Monday, July 31, 2006

Oh Boy! Picking up trash in the summer heat

After much haggling over with a judge on how to do his stint of community service, Boy George will be picking up trash off the city streets of New York for five days starting August 14. There's talk that he might be working either in the Chinatown, Little Italy, or Lower East Side sections of NYC. "It's not like he's going to be working in an air-conditioned office," said the Department of Sanitation spokesperson Vito Turso.

George was ordered to do community service after pleading guilty in March to false reporting of robbery. He called police with a bogus report of a burglary at his lower Manhattan apartment last October, and the responding officers wound up finding cocaine inside.

The former Culture Club singer had been reluctant to fulfill his community service requirement, saying that his being assigned to pick up trash would create a media circus. He suggested that he'd raise money for an AIDS charity instead, but his plan was rejected. The judge mused that George's being assigned to clean up the streets would be a lesson of humilty for him. As the Divine Ms. Jimmi would say, "All I can say is, suck it up George. If one has to sweep the streets of the Apple, then do it with style. A little camp and one of those old colorful tramp outfits you used to wear would be hot!"

Saturday, July 29, 2006

MTV turns 25 and some Toni Basil

This coming Tuesday MTV turns 25, and to celebrate the VH1 Classic channel will be airing the network's first 24 hours of programming, including the original videos and the segments by the original MTV VJs. (Nina Blackwood! Martha Quinn!) Funny that MTV itself couldn't be bothered to do that, when they're all too willing to air "reality" shows of birthday parties of spoiled Sweet Sixteen brats. Of course the MTV of the first few years was a completely different animal from the current "Pimp My Sweet 16 Ride at Laguana Beach" MTV of today, not only showing music videos 24/7 (as well as concerts), it gave a lot of exposure to New Wave acts (both British and American) in the US in the early 80s when the commercial radio stations were initally reluctant to play those acts. The reason why MTV was playing them was because when it started, they needed all the videos to fill out their 24/7 schedule. Since the British New Wave bands not only had more music videos than the American mainstream rock acts (though there was exceptions like Devo and Blondie), they tended to be better made as well. So even though MTV was originally intended to reflect the mainstream US corporate rock landscape, these Brit New Music acts wound up getting a lot of exposure with their videos getting shown and the "Second British Invasion" of 1982-3 was on its way. And the American acts had to play catch up for a couple of years. Imagine how duller the US music scene would have been then if the American mainstream rock acts like REO Speedwagon had made just as many videos as the Brit dance wave bands when MTV was getting off the ground.

I first remember seeing MTV in November of 1981, when my family was waitng at a cable company office in Maryland and I was curious to find out what this new channel was about. I remember them playing a video from some Southern Rock band I don't remember, as well as one from Carly Simon. We didn't get cable TV ourselves until the fall of 1982, but I did watch MTV when I was at a friend or relative's house where they did have cable and enjoyed videos from such acts like the Go-Go's "Vacation" with the group looking like they are all water-skiing in cute outfits. And I remember that when our family finally did get cable, MTV was airing the videos of Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" and Squeeze's "Black Coffee In Bed" a lot.

Anyhow I just want to leave you with a video from one of MTV's mainstays during its first couple of years, Toni Basil, who's best remembered for her #1 single "Mickey" with its accompanying cheerleading video. Here's another song from her 1981 Word Of Mouth album, which "Mickey" also was from--"You Gotta Problem," which is actually a cover of Devo's "Pity You," with a very entertaining video to match. (Love those dancing poodles!)

Toni Basil - You Gotta Problem

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sparkle, Justin, sparkle!

Notice the "just plugged the toilet" grin on his face.

Justin Timberlake has been known to try way too hard to be "bad ass" and credible. Paticularly this time with a new single on the radio and a new album to drop on September. He tells the press that he--gasp!--takes drugs. He tells the Brit magazine The Observer: " “I've done way too many drugs already. I've already inhaled and I've already ... who knows? I'm just like everyone else, I get completely plastered [How seventies!], I've done my fair share of drugs and I've been caught places with my pants down. It's just I make sure there are no cameras around.” He went on to complain that people hold him to a higher standard because of his Mickey Mouse Club past. “I don't show up drunk to functions and the drugs I do have been in my own private time--If Courtney Love shows up to a function it's like: ‘Oh that’s Courtney Love,’ but if I show up drunk it's like: ‘Oh my God.’”

