Friday, December 31, 2010

Ye Shan't Find Albums With Juvenile Lyrics About Love or Robot Singing Opera Here, Knave... Just Some Good Listening From the Year That was 2010.

If one considers the Cinema industry to be down in the dumps then music is the landfill. It is a sad day when someone who lacks talent like Katy Perry cannot only obtain a record deal but can also sell records to the kiddies who have that sweet sweet disposable income. What also is troublesome is the amount of singing robots or singers that sound like them. However, 2010 did see some really good albums released by some classy artists who have not sunk to the levels of Mrs. Brand and the singing robots.

Let the subjective parade continue, fire up the Souza!

Here are the top ten albums of the year from my perspective...

10.My Dinosaur Life by Motion City Soundtrack
09.Transference by Spoon
08.This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
07.Live in London by Regina Spektor
06.The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
05.The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964 by Bob Dylan
04.The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
03.Contra by Vampire Weekend
(I am still smarting from the use of "Holiday" in Christmas commercials, Curse you, sweet sweet Capitalism)
02.Under the Great White Northern Lights by The White Stripes

and the best record to be released in 2010 was a little album known as

Brothers by The Black Keys

It is very rare that an album like Brothers is released. Every track could be a single including the instrumental track, Black Mud. This album continues to get better with every subsequent listen. With the exception of The White Stripes (and Jack White's other ventures), The Black Keys are the best indie blues band and that is quite the compliment. The only difference between the two bands is that the latter has less of the garage sound of the former. It must be said that any blues album that is beloved to a four year must be not only good but damn good. Damn you, Black Keys now I must buy my Daughter a drum kit! Have no fear, I will be there in April.

(*Please note: I have added Regina Spektor's live album because it did contain new material and the White Stripes because it was the first time their live materials were made available legally. Also, Dylan's bootlegs contained a lot of unreleased versions of his songs.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thank You Celluloid Merchant For Placing Something Truly Wonderful in Front of Me Peepers... Best Films of 2010.

The past few years in cinema have been right shit (pardon the swear) and 2010 was no exception. Yet, there were many films that warranted viewing. Much like the "Worst" list posted earlier, this is a subjective list of films that I have seen this year. Of course, some films were left off because I have not had the chance to see them. (Cough, Cough Film Unfinished...) At the very least, it was much easier to make the list this year than last year... Which was dreadful... Absolute rubbish... Bloody awful... You cannot hear it but I am puking at the mere remembrance of 2009... I mean, come on, New Moon... Revenge of the Fallen... 2012! I need some Pepto. I digress...

Here we go, you little sausages...

10. Green Zone
09. Shutter Island
08. The Social Network
07. The King's Speech
06. Toy Story 3
05. MicMacs
04. The Fighter
03. Black Swan
02. Inception

and the best film of 2010 was (from my perspective)

01. True Grit

It took a lot of internal dialogue to decide which was the better film of 2010... True Grit or Inception. They were both well-written, acted, expertly directed and had the amazing cinematography talents of Wally Pfister and Roger Deakins but the coveted PORTEmaus rating has to go to True Grit. Honestly, in the immortal words of a close friend, Westerns are beloved because they are "Celluloid Awesome..." Truer words were never spoken. What put it over the top were the performances of Bridges, Damon and the amazing portrayal of Mattie Ross by Hailee Steinfeld... A girl noted for role in K-Mart's "blingatude" series of commercials. Go see it and enjoy yourselves... To my wife, I am going to strap you to a chair to watch it! Mark my words.


Oh the Humanity, My Eyes and Brain Scream in Agony... The Worst Films of 2010.

While the fact that I hold an undergraduate in Film (from a mediocre party school... go Manny!), I feel that I have the necessary qualifications to offer my opinion on such a subject. It should be noted that best and worst lists are highly subjective but it does not stop people from releasing them. With that being said, our experts have been consulted and thus, Wagons Ho!

