Sunday, April 24, 2011

I think of the late David Mills whenever I hear "Wikka Wrap"

From left to right: At a panel for his 2003 NBC creation Kingpin, David Mills was joined by his Kingpin actors Angela Alvarado Rosa, Brian "Most Likely Flashing Back to a Black-and-White Clip of Beaver Cleaver Sleeping in Class" Benben and Shay Roundtree.

Tonight is the second-season premiere of HBO's Treme, the last TV show that journalist-turned-scriptwriter David Mills wrote for before his untimely death last year. I was a fan of Mills' TV writing since his Homicide: Life on the Street period, and in the pre-Twitter days before showrunners like Community's Dan Harmon and Leverage's John Rogers have embraced the Internet and frequently tweet back their shows' vocal fans, Mills was one of the few writers from TV who didn't treat the online community like a bug stuck to his shoe and interacted with viewers of his TV work on Usenet and his blog Undercover Black Man. As one could see from Mills' blogroll, he voraciously read other blogs, including my own. Because of the lack of responses to most of my blog posts, I've sometimes considered abandoning this blog or shutting it down, but then I'd remember that Mills used to read my blog, and that would make me reconsider.

A few days before Treme's Easter night season premiere, I was searching through my closet full of stacks of backup audio and data CDs to recover iTunes song downloads I lost when my PC went kaput in 2009, and I unearthed the 1981 British single "Wikka Wrap" by The Evasions. I downloaded "Wikka Wrap" on iTunes right after Mills wrote a brief post about the chune for Undercover Black Man. I always liked that Tom Browne and Chic-referencing song (which I was first exposed to via Coolio's "1, 2, 3, 4"), but I had a difficult time trying to locate it online because I never knew what the artist name and song title were--until those two items were ID'd by Mills, who loved music (particularly P-Funk) as much as the massive amounts of TV he grew up ingesting. I thanked Mills in the comments section. It was the only time we ever spoke to each other.

It's funny how I used to imagine the lead "vocalist" during "Wikka Wrap" to be a Tony Sinclair-esque black guy (but as Mills pointed out, the "Wikka" chap was actually composer Graham de Wilde doing a parody of a not-exactly-black British TV personality named Alan Whicker) because it ties into mistaken racial identity, a subject the African American blogger observed with humor, whether in his "Misidentified Black Person of the Week" posts or his blog's name, an in-joke about how because of his light skin (and maybe also because of his sometimes--*bleh*--right-leaning posts), he would often be perceived as white or Mexican.

So after the passing of this brilliant Wire and Treme writer who departed too soon, whenever I hear "Wikka Wrap," I always think of Mills and that little comments section exchange we had over this British R&B track we both dug.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Five rap jams where the rappers drop malapropistic pop culture references that make them sound like John Witherspoon when he referred to "Public Enema" during House Party

The Beastie Boys--multiple offenders in the malapropistic pop culture reference department--are about to drop their first album in seven years. I wonder if they'll mangle the names of '70s TV show characters again in Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.
One of my favorite lines in the original House Party was John Witherspoon's Granddad from The Boondocks-esque neighbor character complaining about the title party blasting the music of "Public Enema." On a similar note, my favorite line in Zack and Miri Make a Porno is "Han Solo ain't never had no sex with Princess Leia in the Star War" because instead of Star Wars, Craig Robinson calls it "the Star War," as if the fictional conflict were the Civil War or the Vietnam War.

The "Public Enema" and "Star War" lines remind me of an article I read in a hip-hop magazine once. The article listed moments when rappers dropped malapropistic pop culture references or flubbed up celebrities' names. When they flub up the pop culture references like in the following five tracks, rappers suddenly sound old and out-of-it like that Witherspoon character from House Party (the Beastie Boys have been in the game for a while, but hopefully, they won't sound too out-of-it on their promising-sounding new album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two).

Thanks to "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" by Pitbull, I'm in the mood for renting a film by "Albert Hitchcock."

1. "My Weezy" by Lil Wayne
Like Mojo Nixon during "Elvis Is Everywhere" and Sound of Young America host Jesse Thorn, Wayne calls Star Trek's Vulcan hero "Dr. Spock" (a la baby care expert Dr. Benjamin Spock) instead of Mr. Spock.

