners doing hanging around AFOS anyway? I bet they want another StreamingSoundtracks or another Permanent Waves. AFOS is a little different from them. It streams certain subgenres of film or TV score music that those stations tend to ignore.

"The Street" is my three-hour middle finger to those people who give one and a half stars to classic tracks like "Pusherman." On Fridays, the block is two hours because my middle finger will get tired by the end of the week.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I don't listen to just film score albums, you know

I don't even listen to any of them on most days of the week, although the Tron: Legacy score was on repeat a lot last week.

For the print compilation of my webcomic, I've been trying to write an article about one of my favorite movies, Chan Is Missing, and I've been fighting off a bad case of writer's block with the help of some music. There was an episode of Quantum Leap that mentioned that Sam and Al put on the Man of La Mancha Broadway cast album while building Project Quantum Leap. DJ Phatrick's Asian American Hip-Hop for Dummies, a 2008 compilation of his mixes from the KPFA-FM program Apex Express, has been my Man of La Mancha album.

Cop that.
Despite the censored curse words (stay out of my mixtape, profanity censor guy from Ping Pong Playa!), Asian American Hip-Hop for Dummies is a fantastic sampler of APA hip-hop. Hey, look, it's a pre-electro-hop-era Far East Movement joint.

Asian American Hip-Hop for Dummies track listing
DJ Phatrick's mixtape is an effective cure for writer's block. My piece on Chan Is Missing consisted of only 68 words last week. Then I started bumping the mixtape on my laptop to get myself to add some more words. The article is now up to 2,168 words.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Derezzer's edge: Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy score is now part of "Assorted Fistful" on A Fistful of Soundtracks

Woops, wrong Tron: Legacy.
I'm a fan of Daft Punk, but I was never really into the Tron franchise. So the French duo's original score for Tron: Legacy, which Walt Disney Records released earlier this week, is the only element of the sequel I've been looking forward to, and it's as dope as I expected it to be.

Another thing I expected was negative reactions to the Tron: Legacy score from both film score music fans who are too conservative to get into Daft Punk and Daft Punk fans who find film score music--including even the kind of score music Daft Punk wrote for Tron--to be too conservative-sounding and old-fogey for their tastes. I don't belong to (or care for) either camp, of course, which is why I've added the duo's score to daily "Assorted Fistful" rotation (also new to "Assorted Fistful" are selections from the recently released two-CD score album for another franchise that's known for its futuristic motorcycle chases, 30 Rock).

Olivia Wilde is still bangable even when she's sporting Lego person hair.
Daft Punk's sound also graces another Disney property, the Iron Man movie franchise, but for only a few seconds (the late DJ AM mashed up their 2005 track "Robot Rock" with Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two" during Tony's drunken brawl with Rhodey in Iron Man 2, the last of the Paramount-distributed Iron Man installments now that Disney is assuming distribution). In some alternate universe that's more musically imaginative and less clichéd than ours, the Iron Man movies were scored by Daft Punk, and the duo's catchy 2001 track "Superheroes" is either a needle drop in some other superhero flick or the main title theme for a superhero cartoon series, which is where that track always belonged (see Interstella 5555--"Superheroes" goes well with animation).

My homemade recipe for Bluth's Original Frozen Banana from Arrested Development

Cold Bananas in Delicious Brown Taste
(Photo source: JJA)
I love Arrested Development, but am I the only one who's skeptical about the much-demanded feature film version that creator Mitch Hurwitz has been trying to write within the last year (and it's becoming closer to a reality now that Hurwitz and his fellow Running Wilde co-creator Will Arnett have some free time)? Does the reunion movie have to be a feature film? Why can't it be a miniseries on IFC--the current home of Arrested Development reruns and eventually, every badly treated comedy series ever made--like that recent Kids in the Hall reunion miniseries?

Who'd be the Storm of the Arrested Development movie cast? You know, the one who gets the least screen time and the crappiest lines like 'Do you know what happens when a toad gets hit by lightning?'
TV currently outdoes movies when it comes to nuanced character arcs. A great example of this was the serialized, multilayered antics of the Bluths. Arrested Development was known for broad gags like Gob's bungled magic tricks or the Bluths' hilariously inaccurate chicken dances, but despite what the show's title would have you believe, it was also capable of rich character development, particularly with Michael, the supposedly level-headed and smart foil to the rest of his nutty family, who was gradually revealed to be often as oblivious as the other Bluth adults were to the world that doesn't revolve around the Bluths (it took Michael a whole season to realize Charlize Theron's Manic Pixie Dream Girl character was mentally retarded).

