Friday, May 30, 2008

Strangers - Addendum

The reviews are in. And they're overwhelmingly mediocre. And I can't even pretend to be surprised.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Strangers, Do Behave!

I'm intrigued by the trailers for the upcoming film, The Strangers.

This trailer isn't that good, but it hints at the possibility of something good.

And anyone who knows me, knows I'm a sucker for a good horror film. Horror movies are great way to observe and understand our fears, personally and as a culture, from big things like xenophobia and terrorism down to little things like walking alone at night.

It has always been my theory that you really can't go wrong with a horror movie. If it's amazing, and has layers and says something interesting/innovative, well then, fantastic, you've got a new classic on your hands. If it's terrible, oozing cheesy special effects and bad acting all over the place, then a fun evening is still had by all.

Or this used to be my theory.

While there have been a few absolute horror gems in recent years (The Descent immediately springs to mind - see it right away if you haven't), with the advent of affordable CGI for all and a general surge in the popularity of horror movies - leading to bigger budgets, the bad movies have gotten better. And I feel that this is not a good thing. Now our bad horror movies exist in that middle ground, where they are too schlocky to be good, but not schlocky enough to be complete camp. As a viewer, these movies just bore me to tears: the last thing a horror movie should ever do. Gore is not, in and of itself, interesting or amusing. We need something more.

I submit examples like last year's The Mist (which I just saw last night) as well as the countless "Dead Teenager" movies like Final Destination, Turistas, Urban Legend, etc etc ad nauseum. These are basically all the same film. Just plug in some variables (change the setting, tweak the monster, etc), rinse and repeat. At least The Mist tried to add some political intrigue to make things interesting, though it failed miserably.

And don't even get me started on the new subgenre of "torture porn" that's become increasingly popular, with films like Hostel, Saw and Captivity building tension only through the slow dismemberment of its attractive casts, with nothing resembling plot, characters or even ideas anywhere in sight.

It's not that I'm confused as to why these movies are made. Most of the bad movies I mentioned have become successful franchises at this point, with the Saw series already on part four. They do well, because audiences just like to be scared in a dark room and see people get chopped up. America's bloodlust cannot be sated. I just think people don't know what they're missing. I mean, what about suspense?

I'm not opposed to gore. Just say something interesting. The French film, High Tension, was extremely, extreeeemly gory, but it was the intense, twisted story that left me with something to really think about afterwards.

At this point, the market has become so oversaturated with mediocrity that when a scary movie looks like it could be good, like it might actually be doing something unusual, I really get my hopes up. It's rare for any of these movies to live up to their trailers, but when they do, I completely lose it. When I saw The Host (an incredible monster movie/political satire from a few years back), I raved to anyone and everyone who would listen for weeks on end. I literally forced my friends to watch The Descent, practically holding them hostage in my theater. And when I see a movie like 2007's The Orphanage, that is scary and atmospheric but also has a huge amount of depth and heart, I get a high that lasts for quite a while. Interestingly, The Host is South Korean, The Descent is British and The Orphanage is Spanish. It would seem that everybody knows how to make a good scary movie but us Americans.

So. The Strangers. Comes out tomorrow. Could go either way. Looks like it could say some really interesting things about our society, and how we feel so unrealistically safe in our little lockbox houses. Or it could just be Funny Games with masks. And those masks look like they'll be scary for all of two minutes. It also looks like it might be a straight remake of the French film, Them (2006). So that's already one strike against it. And Liv Tyler makes two.

Please be scary. Please be interesting. I beg of you. Win one for the Americans!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Plot Sickens

New developments with what my friend Nancy refers to as my "Possibly Poison Patio."

The bees have vanished, and on my way into my studio today I saw four worms crawling on the patio. When I came out of the studio later, they were all dead. Not only dead, but strangely like "melted" into the patio. And the ground was cold.

I am completely confounded.

Was my patio built over an Indian Burial Ground?

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Cute, In Pictures

Some Noah photos, courtesy of Nicole:

Noah taste-tests his very first birthday cake

Would you like a shopping bag?

Don't fear the sheeper

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

NetJets & JetBlue

Show #2 in NYC:
This time, we didn't have to trek out to Jersey. This time, we just walked five minutes from our hotel to the Hammerstein Ballroom for a special private engagement for the NetJets crew. NetJets sponsored our tour, and apparently they're huge Miley fans, so they booked an exclusive show for their families.

