If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Since I'm trying to build an active community of readers, I do realize the writing-focused posts can be a little cold. I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone (I hate that expression) by personalizing as well as expanding my base with a list I'm calling "People at the Top Of Their Game." Here, I'll be plugging some of my current favorite people in the media at the moment, which'll hopefully balance my criticisms in other posts with insight into what I enjoy. This probably won't be weekly, for I don't watch TV or see movies right when they air/hit theaters, but I'll update it as often as possible.
Note: this post was reblogged from my site, which you can follow here. If you'd like to support my writing by subscribing, commenting, or sharing the article with your friends, here's the original article. Thanks for reading!
10. Paul Reubens and the cast of The Pee-wee Herman Show On Broadway
Something rubbed me the wrong way when I initially saw Paul Reubens's latest special, The Pee-wee Herman Show On Broadway, among the tired stand-up acts of Roseanne Barr and Dennis Miller on my HBO OnDemand menu. I'd read earlier in the year about Reubens shuffling Pee-wee revival scripts around Hollywood that were even denied by former collaborator Tim Burton,* so this show was clearly a nostalgia trip intended to build demand for those projects. After watching it, I'm happy to report that, while my assumptions weren't incorrect, there's really nothing wrong with that, as the performance more closely resembled Pavement's recent victory lap than any of the pathetic aforementioned HBO specials. All of my favorite cast members, with the exception of Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis, returned for this updated outing, including Lynne Marie Stewart as Miss Yvonne and, of course, John Paragon as Jambi. Newcomers The Shield's Jesse Garcia and, surprisingly, one of my least favorite actors, Josh Meyers fit perfectly into the mix. The in-the-moment feel of the Broadway stage also allowed Reubens to insert some timely jokes involving ShamWow and smartphones with often hilarious results. Sure, there are some gags in the play that act as time-wasters and others as cheap innuendo, but it's all part of the charm, which is still as infectious as ever. When my dad walked upstairs during curtain call, bearing that same what-the-fuck look he always had when I watched Pee-wee's Playhouse as a kid, that solidified my thought that Reubens has still got it.
Best moment: When Phineas, the mute bear, revealed himself to be Orson Welles... well sort of. Jambi's introductory impressions where also hysterical.
9. The Human League
While my friends, at least the ones that are right, would say my musical preferences are tasteful, they'd likely warn that I sometimes get nasty kicks for 80s synthpop, which threaten to derail any of that respectability. One of the few albums in that genre I can get away with listening to without inciting the gritting of teeth and throwing of speakers is The Human League's Dare, an album that invokes the unmistakable sound of the era without any of the Chuck E. Cheese-worthy** camp that would come in the band's later singles like "(Keep Feeling) Fascination." This year's Credo, The Human League's first new record in slightly under a decade, brings that feeling back--no, not the feeling of "Fascination"--with the characteristic bleeps and whirs of dated synthesizers, while adding a twinge of modernity significant enough to keep it playable in a current Trance set. A couple of stinkers, like the lead single "Night People," try too hard to capture this, but they hardly outweigh the successes of the darkly danceable "Egomaniac" and the poppy album closer "When The Stars Come To Shine." Credo is definitely one I'll be playing alongside Dare whenever one of those kicks rears its ugly head.
Best track: "Privilege"
8. noelplum99, Sarahon06, and AronRa
Despite my debt to it, the Youtube atheist community is one I've mostly abandoned due to useless drama taking over what used to be a forum for interesting discussion that helped shape my philosophy in my younger years. Former advocates for scientific proof and common sense reasoning, like user Thunderf00t, have moved toward needless provoking and hate speech, while others have chosen to attack their own allies with pointless questioning of "How far is too far?" when it comes to attacking religious dogma. Each of the people on the #8 slot brave the changing/declining tides in their own way, motivating me to log into my Youtube account for more than just Louis C.K. shorts. Noelplum99's videos are probably the closest to the ones I followed when I first joined Youtube, where he responds to an argument brought up by a religious person or even a fellow atheist by breaking it down and taking it apart. He's one of the few left on the site who treats both sides' arguments with equal credence, while managing to stomp biases with a fresh perspective on tried-and-true debates. Sarahon06 is the more political of the three, while also being the most down-to-earth and entertaining. He spares no feelings in his responses and encourages viewers to look at issues from a bigger perspective, often criticizing American narrow-mindedness. AronRa has long since moved from debates and now focuses toward repairing an increasingly religious-run education system in the country, specifically Texas, where textbooks are being changed to favor religious sensitivity. Each of these channels is worth your time if you're interested in this niche.
7. Michelle Dockery and the cast and crew of Downton Abbey
I made a grave mistake in my ode to PBS, where I briefly mentioned Downton Abbey. You see, these lists are called "People @ the Top of Their Game," not corporations. Being someone who doesn't believe that corporations should be given equal rights as individuals, especially with their recent abuses of power, I basically went against everything I stood for in an effort to support PBS's outstanding programming. Hoping that my mention of this brilliant series doesn't get sacrificed in case I should choose to correct that mistake in the future, I decided to include the cast and crew on this list. Gosford Park's Julian Fellows heads this show about a wealthy family struggling to sell off their stately home. There's a bevy of characters from all societal classes to handle, but the center of it all is, in my opinion, Lady Mary Crawley (played by Michelle Dockery,) whom is most directly affected by the sale since it'll determine her future husband. Although I'm a fan of old-school Hollywood films where these types of stories are most prevalent, costume dramas have always bore a learning curve for me since I can't relate to the often stiff and traditional characters. This series is so well-written and acted, that I didn't have that trouble in the slightest. Among top actors like Harry Potter's Maggie Smith and Red Riding's Jim Carter, I think Michelle Dockery is the standout here because of how easily it would be for her performance to slip into annoying whininess. But Dockery avoids it at every turn, giving into vulnerability only in the most essential moments, but coming out a powerful female presence overall.
Best moment: When Carson's old friend comes to collect a debt from him and reveals his secret past life.
6. DJ Santo
Radio tends to be where I go for guilty pleasure fixes such the 80s synthpop ones I previously mentioned; so, with the exception of the superb SomaFM, I rarely turn to it to discover new artists. Indie 103.1 was truly the radio station to change that for me with awesome programs like Breakfast with The Smiths, Space Invaded, and, primarily, Something Different with DJ Santo. I'm active social network user (regrettably) so I'm used to phoniness on various profiles; but the most prevalent among the signs is when users say their taste in music is "eclectic," which is usually followed by "I like Carolina Liar AND We the Kings!" DJ Santo's Sunday selections are actually eclectic, ranging from classic afrobeat to current trip-hop (two of my favorite genres, by the way.) The playlists get me pumped each Sunday morning in a way I haven't since the days when Saturday Morning cartoons were a big deal. I would say that, if you choose to sleep in on Sundays, you're missing out on one of the more rewarding music programs on the web, but the playlists are also available on-demand on Santo's website. Whichever way you choose to listen, remember to bring a notepad. You'll want to remember what was playing.
Best selection: At the time, Dj Santos didn't have a name for the specific song, but a couple weeks ago he played a track from the latest Cornershop album, Cornershop and the Double 'O' Groove Of. I listened to the rest of it after the broadcast. It's already in the running for my Album of the Year.
Part 2 tomorrow.
* Although, that really just restores my optimism for them considering that Burton has been swinging mostly misses since the mid-nineties.
** If you thought that was an odd reference, you didn't go to the restaurant/arcade in the mid-90s, when the animatronic mascots would perform 80s camp, such as Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" and The B-52s' "Love Shack," on-stage when everyone took breaking from gaming to eat pizza.