Gob and Michael Bluth by Blake Loosli
(Photo source: Blake Loosli)
Over the course of three seasons, none of the members of what has to be one of the best ensembles ever assembled for a comedy series were ever underutilized. But with only two hours to reunite the Arrested Development cast--which is as large as the cast of the first three X-Men movies, and we know how well all the major X-Men members were utilized in those overcrowded movies--how will there be time to give everyone in that Jason Bateman-led ensemble a satisfying character arc?

Bluth harvest
(Photo source: The Live Feed)
The non-serialized format of a big-screen version of Arrested Development would also deprive the audience of one of my favorite running gags during the show's run: the "On the next Arrested Development" previews of fake scenes from the next episode. However, I could picture Hurwitz concluding the film with those fake teasers as if the TV show were still around, just to drive Arrested Development fans crazy.

Birth of a dynasty
(Photo source: Balboa Observer-Picayune)
I learned a lot from watching Arrested Development, like the importance of always leaving a note, the existence of a dessert known as a frozen banana (which, in the show's universe, was created by a Korean banana stand owner and known as "Cold Banana in Delicious Brown Taste" before the Bluths stole the idea from him) and George Bluth Sr.'s adage that "there's always money in the banana stand." I had never heard of a frozen banana before Bluth's Original Frozen Banana Stand (a.k.a. "the Big Yellow Joint," the subject of Arrested Development composer David Schwartz's amusing fake '70s stoner anthem "Big Yellow Joint"). I thought a frozen banana was Asian American slang for a McCain-supporting Asian guy who lives under the Uncle Ruckus-style delusion that he's as white as Edward from Twilight while suffering from hypothermia.

I didn't realize a frozen banana is a banana covered in chocolate until recently, when I became curious about fictional foods that were integral to episodes of sitcoms like 30 Rock, The Boondocks and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which gave us "milksteak" and "the grilled Charlie"), and I stumbled upon online recipes for the not-so-fictional dessert.

Yeah, it kind of looks like a chocolate-covered dick, and when peanuts are added to the coating, it starts to resemble poop on a stick, but it's also a delicious snack that's alright for any season. It's essentially a banana Popsicle in a chocolate coating.

'Alright, we have time for only a couple more snapshots. These bananas have to be at a condom fastening demonstration at a high-school sex ed class across town in 15 minutes.'
Bananarchy (Photo source: A.V. Club)
In 2009, a couple of Arrested Development fans in Austin opened their own Bluth-style banana stand called Bananarchy, where they offer toppings like cinnamon and coconut. They even named an item after Arnett's breakout character. "The Gob" is two bananas double-dipped in chocolate and covered in peanuts.

Meanwhile, I attempted a few times to make for myself a frozen banana because I always wanted to re-create a snack that came from a show I admire (and occasionally revisit on DVD or IFC). I failed the first time with the chocolate coating, which is the trickiest component to master while making this otherwise simple snack. The coating shouldn't be Oreo cookie-esque, which was how my coating turned out the first time I made the dessert. It should be as smooth as Tobias Fünke's shiny blue pate.

So while we wait for word on the Arrested Development movie (or mull over getting the Arrested Development complete series DVDs for someone who--like everyone else during this recession--could use a laugh or two), here's the first-ever homemade recipe I've posted on this blog:

Ingredients
1 ripe and peeled banana
1 cup (6 oz.) of Nestle Toll House Milk Chocolate Morsels
1 tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 Popsicle stick

Rolling a big yellow joint
(Photo source: JJA)
1. Unpeel a banana. Cut an inch off one end of the banana. Push a Popsicle stick into that end of the banana.

2. Put the banana in a Ziploc bag and freeze it overnight.

3. The next day, place the chocolate morsels and the vegetable shortening together in an uncovered microwave-safe bowl. The shortening will thin out the chocolate and make it easier to work with. Heat the bowl on medium-high (70%) power for one minute. If there are still some morsel shapes in the melted chocolate, heat it again for a few more seconds. Stir.

4. Unroll a sheet of wax paper and pour the melted chocolate onto the sheet. Take the banana out of the freezer. If there are ice crystals on the banana, scrape them off. Roll the banana around in the chocolate until it's completely coated in it.

