Friday, September 26, 2008

Stuff for a Friday

The Rise of Queen S
This week's Gossip Girl totally rocked, as usual. I never thought I'd say this, but each week I find myself looking forward to GG more than just about any other show. This week was all about putting us back at the beginning, repositioning the characters on the chess board to restart the game, and hopefully, to watch it unfold over the next 20-odd episodes. Queen B was back on the front steps, interviewing the girls who will be in her posse; Vanessa will probably return to hating the richies; Rufus, who is trying to move on (NO, Rufus, NO, you and Lily were MEANT to be together!!), runs into Lily and realizes maybe it's not going to be as easy as he thought (WHEEE!); Dan returns to being the social pariah; Chuck Bass is behind the scenes orchestrating mischief; and Serena has taken back her mantle as Queen S, about to dethrone B and take over the school... The Bitch Is Back. Anyone notice Jenny seems to be the only one who's actually raised her status, even if it's just an inch? That said, she's also back to being the little girl being picked on by the richies.

Dan drove me NUTZOID in this episode, with his holier-than-thou attitude. God, he drove me nuts. I was thrilled to find out he was being played. He can tell Serena she's a terrible person who's rubbing this doofus in his face that she just picked up at a bar, and he can accuse her of being behind the Nairtini incident, but then who is HE talking about Rilke (like he could ever achieve THAT status) in front of her knowing it'll make her feel stupid and out of place, rubbing her nose in his new gal Amanda, and ADMITTING to Amanda on the phone the next morning that Serena wasn't behind her burning hair. After, of course, he blames it on Serena to her face and makes her feel an inch high.

Don't mess with Serena, Dan, because she will make your life MISERABLE. Here's hoping she does it for a long, long, long time. Bwooohahahaha!

Nitpick: While I wanted to clock Vanessa for butting in when B told her to keep out, did you notice the complete lack of chemistry between the Lord and the Duchess? He's as interesting as wood around B, and he seems to be... about that interesting around the Duchess. "Oh. Oh. Yes. Here, let me turn thee around. Oh, yes. That's the ticket. Yes." Complete ZERO sensuality in that scene. Blech. Let's hope B realized THAT is what awaits her should she and her lord ever get intimate.

For a great recap of the ep, check out my pal C's site.

9021... Oh, WHY?!
I've been meaning to post on the CW's new 90210 for a while now, but there is much better television to be written about. So here goes... now, I haven't given this show the shot I usually give other shows, but the first 2 hours were SO painful and derivative, I don't think it deserves a chance. (That said, my pal C DID stick with it, and she confirms my initial hatred is founded. VERY founded.) If you missed it, let me run through some of the more original things about the new series:

Naomi, the total elitist bitch of the school, is dating the school jock (really??) and finds out he's fooling around with other girls (no WAY! That's unheard-of in teen dramas) and she dumps him at a party, then has to endure the hostility from people who've been waiting eons to dump it on her. The actress, by the way, is TERRIBLE.

But not as bad as the one who plays the wholesome, good, wonderful, pure, heart-of-gold Annie (even the name reeks of stereotype), who comes from Kansas (in the reality the actress comes from Canada... sigh) who is JUST SO EXCITED!!!! to be coming to Beverly Hills with her... black adopted brother, played by Tristan Wilds. Now, for the three of you who actually watch The Wire, you'll know Wilds as Michael, the kid who worked his way up quickly through the ranks to a major, MAJOR player on the Baltimore streets. Here he's squeaky clean and just hoping people like him. Poor Tristan... he sold his soul to the devil on this one. He's gone from a complex, interesting, multi-layered role on the smartest series in television history to the token black kid on one of the dumbest. Each episode, just to try to reiterate the awesomeicity of their sibling relationship, Dixon and Annie have moments where they hang out in one or the other's bedroom and "share" their lives. "Oh my god, I LOVE you, Dixon, and you know, it shows what an open-minded, warm-hearted soul I am because I love my African-American adopted brother and I will help you be cool in school no matter where I go because THAT is the sort of person I AM!!" "Oh, Annie, I love you so much. You are the BEST adopted sister I could ever, ever have. And isn't it strange that dad's not speaking to me because I went behind his back and did that whole pig trick on the other school, and now mom's not speaking to you because you went behind her back and flew to San Fran with that guy you just met 15 minutes ago? It's like we are the SAME PERSON!!!"

