Happy HOlloWednesday!

When you get little girls dressed like this at your door tonight saying, “Trick or Treat!”

Simply tell them,” you are a trick, so no f’ing treat.”

To those of us old enough to dress like the sluts we are, Happy Halloween, even though we undoubtedly got our tricks and/or treats this past weekend in lieu of tonight because we have to get up early for work tomorrow.

"Wucha Dun Did Now?"

Last May a police officer was suspended for by Houston Independent School District for distributing a handbook meant to work as a training tool for his fellow officers in the line of duty. Dubbed “The Ghetto Handbook,” the booklet defined Ebonics phrases so its readers would be familiar with the vernacular of “the hood.” As of the 2000 Census, 70% of the Houston Independent School District was comprised of “non White-alone” people with almost 84% of the under 18 population being “non White-alone.” Ebonics, also called “Black English,” is obviously associated with Black communities and public servants within its boundaries should be familiar with the street lingo in their sectors, especially those with the job to maintain order.

School board members agreed that the pamphlet was inappropriate while the President of Houston’s chapter of the NAACP Carol Mims Galloway called for severe punishment of the offending officer as the creation and distribution of the handbook “was really a slap in the African-American community’s face.” The NAACP’s stance on the subject of Ebonics is that it is a dialect within the English language and should never be mistaken as its own language. I wholeheartedly agree with the NAACP’s sentiment but I do also think it appropriate that school district officers be savvy to the language of the kids they’re trying to protect on a daily basis. Should an officer not realize that “I’ll smoke ya” means “I’ll shoot you,” that po’d be in a bad way right quick, holmes.

Ebonics became controversal back in the mid-90s when a school board in Oakland, CA officially declared Ebonics as a second language. Teachers in the area’s districts were educated in the way of Ebonics so that they would be better able to relate and talk to their black students making it easier to teach them standard, proper English. I realize that California is a far more liberal state than Texas, but educating police officers on popular slang is a huge safety issue, especially in a city plagued by growing gang violence. I believe it would be in the best interest of law officials in ethnic areas to have at least a working or conversational knowledge of the languages and dialects most commonly spoken on their beat.

Rock Ain’t No Tapdance!

Is there really anything better to do on a Thursday night than eat crispy tuna rolls served with miso soup and have insightful conversation, debating the differences between a rock opera and a musical? Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly love Izzy, but Grey’s Anatomy and the rest of the Thursday night lineup has got nothing on Elton John as The Pinball Wizard, in The Who’s Tommy.

In all seriousness where is that line that takes a musical and turns it operatic? What exactly is it that separates one from the other? It was mentioned early in the conversation, that musicals have musically trained actor, while rock operas star professional musicians, often from bands. Now I get that there was nothing “rockstar” about Rick Moranis who played the lead in Little Shop of Horrors, and I’m not even going to attempt to try making him look cool here; he’s Rick Moranis. Without question, I feel the need to toss this theory right out the window because it would imply that Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a music, while Evita becomes a rock opera based on cast alone. Hell, for that matter, based strictly on the above theory, Blaze of Glory would be considered a rock opera regardless of the fact that it basically contains no real musicial aspect, unless you count its [fairly shitty] soundtrack. Can anyone else see the cluster-fuck forming here?

Let’s look at what opera is: an extended dramatic composition in which all parts are sung to instrumental accompaniment that usually includes arias, choruses, and recitatives, and that sometimes includes ballet. Now lets for the purpose of this blog, let’s rock that up a bit. A rock opera is a music album or stage production that intends to evoke the sense of musical drama commonly associated with opera. It differs from a conventional album because of the way the album is created. Generally albums includes songs that are unrelated to each other in terms of storyline. A rock opera however is more like a book, and its songs like chapters. However, the rock opera style overlaps considerably with concept albums and song cycles. A more technical explanation could be given due to the fact that the rock opera tells a coherent story, often with first-person lyrics sung by characters; while a concept album or song cycle sets a mood or maintains a theme.

On a related note, does any film with a plot consisting primarily in a distinct musical setting constitute a lifetime membership into the genres musical or rock opera? I mean, can we really make it that black or white? For example, let’s look at the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. It is of my opinion that the music in this film seems to take precedence over the actual plot. As stated above, story plays a dynamic role in differentiating what genre to place it in. However, should we simply throw it into the musical genre, based solely on the fact that it doesn’t comply with all the needs of a rock opera? I personally don’t think so, which leaves me reaching for a third option, the epic music video. You know, “Thriller,” “Purple Rain,” and “The Wall.”

But what about the Who’s Tommy? Rock opera or epic music video?

I can logically see both sides here. Since it technically is a visual reference to an album, I could justify putting it into the epic genre. However, I won’t be doing so based on one distinct condition; the movie version stars artists other than the Who. This fact alone makes it different from a music video, as we very seldom see Modest Mouse playing “Soul Meets Body” in the new Death Cab for Cutie video. This fact alone leaves me no choice but vote rock opera.

Yes. Cluster-fuck.

