Zach Braff makes movie; inspires great music. Rinse, repeat.

“You gotta hear this one song. It’ll change your life, I swear.”

With that one line, said by Natalie Portman to Zach Braff in 2004’s Garden State, in reference to The Shins’ “New Slang,” a few different things happened.

Braff PortmanZach Braff was solidified as the ultimate indie filmmaker noted for his quality taste in music, and Garden State became the archetype for every other independent film that came after.

The Shins, meanwhile, became immensely popular. The album with New Slang on it, “Oh, Inverted, World,” is so good that I’d like to think it would’ve became a classic with or without the movie’s help. But either way, the band owes a debt of gratitude to Zach Braff for expediting their career success.

They repaid the favor 10 years later by contributing a song to another Zach Braff movie, titled Wish I Was Here,set to be released on July 18.

Garden State quickly became a cult classic, primarily among those in the 18-25 age range, who were about to embark into the “real world.” I was 18 when I first saw it, and I’ll admit that the film’s themes definitely resonated with me at the time.

Ten years later, I look back at the film and think maybe it was a little overdramatic with its attempt to romanticize the whole notion of disillusioned youth, a recycled theme heavily explored in the ’80s and ’90s in films like Say Anything and Dazed and Confused.

But it’s still a good movie, and also helped popularize other artists, like Frou Frou. How can anybody forget the classic — even if overly cliché — airport scene with Braff chasing Portman in the airport?

It took a decade for Braff to write, direct and star in another film. It hasn’t even been released yet, and it’s already inspiring artists to write new music. Besides The Shins’ awesome new song, ultimate hipster Bon Iver has also written one. And it’s also good.

Whether this movie is good or not, it’s already brought us good music. And I thank Zach Braff for that.

By the way, I love Bon Iver and his music, but I call him an ultimate hipster because of his 2012 Grammy acceptance speech when it was evident how hard he was trying to make it seem like winning a Grammy didn’t murk his indie vibe. I tried to find the speech on YouTube but it’s not there. So you’ll have to trust me.

*Sticks out his hand like Aladdin did to Princess Jasmine before flying on the magic carpet*

*My cat comes over and licks hand*

I think I’m going to put on giant headphones and listen to The Shins now.

You say Grenada, I say Granada

Imagine leaving an airplane after a long flight, and your first sight is a view of the Caribbean Sea, complete with palm trees swaying in the breeze, hilly landscapes and a clear blue sky?

Sounds like paradise, right? Well for one guy, it was a nightmare.

Edward Gamson will forever be known as the first dude who ever was pissed to be on a tropical island.

GrenadaThe American man, who makes his living as a dentist, did not mean to go to Grenada. Instead, he had every intention to visit Granada, in Spain. But he ended up in a completely different place. And now he’s suing an airline for more than $30,000.

The story goes that Gamson told a booking agent where he wished to go, who then made the mistake. Apparently, in the process of receiving his ticket, waiting in the airport, and boarding his flight, he did not pick up on the error himself.

He was traveling from Lipson, in Portugal, and wanted to make a stop in Spain before coming home to the U.S. British Airways has allegedly refused to refund his $4,500 first class flight, and now he’s suing.

So let’s review the facts.

  • He was already on a vacation in Portugal.
  • He flew first class.
  • He ended up in the Caribbean.
  • He’s pissed.
  • And suing.

Where’s that .gif where Ari Gold is screaming a profanity inside an office building, expressing his frustration at someone who obviously deserves to be punched in the face?

Ah, here it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d be pretty flustered too if I thought I was traveling one place, and ended up somewhere else. But would I seek a lawyer and sue for seven times what I paid for the flight? How greedy can you get?

If the story is correct, and it really is the airline’s booking agent that made the flub, then I understand why he’s upset he’s not getting his ticket refunded. But what happened after he landed in Grenada? Did he immediately leave? Or did he stay for a few days, reveling in the beaches?

Because if it’s the latter, it’s basically the same thing as ordering a beer at a bar, drinking 3/4 of it, and then returning it to the bartender complaining that it wasn’t what you ordered, and demanding a free bottle of champagne in return.

I’m sure Granada, Spain is nice. I’m sure it’s a quaint city full of art and history. But Grenada is a pretty decent consolation. If you stepped off the flight and ended up in Iran, then OK. Sue away.

For his sake, I hope he gets paid. Because otherwise, the only thing the media attention is bringing to light is that he is a dim-witted man. And how could you trust him as a dentist? If he can’t properly book a flight to the right continent, how do you expect him to make important decisions impacting your entire oral region?