If the Schwarzenegger version of Mr. Freeze wrote the alt attribute for this image, it would go something like 'Buh-na-nuhs, I'm sending yoo to da land of da freeze.'
(Photo source: JJA)

Poop on a stick never tasted so delicious.
(Photo source: JJA)
5. Seal the chocolate-covered banana in an airtight container and place it in the freezer. Keep the banana inside the freezer overnight or longer or until you're secure enough in your sexuality to stick a chocolate penis in your mouth.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Omar comin'!": The Wire gets amazingly interpreted by artist Dennis Culver

Coming next fall to HBO Family: Omar, Butchie and the two lesbian stick-up artists whose names I can never remember in The Wire: The Animated Adventures.
For my forthcoming self-published compilation of my webcomic, I'm presently working on a section about The Wire, which will consist of "30 Reasons Why The Wire Is the Best Show Ever" and a piece of Wire-related artwork that was done by me.

I was Googling to see if there were any illustrators out there who ever interpreted The Wire in pencil and ink when I stumbled upon a fantastic Wire character gallery that True Tales of Roller Derby artist Dennis Culver recently posted on his Flickr. (*Exasperated sigh*) My drawings of the Wire characters will never look as dope as Culver's.

If The Hallmark Channel ever airs reruns of The Wire, I'll look forward to their redubbed version of Senator Clay Davis.
[Via ComicsAlliance]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Just when I thought I saw all the clever signs from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's nearly one-week-old Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, more signs continue to be collected and posted online.

'I fought Nazis and they don't look like Obama.'
(Photo source: Rachel Donner)
That WWII vet's sign and this one I saw during Comedy Central's live telecast were neck-and-neck for my favorite sign:

'Make awkward sexual advances, not war.'
(Photo source: Funny or Die)
But then I discovered the following four. Those of us who have been suffering from post-election blues need some cheering up, so here are some other funny signs you might have missed.

One rally-goer channeled a movie I love (the guy who shouted that line used to regularly pester Colbert on The Daily Show!) and another rally-goer amusingly referenced a recently-debuted-on-Blu-ray '80s movie that's still enjoyable despite its really dumb race-related moments.

'I scare Juan Williams at airports.'
(Photo source: The Huffington Post via FoD)

'I don't know what we're yelling about!!'
(Photo source: Ryan Splitlog via FoD)

'Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson. Honesty, decency, integrity.'
(Photo source: Blastr)

'Socialist or something.'
(Photo source: Blastr)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Terriers, the P.I. drama that's often mistaken for an Animal Planet reality show, releases its charming theme song--and AFOS is streaming it

Hank Dolworth's hooptie pick-up truck is like a TARDIS on wheels. Both the Gomez Bros. truck and the TARDIS are blue and they look like shit, but they always manage to save their respective owners' asses.
At comments sections and message boards about Terriers, FX's new San Diego-based series starring Donal Logue as a tenacious ex-cop-turned-unlicensed private eye and Michael Raymond-James as his equally tenacious ex-con partner, the show's viewers have constantly asked, "What is that catchy theme song? I've been whistling it all day long even though the co-worker next to me gives me this look that says 'urge to kill rising.'"

The tune is an original piece called "Gunfight Epiphany," written and performed by Terriers score composer Robert Duncan, who also wrote the opening title themes for Terriers producer Shawn Ryan's previous show The Unit and Castle (as well as the music during a hilarious score-related gag from Castle's first season). The iTunes Store released an extended version of "Gunfight Epiphany" today. (An A.V. Club commenter who prefers the Terriers theme's earlier title "Steel Neena" remarked that "Gunfight Epiphany" makes it sound like a Mars Volta B-side.)

As a fan of The Rockford Files and Veronica Mars, I've been loving the hell out of this show, a superb beach noir in the vein of Rockford and Mars. Like those two shows, Terriers skillfully balances smart-ass humor with pathos and to borrow the words of Vulture's Emily Nussbaum, "takes its characters' moral lives seriously, without ever being pompous." The creation of Ocean's Eleven and Matchstick Men screenwriter Ted Griffin, Terriers is also the sole gem in what has been an unexceptional fall TV season.

Unfortunately, Terriers has been doing so poorly ratings-wise (Mars had this problem too--why is the P.I. genre ratings Kryptonite?) that Logue and Raymond-James have embarked on a cross-country tour to spread the word about their show and host episode screenings for college campus audiences. As a show of support for Terriers, I'm adding "Gunfight Epiphany" to daily "Assorted Fistful" rotation on A Fistful of Soundtracks.