Hammerstein was the smallest venue we've played so far (which, for Miley, isn't really that small):

The band dressing room was up four very narrow flights of stairs, which was novel ("it's oh so New York!") the first time, and became progressively more annoying every time I had to go back and fourth, which was quite a lot.

This show was the first one since the tour that was a double Miley/Hannah show. Unlike the tour, however, we had no other act to fill the time during the Hannah-to-Miley quick change. So Miley had to seriously book it backstage and get dressed in a flash while a brief video clip played.

She came out right on time, much to my surprise. I don't know how she did it. But part way through the first song, it became clear that the change wasn't absolutely complete. One of her in-ear monitors was dangling loose. Miley spent most of the first song fiddling with that ear, trying to put it in as she danced around. Didn't work.

I heard lots of loud chatter backstage, as Mick and Omar tried to find a quick solution.

As the song ended, Miley excused herself and ran offstage. We all looked at each other. With yesterday's monitor disaster fresh in our minds, Stacy mouthed "Right Here" to the band, and we vamped on that song for a minute or so. Miley ran back onstage sans dangling cords, and the rest of the show proceeded as usual.

And they all lived happily ever after.

I spent the evening in Spanish Harlem partying with a bunch of old friends, playing Guitar Hero and drinking enough to make my early morning JetBlue flight a bit unpleasant.

Said flight turned out to be quite pleasant despite that. I sat in my assigned seat, and the girl sitting next to me asked if she could get something from the overhead compartment. I moved out of the way, and she grabbed it. It was a ukelele. Suddenly, I noticed she looked very familiar. "I'm Mike," I said, hoping she would give me her name.

She replied, "I'm Ingrid."

"Michaelson?" I said?

She looked puzzled. "...Yeah. How did you know?"

For those of you who don't know, Ingrid Michaelson is a singer/songwriter who's song, "The Way I Am," became quite a hit after playing on Grey's Anatomy. I'm a fan of hers (but not of Grey's Anatomy).
I told her of the strange coincidence: one of the A&R guys at her label, Original Signal, is none other than Stacy Jones. Our Stacy, drummer extraordinaire and musical director for Miley. We found that wasn't the only thing we had in common as we talked about everything from Flight of the Conchords to our careers for the duration of our six hour flight. We even traded iPods and played our unfinished demos for each other.

Another strange coincidence: she was headed to her manager's house. I know her manager. She lives on my street. So I gave Ingrid a ride home, along with Jaco (who was parked at my house). It was nearly 100 degrees in L.A. and we were all grouchy and whiny. It was actually kinda fun to see a singer/songwriter that I'd only seen glammed up in music videos, all sweaty and complainy.

She's quite a sweetheart. Hopefully I'll meet up with her again sometime.

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Z100 Zootopia

New York City welcomed us with a bleak, cold rainstorm. A rainstorm with which we became very familiar as we waited soggily for our shuttle to come pick us up from the JFK airport. It didn't show. After over an hour, Stacy made a phone call to the shuttle service. The service replied, "He's been waiting for over an hour. He couldn't get in to the gate, so he's around the back."

No one called to tell us this?

The only thing worse than waiting in a chilling rainstorm for a shuttle is waiting in a chilling rainstorm for a shuttle that's parked around the corner.

We made our way to the bus marked "Krystal." Their slogan was "a 'gem' of a ride!"

Kill me now.

After boarding and finally leaving the airport, the driver swerved and tailgated his way into the city. Nearly a half-hour later, we pulled over near a basketball court in what was clearly the ghetto. This was not our hotel. The driver exited the bus. He slowly walked around the side and looked closely at the front tire. Then the back tire. Then he went around the other side and did the same.

And then, without a word, he got back on the bus and resumed driving.

Okay then.

He had a strong preference for the right lane on the freeway, adding at least 15 additional minutes to our ride. When we finally reached the hotel, he parked at the entrance that was clearly marked "closed after 7pm." It was nearly 9pm.

He started pulling all our bags out of the back of the bus, when he finally heard us all screaming, "We need to move!" and "Put the bags back!" and "Why are you so dumb!?"

So he drove the van around the block to the front entrance.

Not quite a "gem" after all.

My room at the Affinia Hotel was spacious, with a full kitchen and a high ceiling, but tempered by the customary miniscule New York bathroom: you can only take a shower if you suck in your gut.