2. "Oh Word?" by the Beastie Boys
"This is not a fantasy, I'm not Mr. O'Roarke." Wow, I didn't know the racially ambiguous but Latin-ish Mr. Roarke was really an Irish bloke all along.

3. "Shazam" by the Beastie Boys
Mike D misidentifies Fred Sanford's dead wife Elizabeth as "Weezy."

4. "Flip Flop Rock" by Big Boi featuring Killer Mike & Jay-Z
Big Boi refers to Penelope Cruz as "Penelope Ann Cruz," while Killer Mike admires the authority of "Commander Picard."

5. "Blindfold Me" by Kelis and her then-husband Nas
Nas probably meant "Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks," but for some reason, it came out as "Gonna surprise you like Hugh Grant in 8 1/2 Weeks." Confusing the works of softcore porn producer Zalman King with the oeuvre of Chris Columbus, the family-friendly director of Nine Months, Home Alone and I Love You, Beth Cooper, is a common mistake in hip-hop. The other day on the street, I overheard a freestyle battle where one MC insulted the other to the beat of Drake's "Over" with "Got a text from your girl saying she wanna ride my penis/Like Hayden Panettiere in Delta of Venus."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Empire Records live-tweet recap (because today is Record Store Day)

I have a bad feeling about Rex.
(Photo source: Matt Ranzetta)

During the week Record Store Day 2010 took place, I live-tweeted Empire Records, which is set at a record store and seems to turn up on cable at least once every week. The movie is at its best when it pokes fun at washed-up soap stars/pop singers and sticks to being a relaxed comedy about working at a record store. At its worst, Empire Records is like a lousy and overdramatic Canadian teen soap that wouldn't look out of place on TeenNick.

Today is Record Store Day 2011, so I'm reposting my tweets about Empire Records.

(If you're not reading this on Record Store Day, this live-tweet recap can function as textual commentary that you can refer to while Empire Records is playing on TV. Sometimes, a certain movie I like will turn up on TV, and I want to see what someone else wrote about the movie, so I'll open an article or Wikipedia entry or IMDb trivia page about the movie that I had saved onto my laptop.)

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The name of the never-shown fake TV show where Rex Manning got his big break is The Family Way. Rex's TV show must have been part Family with Kristy McNichol, part Eight Is Enough, all crap.
Frigging Rex Manning Day. In a few minutes, I'm live-tweeting the #EmpireRecords: Remix! Special Fan Edition DVD, which came out in 2003.
12:05 PM

I'm a few minutes late. I'm on SuperStation TBS time.
12:06 PM

The Warner logo means the #EmpireRecords: Remix! Special Fan Edition live-tweet starts now. Why live-tweet a DVD that dropped 7 years ago?
12:09 PM

#EmpireRecords has things in it I like (particularly some of the songs and the fake Rex Manning music) and things I can't stand.
12:10 PM

The things I can't stand during #EmpireRecords (or as I like to call the film, Car Wash for alt-rockers) make it worthy of a live-tweet.
12:10 PM

When I started writing the webcomic The Palace, which is set at an indie theater, I told myself I must avoid the cliches of #EmpireRecords.
12:11 PM

The movie is an example of fun premise/sloppy execution (all that shit happens to the staffers in one day?).
12:11 PM

The movie flings dramatic crises at you with all the precision of a chimp flinging his poop at zoo-goers.
12:11 PM

This is the kind of movie where dunking a teen's head in the sink will make her diet pill addiction magically disappear.
12:13 PM

Monday, April 4, 2011

Five funniest moments of unsettling, non-Monty Python's The Meaning of Life eating by powerful men (or women) in movies and TV

The money shot during GoodFellas' many moments of food porn? It's not in this scene. It's the peek at Ray Liotta's Sunday sauce during the 'May 11, 1980' sequence.
This list is inspired by a hashtag tweeted by Harold J. Lee on September 2, 2010 ("Deniro and Pesci eating latenight food from Pesci's mom in Goodfellas with the body in the car trunk. #UnsettlingEatingByPowerfulMenInMovies").

By the way, if Lee's name sounds familiar, it's because Harold & Kumar creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg named the John Cho character after their friend Lee.