Oh, and watch Terriers Wednesday nights at 7 Pacific (10 Eastern) 10 (7 for West Coast DirecTV viewers like myself) on FX. It's far greater than its misleading (and as Logue has admitted in interviews, poorly chosen) title would have you believe.

Friday, October 15, 2010

TV Critic Grimlock gets an unexpected reply from some guy who makes TV shows

Grimlock couldn't stop squeeing after seeing Shawn Ryan's retweet, which is strange because Dinobots aren't exactly known for being squee-ers.
Shawn Ryan--creator of The Shield and Fox's upcoming Ride-Along The Chicago Code and producer of what has to be my favorite new fall show, the FX private eye drama Terriers--retweeted TV Critic Grimlock last night, and as a result, Grimmy's followership, which has been as tiny as his arms, experienced a wee bit of a spike. Congratulations, Grim!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Fistful of Soundtracks' "Assorted Fistful" sets its sights on Bear McCreary's Human Target soundtrack

I'm afraid these dope Human Target opening titles from season one are one of many things the new Human Target executive producer has dumped from the show.
Former Battlestar Galactica composer Bear McCreary's beautifully crafted score cues for Human Target were a highlight of the first season of the Mark Valley series, an enjoyable Burn Notice-like throwback to '80s action shows despite co-star Jackie Earle Haley's weekly overuse of the word "dude" and the fact that Human Target bears little resemblance to the angsty, not-so-lighthearted Vertigo comic book that inspired it.

Most first-season Human Target episodes featured music performed by a 60-piece orchestra (McCreary upped it to 94 for the "Christopher Chance" season finale that guest-starred Armand Assante, Amy Acker and Lee Majors as a predecessor to Valley's title hero, an assassin-turned-bodyguard). This made McCreary's orchestra the largest group of musicians assembled for a TV series in years, a huge leap from the 30-piece orchestra McCreary often conducted on Galactica, the 29-to-34-piece orchestra Shirley Walker and her team of composers led during another made-for-TV DC Comics adaptation, Batman: The Animated Series, and the 37-piece one Michael Giacchino assembled for Lost.

"At the first production meeting we had, even before the pilot, I said we must have an orchestra," said Human Target's first-season showrunner Jonathan E. Steinberg in the press release for this month's Human Target soundtrack release. "This show is about an action hero, it's built out of the DNA of the movies I grew up on, Star Wars and Raiders and Star Trek. Those movies don't work without that orchestra."

Human Target, which debuted on Fox as a mid-season replacement last January, will return to the Fox lineup in mid-November (the season premiere was originally scheduled to air earlier this month--that's why the soundtrack release was slated for October--but the network postponed the premiere). However, Steinberg and McCreary didn't return for the second season. Matthew Miller, a writer/producer from Chuck, replaced Steinberg as showrunner, brought along Chuck composer Tim Jones and plans to insert into Human Target more Chuck-style "needle drops" (slang for existing songs), to the delight of a Human Target fan who said in HitFix.com's comments section that "I absolutely hate needle drops. I also love Bear McCreary's music. Human Target in its first season was a great callback to the silly shows of my childhood--The Fall Guy, The A-Team, etc. I don't like Chuck, and I don't like any of these proposed changes. I won't be tuning in for Season 2."

On his blog, McCreary explained his exit by saying "the series is now under new creative leadership, and as a result I have not been asked to return... We are likely to hear a very different musical approach to Human Target season 2, but I hope and trust the series will remain a fun adventure."

Bear McCreary conducts what ended up being his final Human Target episode.
McCreary's departure is a disappointing development for fans of the show's Emmy-nominated first-season music like myself, but luckily, McCreary, who's currently busy juggling AMC's The Walking Dead and the Syfy shows Caprica and Eureka, has assembled a whopper of a Human Target soundtrack release. WaterTower Music's digital release of the Human Target soundtrack consists of 160 minutes of McCreary's music from the show, while La-La Land's physical version of the soundtrack on October 19 will contain even more music and encompass three discs.

All that's missing are a firearm and a box of bullets.
I've added my favorite tracks from the Human Target album to daily "Assorted Fistful" rotation on the Fistful of Soundtracks channel. During one of these standout tracks, "The New Christopher Chance" from last season's cliffhanger, you can hear what Steinberg had in mind when he said his version of Human Target was built out of the DNA of Star Wars and Raiders. "The New Christopher Chance" contains "Katherine's Theme," a romantic motif McCreary wrote for Acker's character. The sweeping theme brings to mind both Han and Leia's Empire Strikes Back love theme and "Marion's Theme" from Raiders.