The pillows were comfy, but in case they weren't, the Affinia had a pillow menu to put that other place to shame (click photo to enlarge):
What to do when you're in New York City? Well, same thing I always do: see my buddy Ben. The two of us slogged through the wet city to some country steak joint that oddly smelled like warm brownies, which is never a bad thing. I say "oddly," because brownies were not on the menu.

I had the burger.

Just like last time, it was garbage night in the city.

I'm convinced this is an everyday sight. Trash sprawled up almost every street. And trust me, there's nothing like the smell of wet garbage in the evening air to rid your brain of brownie thoughts.

The following day, we were slated to play Z100's Zootopia. Z100 is supposedly the most widely listened-to station in the world. I'm not sure how anyone can prove this.

The festival was being held at what was previously the Meadowlands Arena in Jersey, now annoyingly renamed the Izod Center. During the tour, I grew weary of arenas with names like the Dunkin Donuts Center, the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and the FedEx Forum. Are there any venues that haven't been bought by The Man?

We had our soundcheck early in the morning and everything went very well. I can't say the same for Jessie McCartney, who spent his entire half-hour listening to Pro-Tools tracks while his playback guy tried to fix some completely inaudible problem. The band looked impatient, and Jessie looked like he was about ready to blow.

At noon, they commuted us back to the hotel for an entire day of freedom in the city. I went to the park.

The Krystal bus picked us up again at 8:30pm and drove us back out to Jersey for the big show. Also performing, the Jonas Brothers, OneRepublic, Danity Kane and Simple Plan. We got back just in time for me to check out Sara Bareilles. I really like "Love Song." Good thing too, cause they only let her play that one tune, even though everybody else was playing half-hour sets.

After her, all the girls swooned for New Kids On The Block. Yes. That's not a typo. New Kids. And how they did swoon. Some of our female dancers (and I won't name names to spare their dignity) knew all the lyrics and were very excited to see their childhood idols all growed up (read: old and depressing) and still dancing the same dance steps. It was like Bring Your Dad To Work Night at the Apollo. But I'm happy for them, I guess. They just grabbed themselves another 15 minutes.

We took the stage around 10:30 and Miley proceeded to melt some faces. Everything went well until the song, "Right Here," when my ears went out. I looked around and noticed that I wasn't the only one. Jamie was mouthing to Stacy, "No ears!" Jaco looked at me and mouthed, "Did you lose your ears?" We kept playing despite the fact that none of us could hear much of anything, as our ears block outside sound, so when they turn off, you can't hear very well. A while later in the song, the ears came back on, and of course we were off the click, so they had to stop the click track. Again, we kept playing.

Looking at the faces in the audience, nobody noticed the numerous heart attacks that just occured on stage. Those crazy kids just wanna have a good time. And a good time they had.

One show down, one to go. Tomorrow, the big NetJets show.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Graffiti Gone Wild!

I flew in a couple hours ago from New York City (and boy are my arms tired! -- *groan*). Report soon, but for now I leave you with this incredible wall-painted animation discovered by my friend, Aya. Disturbing in parts, but absolutely mind-blowing.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Riddle of Death

Any scientists or naturists in the house? Can you figure this out?

My only working theory is that perhaps my concrete emanates some sort of toxic gas. This is exactly the kind of comic book science that musicians are known for.

Anyone like to contribute theories? Comments? Snide remarks?

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Wango Tango

People have been asking, "approximately how many people do you think were at Wango Tango?" I've always been terrible at guessing how many candy corns are in the jar, so count for yourselves:

What - 10,000? 20,000? 30,000?


To me, "a lot" covers it. Especially when they're mostly screaming teenage girls. It's loud, no matter what the number.

This was an important show for us. It was our first show outside of the big Disney bubble, playing to a mainstream rock crowd. Of course, many folks from said bubble were present and enjoying themselves. No one was really surprised that Miley went over like gangbusters. She does just happen to be an incredibly entertaining and stunningly talented young lady, and I think that appeals to more than just one demographic.

The big shindig took place in a dusty void otherwise known as Irvine, California. So once again, we were left to our own boring devices for several hours with nothing but a mini carnival and some La Salsa to keep us busy. And some celebrities here and there. Kim Kardashian and her family were present, as were a bunch of people from that reality show "The Hills" (on which I'll refrain from expressing my opinion) and I swear I saw Phil Collins, though Jamie says it wasn't him.