PORTEmaus' list of the worst films of 2010

10.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
09.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
08.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
07.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
06.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
05.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
04.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
03.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
02.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

and the WORST film of 2010

01.The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The lengths a man will go to make his wife happy does not explain how truly awful this film is. It demeans the audience by explaining and re-explaining simple plot points. I know that all of my teen readers will be hurt by the following statement but no one in the this film and the others can act. Seriously, lessons cannot be that expensive! Also, how much does it cost to put Jacob in a tee-shirt. Honestly, I shudder at the thought that this was a work derivative of a print source. I suppose this is understandable considering it is devoured by teens who refuse to read anything of substance. Literary Burn! With that said... The plot, special effects, dialogue and musical score were lame and uninspired. Hell, even the credits were frustrating.

Honorable Mention: Iron Man 2, She is Out of My League, Kick Ass, Valentine's Day

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For the Third Month in a Row, the PORTEmaus Book Club has Become a Remedial High School English Course.

It seems the cycle is broken... For those not in the know, the PORTEmaus Literature or "Book" club has went Non-Fiction then Fiction and back to Non-Fiction. The cycle was to continue but after the Grapes of Wrath, I could not think of an a relevant work of Non-Fiction... I suppose, Decision Points would have worked.

So, it is another work of fiction this month... Also, it is a more traditional choice for a book club. This month's book club selection is Ernest Hemingway's, A Farewell to Arms. I am about half way through and like all Hemingway, it is amazing. Break out those monocles and culture it up!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tis no Happy Ending in this Book... Damn Steinbeck, Throw a Man a Bone!

The final hundred pages of this novel is simply an exercise in hoping the plight of the Joads will improve. It will not nor is there a Hollywood ending. The novel ends with the family fractured and struggling to survive. Steinbeck also refuses to provide closure to the story of the Joad family.

What more can be said, there is a reason it won the Pulitzer and widely considered a classic. Steinbeck is unflinching in his account of the Great Depression. The Joads prove that while you think you have it bad, it could always be a lot worse.

The Grapes of Wrath is six hundred and nineteen pages of sorrow. It is immerses the reader in the bleakest period the world has faced economically. However, it is not a book that is stuck in the period that it is describing. It transcends time and it is applicable to the current illegal immigrant situation in the Southwest. Quite possible it is an essential read for all people with air in their lungs. It is a work that creates compassion for their fellow man...

Friday, December 10, 2010

These Grapes Are Quite Bitter... Or Rather Full of Wrath

It seems that I only have a hundred pages left and one thing is blatantly clear about John Steinbeck's classic... It is a timeless literary work. Parallels can be drawn from the period it represents, the time it was written and the present.

It definitely is a powerful piece of literature (positively incendiary), it forces you to glimpse the underside of capitalism and will not allow you to avert your gaze. In fact, there was a scene in Capitalism: A Love Story (I caught the first few minutes) involving the boarding up of a house. The interaction between the man working on behalf of the bank and the people who foreclosed could have been taken verbatim from Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck shows unbelievable insight into humanity and the depths that others will go to exploit others for profit.

During the course of the three hundred pages, the Joads make it to California. From the perspective of the reader, the terrible foreboding that this land of opportunity is far from it. The Joads blindly follow their dreams, do not heed the warnings of those who experienced it prior and end up into a Hooverville. The Joads --of course-- exist as a microcosm for all Americans, blindly following the American "dream" and they see America for what it is... Corrupt and unsympathetic to the plight of the underprivileged.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rather than let the Nobel Peace Prize go Unclaimed... I will Step in and Accept That Sweet Medal... Oh, I Guess I Will take the Modest Prize as well.

The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize is not going to be given out this year is --without exaggeration-- a travesty. It is like an Arizona winter without snow or the repeated election of Joe Arpaio to the office of Sheriff (If you haven't established it... the Funkowitz resides in Arizona). Damn it, we want some snow and the chief law enforcer from Maricopa county to not be old, arrogant and racist! Is that just too much to ask for?

Anyway, before I completely run off-topic and just riff or scat on assorted topics about Arizona politics, no Nobel Peace Prize... That is rough. So, I would like to nominate myself for the award... After all, they gave one to Obama last year and he really did not do much in the realm of peace. (Seemingly, they give them to anyone) I will step up to the plate and shoulder this burden.

