Saturday, August 25, 2007

What is this site? Is this an actual MySpace wannabe, a knockoff preying on confused middle-aged people who barely know what computers are and can no longer remember the names of things, or is it a joke? When you Google, you mostly get a bunch of people making reference to it as a made-up site that they don't realize actually exists. If it's not a joke, why would they use a picture where all the people, especially the most prominently featured ones, are so incredibly ugly? Seems like a bad move for a site whose name draws your attention to their faces.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

High School Musical 2

Having invested the time necessary to watch the first High School Musical, I thought I might as well check out the second as well. I don't know if it's just that I've gotten more accustomed to the style of HSM, or kids' TV in general, or that having seen one, my expectations are more well-calibrated, but High School Musical 2... is really good.

Yes, it's a Disney Channel movie, and yes, it's brightly colored, broadly acted, and saccharine sweet, but somehow, this time... it works. High School Musical 2, brimming with the confidence that goes with being a smash hit success, ups the ante and improves on the original in every way. Where the first movie opened with a dull, obnoxious karaoke duet of a low-energy, generic pop ballad, the sequel jumps in with both feet, kicking things off with a huge ensemble show-stopper. Sure, the song is still pretty generic, but at least this time it's high-energy, impressively choreographed, and, well, fun. Along the way we are reintroduced to our cast, including several minor characters I didn't even realize I remembered. There's something nice about that attention to detail, that affection for characters like the songwriting girl from the first movie, or the jock who likes to cook -- obviously it's there to please the audience, kids who watched the original so many times they've absorbed every detail -- but I just liked how it seemed to respect every character, no matter how small.

The story is better too. The main conflict of the first movie always felt false -- as cliquey as high school is, neither jocks nor nerds would flip out just because one of their own chose to audition for the play, nor are drama queens like Sharpay treated like school royalty. But by taking place over the summer, this movie avoids any school-related phoniness you might try to find. (The drama teacher character that I hated so much makes a return, but it is brief, and the adults that the sequel introduces in her stead are, mercifully, far less hammy.) And Sharpay's sinister scheme to tempt Troy away from his friends and girl by dangling a great job and a potential scholarship in front of him makes for a more interesting conflict anyway.

Zac Efron remains rather frustrating to watch. He's a fine dancer, but his impossibly generic good looks, too-perfectly tousled hair and fake tan don't change the fact that he's an awfully bland lead. But everyone else seems better this time around, and Sharpay's gay brother -- always one of the stronger members of the cast -- even gets a chance, in a very satisfying subplot, to grow past a stereotype into a character with self-respect.

The production numbers are impressive, much bigger and more ambitious. The songs, while still nothing special, are more energetic, less frequently dull, and more tied in to the characters thoughts and feelings, as songs in musicals should be. My main complaint is that most of the songs drop that pop music filter over the vocals so that they sound like someone's singing into a tin can. This is bad enough in a heavily processed pop song, but when characters are supposedly singing to each other live, it's not only artificial but distracting.

It also feels like there's perhaps one epilogue song too many -- at the end of the first, I felt a warm satisfaction, by the end of the second, I felt exhausted. Even so, it's hard to begrudge the movie for that second number's self-congratulatory ebullience -- for the most part, I have to say, it's earned it.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007


Last night there was an earthquake at about 1 AM. It was a 4.5 originating near Chatsworth. There was some light but very noticeable shaking here in West LA. When it hit, I was watching videos on YouTube. I leapt from my seat and ran to a doorway, but not before taking a beat to register what was happening, then pausing the video I was watching.

As I stood in the doorway waiting for aftershocks, the horror of the situation slowly dawned on me: Not the light earthquake that had transpired, but the fact that had it been worse, I might have been killed in the midst of watching a video of a stranger dancing. How sad, how empty and hopeless that would be!

Now, after this startling event, how could I go back to my computer, sit down, and actually continue this trivial activity, the futility of which had just been thrown into sharp relief?

The answer: With frightening ease.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Greatest Card Trick Ever

Trying out the embeddable player. Our Guardian Angel video is featured on the comedy channel there. If Crackle doesn't work for you, or if you need a plugin and don't want to download one, you can check out the new sketch on YouTube as usual here.


Thursday, August 02, 2007