I’d sooner trust a prostitute with my oral region than this guy.

Well this dialogue took a steep decline, didn’t it.



Shocker: movie about killing Kim Jong-un earns the disapproval of Kim Jong-un

Seth Rogen co-wrote, is co-directing and starring in The Interview, a comedy with an October release date that is about a couple of guys who get charged with the task of assassinating Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea.

In a surprising turn of events, Jong-un is not too pleased with the idea.

As reported recently by dozens of media outlets, a spokesperson for his regime said the film “shows the desperation of the U.S. The Interviewgovernment and American society.”

When I first read the movie description of The Interview a couple of months ago, its boldness definitely startled me. I thought two things — either Columbia Pictures (its distributor) and everyone else involved with the film thought that North Korea is so detached from the world that the film would never get to them … or they just didn’t care.

Obviously, it’s the latter, because nobody is that naive.

What struck me most is how non-politically correct this film is in an age where everything is politically correct. All it takes is one ill-advised quote, with just a hint of racism — either in public or behind closed doors — and you’re finished. Just ask Donald Sterling. Heck, even one Tweet can ruin some one these days.

And yet, a movie, which will be viewed by millions, makes light of an assassination attempt.

I’m aware that North Korea is so volatile that it will never be taken seriously by the United States while its current regime is at the helm, but … is it still a good idea to try to piss them off? Barack Obama isn’t stupid enough to publicly acknowledge this movie, or make a statement saying that the film is in no way endorsed by the United States government, but, I genuinely wonder if he even considered doing it?

That being said, it’s a screwball comedy that I’m sure in no way reflects any real word themes. But, it was enough to warrant a response from Kim Jong-un, and now, Seth Rogen will probably not be invited as Dennis Rodman’s +1 on his next trip to North Korea.

There is precedent for American films mocking foreign dictators still in power, however — and North Korean ones at that. We all remember 2004’s Team America: World Police’s hilarious (albeit animated) portrayal of Kim Jong-Il. Six years earlier, the same filmmakers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, made a mockery of Saddam Hussein (also animated) in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

And nearly 60 years before that, Charlie Chaplin mocked Adolf Hitler with the made-up character Adenoid Hynkel in arguably his most famous film, The Great Dictator, which courageously was released right at the start of World War II, when the war’s result was still very much in doubt.

So it’s nothing new.

I still find it amusing that as our nation becomes more politically correct by the day, movies like this one continue on outside of that bubble.

But at the end of the day, I guess all the American public really cares about is if it’s funny or not.

Which means people probably stopped reading this blog a long time ago.



World Cup 2014: where American pride is a good thing, even if it’s people pretending

In the final minutes of Monday afternoon’s (Eastern time) soccer match between Ghana and the USA, reserve John Brooks put a header past the opposing keeper to give the Americans a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. Brooks, 20, became the first substitute to score a goal in American World Cup history.

And around the country, people celebrated.

It’s well known that soccer isn’t the most popular sport this side of the Atlantic. It’s huge in Europe, and every other part of the USA soccerworld, for that matter, but the game just hasn’t caught on here. Which is a little puzzling to me.

I think the reason is because people’s expectation for  sporting entertainment has been rewired by American football. The sport is so insanely popular in this country that people have become accustomed to big hits, fast-paced action and scoring plays that result in multiple points.

Soccer, while a much, much older game, is more subtle. The ball weaves around the field like a pinball machine, jumping from player to player, drifting downfield. Every touch of the ball is pre-meditated. Every player is a cog in a greater machine.

And while goals are few and far between — there’s no more exciting moment in sports. Watch a highlight reel of soccer goals, and it’ll be one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. And yes, it’s beautiful. There’s no other way to describe it. Soccer goals rarely happen by accident.

But anyway, watch it for yourself. If you saw today’s thrilling game, and still remain disinterested, then it’s just not for you. And that’s fine.

If you didn’t know the game was on, then you were probably caught by surprise by all the pro-American Facebook statuses around 8 p.m. Monday evening, as people expressed their satisfaction with the victory.

I don’t like being “that guy” who calls out people for only liking soccer because it’s the popular thing to do right now, or for only watching the sport for a few weeks every four years, because when it comes down to it — for once — we’re all supporting the country we live in.

People throw around words like ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ around this time, but I’m just happy that people are agreeing on something. It seems like we as humans have become so prone to being combatant and argumentative with one another, that’s it’s refreshing to see everybody unite around one idea.