Tune into A Fistful of Soundtracks to get your Human Target music fix while you wait another few weeks for Jackie Earle Haley to come back and abuse the word "dude."

Friday, October 8, 2010

TV Critic Grimlock is the new definitive voice of TV criticism, so move over, Tom Shales--that is if you can move that hefty ass of yours

Grimlock's not exactly a fan of Shark Week.
In just 50 or so tweets, Grimlock the Dinobot has emerged as a new insightful voice in the often stuffy and annoyingly middlebrow field of TV criticism. Nobody--not even the witty recappers over at the Onion-owned A.V. Club or the refreshingly not-so-stuffy, comic book-loving Alan Sepinwall--has enlivened coverage of the new fall TV season quite like the belligerent tyrannosaur has:

"me grimlock liked when grace park in bikini punched out surfer on five-0. hottest entrance since julie warner skinny-dip in doc hollywood!" (Tuesday, October 05, 2010 8:06 PM)

"me grimlock not miss rick sanchez. sesame street newsflash reporter kermit frog: he more credible journalist than rick sanchez." (Tuesday, October 05, 2010 8:00 PM)

"me grimlock not into unfunny nbc sitcom outsourced. me wish that call center get torched by mumbai gangsters in final episode." (Wednesday, October 06, 2010 11:45 AM)

"me grimlock not masturbate to fox news ladies because they sound so hateful and whiny like starscream." (Wednesday, October 06, 2010 11:41 AM)

I haven't been this riveted by the thoughts of a writer who's discussing TV since the time Armond White implied he wanted to spoon with Keller from Oz.

So what if TV Critic Grimlock, who launched his Twitter page with my help last Sunday (@TVCritGrimlock), has only one follower? Some talented writers are at their most interesting when they're a best-kept secret--or before they jump the shark, to borrow a TV-related phrase that, now that I've finally thought about it, is kind of as tiresome a term as "BFF" or "bromance."

From the Autobot homebase known as the Ark, Grimlock took some time out of his busy TV-watching schedule to discuss the fall season and the animosity towards Optimus Prime (and Dinobot teammate Slag and anyone who's a Decepticon) that occasionally seeps into his tweets, which always look e.e. cummings-esque because Grimlock doesn't quite understand the purpose of the Caps Lock key. To make this Q&A less irritating to read, all of Grimlock's words have been properly cased.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eva Mendes, Cee-Lo Green and Jon Brion believe that "Pimps Don't Cry" in The Other Guys

Pimp and trick reach an impasse, a word that the former will later attempt to add to his vernacular when he says, 'Get yo' imp ass over here!'
For the next few months, posts will be even more infrequent here on this blog than they have been over on my microblog because I'm working on bonus material for a book that will be the print edition of my webcomic The Palace (I'm also hoping to give The Palace its own URL).

Whenever I've taken a break from outlining or writing the bonus material, either I've tried to finish reading graphic novels I bought or I've headed to the theater to catch up on summer 2010 movies I've been dying to see. I finally saw The Other Guys--yeah, the buddy cop genre has seen better days on the big screen, but when it's a buddy cop flick made by Adam McKay, the director of two of the most consistently funny and surreal comedy films of the last 10 years, Anchorman and Step Brothers, the flick's a must-see--and this Bernie Madoff-inspired comedy is one of the highlights of what was a mostly underwhelming summer.

Eva Mendes looking dowdy as usual.
Several of The Other Guys' funniest gags involve the Will Ferrell character's "plain" wife (Eva Mendes), a physician whose charming personality and hotness turn the Ben Stiller Mark Wahlberg character into half-putty, half-14-year-old dork. At one point, Mendes soothes an agitated Ferrell by singing to him an a cappella rendition of "Pimps Don't Cry," an original tune co-written by Ferrell, McKay, Orr Ravhon, Erica Weis and Jon Brion, the composer of the scores for Step Brothers and The Other Guys.