I am a man of ideas and I have made peace my prime initiative as I navigate this world. Take yesterday for example... Two children fighting over a foam and clothe chair. There was screaming, there was anger in their eyes... I will be honest, the threat of nuclear holocaust was a possible outcome. Cooler heads prevailed after I sat both children down and explained that their was another chair next to that one. Needless to say, they ate their macaroni and watched some movie with floating fairies. It also made me wonder how two four year olds knew about nuclear armaments and how they obtained them. Oh, the wonders of children though. So, when do I make my arrangements to fly to Oslo?

It must be said that the Communist regime in China's inability to accept criticism. I mean, c'mon what way to win people over to your way of thinking with imprisoning Nobel laureates for eleven for calling for reforms to your one party system. Oh wait, you should also place the wife of the dissident under house arrest. At the very least let one of the family members of recipient Liu Xiaobo to accept the award on his behalf. Do not think of it as a sign of capitulation or weakness but a much needed boost in the realm of PR.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How Apropos... The Man Whose Actions and Policies are Best Described as Unconscionable has Feelings. Who Knew?

I have spent the better part of a week musing to myself about KanyI have spent the better part of a week musing to myself about Kanye apologizing to George W. Bush for "hating Black people." Honestly, I am not a fan of Kanye for a myriad of reasons (Can you say overrated five times fast...) including the ridiculous publicity afforded to his Twitter account.

Anyway, it seems the most Imperial President in recent memory is a bit of a cry baby. His constitution was crippled when being labeled a racist but oddly enough is completely fine with the racial profiling of Middle Eastern gents, who are then black bagged, rendered and then tortured... I digress.

So, you asking "oy, Funkowitz get to the bleeding point!" The point is this, "W" is trying to remake his image and he is doing a smashing job at it. Not only did he make the media pick up an old news story... The made him seem like the victim (Consider the Guardian piece). He was called a racist because he response was downright criminal and say what you will about Kanye but he accurately pointed this out.

Seriously, if that kept him up all night with sorrow and worry, how did he deal with the final three years of his term? If you cannot deal with the harsh criticism of the truth, either change your behavior or get out of the public eye. If you are trying to hock your book and redeem your image... Pick something that does not paint you as a cry baby wuss. Oh wait, there really is not much to be proud of between the years 2000 to 2008, is there? Do not worry, when your book is remaindered, I will pick up a copy of Decision Points and review it for this site... Then it will be used to prop up a table. Buck up Georgie, things will get better... Just be glad you are you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

May Facebook Save the Queen or Further Decline of the American Media.

I am beginning to think that I am developing masochistic tendencies... It is either that or I need to set my Internet browser to a new homepage. You might not know this but I have a wee problen with the state of the media.

The long and short of it... It stopped being the fourth branch of the government and has willingly reduced itself to the level of a blathering, vapid idiot.

You might be wondering what I am referencing... Did you not hear the wonderful news... Queen Elizabeth II has joined Facebook! Its ok, let the air out slowly... Whatever, you do don't pass out. Do you need a paper bag?

Now, why are you still here... Check it out and come back. I'll wait...

What, you cannot be friends with her? She's just posting her scheduled events and it is like a third person is doing this own her behalf... Gyp!

After cursing to high heavens and condemning what passes for "news" on Yahoo... I am with the question, "who cares?" Seriously, if this is all it takes to be a writer these days, why don't the major news publications consider ol' Manny Funkowitz... I would crank that kind of tripe out by the barrel full and would do it for a can of beans.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Does this "gift" come with a reciept? I Think I Have Something That Needs to be Returned... Since it does not Fit.

Another Election day has come and gone... The results of which are not surprising. Although, nobody enjoys getting socks on a holiday. McCain won yet another easy victory... The disgusting aspect of Arizona elections besides some of the placards detailing candidates who did not support SB 1070 was the election of a community college graduate to a full term as governor. Seriously, she could not function during a debate for pete's sake.

From a National perspective... This was an election for the Democrats to lose... Surprise, surprise... They did not disappoint. (Anyone who half a mind on politics, knew they were gonna lose one chamber of Congress) When faced with a challenge by fanatical Republicans, the folded. For those not keeping track, the "Tea Party" is nothing but a collection of extremist Republican... Too cowardly to call themselves the GOP.

It is a not a "shellacking" if one does not know how to run a counter campaign. Show some teeth, grow a pair... Do something... Dare I say it, ANYTHING! Your lay down and die mentality is getting tiresome. How could you not counter a message of craziness (subjectively speaking)?

