Monday, May 31, 2010


When I saw Cube back in the early 2000s, I was pretty impressed. I rented it with a friend to get drunk and laugh at, but a few minutes into it I realized I was honestly enjoying it, and even fairly scared at points. Which is why I was so pumped when I saw that its sequel Cube 2: Hypercube was on Netflix Instant. Disappointed isn't the right word, I mean I guess I was disappointed that it was so terrible, but I sure did laugh a lot, which I think makes it all OK. Although it's hilarious, it's such a train wreck that it becomes difficult to watch, even at its paltry 80 minute run-time. I'll save you some trouble and give you a detailed synopsis.

The plot is the same as the first, at least in premise. Six strangers are stuck inside a mysterious cube, with a door on every side that just leads to another cube. Sadly in Cube 2, these strangers are all terrible Canadian actors who try to mask their accents with what appear to be lisps. Among my faves, a blind Asian girl with super sonic hearing abilities, and an old lady with Alzheimers who can't find her dog. This character is more offensive than you can even imagine, but I feel perhaps it might be less offensive than actress Barbara Gordon's new Canadian TV series "Little Mosque On the Prairie." Oh boy.

With brilliant minds like these at work, it doesn't take them long to figure out that they're not in your average, every day regular massive cubic structure with hidden traps and moving walls, but a HYPERCUBE, or a cube with four dimensions." You see a hypercube isn't supposed to be real. It's just a theoretical construct" says one character. Oh but it's real my friend, and it's folding space time, trying to kill them by...collapsing space time...with transparent, oozy...wall stuff?

And Windows 95 screensaver thingies...

Wait, let me fix something.

Yes, much better. The movie continues with absolutely nothing remotely resembling a plot and gives the view the feeling that at any moment it could turn into pornography. Spoiler alert: it doesn't, save for one Skinemaxesque scene in which two characters, without explanation, bone while floating in zero gravity (also not explained). But then things keep happening! Like crazy diamond pillars that are also somehow related to space time, and come out and...kind of...stab...people?

Aaaand then it turns into a black hole. Maybe not. But there's like, a space tornado, as seen here:

Or as I prefer it, here:

And now you've seen Cube 2: Hypercube. Congrats.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Electrocute a barracuda, I'm here to bring the drama

55. Craig Mack - "Flava in Ya Ear (Remix ft. Puff Daddy, the Notorious B.I.G., Rampage the Last Boy Scout, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes)" (Bad Boy Entertainment, 1994)

Before we get to the complete headfuck that is LL Cool J's verse on here, let's discuss the stuff that's good in the conventional sense. First, there's Easy Mo Bee's beat, an unquestionable East Coast Rap classic, two notes and hazy waves that are perfect whenever they come in. It's not Biggie's best verse ever, but it's still a Biggie verse. Busta is 1994 Busta, so he's one of the most joyfully unhinged rappers ever. Mack has "your album couldn't fuck with one line," which is wonderful (in a recursive way) because if that's true of any line Craig ever said it's that line itself. Rampage is solid if unspectacular and Puffy, well, it's actually kind of impressive how sure he was of his impeding world domination (even for a rapper), considering they were pretty much just getting started here.

But the LL verse is what really elevates this to sublime. Remember this was after 14 Shots to the Dome, a relative commercial failure for him, and just before Mr. Smith, which had "Doin' It" and "Hey Lover" and pretty much established the grown up loverman LL we have today. So the vocal style at the beginning of his verse does, I think, prefigure that sort of thing, more calmly seductive than on his late 80s songs for the girls. But the content! What the fuck?
Uh! blowticious
skeevy (mmmm)
Give me cous-cous, love me good
Hollis to Hollywood, but is he good?
I Guess like the jeans, uh!
Flava like pralines
sick daddy knaamean?

They way people use the term "ironic" when it comes to enjoying music means either "enjoying something bad" which, you know, why would you, or "enjoying something for a reason opposite to which it was created" which, you know, how the hell would you know and who cares? Is it safe to assume from his MO directly following this song that LL thought screeching "HEEESHEEE" was sexy?

However you explain my enjoyment of LL's verse here, it's good enough for science to rocket this song up to #55 on our countdown. We should all be using the word "blowticious" more often.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey London

This is the best dubsteppy thing I've heard so far this year, I think. It's called "Picture" and it's by Subeena, who keeps bringing the rhythmic variations subtly enough for them to flow together but often enough for it to be quite exciting. It's all pretty and danceable and interesting and fun, and you should go to Beatport or your preferred dance music mp3 merchant and cop it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Heaven is Whenever is whatever (?)

It's one thing writing about why I dislike something totally different from what I've liked before, or something from a scene I used to be into but have more or less given up on. That's easy enough. It's harder, I think, to write about why I don't like something by a band I've loved for a long time and for whom a new record isn't that huge of a departure.

That's as much of an excuse for the following lack of insight as it is my usual obsession with why I think and write the way I do potentially getting in the way of my writing, but anyways, I don't like this new Hold Steady record very much and, this being the first time I've not liked something by Craig Finn, I've been thinking about it a bit.

I don't think that Franz Nicolay leaving has much to do with it. As much as I enjoyed his presence (yes, on record too), I doubt any piano fills could liven up the stuff I don't like here. That stuff starts right off the bat with "The Sweet Part of the City", which is right now my least favorite Hold Steady song ever. It sounds them finally getting pulled into a 90s facsimile of classic rock they've always been more interesting than. That I, on balance, prefer Finn ranting to him singing should be no surprise, but this is the most that his lyrical hooks have ever felt lost in a song.

It's not all bad, of course. "We Can Get Together" is even softer than "The Sweet Part of the City" and references a bunch of songs and is mostly about Heavenly, of all bands, but does well with a sweetness that is one of Finn's more underrated attributes. And I've come around on "Hurricane J", a song about a girl that, for once, isn't named after a saint. But in the end, it mostly sounds to me like a bunch of anthems without nearly enough hooks. I might go read the lyric sheet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm set free to find a new illusion

56. The Velvet Underground - "I'm Set Free" (from the self-titled album, MGM Records, 1969)

Guitar solos are sweet, but I rarely listen to songs only for the solo. The rest of this song is good too, but the solo is one of those sublime moments that elevates every moment spent in its company.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oh, Bono

It's not about Politics, religion, or the economy
It's not about borders, history, trade, oil, water, gas, mineral rights, human rights or animal rights...

I realize that this being Bono's voice makes it extra-annoying, and I realize that ESPN is trying to position the World Cup to US viewers as an Olympic-style, world-uniting event (which it is), and that might be a pretty decent tactic.

But does this ad rub anyone else the wrong way, this explicit call-to-apathy, the idea that the World Cup is so wonderful (it is very, very wonderful) that it makes everyone's problems go away? Especially as they're running ads for the ESPN documentary about the political importance of the '95 Rugby World Cup during the same commercial breaks (a TV network trying to have it both ways, ring the alarm, I know). The World Cup is one of the happiest things in the world, and I will enjoy it immensely, but trying to depoliticize an event as Global as this seems odd. The histories of the nations involved and their current place in the world don't diminish the spectacle or the efforts on the field. At the very least they enrich the narrative and at best maybe some new bit of social consciousness can sneak through to the millions of people watching.

(I'm sure when ESPN is running human-interest stories instead of analyzing football for hours a day next month I will run a furious retraction)