Can anyone smell how contrived this "admission" is? He lives out in L.A. and he works in the music industry; it's not like drugs are hard to come by there. It's like when he caused the wardrobe malfunction to Janet Jackson on the Super Bowl; his "I'm a playa" veener quickly devolved into a wimpering mama's boy who cried "I'm sorry" every which way the wind blew.

Why is it that American "pop" acts like Justin and Britney Spears try so hard to be "credible?" Britney runs around in a slutty schoolgirl uniform and straddles a python on the MTV awards, and she has the most serious look on her face like she's come up with the cure for cancer. Quit fronting it girl, you're just a fucking pop tart for chrissakes. Which is one reason why I follow the European pop stars like Robbie Williams and Kylie, who IMHO have a healthier attitude towards pop; they don't go award saying po-faced that they're "artists" regardless how bubble-gum the music sounds. Robbie might come from a boy band just like Justin, but he doesn't go around acting like he's a black kid from the ghetto when he's a white kid from the suburbs, doesn't rent a busload of rappers for his records, and he doesn't rip everything off from Michael Jackson circa Off The Wall. And he makes better music, and he doesn't sweat it trying to be "street" and "credible" in the process If America listened more to Robbie Williams and less to Justin, their music scene would be a better and less pretentious one. And probably a better country as well.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Catching up

This past Tuesday evening there was a nasty thunderstorm that shut down the electricity in a lot of places in the southeast PA region. Where I live the power went out about eight PM that evening and didn't come back on until four and a half hours later. A number of places weren't so lucky, since the power still has not come back on--including the place where I work, so the place wasn't open either yesterday or today. ( I had Wednesday off anyway, but I was supposed to go in today.)

Lost in all the hubbub over the storm was the story that the Borough council members of West Chester are still talking about an anti-discrimination ordinance that would say that it would be wrong to discriminate someone in employment, housing, or public accommodation due to sexual orientation.

Today's Philadelphia's City Paper has run a cover story about the merger of WXPN and what was left of Y-100/ It wouldn't be a total surprise to me, since WXPN has been operating as the de facto "alternative" station in the area for years when there was/is no such commercial radio station.

That documentary I saw at the Philly Gay Film Festival this past Sunday, With You, was good. It was about the trials and tribulations of the NYC gay rubgy team the Gotham Knights going through the 2003 season. A lot of the players that year were going into the sport pretty green, so it wouldn't have been a total surprise that they would have troubling standing up against the more experienced (and straight) rugby teams in the area. It was like the Peanuts comic strips where Charlie Brown's baseball team would lose to the other team by a huge margin like 168-0. For the Knights to even make a score against the other team would be a source for celebration. (The team would improve their performance the following seasons.) In between the games there are intense training, bonding between the team members, and post-game drinking bouts at the Eagle--or if it's an away game, on the bus--complete with singing songs of drinking and playing. It basicly does its job shedding some light on what goes on with a gay rubgy team to the (mainly middle-aged, surprising not that many jocks considering what this film was about) audience.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush is such a moral compass...NOT!

President Swears, Mic Live, Brits Amused

President George W. Bush to Prime Minister Tony Blair: "What [the United Nations] need to do is to get Syria to stop Hezbollah from doing this shit."

Now watch Bush put some spin on why he cursed when he thought that mike was off. He'll (and all his conservative supporters) probably excuse himself saying that God will forgive him for that. Of course if a Democrat did the same thing, he'd pratically be lynched.

Of course there will be a huge hussy fit thrown by the moral-nazis (and the FCC) in this country, just like when Janet Jackson accidentally showed her tit on TV two years ago. And in both cases Europeans will be amused by the Americans' uptightness, since the Europeans are more open and tolerant on such matters like nudity and language.

I don't look to presidents as my moral guides. They just end up showing themselves as hypocritical and thinking of themselves as above the law. Bush and Bill Clinton go on against gay marriage as if they were some high-ass moral compass, then they go do something hypocritical like swearing when they think the mike is off, or get some jizz on their groupie's intern's blue dress! Things like that just shown them as human as everyone else.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Drea - new single "Reincarnation" & interview

One of my favorite dance tracks so far this year would be "Reincarnation" by Drea. Drea is a singer-songwriter who lives in Bloomfield, New Jersey and has released the song as her debut single on the indie MisWax label. "Reincarnation" is a sturdy house song with some guitar-ish rock blasts mixed in as well, courtesy of the remix team the Klubjumpers, who recently had done a great remix of Pretty Poison's "Take Me I'm Yours." The song also has some reflective lyrics as well. All and all a good combination where dance and rock intersect. The single was released last month featuring several remixes, and it has been getting airplay from dance radio outlets like Wilmington's Super 91.7FM and BPM (America's Dance Hits) Channel on XM Satellite Radio.

