So… The Olympics

Well, I did in fact tune into the Olympics to watch the Opening Ceremony. I did so with distinctly mixed feelings, given that I’m rather supportive of the idea of boycotting watching the games, since I think NBC has not adequately responded to concerns that their $800 million wall-to-wall broadcast is whitewashing the very serious human rights violations going on in Russia – particularly those affecting the gay and transgender community.

Though, with that being said, I did take some comfort in the fact that my decision to cut the cable with Comcast (NBC’s owner) means that they actually have no idea that I’m watching, since I’m using that sweet over-the-air, old-school broadcast system (and in HD that I’m quite sure is of a better quality than that throttled crap I used to get over the cable). Of course, Comcast is also my broadband provider, so my hands aren’t all that clean.

Anyhoo, the Opening Ceremonies were, for lack of a better word, dull. I actually wondered a bit about who the intended audience was – and I suspect it was actually the people of Russia rather than the rest of the world, here seeing live and in color the glories of what their leader has wrought. I don’t suggest that’s either a good or bad thing – though perhaps it’s different than what we’ve come to expect from these spectacles, which typically aim to wow the globe with the majesty, the grandeur of the host country. And this one? Not so much. It was really long and felt enervating; and perhaps it’s just a reflection of my innate American philistinism, but much of the subject matter was simply not engaging (though perhaps more people like ballet than I do – but it’s always acted on me like a powerful narcotic).

Of course, I didn’t really watch the festivities without my own preconceived agenda, namely that, even in spite of the deeply corrupt nature of the Olympics, this was an especially egregious example; and that it was being put on to glorify and entrench Vladimir Putin. Did it succeed? Well, to hear the fawning Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera breathlessly describing the goings-on, apparently so. But for me? Not so much. Plus, we’re still seeing bits like this:

Now, it’s pretty baller that a member of the U.S. bobsled team just stone-cold kicked his way out of the bathroom he got locked into – though the door made from corrugated cardboard is not exactly screaming high-end facilities.

At any rate, I really only posted about the Olympics as an excuse to post a couple of videos. First, a really spot-on show of support to the LGBT communities in Russia from a group of Swedes – singing the Russian national anthem (in Russian!). “Kind of insanely subervise,” as one of my good friends put it.

And then this. Not only because it’s fabulous – but because I think that, while mockery alone can’t bring down a tyrant, laughing at one can both diminish him and point out the absurdity of his views. Good luck gays, on Gay Mountain!

United State of Pop by DJ Earworm

About the only thing I look forward to during this, the least wonderful time of year, is DJ Earworm’s United State of Pop mashup. This year’s effort was excellent as always – despite my initial declaration that it was not his best work. I should really know better – he’s not called “Earworm” for nothing – for as has been the case each of the last three years, once this mashup settles into my brain, it becomes irresistible to me.  Of course, relying on hooks from Swedish House Mafia and Capital Cities, along with the piano track from “Can’t Hold Us” makes it nigh impossible for me not to listen to this mashup compulsively.

What never ceases to amaze me is how completely DJ Earworm transforms the source material – it’s very different to me than something like Pop Danthology, which, while certainly impressive technically, sounds more like a medley of songs. DJ E combines lyrics, hooks and backbeats – and videos! – into something that stands on its own as an entirely new and cohesive creation (or at least that’s my view as a known philistine). I inevitably download the mashup to my iPod, despite already owning a good number of the originals – not because I want this remix, but because I want this new song DJ E has created.

I also like that he respects the genre while also poking some fun. This year’s version was pretty subtle – the various “whoa-oh-oh-oh” phrases plucked from a couple of different songs, reminding us of the sameness inherent in pop music – a genre that is by its very nature trendy and derivative. This same technique was rather more pronounced in his 2010 mashup, where he was able to grab lyrics from five (five!) different songs urging the listener to “put your hands up”; and in 2011, we got the “boom-boom-boom” refrain.

Some additional observations:

  • Robin Thicke has one of the most punchable faces ever.
  • Britney looks fucking great.
  • Lorde’s eye make-up is flawless – though I’m on the fence about her eyebrow game.
  • Speaking of eyebrow game, what’s up with Nellie’s?
  • Despite his association with this year’s rapiest song, Pharrell always makes it work – even with that ridiculous pork-pie hat.
  • Macklemore rocks a fur like nobody’s business. Same goes for Batman pajamas. God, he’s cute.
  • I just find Katy Perry very appealing as a performer. I know I’m not supposed to, but here we are… I mean, c’mon – the stilletto heel as spearhead? That’s pretty hilarious.
  • That trumpet hook from “Safe and Sound” is the hookiest fucking hook of all hooks.
  • With Swedish House Mafia running a very close second in the hooks category.
  • Poor Gaga…

And here, just for some extra fun, is the charming video for “Safe and Sound.” Sebu Simonian, the hot bearded one, is freakin’ adorable and manages to cut quite a respectable rug – I especially love his Rockette routine at 1:12.

The Price Is Oh So Right

The moon landing. The birth of Little Ricky Ricardo. “Who shot JR?” Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” The fall of the Berlin Wall. The final episode of Newhart. Alexis and Krystle’s cat-fight in the lily pond. All iconic moments in the history of television viewing.