I ended up watching a movie on my iPod in the dressing room. Aren't I exciting!?

The set was really fun and energetic. While we were playing, offstage to my right I noticed various dancers who weren't performing (just being supportive), Jack from the Jonas Brothers, Ryan Seacrest and Lindsay Lohan. Interesting mix.

I leave you with a picture of the Jonas Brothers during their set:

(What You Sick People Come Here For)

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day!

To all the Moms out there, thank you for taking care of your families!

Have a great day.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Return of the Creature

Oh boy. The coyotes are back. They're howling that ghastly howl off in the distance, and it's bouncing off all the houses in the canyon, making a creepy echo. What a terrible noise.

Sounds like they just accomplished a juicy kill. Probably somebody's sweet little poodle.

Why do coyotes even exist? Diabolical creatures. And I had only recently managed to forget them.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

DC Games

After another luxurious day relaxing at the Hyatt, we jumped in the van to make our wonderfully late 4pm call time. We showed up to an empty stadium.

After a quick reunion with our buddies the Jonas Brothers and band, we popped up on stage for the most disastrous sound check we've ever had.

The setup went well. How hard can it be to plug stuff in?

But once we started getting levels, it was your basic 72-car freeway pileup. Nobody could hear anything. I, for example, was missing the left side of one of my keboards, my vocal, the click, and Miley's vocal. Not good.

And Vish, our regular dependable sound guy, was at the mercy of the Master of Incompentence - otherwise known as "the guy Disney supplied." The Master had confused the mixing console with Whack-A-Mole, as he randomly slapped buttons and knobs hoping for some sort of accidental miracle.

Halfway through this total catastrophe, in poured the Miley fans. Tons of 'em.


Full of enthusiasm, they didn't seem to notice our perplexed faces, as we struggled through one roughly-mixed song after another. Eventually we got our mixes to a place that wasn't awful, which seemed about the best we could hope for.

So it was off to dinner in the food tent. While we were eating, the weather did an about-face.

The sky began pelting the crowd with the largest raindrops I've seen in ages. Grape-like droplets. I could feel them explode as they hit me. I was fully soaked in ten seconds.

But the crowd was loyal. They weren't about to go home just because of some soggy clothes. Not when they were waiting to see Miley Cyrus, and the Jonas Brothers, and the Cheetah Girls, and...whoever else was playing.

In typical fashion for these sorts of things, we were then shepherded to a room far away, where we then filled out our paperwork and sat around for several hours.

Then we got the word. We were going on early. After all that waiting, now we had to rush. We threw on our costumes and jumped on golf carts, which whisked us over to the stage. We grabbed our gear and hurried up to the wings. One of the show runners saw us and said, "What are you guys doing here? You're not on for a while. The Cheetah Girls are on before you."

But we didn't have enough time to go back. So we just hung out in everybody's way, in the wings.

Miley sauntered up about fifteen minutes later, and we had an impromptu singing jam session on the side of the stage.

We all took our places. The dancers came out in their big long tailcoats. We rocked the place out with "See You Again," and two new songs: "Fly on the Wall" and "Breakout." The crowd totally ate up the new stuff. And of course, everybody loved "See You Again," which has become quite a huge crossover hit with Disney fans and on mainstream rock radio.

That was it. Funny how these things are 98% waiting and 2%playing.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pop Goes the Comfort Level

After two days of rehearsals in L.A., we flew to Florida for two more days of rehearsal. That's just the way we roll.

We were booked to stay at Disney's Pop Century Resort. The band and dancers were all speculating as to what type of hotel it was. "What kind of theme could Pop Century" be? Pop music? Pop culture? Popcorn?" We couldn't figure it out.

Once we got there, it became a little clearer. The decor was a mishmash of eras, colors, and random pop culture. Each building represented a different decade.

Here's the 70's building:

Apparently the Rubik's Cube was the only important developement in that era.

And the 80's building:

Is "Totally Awesome" an 80's phrase? I still use it. But I'm no gauge of cool.