Honestly, I’m starting to get the feeling that the rock opera is a made up concept put into existence with no purpose other than to make pseudo-intellectual music snobs feel less nerdy for liking musicals. I know I personally have a hard time comparing the Rocky Horror Picture Show to Oklahoma, but without structure or rules, I functionally have no way of separating the two. I mean, I guess I could point out that Rocky Horror doesn’t have a hoe-down, only hoes, but I’m not sure that really clarifies anything. Not that anything was clear to begin with.

Spotlight On: Assassins

Regardless of its medium a story about the individuals who have attempted, successfully or not, the assassination of American Presidents is going to be dark. Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics for the musical adaption of John Weidman’s book Assassins, are humorous, poignant and Tony-award winning. The individuals lives of John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau, Giuseppe Zangara, Leon Czolgosz, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, Samuel Byck, Lynette Fromme, and Sara Jane Moore are examined in a sympathetic manner of social commentary on today’s obsession with a celebrity-obsessed society.

I was lucky enough to take in a free showing at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia on October 19, 2007 thanks to WXPN (membership perk!). Having read Sarah Vowells’ Assassination Vacation and heard rave reviews about the musical, I eagerly looked forward to learning about the nations most infamous assassins and wannabe assassins through the majesty of song and a flashy set. The show opens with The Proprietor convincing each of the assassins that he or she needs a gun to shoot their respective President because “Everbody’s Got The Right” to be happy. Following the opening number is the story of the “godfather” of the assassins, John Wilkes Booth. Jeffrey Coon’s portrayal of the man who shot President Lincoln presented a soliloquy demeaning Lincoln that was so heartfelt it almost seemed convincing that I could have sworn Coon was actually Booth and that Lincoln was a tyrant trying to destroy the United States.

Erin Brueggemann made a wonderful Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme tortured by her deep love for “Charlie” (Charles Manson) and determined to kill President Gerald Ford to bring attention to her lover’s plight, hopefully resulting in his release from jail. Sara Jane Moore’s portrayer Mary Martello played a sad and confused woman who seemed to have absolutely no reason to want to kill Ford and merely provided comic relief to the sometimes almost disturbingly dark musical. Moore drops her bullets, as her scatterbrained character is wont to do, while Fromme loads her own gun as President Ford and his Secret Servicemen approach. The President bends down to help Moore gather her scattered bullets as he passes and a confused Moore doesn’t realize the man who just approached was the President was she was trying to shoot. Moore scrambles to load her gun as Ford departs but gets frustrated and ends up throwing the loose bullets at Ford’s back.

Charles Guiteau, who attempted assassination on President Garfield for not being appointed as the Ambassador of France, was played by the animated James Sugg whose facial expressions often stole the show. Christopher Patrick Mullen’s Leon Czolgosz brought the element of a sweet love story with his unwavering devotion to anarchist Emma Goldman, to an otherwise morbidly funny musical. A twisted love story appears in the John Hinckley character played by Timothy Hill, who looked remarkably like the real Hinckley whose obsession with Jodi Foster fueled his attempt to assassinate President Reagan in order to garner her attention.

Scott Greer brought an intensity to the unusual character Sam Byck, the man who wanted to kill President Nixon by hijacking a plane from Baltimore’s airport and crashing it into the White House. Yet the most unusual scene, and the one with the most historical liberties taken, comes with the Lee Harvey Oswald character. Oswald appears in the storeroom of the Texas School Book Depository preparing to kill himself when he is visited by John Wilkes Booth who tries to convince him that killing President John F. Kennedy is the answer to all of his problems. Those assassins before him come to Booth’s aid singing that Oswald must carry on their legacy while those assassins after Oswald sing that his act made their attempts possible.

Assassins is a riveting as only a dark comedy can be. Each of its characters is well-thought out and digs at real human emotions. The cast at the Arden Theatre pulled off an exquisite performance capturing the subtle nuances of America’s most famous murders and attempted assassins. Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins is a must see for the theater-goer with an interest in history and a stomach for dark humor.

Fall 2008 Fashion Week: Runway to the White House

Catchy slogans have been a part of Presidential campaigns since William Henry Harrison’s “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!” in the election of 1840. Over 150 years later, little has changed as candidates aim to win the minds and hearts of constituents across the country in hopes of retaining the highest office the United States offers. While the most prevalent form of presidential advertising in the past has been buttons and yard signs, the 2008 hopefuls have turned themselves into brands with entire merchandising lines to prove it. As in past elections t-shirts, pins and hats appear, but this time around it seems that each candidate’s “official” line of merchandise has an underlying message about the demographics he/she is trying to reach and what the candidate stands for.

Illinois Democratic senator Barack Obama has special sections of his online store set up for women and students including a sassy little tank for the ladies and “Property of” tees for the campus crowd. Republican Mitt Romney targets kids, or more accurately mom and dad (but mostly dad since nothing comes in mom sizes, unless you are/have a butch mama), with bibs and foam mitts (get it!!!). These are just kind of outrageous, quel fashion faux pas!