Read between the lines, look at their faces, check out the COMPLETE lack of chemistry between these two actors, and all you hear is, "I HATE you, you dipshit." "Not as much as I hate you, heehee! And who the hell ever heard of The Wire? What, was it about trapeze artists or something?? Heehee!" "I. HATE. YOU."

Here's hoping this show gets cancelled so the immense talent of Tristan Wilds is wasted no longer. I hope if this show does one thing, it gets his name out there so he can have his choice of parts. But with the scripts they're giving him... who knows.

There's the principal who has two kids in the school but can't show favoritism.

There's the cool, hot English teacher who's a little too flirty with a couple of students but really has his eye on the guidance counsellor.

Brenda and Kelly are both back, and completely watered down from their former, vicious selves. I LOVED Brenda as the bitch, and the war between them over Dylan. Now Shannen Doherty is all, "I won't come back to the show if you make me fight over a guy," and I'm all, "Uh... that's exactly what this show NEEDS." Instead, English teacher comes over with his flowers, "Hey, uh, we couldn't go OUT or something, could we?" and Brenda appears at the door all, "Well, actually, if your little guy is asleep and all, I could TOTALLY watch him for you and you could go out and wouldn't that be fun and I'm such a good person to do this for you but I was always a good person and the writers were just totally unfair to me making me out to be a total bitch and I'm not and I just want the world to know this and Brenda is BACK baby but she's different and... um... yeah, did you want to go out then??"

There has been a single funny line: Andrea Zuckerman's kid does this morning news show at the school, and the English teacher looks up at her and says, "Man, she looks like she's 30." HAHA! That was worth suffering through the 2 initial hours.

But no more. That zip code has been tarnished. Please let this go off the air before they ruin it further.

Aural Holocaust
Last night I did NOT, in fact, watch The Office (more goodies for me on the weekend!!) but instead went downtown to see the reunited My Bloody Valentine at Kool Haus in Toronto. For those kidlets among you who may be too young to remember MBV (wow, I felt old typing that... let me retry.) For those of you who just aren't cool enough to know who MBV are (that felt better), they were the purveyors of the early 90s shoegazing scene, which was concurrent with the Manchester Dance scene. Bands like The Cure count them among the bands that have shaped or influenced them, but no one -- despite bands like Ride trying REALLY hard -- has been able to come close to sounding anything like them. Kevin Shields, the guy who writes all the songs, is the lead guitarist, and sings (in the pic he's the top right) ironically has one of the most delicate ears in music. Legend has it they were recording once and he was distracted by a telephone ringing. When people told him there wasn't a phone in the building, they realized it was coming from half a block away. He can hear everything, every tiny nuance, every minute detail. The reason I say his delicate hearing is ironic is because they're arguably the world's loudest band.

Their seminal record, Loveless, was released in 1991, and I listened to it CONSTANTLY, at very, very high volumes. Listening to it again recently, I found it a little tinny and it didn't hold up to more recent albums that can make the windows shake on my car if I crank the stereo past 30. People lobbied for Shields to remaster the album and rerelease it, making it louder, so he spent eons working on it, it's out, and by most accounts... there's barely anything different. Problem with having acute hearing is if you add in a tiny chime or nuance, NO ONE knows it's there but you.

MBV played Toronto only once. It was in 1993, I believe. I was 19. The story of Kevin's new sound that he'd just discovered had preceded their Toronto appearance, but only if you paid close attention to the British music mags, which my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and I, devoured. The story goes that Shields was experimenting with decibel levels, and had discovered a single decibel that is almost intolerable to the human ear. One decibel above it is so loud we can tune parts of it out, and one decibel below it is too low to be annoying. But this one particular decibel level is so wretched that it can actually cause negative physical reactions in the listener. Right before coming to Toronto, MBV played the Reading Festival. During their song, "You Made Me Realize," the band suddenly hit this decibel and held it (they all wear super-duty earplugs). The result was legendary. Audience members began vomiting, going into fits, running from the stage screaming for people to get away from the amps. Shields and Co. held the note. The grounds began to clear, people were trying to find ways to make the sound stop... MBV held the note. They held it for just over nine minutes, and it was enough to pretty much clear the place out.