Ealier this month I had the chance to interview Drea, who was busy with making a video for "Reincarnation. "

How did the song "Reincarnation" come about? Was it easy to write?

I wrote the song in 2001. I can clearly remember; I was sitting upstairs in my room on a hot sunny day in the sorority house LOL. I had my late Godfather on my mind and the words started to flow. My Godfather was such an inspiration to me. I took the song to my vocal coach at the time, Danny Madden. From there the song came to life. I have been writing since I was 7 years old. It is such a gift that I am truly grateful for.

How did you get the Klubjumpers to remix the track? They've recently been doing some good remixes.

I am a true believer in fate! So I was speaking to one of my friends and he had recommended the Klubjumpers to do a remix for me. I got home that same day and there was a message on myspace from the Klubjumpers asking me if they could do a remix for me because they liked the song. And from there it is history!!!! They did such a slammin' job!

Are there any remixers, that you haven't worked with before, you would like to do a remix with in the future?

Oh Yeah! I would like to work with everyone if possible because I feel that the more people I have around me, the more I learn and the more I know. I would love to work with Davidson Ospina, John Kano, Carl Cox, and Tiesto!

I've noticed in your bio that while in college you interned for Billboard Magazine in the Special Events Department. What was the biggest thing you've learned from the experience?

The biggest thing I learned from working at Billboard is how important it is to network. I got to know a lot of producers, remixes, and record labels from the internship. Even if I had never met them in person, having their names in my face was a learning experience in itself.

On your MySpace page you describe your music as a combination of house and rock. Two years ago there was some hype going on about acts that mixed dance and rock, such as Franz Ferdinand and the Scissor Sisters, as well as the first single from Gwen Stefani's solo album, "What You Waiting For?". Do you take any inspiration from them?

Not really, although I think that the rock/dance collaboration is excellent. My inspiration comes from artist like Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, Sarah Mclaughlin, John Mayer, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, and Madonna. If I could write with any of these artists, it would definitely be Phil!

You mention that you're working on a video for "Reincarnation." When will it be coming out?

The video should be ready for the end of July 2006! I am really excited about it!

What do you think is the biggest challenge for dance music in America in 2006? Should it concern itself crossing over into the pop market or just be content as a "niche market"?

I hope you have a big bag of popcorn for this answer. LOL! The biggest challenge that dance music in America faces is the simple fact that it is not exploited to the public as much as other genres. Dance music to me is an excellent source of energy. I notice that when I am at the gym and I hear dance music it makes me want to run faster on the treadmill and work harder. When I am shopping it makes me want to spend money. Lyrics are pretty important to me because I am a writer, but even if the lyrics are sad, it doesnt matter because the beat, the bass, the energy is so uplifting. It is great when I go out and I see everyone having a great time to dance music. Yet the American society lets this great energy go unnoticed. The music scene in America is primarily hip hop which is probably the biggest challenge that America faces. Now I am not in any way disrespecting hip hop music because music is a form of art expression but there is a fine line between expression and sending out a message that is ok to be gang involved, shoot at your friends, bring guns to school. It is constantly on the radio, internet, on MTV. I think it is excellent that the internet is exposing America to music videos since MTV is all about reality shows. One great thing that I love about dance music is the underground feel to it. I would never want to call it a niche genre and I would never want to call it a pop genre. Dance is dance and it is a great to know that stations like Z100 in NYC are giving dance music some love.

What are your future musical plans? Any last words?

I have a lot of collaborations lined up as far as writing goes! As I said before there are so many people that I want to work with! I have been trying for so long and I am like a kid in a candy store right now with all of the possibilities of music! Last words? This past year has been amazing! Thanks to all the DJs, record pools, mixshow DJs, radio stations, family, friends, fans, and MisWax Records for believing in this project!