But let’s face it – none can compare to this, the ultimate Showcase from The Price Is Right. Everything about it is amazing.

Pasha Eric

If you don’t think this photo shoot was worth $25 and the indignity of donning a b.o.-infused robe and sweaty headgear, well, then, you don’t even know me.

BTW, this was shot at the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul – and try as I might, I could not resist the siren call of playing dress-up.

I ♥ NY

This is perfect. Yes, it’s funny – but also, in its way, rather moving. A great reminder that we are a nation of  immigrants – and that’s what makes New York and New Yorkers the best.

J’aime les Gais

I posted this video on Facebook and was quite irked at the dearth of comments or likes. IT IS AMAZING! I mean really, it has everything – cute gays, Paris, fierce shoes, hot moves, Spice Girls music, a dog, a guy dressed as a dog. It’s fantastic!

Et aussi, le mec avec la barbe et le “high and tight” est mon nouveau petit ami imaginaire…

I think my favorite moment is this bit from 0:41

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“Oui, nous sommes fierce.”

The Magic Kingdom

Let me preface this by saying, yes, I totally get that Disney Corp is problematic on many levels – they are the world’s largest media conglomerate, thus giving them inordinate sway over what people see and hear in terms of both entertainment and news. They were a key backer of the recently passed law in Florida the makes it illegal for localities to enact mandatory paid sick leave. Disney films and the Disney Princesses – a nearly unavoidable juggernaut for children – teach some distressing gender and other stereotypes. I could go on. And like I said, I get this.

BUT. I have a love of Disney theme parks that is uncharacteristic of my typical left-coast, bleeding-heart-but-also-leaning-towards-classist, pretentious and judgey self – and that this affection is pretty much unwavering. I’d always been a fan of Disneyland – and all the more so after a very brief stint as a toy soldier in the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland (and I do mean brief – my fellow soldiers and I were cut from the parade after the final dress rehearsal. It remains one of the most crushing blows of my life, lo these three decades later…). Despite being cut, I remained a cast member for that summer – meaning I could visit the park whenever I liked. And I learned some of the back story of the park and the way Disney works.

And work it does. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Disney never does anything half-assed. Everything in the park, from the biggest and most elaborately themed rides to the paint scheme on the trash cans is exactly right, never just good enough. Anyone who’s been to one of the parks knows this. But it’s the cast members – be they performing as characters or sweeping up Main Street – who make the Disney experience so great. This is true in all the parks in my experience – though I still  have a hypothesis that it’s especially true in OG Disneyland in Anaheim. Those who work there do so largely because they’re into it. In Orlando, it’s a bit more of a company town and I suspect some locals wind up working there simply because it’s the biggest employer around. Thus, Anaheim, for me, always has an extra-special vibe.

Anyway, the whole reason this even crossed my mind was due to a recent Buzzfeed post 14 Reasons The Peter Pans At Disneyland Are The Most Adorable Thing Ever – which borrowed heavily from a charming Tumblr called Pan Fans. Seriously, check them out. Even put a smile on my grouchy ol’ mug.

It’s great seeing how Disney, which has a pretty rigid set of “guidelines” for their cast members in terms of behavior, appearance and how they interact with guests, also allows their cast members to be genuine in those interactions. That is, the guidelines may be strict, but cast members have a certain amount of freedom in their performances as long as they’re enhancing guests’ visit. It’s sort of like the difference between talking to a customer service rep on the phone who is required to read from a script versus one who is allowed to interact with you in a normal way and empowered to make decisions to bring about a satisfactory resolution. Basically, the impression I’ve always gotten is that Disney trusts their cast to act appropriately based on the situation.

Of course, Peter Pan is kind of a troublemaker (I mean that in the best way possible), so I’m sure he gets a bit of extra leeway…

petersnow

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As long as I’m waxing rhapsodic about Disney, probably one of my favorite memories from Disneyland was one evening after the Main Street Electrical Parade. There was a charming little boy, probably around 5, along with his sister and parents, sitting next to me. He was a chatty little fellow and told me all about his adventures that day while we waited for the parade to begin.  We “oohed” and “ahhed” over the parade (it’s still my favorite, though SpectroMagic is a pretty close second). Then, as the parade ended and we waited for the fireworks, I asked if he knew who Tinkerbell was. Answer in the affirmative. “Well,” I said to him, “sometimes she actually flies over Disneyland right before the fireworks. I’ve seen her once or twice myself. Of course, she’ll only appear if everybody watching believes in fairies. And you have to really believe.” (For those of you unfamiliar with S.O.P. after the parade, Tinkerbell pops out of the side of the Matterhorn, spotlit, her wings aglow, and “flies” down a cable across the park.)

He took his belief duties very seriously, ensuring that his sis and parents were onboard. “OK, I think this might be the time she gets here. Are you sure you believe?” I asked. “Yes, I believe!” he assured me solmenly. And, lo and behold, from the top of the Matterhorn, Tinkerbell made her appearance and flew across the park. This little kid was saucer-eyed with both astonishment and glee – and I felt like a pretty cool storyteller.

And, on a semi-but-really-not-related note, I always thought this gal from The 49ers was singing, “Peter Pan, P-p-peter Pan…” – when in fact she’s singing “People can’t understand it.” But it’ll always be Peter Pan to me.