My husband and I had discovered our challenge, and we were ready to meet it.

We went to the Toronto show, one of about 400 or 500 people crammed into a really small bar (I can't remember the name of it, but Mercury Rev and Buffalo Tom were on the same bill). We had our earplugs, which the British mags said would take the edge off. We were prepared for 10 minutes of agony, and we were going to defeat it.

The band played their typically short set, about 45 minutes, and then went into You Made Me Realize. The earplugs were already in, but we madly adjusted them. And then... they hit the note. It was like a sonic boom had gone off in the place. It was mind-numbing... literally. My husband and I pressed our hands to our ears as hard as we could, trying to keep out the sound, but it doesn't just affect your ears, it hits the very core of your body. Soon people began wretching and vomiting up next to the stage. People were stampeding to get away from the speakers. We were standing far enough away, up on a riser near the bar, where the assault wouldn't be quite as vicious. The note held. We quickly checked watches. Ten minutes. We were past Reading. More people began running. Bouncers were waving arms and telling people there would be no re-entry. People ran anyway.

They held the note for 17 and a half minutes. At the end, it was the two of us and four other people, also wearing earplugs and jamming their fingers into their ears. Shields and Co. looked up, realized they'd emptied the place, and that was that. I seem to remember another song after that, and a few stragglers who'd been hiding in the bathroom came back out.

We wore that night as a badge of gig-going honour for 15 years, and then last night they were back, reunited for the first time in eons. Earplugs in hand, we were ready again. But now I'm in my 30s. It's a little more daunting... what if Shields had perfected it, made it worse? Could he?

He could.

The set was just under an hour (and it was pretty wicked, and LOUD). They gave out earplugs at the door, probably to release themselves from any liabilities. People were a little more prepared this time. The legend of the deafening note in You Made Me Realize had been floating around music geek circles for over a decade, and now people knew what to expect in a way they couldn't have in 1993.

The band began playing You Made Me Realize. I stuck my fingers into my already earplugged ears. They played two verses and then the chorus, and then WHAM, they hit the note.

You know those old movies from the 1950s where you see an A-bomb test in the desert, and surrounding the mushroom cloud is that ripple on the ground that shoots out, pretty much disintegrating everything in its path? That's kind of what it's like. The sound flies out of the amps like a physical thing and as a wave I watched everyone's heads reel back as it hit them one by one. The hair on my arms was standing on end. The hair on my head felt like it was blowing. I saw numerous people clutch their heads as if wondering why it felt so weird, but when I looked around, no one's hair was actually blowing. I do believe it was probably all standing on end. My heart felt like its beat was changing. My whole body shook. People had their arms up like they were descending a giant hill on a rollercoaster ride.

At the 10-minute mark, people began leaving. Not many, but mostly the people next to the stage and speakers. At 15 minutes, the crowd was thin enough that I thought, "hey, I can actually see now!" (Bilinda Butcher looked fabulous, by the way.) At 20 minutes, we thought, "Twenty minutes?!" A few minutes later, more people left. At 25 minutes, I thought, "What if he never ends?"

In total, it lasted 28 minutes by our count. We lasted until the end, and suddenly Butcher and Shields lurched forward and the song rocked into its ending, which we now knew was the end of the set (they no longer play songs after, if they ever did).

Are we crazy? Maybe. It's not a pleasant feeling, I'll give it that, but it's a feeling unlike anything you've ever experienced, so it's worth it. If you have earplugs. My husband, the warrior, thought he'd go a couple of songs without them. Today I have to shout things to him because the ringing in his ears is so bad he can't hear me. Great. Now he's got a NEW excuse for not putting out the garbage when I ask him to.

If you're not familiar with MBV, and don't want that aural assault, grab a copy of Loveless. Even if it doesn't have enough bass on it to hold up to newer discs, it's still pretty frickin' amazing.

11 comments:

Adela P. said...

I'm so glad that Serena has stepped up to the bitch plate, because to me her character seemed pretty flat until this past week's episode. Finally, some personality. I've been dying to watch her bring out her claws.