And in this case, that idea is supporting our country’s national football team. Yes, soccer is the real football. Sorry, Peyton Manning.

Unfortunately, because soccer is not as entrenched in American culture as it is in most countries, our talent level typically reflects that, and the USA usually stands little chance of succeeding in the World Cup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all hope for the best … who doesn’t support a good underdog story?

So whether you’re a true soccer fan, a faux fan, or someone who spend more time posting on Facebook about the game than watching it, we’re all on the same side.

Until the World Cup ends.

Then we all suck again.

I want to hate people who throw birthday parties for their pets … but I can’t.

Birthdays are a time for celebration. A celebration of companionship. Of friendship. Of loved ones.

Everybody enjoys a birthday party. Organizing a birthday party is another story.

Some love it. There’s plenty of people out there who thrive in a leadership role, and have a keen ability to unite different entities around a common goal. For most, it’s a hassle. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with organizing a celebration, big or small. Whether it’s a bachelor party in Las Vegas, or a 3rd birthday party at Chuck-E Cheese, it still requires a fair amount of legwork.

I have never thrown a birthday party.

dog bday2For one, I just can’t muster the energy. For another, I’m just not good at it. None of my friends would really entrust me with the organization of a birthday party, anyway, and rightfully so. Because the end result would not be pretty. So they know to include me for the festivities, but not to give me any significant duties in its arrangement. It’s for the best, and everybody wins.

Even my own parties result in the bare minimum effort. I create a birthday event, check off all my close friends, and it’s done. The only further action required is calling the bar/restaurant (OK, let’s face it … just bar) and giving them a timely heads up of my arrival.

In conclusion, birthday parties — and throwing birthday parties — are a major hassle.

And then … there are people who organize birthday parties for their pets.

I see it on Instagram or Facebook every now and then. A friend of mine, holding their pet — typically a dog or cat — with a party cap on, complete with cake inscribed with the pet’s name and birthday candles. Also balloons.

While it makes for a pretty cute photo, the whole idea of a pet’s birthday party is nothing short of ludicrous.

Firstly, it’s one thing to go through the effort of arranging a party for someone who will actually appreciate it. But it’s another to do it for a creature that has not the slightest clue what is going on.

When singing “Happy Birthday” to your pet, you might as well be sitting in a chair blowing into a vuvuzela horn, considering the animal has no bearing of its significance. For them, it’s just noise.

Animals also don’t eat cake. So you’re just buying a fattening dessert that’s only going to be eaten by the humans present at the “party,” which is probably just you and one other friend or family member who really had absolutely nothing else going on that day at all.

And those party caps are uncomfortable on people. The elastic band is usually too tight on the chin, and itchy. For an animal, it must be a nightmare.

But, at the end of the day, it’s all being done out love. And that’s really all that matters, and what the whole purpose of owning a pet is about — to spoil it, to cherish it and to love it wholeheartedly. And that is something that the animal does understand.

So when I do stumble across a picture on Facebook of Scruffy’s 2nd birthday party, I can’t help but shake my head, but also smile.

Because while the pet may have no concept of what’s going on — it is loved.

And love is all you need.

The guy who made the Celine Dion video is a pioneer for amateur music video makers everywhere

Don’t tell me that, at some point in your life, you’ve never  filmed a parody music video that you have the spent the rest of your life pretending never happened.

Don’t you dare.

One day, you — with or without a friend — were bored. You put on a song that was popular at the time. You started singing. You started dancing. Then the light bulb hit.

Nobody’s home … so … why not … film a music video?

KaraokeYou might have dressed up. You might have printed out the lyrics to memorize the song.

Then you hit the record button on your computer, and lip synced sweet music while the actual song echoed loudly behind you. Five minutes later, the damage was done. You became an accomplice to your own demise and filmed the most embarrassing five-minute stretch you will ever have.

When I was young, a friend and I filmed a video to the song “All or Nothing” by O-Town. There’s really no more shameful song I could think of to make a music video to than that.

About five years earlier, another friend and I recorded ourselves singing “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. I’ll give myself a pass for that though because Jagged Little Pill still remains one of the best albums ever.

We’ve all done it. And if you say you haven’t, then you’re either in denial or you’re trying really, really hard to completely detach it from your memory.

But be embarrassed no more.

From this moment forward, filming your own music video needn’t be a badge of shame, regardless of the song choice. We can now all be proud of our work.