WARNING: NSFW language ahead.

1. De Niro's loud sandwich-chewing in Cop Land



2. Bernie Mac's loud orange-chewing in Bad Santa
Right at the 2:00 mark:



3. Kali Rocha, as a pregnant and surly receptionist for a city councilwoman, attacking a hot dog filled with sauerkraut in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Fights City Hall"

A hot dog makes Halfrek lose control.
4. Robert Wagner as a "Sloppy Eater" on SNL in 1989 (starts at 06:12)

5. Paul Sorvino's oyster-slurping in Dick Tracy
At the 0:28 mark:

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi's Rome preview is neck-and-neck with the extended Green Lantern trailer for the week's juiciest-looking new trailer

Norah Jones looks hot in this picture, despite the Nancy Grace hairdo.
I first read about Rome, Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells producer Danger Mouse's homage to '60s and '70s Italian film scores, back in November and couldn't wait to hear the results of the project. Rome has Danger Mouse collaborating on new material with Italian composer Daniele Luppi (whose 2004 album An Italian Story is a nifty homage to the '60s Italian sound that's similar to Rome), as well as several of the veteran musicians who performed on many of those terrific '60s and '70s scores.

"It was really the dream to reunite the Cantori Moderni 40 years later. It was a choir put together by Alessandro Alessandroni--think about the Sergio Leone movies, the Morricone soundtracks with those beautiful soprano melodies," said Luppi to the Guardian. "Alessandroni was not only the choirmaster, but his whistle is all over those movies."

The concept album, which finds Danger Mouse and Luppi paying tribute to not just Morricone, but also to the likes of Piero Umiliani, Bruno Nicolai and Piero Piccioni, took about five years to make and will finally drop on May 17. Parlophone Records recently posted a lengthy trailer featuring interviews with Danger Mouse, Luppi and lead Rome singers Jack White and Norah Jones.



Judging from White's Sergio Corbucci-esque, spaghetti western imagery-filled "Two Against One" and the lush and loungy Jones/Cantori Moderni tune "Black," which were also posted by Parlophone and will debut together as a 7-inch vinyl single on Record Store Day on April 16, Rome sounds promising and is far from kitschy or overly cutesy like many homages to the '60s Italian sound have been.





I would love to stream some of the tracks from Rome on my station, but because AFOS focuses only on original score material or existing songs featured in film and TV, I can't find an appropriate block for the Rome tracks. I'll think of something.

Speaking of Danger Mouse (whose love for '60s and '70s Italian scores first emerged in 2004 when he sampled the Viva Django score in the Gnarls hit "Crazy"), here's one of my favorite Danger Mouse-produced joints from last year, amusingly mashed up with a fixture of early '80s MTV:

An old Cheap Seats segment features Chesty McWooden from Twilight

'Sklarbro Country: like eatin' an 8-oz. Kansas City rib-eye. You gotta chew on it awhile. Break it down. Let it digest in your gut. Then the next day, when you're squattin' over a hole in the woods, scroungin' for an oak leaf to finish it off, it hits ya: you do it for the taste. Sklarbro Country: goes down like meat, comes out like gravy.'
On a recent episode of Sklarbro Country with special guest Amy Poehler (whose laughter I always enjoy hearing, and she does a lot of it during this standout ep, mostly because of James Adomian's hysterical Jesse "The Body" Ventura impression), the Sklar Brothers briefly discussed with Poehler an installment of their ESPN Classic cult favorite Cheap Seats where the brothers snarked on footage of a karate demonstration by a then-unknown Taylor Lautner, a few years before they and the rest of the world became familiar with Lautner and his impression of a wooden washboard in the Twilight movies.

After listening to Randy and Jason mention that 2006 Cheap Seats segment, I had to go YouTube that segment, which I hadn't seen in a long time. Hearing the Sklar Brothers slap around a blue-haired, pre-movie set trailer tantrum-having, 11-year-old version of Lautner made my day. God, I miss Cheap Seats (even though it's finally dropping on DVD!).



The sponsor of that junior karate tournament was Paul Mitchell. Because the first thing I think when I watch martial arts is "Gee, these roundhouse kicks would look more impressive if the kid had frosted tips."