'Other Guys end credits factoids make Financial News Reporter Hulk wanna go smash brick wall!,' growls the erudite Financial News Reporter Hulk.
During the second half of the film's much-talked-about closing credits sequence, Mendes is joined by break-up song reinventor Cee-Lo for a lovely-sounding retro soul reprise of "Pimps Don't Cry" (this track is now part of A Fistful of Soundtracks' daily "Assorted Fistful" block). The choice of "Pimps Don't Cry" as the partial soundtrack for animated infographics that list examples of average Americans being hustled by the Bernie Madoffs of the world during the current economic crisis was a stroke of genius.

Ten bucks says she makes out with herself in the next shot.
Brion is the last composer/producer I'd expect to craft a silky-smooth R&B jam (despite his work with Kanye West on Late Registration), but he pulls it off well. The composer appears with Cee-Lo and the sultry Mendes in the Funny or Die-produced "Pimps Don't Cry" music video (Brion's the guy on keyboards).



Speaking of Funny or Die, film composer George Shaw, whom I big-upped a while back on this blog, recently scored and edited the amusing FoD video "Yoga for Black People," starring Deborah S. Craig from the original cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Five killer samples that most people didn't know originated from film score music

Cee-Lo opted for the Vader ensemble after the Slave Leia bikini didn't work out.
Cee-Lo recently dropped his new single "Fuck You" on the Internet, and the delightfully profane break-up anthem, which originated from a song idea that Bruno Mars and Philip Lawrence of "Nothin' on You" fame pitched to Cee-Lo, has become a viral sensation. Before "Fuck You" (which has spawned a lame radio edit called "Forget You"), the Gnarls Barkley singer and former Goodie Mob MC's most popular track was his 2006 Gnarls hit "Crazy." Even though I got sick of hearing "Crazy" all over the place back in '06, I loved how Danger Mouse, the beatmaker half of Gnarls, sampled an obscure spaghetti western score during "Crazy." Not many people knew that the catchy bass line and strings were copped from Gianfranco Reverberi's "Nel Cimitero di Tucson," a score cue from 1968's Preparati la bara!, a.k.a. Viva Django. Here are five other killer samples that many listeners--including myself in some instances--didn't know came from film score music.

These beats will make you feel brand new.
1. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" drum break, 2009 (from Isaac Hayes' "Breakthrough" from Truck Turner, 1974)
The opening drum solo in "Breakthrough" is the Betty White of drum breaks: old and ubiquitous but reliable and entertaining every time. H.O.V.A.'s biggest hit of his career is the latest of many joints to sample "Breakthrough," an instrumental you can now check out during the daily "Assorted Fistful" block on A Fistful of Soundtracks.

2. Sneaker Pimps' "6 Underground" harp melody, 1996 (from John Barry's "Golden Girl" from Goldfinger, 1964) [WhoSampled comparison page]
If you were in college in the late '90s, you probably made out to "6 Underground." Did you know you were actually making out to the music from the dead-naked-chick-covered-in-gold-paint scene from Goldfinger?

3. Cibo Matto's "Sugar Water" wordless melody, 1996 (from Ennio Morricone's "Sospesi Nel Cielo" from Malamondo, 1964) [WhoSampled comparison page]
One of my favorite videos from the '90s is the Michel Gondry-directed video for "Sugar Water" (a.k.a. the song that soundtracked Buffy's sexy dance with Xander during her "Joan Collins 'tude" phase). My recent discovery that the duo sampled Morricone's Malamondo score made me love "Sugar Water" even more.

4. Ghostface Killah's "Alex (Stolen Script)" bass line and strings, 2006 (from Henry Mancini's Thief Who Came to Dinner theme, 1973) [WhoSampled comparison page]
MF Doom's sense of humor really comes through in his choice of the theme from the Ryan O'Neal/Jacqueline Bisset caper movie The Thief Who Came to Dinner (when's Warner Archives going to release that flick?) for Ghostface's How to Make It in America-esque tale of a Hollywood thief who comes to dinner--or to be more exact, a P.F. Chang's pitch meeting with the song's title hustler, who's pitching to him the script for Jamie Foxx's Ray biopic--and proceeds to steal Alex's copy of the Ray script. As music critic Jeff Weiss once wrote about this Ghostface chune, "Aspiring MC's should study this like the Rosetta Stone."