After the receptionists took several years checking us in (I have no idea what took so long), I was informed that my building was all the way at the other end of the resort. This was basically the equivalent of staying in the next town. They told me to "follow the path past the giant 8-track, past the life-size Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and around the computer pool." What is a "computer pool" you ask? See for yourself:

Exactly as described

When I finally reached my room much later, I was surprised by what I found. This was basically a motel. "Resort" is a relative term, I guess. The bed was harder that the "glorified floor" in Seattle. The walls were paper-thin, so I could hear screaming children on all sides. I was afraid of the shower.

At dinner with the band, we all compared notes on how ghetto the hotel/motel was. Everyone agreed that we were depressed about going back and sleeping there.

Stacy placed a call to our tour manager, Omar, who felt exactly the same as we did. So Omar placed a call to some higher-ups, and said we had to be moved.

No answer yet as to our fate.

We still stayed there that night (convinced that we were being nibbled by bed bugs), and the next morning we showed up stiff and groggy at rehearsal.

After we finally snapped out of our Pop Century comas, we ran down the entire show, then there was a little family jam:

That's lil' Braison Cyrus on drums. And Miley gets better at the guitar every time we see her. Jaco taught her a few new chords.

Which she learned in, like, three seconds. Smarty.

Rehearsal ended fairly early, and we were notified that we would be moving to the Hyatt Cypress Garden. There was much rejoicing. Yaaay.

The difference between Pop Century and the Hyatt couldn't have been more polar. At Pop Century, there was nothing to do. Literally nothing. And there was only one restaurant, which was basically a cafeteria stocked with fried foods. The Hyatt, on the other hand, was absolutely stunning. It had the biggest pool I've ever seen, which surrounded several man-made caves, waterslides, and a massive lake with kayaking and paddle boats. I went kayaking several times. I do love me some kayaking. There was also a full golf course and many restaurants featuring everything from bar food to sushi. Paradise. I have no pictures of the Hyatt, cause I was far too busy having a wonderful time to whip out the camera.

With a big chunk of spare time, we spent much of the day lounging by the pool, preparing for the next day's big show, which I'll tell you about tomorrow at 11:55pm. (How's that for specific!)

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday, Noah!

Before I took off for Florida, I jaunted up to Seattle to see Noah for his first birthday.

I picked up my little rental sedan and drove straight from the airport to Noah's place. Nicole allowed me to try feeding him right away. Generally, he approved. I can't believe how much he's grown. Last time I saw him, he could only drink from a bottle. Now he's eating bananas, applesauce, cereal, and he can pick it up with his hands and put it in his mouth. I was delighted to see that he is still ridiculously adorable.

After that brief visit, it was bedtime for him, and I went to my wacky and inconsistent hotel, which had the hardest bed I can remember sleeping on. Basically a glorified floor. And not that glorified. Yet, it had a kitchen, with a full-size fridge, stove, microwave, etc. I couldn't figure it out.

My four day stay flew by, as Noah, Nicole, her friend Cortnie and I went to the farmers market, the local waterfall and to some strange nature parade, filled with costumed hippies posing as ostriches and multitudinous other creatures.

I discovered Noah's obsession with crackers:

"Ta Da!"

Played rollercoaster with his stroller (I promise he likes it), talked about current events (okay, not really), listened to music, and just generally bonded. What a special, amazing person he is. I love that little guy.

He opened his presents (with minor wrapping ripping assistance). My favorite thing that I got for him was a toy piano, which is a legitimate musical instrument. He really seems to love music, and has always been enthralled with the piano...or maybe I'm projecting. I have no desire to force him to do what I do, but if he enjoys the piano, I'm not gonna cry.

Don'cha just wanna pinch those little cheeks?

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Friday, May 2, 2008

Let the Tweeting Sustain You

Some of you have mentioned that I haven't posted for a while. You are correct! Glad you're paying attention.

I've been busy and lacking internet access lately (excuses excuses). I jaunted up to Washington state to see my beautiful son Noah for his first birthday. Then I flew home for a couple days of rehearsal, and hopped back on a plane and traveled to Orlando, where I am now. We're filming the DC Games performance tomorrow. Pictures and a lengthy account of all of it to follow.

Until then, don't forget that you can scoot your lil' eyes over to the sidebar on the right -- where it says "mike on twitter" you can see my QuickBlog - what I've been up to at a glance (sometimes interrupted by a song lyric that feels particularly resonant or funny things I've overheard). And if six entries aren't enough for you, click "follow me on twitter" to see all of them. I love Twitter, and when I can't keep up with full-on blogging, I still Tweet regularly.

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