You can hear "Reincarnation" on Drea's MySpace page. You can also purchase the song either through various download outlets like Beatport or as a physical CD maxi-single from the MisWax label.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

It was five years ago today that I first saw the movie version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was the closing film of the 2001 Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. I had heard quite a bit about the Off-Broadway musical the film was based upon but had not seen a production. It was shown at the Prince Music Theater, which drew a sold-out crowd. Needless to say I was quite taken by the movie. I'd go see Hedwig in its original theaterical run three more times. More than once I'd come out of the theater saying to myself, "Now THIS is what a summer movie ought to be!" I'd also get both the soundtrack album and the original Off-Broadway cast recording and listen to them a lot during that summer.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch's story concerns Hedwig, born as Hansel, a boy living in Communist East Berlin, who falls in love with an American G.I. and has a botched sex-change operation (resulting in "an angry inch") in order to marry him and escape to the West. When the soldier leaves her a year later, ironically it's on the day that the Berlin Wall comes down. Years later she tours the US with her pan-Slavic rock band--known as The Angry Inch--as she tells her life story and follows Tommy Gnosis the ex-boyfriend/bandmate who stole her songs and became a big rock star without acknowledging her.

Hedwig is searching for what she calls her "better half." She tries to find the person or relationship that can make her complete, yet again and again she is abandoned and disappointed. I can defintely identify with that, feeling out of place myself and hoping that she'll find what she's looking for so she can have some peace of mind. John Cameron Mitchell did a great job creating both the play and the movie. It's a shame that this film was stuck in the art-house film circuit during its theaterical run and didn't have a chance to play the suburban cineplexes.

A side note on the night I first saw Hedwig--there was a closing party for the film festival after the movie, which was included with the price of the ticket. It was held at the city's sole lesbian bar Sisters. There was a buffet and they gave out yellow styrofoam cutouts of Hedwig's wig, which I snatched one. I still have it today.

(P.S. This year's Philly International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is going on now. I'm going into the city later today to try and see the new documentary on the New York gay rugby team the Gotham Knights titled With You!)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Madonna Philly concert report

I saw Madonna in concert last night and needless to say, I enjoyed it. It was the first of two nights she would be performing at the Wachovia Center in Philly for her Confessions tour. I saw it with my friend Mike, who lives in South Philly and is in walking distance of the W Center. That meant we could walk there and not to worry about parking! We got there around 7:20 pm. The show was supposed to start at 8pm but people were still filing in so it didn't start until 8:50.

From the moment Madonna came out in full horseriding gear and sang "Future Lovers"--one of the ten numbers she performed from last year's Confessions on a Dancefloor " album-- I couldn't take my eyes off the stage for the next two hours. One highlight included her straddling a horse saddle on a stripper's pole while she sang "Like A Virgin" against a backdrop of a series of films of horses falling down, which was a reference to her horseriding accident back in August. There was "Music" done as a mash-up with the Trammps's "Disco Inferno," which was staged as a Saturday Night Fever extravaganza, complete with Madonna wearing a Tony Manero-style white suit. And there was the final number, the europhic "Lucky Star/Hung Up," where Madonna got the crowd to chant "Time goes by so slowly" again and again. At one point she went to berate a couple in the third row for not being enthusiastic enough--"Did you pay for those third throw seats? Then fucking act like you paid for the tickets! That's your hard earned money! Unbutton that top button!"

And yes she went up on that disco mirror crucifix when she sang "Live To Tell." While she sings a counter goes on, and when she is finished it stops at 12 million. The projection screens that says that "12 million children in Africa are infected with HIV/AIDS."

When I went to see her at her Drowned World tour five years ago, I had to sit behind a couple of drunk queens who couldn't stop yapping. No drunk queens around me this year, though this time around there were a couple of drunk straight girls within earshot. And speaking of drunks, there was a bar in the stadium we walked by to get to our seats was having some Madonna karaoke going on. A drunk boy butchering "Hollywood." Three piss drunk girls slaughtering "Like A Virgin." I hope that I don't act like that when I'm drunk!

I wanted to pick up a T-shirt but when I got to the merchandise booth I found that they were going for $40 and up. Having been able to scrape up enough money for the tickets, I thought that the price was a bit too rich for my blood. The shirts looked nice but they didn't quite seem to be worth all that money, so I wound up just getting a 8x10 color photo instead. "At least I have some great memories of the concert," I said to Mike as we walked back to his place.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Which 2006 Summer Anthem is you?