Why? Because this guy — this glorious, wonderful guy — filmed a video of himself inside of an empty airport singing to “All By Myself” by Celine Dion, and the video has now gone viral all over the world.

And it’s awesome.

A man named Richard Dunn, while stranded overnight in a Las Vegas airport, recorded the  5 minute and 20 second video on his iPhone. He lip syncs with passion, emoting at the song’s most inspired moments, and gave absolutely zero fucks about what anybody thought.

Here is the work of art in all its glory:

It’s an amateur video through and through, but any novice videographer can appreciate the camera moves and unique shots that he incorporated. It’s the Scorsese of amateur filmmaking.

And because of it, all of us who have long hidden our own secret music videos can come out of the woodwork. If this guy doesn’t have any reservations of himself singing to Celine Dion, of all people, then neither should we. There is nothing left to hide.

Wait, did I really admit that I made a music video to O-Town?




Miss America pageants exemplify why there is nothing wrong with staring at hot girls

While Miss America pageants still exist, women can’t really complain about men judging women solely by looks.

Because it’s an entire contest devoted towards showcasing the physical attractiveness of females. No one remembers their talents. No one really cares about their life story. What they care about is how they look in a swimsuit.

The contest is so embedded within American history that no one really thinks twice about it. It formed almost a century ago, in Nia Sanchez1921, and this year’s pageant marked the 88th in its history.

Being crowned Miss America is a huge honor. It’s what every girl dreams of at some juncture in their life — winning a beauty pageant.

Most ditch the fantasy at some point — likely because they know they stand no chance at winning one — but for the lucky few who were blessed with extremely desirable features, it’s the ultimate prize.

It also gets huge publicity. Nia Sanchez is probably the most Googled name in America in the last couple of days. The 23-year-old Californian-turned-Nevadian won Miss USA 2014 on June 8, and will be our nation’s representative in the Miss Universe pageant later this year.

What I am most curious to find out is how one becomes a judge for this. I’m sure the panel has a ton of criteria in which they’re supposed to evaluate these girls, but at the end of the day, they’re really just staring at girls in underwear and deciding how hot they are.

It’s pretty much a dream come true. Guys like staring at hot girls. It’s a fact of life.

I’ll take it a step further — a beautiful girl is like art that deserves our attention and appreciation, and that’s what the Miss America pageants are all about.

You may catch a guy staring at a girl in public, his eyes locked, his gaze transfixed, a slight drool formulating at the corner of his mouth, and think that the only thing he’s thinking is what she looks like naked.

That may be true for some. Or a lot. I couldn’t say. But for me, I’m appreciating God’s work. My staring is simply my way of paying homage to a girl’s natural beauty. You’re trying to take in the entire splendor.

Do you look at Monet’s water lilies in a passing glance? No. You have to stare at it for minutes, carefully dissecting the many intricacies involved. Not taking the time to fully appreciate it would be an insult.

It’s the same with a pretty girl. I feel like a dick if I see a beautiful woman and don’t take a few seconds out of my day to not give her a steady eyeful.

And then that’s it. The moment passes and you move on with your life.

Beauty pageants offer the opportunity for people to do this for an actual cause. By staring and analyzing beautiful women, you are contributing to a purpose. You are helping to continue an age-old American institution.

You are making a girl’s dream come true.

God bless America.

A weekend at Governors Ball

My favorite part of music festivals is leaving a set early.

“What is the guy talking about?” you might be saying. “Leaving early? What a poser.”

No, I don’t take joy in walking away from an artist’s performance and missing live music. But what I do enjoy is walking through a sea of people, all fully engrossed in the music, and dancing like fools. By walking away early, you get a face to face view of hundreds of people simply enjoying life.

And that’s what I love.

Gov Ball 2014This blog has been a little music-centric lately, but what can I say, for me, it’s the summer of the music festival. I attended Boston Calling last month, and this weekend, I visited Randall’s Island for the 4th annual Governors Ball Music Festival.

The island is situated between Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, making it a convenient location to plop a spacious music festival. Naturally, the one thing you hope for during such an event is that Mother Nature cooperates, and boy, did she ever. She was almost too cooperative, in fact. Standing for several hours in the sun for three straight days takes it toll.

But it was worth it.

When you enjoy a diverse palate of music, festivals are mandatory. It’s too expensive and time-consuming to see all of the artists you want to see. At a festival, you can knock a bunch out at once, and at the same time, see artists that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise considered seeing. It’s not quite the same as seeing a band surrounding by their own fan base, but it’s the next best thing.