5. Wu-Tang Clan's "Rushing Elephants" brass riffs, 2007 (from Morricone's "Marche en La" from Espion, lève-toi, 1982) [WhoSampled comparison page]
My favorite film composer and my favorite experts on martial arts cinema "unite."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's precious little logo

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers cosplayers
(Photo source: "The 30 Best IRL Ramona Flowers")
Like the "Sundance Curse" on indie films that take the festival by storm and then tank outside Park City, there seems to be a Comic-Con curse on films that garner enormous buzz within the halls of the San Diego Convention Center and then somehow fail to interest non-geeks when they hit theaters. Unfortunately, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the latest blockbuster to join that list of films that flopped after the SDCC hype (they've included Grindhouse and The Spirit).

It's unfortunate because Scott Pilgrim, a perfect marriage of source material and director, is in no way a two-hour piece of fecal matter like most of those other flops, due to Wright's respect for--and enhancement of--Bryan Lee O'Malley's material and inventive gags like what has to be the most amusing cover of the Universal logo music to ever open a Universal picture.

O'Malley's creation is partly influenced by 8-bit video games, so legendary Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich redid Jerry Goldsmith's Universal fanfare in 8-bit form. It accompanies an NES-style version of the Universal globe that's as charmingly pixelly as all those title screen graphics that would open NES games I used to play as a kid. The enthusiastic audience that was treated to an advance Scott Pilgrim screening at Comic-Con went so wild over this opening gag that a Wired blogger couldn't even hear the drowned-out 8-bit logo music and wondered in his post if the opening piece was the Legend of Zelda theme. The redone fanfare also opens Godrich's digital-only Scott Pilgrim score album.



Another studio logo music parody I like is the J.B.'s-style cover of the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the start of White Men Can't Jump (one of many instances where a Fox release spoofed the fanfare--another example was Alien³). Alfred Newman never sounded so funky.

The Palace: Like Stuff It, White People, Chapter 5

Previously on The Palace: Pesky Asian stuff

The Palace: Like Stuff It, White People, Chapter 5 by Jimmy J. Aquino

The Palace: Like Stuff It, White People resumes Monday, August 23 and concludes Friday, August 27 here at afistfulofsoundtracks.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Palace: Like Stuff It, White People begins August 16 at afistfulofsoundtracks.blogspot.com

A panel from The Palace: Like Stuff It, White People by Jimmy J. Aquino

I finally got the wonky Internet at my apartment fixed about a month ago. It was down for a few months not because of a cable modem that went bad like I assumed, but because of a splitter that went bad.

On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have had the Internet fixed. When I prevent myself from using the Internet for a day or two, I'm able to finish drawing much of my webcomic. When I don't prevent myself from using the Internet, I get stuck there for hours (either skimming through other people's tweets, reading A.V. Club recaps of recent shows I watched or ogling MovieHotties.com photo galleries), and then I can't get any webcomic work done.

That inability to pry myself from the Internet has happened a lot while I was trying to finish the artwork for this Palace arc, which has been difficult to draw. I started pencilling this damn arc in late June and didn't finish until last week. I'd often get frustrated because of illustrator's block, so I'd go do something else--like log on to the Web--and that's how I'd end up stuck there.

The illustrator's block would arise from having to draw characters in situations or poses I never drew before, like a four-panel sequence in which a female character beats up a guy who's spitting game at her (or "making a pass at her," for those of you who think Urban Dictionary is a book about that country singer Nicole Kidman's married to). As preparation for that sequence, I repeatedly watched clips of Sandra Oh whupping Thomas Haden Church's ass with her motorcycle helmet in Sideways and Carol Kane swinging a toaster at Bill Murray's face in Scrooged. I even studied drawings of the Cassandra Cain version of Batgirl beating up adversaries. The skirmish, which takes place behind two characters who aren't paying attention to what's ensuing behind them, is a bit of a homage to those great NewsRadio slapstick sequences in which the WNYX staffers will be going about their business, unaware that in the background, Matthew is getting his genitals caught in a paper shredder or something.

A classic sequence from the 'Planbee' episode of NewsRadio

Like Stuff It, White People is also the first Palace arc in which I experimented with a process that allowed me to do much less inking. For previous Palace arcs, I would place tracing pad sheets over my pencil sketches and redraw them with a Micron pen so that I wouldn't have to do so much digital cleaning with the ink tracings after I scanned them. But I got tired of my scanner making the black Micron ink look washed out on the scans of the ink tracings--plus inking is such a time-consuming process--so I decided to photocopy the pencil sketches this time and scan those photocopies, even though digitally erasing the dirt and pencil residue from those scans does take an eternity. But I like how the copy machine makes the pencil lines look 101 Dalmatians-esque (the Dalmatians animators decided to break from Disney studio tradition by Xeroxing their pencil drawings instead of hand-inking them, which resulted in a distinctive and gritty look to the character design of Dalmatians and subsequent '60s Disney animated features that utilized Xerox).