Also dabbling in the realm of the absurd is Hillary, but this time for the female constituents. And maybe the gay vote, although for $12.00 you can bet it’s not Swavorsky. I’m not sure how they party at Wellesley or Yale, but I doubt this is going to help Hil gain the college. Maybe some shot glasses or a keg with her face on it would help; then again I did attend the drunkest (but hottest!) school in New York City. Speaking of parties and New York City, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at least knows to throw some cups into his party packs. Of all those hoping to win the nomination, Giuliani seems to have the most varied merchandise to offer, from a signature baseball bat to a gold cufflinks and lapel set. Having been the Mayor of New York City helped “America’s Mayor” learn to cater to the varying demographics, noted especially in a button featuring Spanish.

The only candidate I’ve seen looking to garner the LGBT vote is John Edwards, which is nice to see considering the year is 2007. I’ve read that Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson also have some rainbow gear up for grabs but seeing as I don’t find them easily recognizable, they’ve been excluded, except for right now, from this post. Fred Thompson, on the stereotypical other side of the spectrum, is looking to get the meatheads, er athletes on his side. Freddy seems to be looking towards the riches as well.

My favorite line belongs to Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is courting the young and the hip. His line (at cafepress!) includes raglans made by American Apparel, messenger bags and trucker hats (even though those have been over for years…or should be). I have no idea what Huckabee’s his record is or what his plans for America’s future are, but based on the cute wares he’s peddling, I kind of hope that I support him (NOT happening!). It’s voters like me that these candidates are hoping to win over with their brand. Luckily for them I’m an Independent, eh?

Overheard at PopWreck

Take a peek inside the heads of the creators of PopWreck via actual snippets of conversation. Asinine ramblings or precocious musings?:

Jessica: I can’t stand Jaslene!
Joshua: Diz iz my lyff az za cova gurl.

Jessica: Omigod she’s like a lolcat!

Joshua: She rides a lollercoaster?

Jessica: A roflcopter.

Wednesday Rundown

Another Wednesday, another self-indulgent blog about America’s Next Top Model. Love it or hate it, you’re getting it every Wednesday night. Just be thankful I’ve given up trying to write about Gossip Girl because I’ve decided I can’t accurately convey my love for it through mere words. [Ed. note: New York Magazine‘s website has done it for me right here.]

Tyson Beckford made a model guest appearance on Top Model and I have to agree with my girl Heather, “Eye candy, yum!” The mini-challenge he presented was a bit lame but it had sexy funny results. Ebony with the hot pot got a little, uh, racy perhaps? Hot, moist, and really what you want? Little girls watch this and that’s slightly inapprop. Apparently I should live in a nunnery. I do have to say that Heather was pretty damn good at selling whatever it was she was selling.

My favorite thing about Top Model is Tyra’s urge to support charities and foundations and to basically bring about world peace. The actual challenge of creating a public service announcement for the Keep A Child Alive campaign was a wonderful idea and I absolutely support challenges that promote great causes. Though the girls had only thirty minutes to pull a PSA together, they all did an amazing job. Team Bianca, Lisa and Chantal blew me away and I definitely thought they should have won over Heather, Ambreal and Jenna, even though they messed up the name of the charity — but seriously, what do you expect from a 30 minute brainstorm when ad execs would have had months to come up with something; props to all the girls. I’m so glad Heather won the challenge, though. God loves this girl, foreal. She looked absolutely gorgeous.

The stereotype of models was totally shattered when the girls gathered around and ate pizza and chicken fingers. They’re trying to be models! I would never promote an eating disorder, but really, I doubt these girls would be eating this kind of food. I have a sneaking suspicion that they were told to eat in front of the camera by producers, if not Tyra herself. Must keep up appearances. The photo shoot was contrived but was better than last week’s lame concept.

Saleisha looked good and, even though I hate to admit it, I liked her hair. Jenna cleans up well on the runway and dang if she didn’t look hot in all her cardboard glory, vaguely looking like Serena from Gossip Girl. Ambreal didn’t show up for the shoot, but I loved the “dress” she wore. Lisa’s shoot was crap and I hate that her skirt was clear, it didn’t work. I’m glad that Bianca practiced; it absolutely showed in her picture and shoot, girl’s got some eyes.
Sara, while Cruella DeVille-esque, pulled it off in a high-fashion way and rocked her photo. I agree with Nigel (ps, no faux-fro ever again, okay Nigey?), that she’s definitely lost weight, which is probably why the producers made sure to edit in footage of the girls eating. Mystery solved; go me. Ebony looked absolutely sour in her picture. Chantal, though I don’t much like her, looked hot and almost like Darryl Hannah, who is still smoking hot (Kill Bill, anyone?) Heather, again, so pretty. She looked amazing.

It was no surprise that Ambreal and Ebony were in the bottom two. Also not a surprise that Tyra axed the former, nor did surprise come from Ebony’s, “I don’t wanna be here. I’m just not happy.” What made my jaw drop was when Tyra so accurately said, “I think it’s people telling you that you’re not perfect and the most unattractive thing in the world to me is a quitter. So you can go.” Wow. Thank you, Tyra. Ebony should have definitely spoken up before Tyra announced that Ambreal was cut. What a mindfuck for poor Ambreal. She’ll be out next week, no doubt.