Also, a note for Conservatives, congrats on getting the mass public to believe anything. (Not sarcasm) Except you forgot something... Most or all of the policies are extensions of the Bush Administration. Other than that, the Democrats have done relatively nothing... Oh, the effects of "Obamacare" have been negligible. What can I say, it is the will of the people and they will get what they "paid" for.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am More of a Fan of Tricks Than Treats... To Each Their Own, I Suppose

To my growing reader base from the folks here at PORTEmaus...

HAPPY HALLOWEEN... May it be safe and your candy be full of sweet delicious nougat not something nefarious. Also, be vigilant of the trials associated by trick or treat like this kid...

Be Safe and wary of "healthy" treats!


Monday, October 4, 2010

It Spawned A Classic Film and A Song by "The Boss..." What Other Book Can Claim That? PORTEmaus Book Club Entry #4

Place those hands over your heart and cock those heads blissfully in the air as the trumpets blare! This marks the return of an institution as venerable and ever-lasting as the American flag, apple pie or Cookie Monster. The PORTEmaus Book Club returns with a new entry after a month on vacation... Oh what a vacation it was! Wait until you see the slides. Let's just say a few literary works were a wee tipsy...

Due to the size of this month's selection (a mammoth 619 pages!?!?!?! and no it is not the Bible... I know you all are disappointed), we are going to extend the selection into next month as well.

I have kept you on edge long enough... What book other than Bible would be this long? Answer: John Steinbeck's classic, The Grapes Of Wrath.

So, you better get the coffee brewing... You have a lot to read and a short time to get it completed.

Post script: For those wondering when the Washington Rules review will be posted... It should be up momentarily.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Didn't My Broker Talk Me Out of This! I Still Can't Believe I Spent Money on This Turd!

We all have made some pretty poor choices in purchasing music that are reminiscent of socks on Christmas or finding half of a worm in an apple. The Billboard charts will attest to this. This series of columns --provisionally-- called "I Spent Money on This?!?!" seeks to examine our poor choices in music.

Most of us go through a classic rock "phase," instead of focusing on such great bands as Dylan, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Stones or the Beatles, we branch out into the milieu of garbage that comprise the genre.

Like most people, I have all of my music on an Ipod or vinyl and my CD collection (for the most part) is comprised of crap that I cannot explain why I bought it. Case in point is the CD that I bought on my 21st birthday, Young Hearts: The Complete Hits of Steve Miller.

I wish I could blame the purchase on intoxication but that is no excuse. The problem is that Steve Miller --as a musician-- is barely above that of a lounge singer. Somehow, he was able to create a formula to create catchy pop music. Not only does his music contain made up words (See "Joker") and lyrical nonsense but most of his songs have the same riffs of other hits.

In short, he never grew as an artist... He stuck with a tired music style and he even referenced old songs. Also, Abracadabra has to be the worst English language song in existence and illustrates how far Steve Miller would prostrate himself for a buck.

On the whole, there is only one song that has a decent beat to it (Livin' in the USA), Steve Miller ruins it however by opening his mouth. All of the songs on this disc leave much to be desired in the realm of lyrics. It may sound harsh but I would pay Steve Miller to quit writing songs...

Outside of the bands, I mentioned earlier and some others not, Steve Miller has bludgeoned my desire to listen to Classic rock or at least the lame acts. The sad fact is that his songs are more instrumental than actual lyrics and they still make my head hurt. In conclusion, if time travel is ever created, I am gonna punch 21 year old Manny in the face for purchasing the worst collection of "hits" in the history of human music. Needless to say, it was money that could have been better spent on booze that night.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Naysayers Might Call it 'Perpetual' War But We (The Establishment) Call it: Being in it for 'The Long Haul'

Washington Rules: PORTEmaus Book Club Update: No. I

After the Aspidistra debacle (Look at how long it took to post the review... let alone finish the short novel), I decided to get a jump on Bacevich's book and be more "johnny on the spot" with the updates. I have been a little surprised by the book, namely the composition and Bacevich's writing style. I can say with much certainty that those few people that follow this blog will not read this book because it would be considered too "dense" or political.