A panel from The Palace: Like Stuff It, White People, from pencil sketch to final version

This arc has a title I don't think anybody understood when they first saw it. They must have thought, "Is this webcomic about Borat or something?," so now I'll take the time to explain the title, which is not a Borat-ism. Like Stuff It, White People is both a play on the blog name Stuff White People Like and a reference to a female Palace character's tendency to say "like" all the time. To make the meaning of the title clearer to those readers who probably still won't understand it, I had to add a line where that same female character says to a pervy classmate, "Like stuff it, okay?"

Stuff White People Like's tagline is "This blog is devoted to stuff that white people like." This webcomic is devoted to ruining stuff that white people like.

I first started writing the 10-part Like Stuff It, White People in summer 2009 because I wanted a Palace arc to address the controversy surrounding movie adaptations of cartoon or video game properties that cast white actors as heroes of color. Like Stuff It, White People has undergone countless tweaks since I donated a published early draft of its script in February to the ImaginAsian art exhibit in Lafayette, Indiana (the same exhibit that made a typo online and retyped the arc title without the comma--I don't think they were aware the title is a command, like "Sit on it, Potsie!" or "Stay out of it, Nick Lachey!"). At first, the arc lacked some punch in its resolution, so I added some business involving a female troublemaker character to provide the punch that was missing from it. The arc's fictional movie Avarice: The Best Wallwalker--The Evolution of Time went from being an Avatar: The Last Airbender analog to a mash-up of Airbender and two other similarly whitewashed attempts at starting big-screen franchises, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Dragonball: Evolution. (Why do these franchise starters often have such clunky-sounding titles?)

It might look like the ineptly handled Avarice protest in Like Stuff It, White People is a mockery of Racebending.com's boycott of the Airbender film, but it's not. I agree with that site that the whitewashing needs to stop, and Asian Pacific Americans have been underrepresented on screen for far too long (I even autographed one of the site's T-shirts). However, I don't think the Airbender franchise has been worth the protesters' time and energy because like Motel director Michael Kang once said about the Airbender TV series, "It's an ancient oriental mystical thumb prison that stinks like stinky tofu."

The protest in Like Stuff It, White People is more of a reference to an older Filipino group's somewhat embarrassing protest against Desperate Housewives at a Disney Store (WTF?) in San Francisco. Those Filipino viewers were upset over an episode of the Disney-owned show in which the ditzy Teri Hatcher character insulted Filipino medical schools. A klutzy and seemingly brain-damaged upper-middle-class white lady who once locked herself naked out of her house is suddenly supposed to show smarts about race? You're not exactly right in the head if you expect soap opera characters to function as role models for society. Soap opera characters are only useful if the kind of role model you're looking for is the one who lies, cheats, steals, kills or says racist things. The protest to defend the honor of Filipino medical institutions would have made more sense if it were a respected and famous non-Filipino doctor who uttered the insult, not a person who doesn't exist and is the resident retard on her show.

There's a moment in Like Stuff It, White People where a character says more Asian Americans should "go make their own fucking movies." Fortunately, more of them have been starting to--on the Web. The most talked-about example of this is Wong Fu Productions. For Asian American filmmakers, DIY media is the silver lining in this cloud of shit that's included having to put up with whitewashed movie versions of material that could have been used to showcase Asian American actors.

We Asian Americans are having the last laugh. Airbender opened to negative reviews, and it's unlikely this overproduced ersatz kung fu movie will make back its colossal budget. Dragonball (which, like Airbender, was directed by an Asian guy!) and Prince of Persia both tanked. No one will remember either of those wannabe blockbusters 10 years from now, while cult favorites like the first Harold & Kumar and Better Luck Tomorrow--smaller-scale films that made far greater use of Asian American actors and have nothing to do with martial arts or similar material that doesn't speak to me as an Asian American--will still be on people's minds. The latter category is what we should be fighting for and bringing to the big screen more often, not stinky tofu like A:TLA.

Anyway, I'm glad I'm finally done with this arc that's taken me a year to write and draw. It will kick off tomorrow and Friday here on this blog with a Chapter 0 and a Chapter 0.5 that will briefly introduce the characters before I post Chapter 1 on Monday.