I'm going to try to stick 90210 out until Doherty leaves, in the hopes that maybe SOMETHING interesting will happen. Next week's preview looked like there was maybe a cat fight about to be had between Kelly and Brenda -- I certainly hope so, anyway, because that's what I've been waiting for.

joshua said...

Used to looove MBV back when , but I never got the chance to see them live.

(& Buffalo Tom, too -- pretty much worshipped the now-tragically-out-of-print 'Let Me Come Over' album -- but never saw them live, either...)

What did you think of that latest 'Fringe' episode? I really love the pace they're setting.

Nikki Stafford said...

Adela: A friend of mine was telling me about possible catfight between B&K. If they fight over the English teacher, I'll be interested (not interested enough to start watching again, but at least to follow it through other people's blogs!)

By the way, I checked out your blog and it's pretty awesome. I'll add it to my blogroll. :)

Joshua: Yay, a fellow fan!

Haven't watched Fringe yet, but I'll be watching this weekend! I'll post as soon as I have.

Jonathan said...

You and your readers may be interested to know that Loveless was remastered and being reissued with a bonus CD with the album remastered from the analogue tapes in a couple of weeks. A remastered version of Isn't Anything is also coming out at the same time.

Adrienne Dinen said...

Totally agree with you on 90210. I saw the pilot to see if the quality matches the hype. It completely underwhelmed me!

That said, Ryan Matthews (the English lit teacher) is gorgeous!

Anyway, I'm loving Fringe. It's a lot more interesting than any of the Tuesday primetime fare.

Nikki Stafford said...

Jonathan: That's actually the version I was referring to, where reviews are saying the difference is nominal, that apparently Kevin Shields has such a fine ear that he's made only tiny changes, and hasn't remastered much of anything (if Mojo is anything to go by). I was originally excited, but now I'm cautious.

Adela P. said...

Thanks so much for the compliment on my blog -- I figured with all of the tv-watching I do, I should put it to good use somehow. :-D

Oh, and I met you at the Slayage conference, by the way, and I've commented on your blog before but under a different name -- I always feel weird putting my real name on my writing for some reason, hence "Adela." I'm the one that was pushing the ginormous bug around with my toe wondering what the hell it was, and you were so very willing to tell me your horror stories about those things scurrying around on the floor like they were on wheels, lol. I'm definitely not going to want to return to Arkansas anytime soon.

:-D

PS -- are you planning on attending the next Slayage?

Anonymous said...

Hey - Matthew from Britain here: sorry for the silence. Still, after your MBV experience a litle quiet from the UK may not be such a bad thing!

Just wanted to say that your MBV blog is one of my favourite pieces of music writing in years!

Thanks.

J. Maggio said...

Loveless is, like Exile in Guyville and Doolittle, a record that defined my youth.

You have great taste. I wish you were single. ;-)

Nikki Stafford said...

Adela! Now I know who you are! I totally remember you pushing the bug around with your foot, that was SO hilarious. It was the only time Sue and I saw one of those creatures in the daylight, which is why I bent down to look at it close up. It was creepy as hell. I remember both Sue and I lamenting that we'd left our cameras in the room! hahaha! Yes, I do plan on being at Slayage. I met too many awesome people to stay away. I wish there was one every year!

Matthew! Great to hear from you again. And aw, that is so nice! Wow. Have you had a chance to see MBV? Being in the UK, you probably had more opportunities than us lowly North Americans.

j. maggio: Aw again. You're making my head all big. And Dolittle is one of my all-time fave albums. I've seen The Pixies so many times... one of my fave moments in every gig was during "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven," when the audience would hold up fingers to show "if man is 5, then the devil is 6, then God is 7!" Man. Now I want to go see The Pixies again.

I'm gonna go put on Dolittle...

I would say my other defining album was Sonic Youth's Goo. That one rivalled Loveless for a spot in my tape player (yeah, it was a portable cassette player... now feeling oldsville again).

Stamford Talk said...

Gossip Girl was even better last night!
But we need a better story line for Dan. He's getting lame.
I loved how much air time Jenny got in this. I think she's a great character and I'm excited to see how her new commitment to the fashion biz will play out with Blair, etc.

Wonder why Chace Crawford (I honestly forget his character's name) was not on the show at all last night?