True, you cannot have a book about policy without being political but honestly this book is not dense. So far, the book is more historical about the concepts and people who have forced concept of perpetual war to the forefront of the "Washington Rules." People like Allen Welsh Dulles (Brother of the "guy" (John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State) they named the airport after... he also is considered to be the father of the Central Intelligence Agency) and the head of the Strategic Air Command, Curtis Lemay (A man most known for as the guy behind firebombing of Japan and the basis for the character of General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove)

Needless to say, this technique provides an interesting perspective on policy decisions. It puts more emphasis on how these decisions became entrenched into American politics. For those who are still unconvinced, consider this... I received my copy yesterday (the local library never received their copies evidently) and I read sixty some odd pages (out of two-fifty)... Couldn't put the sucker down, it also makes me want to apply to Boston University... But I digress.

This novel has everything... Class Warfare, Adult Situations, Disorderly Conduct and an Immortal Plant! PORTEmaus Book Club Review #II:

Keep The Aspidistra Flying... A novel by George Orwell.

Preface: I had the most frustrating conversation regarding Orwell (Like all literature talks, it stemmed from noisiness about the book I was reading at the time... The Scarlet Pimpernel) and how he was nothing more than hack, only able to plagiarize and incapable of an original literary thought. Basically, the clod asserted that 1984 was a rip-off of Zamyatin's We. What she neglected to note was that Orwell cited this novel as inspiration. I recount this story, merely to clear Orwell's name...

Say 'allo to Gordon Comstock, starving poet, shop keep and lone soldier in the war on Capitalism. Gordon is a complex character with few redeeming virtues and I doubt most readers will like him. His motivations for shunning money (however, he is not above accepting it from his poor and also starving sister) and "good" jobs would not resonate with them. He is staunchly anti-consumer and anti-Capitalist for the sake that neither behaviors have no intrinsic value in society.

Orwell surrounds Gordon with characters who cannot fathom the reasons for his actions. The horrors of Capitalism expounded by him is lost upon --those closest to him--Julia, Rosemary and even the self-described Socialist Ravelston (who is wealthy no less). All feel that Gordon should abandon his fools errand and obtain a job that pays. Of course, Gordon refuses to oblige them.

This is an interesting literary technique as the reader will inevitably side with the supporting cast and render Gordon's views taboo. At its foundation, Aspidistra is a novel that serves as means to awaken class consciousness... While simultaneously not offering a replacement for Capitalism. It merely seeks to expose Capitalistic values as being shallow and superficial.

In the end, the novel is one that illustrates the ills of Capitalism and how it adversely affects British intellectual development (I.e. Thoughts are "controlled" subconsciously through economics and this is illustrated through the reading habits or political views of the characters). There is a reason why this system is entrenched in Western society, it is because the individual creates a need for it. For even Gordon Comstock, avowed enemy of the "Money God" (aka Capitalism) realizes the futility of his battle and much like the protagonist in 1984, Winston Smith (Nice callback, it all comes full circle), he accepts the dominant system of control and obtains a "good" job. Of course, he has a reason for this but ultimately, Orwell utilizes Comstock as a means to illuminate that political or economic systems are nigh impossible to overthrow... Especially, when only one man answers the call to arms.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All Good Things Must Draw to a Close: Aspidistra Closing Update No. 2

Aspidistra has drawn to a close and a good time was had by all. It was great to spend some time in pre-war Britain for a bit... Especially since I spent my nose firmly in dense course materials for the better part of July.

All grousing aside, the book did not disappoint the second time around. A rare occurrence since nothing lives up to the expectations or memories in our mind. Oddly enough, I have reread a couple of Orwell's books in my time and they don't disappoint on multiple readings.

With that said, the review should be posted either tomorrow or Friday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Curse you money-god! How one live on two quid a week? Aspidistra update: number one.

So I suppose everyone is wondering (pins, needles and such) where I am at in Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying... Especially since the first week of August is drawing to a close. I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I cannot believe it took me this long to reread it. Orwell has a way with presenting poverty stricken characters and pre-war (the Second World War) England for that matter.

Hopefully, I will be able to finish it by tomorrow or Sunday at the latest... Though, much like the first time I read it, I --kind of-- don't want it to end. Damn you Orwell and your literary prowess!