Your 2006 Summer Anthem Is

Dani California by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

"She's a lover, baby, and a fighter
Shoulda seen it comin' when it got a little brighter
With a name like "Dani California"
Day was gonna come when I was gonna mourn ya
A little loaded she was stealin' another breath
I love my baby to death"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hype, thunder and dolls on the 4th

Today I was originally going to celebrate the Fourth of July by driving up to New Hope to spend a few hours by the pool at the Raven (New Hope could sure use the money since they've been recovering from that big flood last week), but the weather reports were saying that there was going to a big thunderstorm watch this afternoon with a good amount of rain and even some hail being predicted. Having driven through a huge rain storm last week, I wasn't really looking forward to a repeat performance, so I didn't go. Probably would have been a waste of money and gas. Instead I went to do some shopping at the King of Prussia Mall for a couple of hours instead and got home around 2:30 pm, where the sky was getting really dark. By around 3 there was some big thunder rumbling and some rain. But within the hour they both had stopped. The sun came out around 4. Other than some brief rain around 7:00pm, the weather held out okay. So all the reports saying that there were going to be some big thunderstroms and rain this evening were for the most part hype. Oh well, I can always go up to New Hope later this month.

I went to a pool party in Radnor Sunday evening and thunderstorms played a part in that as well. Weather was good when I came at 5pm but by 7 thunder and lightning started to happen and then it started pouring. So we had dinner inside the host's house while it rained outside. Fortuneately by the time dinner was done, it had stopped and the sky was clearing up and we wound up going back into the pool. I wound up not leaving until around 11pm. Overall I had a good time.
A few months ago I ranted in this blog wondering when the movie The Valley Of The Dolls was going to get a proper DVD release. Well a two-disc version of the camp classic was released this past month. I bought a copy at Target Saturday afternoon after work and I spent the rest of the weekend going through all the goodies on it. New commentary that emphazie the camp elements of the picture, lots of docu featurettes on the movie and on the author Jacqueline Susann, who wrote the trailblazing bestseller novel that the Hollywood film would base itself upon. They even throw in the soundtrack album in. There is lots of stuff about VOTD I didn't know before; Did you know that Barbara Parkins, who played Anne Welles in the movie, originally tried out for the role of Neely O'Hara? There is a screen test of that particular tryout, and let's just say that Barbara got a little too cute when she said "Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle!" It makes you appreciate Patty Duke spitting out that same line like it was sandpaper even more. Needless to say, Patty is the tour de force here, bulldozing her way all though her scenes. So over the top and so glorious. It's too bad that Patty wasn't involved with the DVD reissue project, not doing the audio comentary on the DVD like her co-star Barbara had done (who does it with E! gossip columist Ted Casablanca). Anyway this film still is, conservatively speaking, a hoot!

A little twisted July 4th musical humor

American Life (Original Version)

Because rapping about soy lattes and models in military drag screaming down the runway can be a lethal mix.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

PA anti-gay marriage amendment is dead!

Late last night the PA State House adjourned for summer recess without voting on the PA Anti-Marriage Amendment. The House Republicans failed to agree on how the language of the amendment ought to go. Back on June 6 the House voted in favor of an Amendment that included language that would have prohibited civil unions and domestic partnerships. On June 21 the State Senate voted in favor of another version of the amendment that would only prohibit same-sex marriages. The Bill then had to return to the State House for the House to concurr with the Senate changes. There the House Republicans failed to reach a consensus on the issue -some supporting the original House passed language, while others backing the Senate passed Language. And some didn't want it in any form.

Yesterday was the last day the State House was scheduled to be in session before the summer recess. To amend the PA Constitution the House and the Senate must pass a proposed amendment 90 days before an election. Since the house and the senate are scheduled be in recess until September - today was the last day to meet that deadline. A constitutional amendment must also pass the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions (legislative sessions are two years - the current 2005-2006 legislative session will end in December).

The upshot is, there will be no state voter referendum to approve an Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment or not in 2007 or 2008. This will definely put a cramp into the Republicans' plans to piggyback the referendum onto the back of the 2008 US presidental election in their efforts to paint that state red. (Pennsylvania is considered a blue state since Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry carried the state in the 2000 and 2004 elections.)

Of course the amendment's supporters are vowing to bring back the amendment in the next legislative session, some of them itching to pass the more restrictive House version again. If successful the earliest an amendment could appear on a PA ballot would be May 2009.

But for right now we can take one giant breath of relief. This is certainly a good conclusion to a rough Gay Pride Month this year, between the efforts to write anti-gay marriage language into the PA State and US Constitutions and Kevin Aviance being gay-bashed (which is only the most visible tip of the iceberg of all the violence that happens to gays across the country). Anyhow take care and take pride, y'all!