Being a journalist has its benefits. Yes, I write for a local newspaper that really has no business covering giant music festivals, but that doesn’t stop me from applying for media credentials. I attended Governors Ball for free, and while I may not publish anything about it for my newspaper — I’ll sure as hell do it here.

I had a fantastic time. In total, I spent 27 hours on Randall’s Island this weekend, basking in music by Jack White, The Strokes, the 1975, Interpol, Foster the People, Phoenix, and much, much more. Here’s the full line up. With my credentials I was able to bring a different person each day, and allow them to enjoy the experience as well. Jenny Lewis

While my perks were limited simply to free entry — hey, I’m not complaining — my friend and I somehow managed to gain access into a fenced area called “The Freeloader’s Lounge” on Friday, thinking we were allowed in. The volunteer manning the gate didn’t stop us, and we entered into a land a free alcohol, cheap food and air-conditioned bathrooms. We made the most of it.

The next day, the festival staff caught on, and put competent people at the gate. It was fun while it lasted.

The music was pretty good too. Jack White, known for being the frontman of the now defunct White Stripes, headlined on Saturday night, and man, did he put on a show. I’ve been to a lot of concerts, and never before have I seen somebody with the stage presence that he had. Him and his band played a mix of songs from his solo album, Blunderbuss, some popular White Stripes tunes and others from his side projects, including the Raconteurs.

Here is my rankings of my top 10 favorite sets from the weekend.

  1. Jack White
  2. Vampire Weekend
  3. The Strokes
  4. Phoenix
  5. TV on the Radio
  6. Spoon
  7. Interpol
  8. Diarrhea Planet (Yup, look them up)
  9. The Head and the Heart
  10. The 1975

Also, a girl physically collapsed on me during the Vampire Weekend’s set and had to be taken away on a stretcher by EMTs … so I hope she’s OK.

It’s a lesson for all the kids out there. Stay hydrated.

Another highlight of the weekend was, when walking with my +1 on Friday, spotting Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley fame) standing near a tent. I stopped her and was able to snap a picture with her, marking the first time I met an artist the same day I saw them live. Probably won’t happen again.

Good music. Good times.

Cheers, governor!

This is why we watch sports.

As the clock ticked down the final seconds of Game 6 in the NHL Eastern Conference Championship between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadians five days ago, I was jumping in the air, my arms raised a with smile stretched across my entire face.

Moments later, it was over. The Rangers were going to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years. As a die-hard Rangers, Rangers winNew York Mets, Knicks and Jets fan, it represented the first time since 2000 that a team I support made it to the championship.

I tried to think of the last time I literally jumped for joy. And I realized that it hasn’t happened in my adult life.

That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced happiness recently, but just nothing that would make me so euphoric that I couldn’t possibly contain my excitement.

As a young boy, I’m sure I leaped jubilantly upon learning school was canceled. Or surged with elation the night before Christmas.

But more than a decade later, it’s harder to find things that stimulate that childlike fervor one can only feel when they’re young and blissful. And I was completely unaware how long it’s been since I felt that.

That was until last Thursday, while in a bar, jumping like there was no tomorrow . For 120 hours since, I’ve been flying high, reveling in the knowledge that my beloved team will be playing for a world championship.

This is why we watch sports.

The irrational nature of being a die-hard sports fan is well documented. Each year, only the fans of one team are going to end up being happy. The fans of the other 30 or so teams will be distraught, disappointed, dispirited and will sulk in despair for months until the next season begins, when the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Why, you may ask yourself, do we do this? Why do we so blindly and wholeheartedly support these teams and watch every game knowing that it is likely to end in utter disappointment?

The answer is simple. Because every now and then, even if it takes years — 14 years, in fact — they will make you jump for joy with your hands up in the air, saying “Ayo.” They’ll make you into a Taio Cruz song.

And that feeling is worth it. The past 120 hours, for me, is affirmation as to why I love sports.

I’m aware the Rangers haven’t won anything yet. They could lose the series to the Los Angeles Kings, and just like that, the euphoria is gone, and once again, I’ll be left with a feeling of emptiness.

Or they could win. And the ecstasy will last months. Only time will tell.

It’s the years of suffering — the heartbreaking defeats, the improbable losses, the devastating collapses — that make the successes that much sweeter. It’s something casual sports fans don’t understand. For them, the tough times don’t have an impact. They’re not happy about it, but they don’t let it affect their lives. The die-hards do.

Every die-hard deserves his (or her!) moment.

I’m sure hoping this is mine.