TV On The Radio
9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
June 9, 2009
Some of the details are hazy, but I mostly remember the greatest show I’ve ever been to. It was ninth or tenth grade, and my friends and I took the commuter rail out to Worcester, Mass. to see (ahem) Goldfinger. It was my first real show (my first rock concert was [ahem] Billy Joel at the then-Fleet Center with my dad and a friend), and I’d never felt such a rush of energy. As I pushed and shoved and jumped with the bouncing throng, I lost myself in the excitement of experiencing something wonderful for the first time.
While I’ve obviously seen better bands than Goldfinger since then, I’ve never been at a show that quite replicated that level of energy. At the 9:30 Club the other night, however, TV On The Radio came close. And this isn’t surprising: their music, funky and bouncy and suffused with joy even when it’s sad, was made to be heard live. It was their second show in two nights at the same venue, and they nonetheless performed with the energy of a high-school “Battle of the Bands” contestant.
The saxophonist was particularly impressive; he had an uncanny sense of when to hang back and when to send a song into the stratosphere with a blast of sweet brassy goodness. Another highlight came at the end, when the band invited some members of the audience on stage to bang along during the percussion-heavy “A Method.” The only disappointment, for me at least, was the performance of “Stork and Owl,” one of the band’s most hauntingly beautiful songs. It came off a bit listless live. But I don’t really have any other complaints. It was a great show.
9 out of 10 recurrences of the thought, “I really like TV On The Radio, but so does everyone else, and it’s the same as with Arcade Fire and The National where me and all the other people who claim to dislike ‘pop music’ all end up liking the same bands anyway, which is lame and defeats the point, and the whole thing gets so insular anyway, but I’ll try not to worry about it because this is genuinely good music and I don’t see how anyone could disagree anyway”
Weeds Season 5 Premiere
Aired: June 8, 2009
If you thought Showtime’s Weeds had turned into enough of a daytime-soap-but-with-more-sex-than-they-can-show-on-TV-in-the-daytime last season, just wait until you see the Season 5 premiere. The high melodrama of the once small-scale suburban comedy just got higher (but no pun intended, because unlike previous seasons, Season 5 features very little on-screen weed-smoking). Questions of paternity, tons of domestic in-fighting, and the ever-present Mexican mafia define the new dark-and-depressing Weeds, whose idea of an uplifting moment is an incredibly corny Improv Everywhere-style stunt in a shopping mall.
Still, I simply can’t tear myself away—and, if you’ve been following the show for the past four seasons, you won’t be able to either. High drama is, of course, what makes good TV; even though Nancy Botwin, her teenage sons, her dysfunctional brother-in-law, and other friends and acquaintances of varying levels of sanity bear little resemblance to the characters who were first introduced in Season 1, they remain gripping simply because everything in the Weeds universe continues to spiral out of control.
If you’re new to Weeds, though, I recommend starting at the beginning. Jumping into Season 5 is probably not going to pique your interest. But once you’ve caught up, join me in my eager anticipation of the rest of Season 5—I promise it’ll be totally ridiculous, but also totally awesome.
6 out of 10 Mexican gangsters
16 and Pregnant
Premiered: June 11, 2009
Last night MTV premiered 16 and Pregnant, a new documentary series that seems to attempt to be the Scared Straight of teenage pregnancy. The first episode took the viewer through the emotional rollercoaster ride experienced by Maci, a dirtbike-riding and self-proclaimed over-achieving teenager from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She talks about how “at first” she and her fourwheel-riding boyfriend Ryan were going to get married and were so excited about their new son Bentley. But, as Maci noted, now “Ryan’s attitude sucks.”
Gradually the relationship between the two teenagers becomes less rosy and they eventually decide that if it weren’t for their son, they probably wouldn’t still be together. The grand message that they will “try to make it work” makes it clear to the audience that their relationship won’t. A bug in the corner of the screen urges viewers to text a number to find out how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. But like Maci’s mother, the show can’t quite bring itself to actually talk about birth control, condoms, or abortion. Maci doesn’t directly discuss whether she and Ryan were using contraception. Instead the show’s creators seem to be winking at the audience to guess how the pregnancy came about.
While MTV’s heart was perhaps in the right place, choosing a “teen” venue to show how difficult teenage pregnancy can be, it ends up adopting the Bristol Palin style of prevention. Rather than presenting the options as pregnancy or nothing, it would be refreshing to see a show that actually discussed ways that teens, if they decide to be sexually active, can prevent pregnancy.
5 out of 10 swollen teenage bellies
Launched: June 3, 2009
With a $100 million ad campaign portraying Bing as a savior in a world of confusion and collapse, Microsoft has a lot to live up to with their new search—no, wait—“decision” engine. Can it make gains on Google’s dominance in the crowded search-engine market?
Bing’s goal is to “find and organize” search results to make decisions quicker and easier—distancing itself from Google’s minimalist approach. Need to find the best flight out of New York? Even before the search results, Bing shows you the cheapest rates and also whether the prices are rising. Looking for a new plasma TV? Bing’s results will preview prices and user reviews. Want to drop a few pounds? Bing will divide up fitness results into food, workout equipment, doctor advice, and more.
To be sure, I’ve found Bing’s “find and organize” method to occasionally make my search experience easier, but for the most part Google still sits atop the heap. The reason we love Google, after all, isn’t because it “organizes” our results or provides additional services. We love Google because it can just plain search. Ultimately, too often Bing’s attempts to “organize” results gets in the way of the real thing—all the websites that excel at the particular services they provide. These are the websites Google helps me find the best. Give Bing a try if you’d like, but in the end, next time you need to make a decision, I think you’ll just end up Googling it.
3 out of 10 reviewers pretending to understand Google’s PageRank algorithm
My father refers to Russia as my "grandmotherland," a reference to my daughter-of-immigrants status. I guess it’s fitting, then, that English Russia is my favorite blog ever.
The anonymous editors of the site take news stories and photos from sources in Russia and the former Soviet Republics and paraphrase the stories in broken English with no links or credit. They have a particular eye for stories about things that are f*cked up, broken, or tied up in a bureaucratic, corrupt mess.
I mostly go to English Russia to check out their photo roundups. Some of my favorites (don’t miss the writing on these posts):
- Crappy Russian roads here, here, here, and here
- Abandoned places like a prince’s house, a railway station, and ships left to freeze
- Homeless dogs on the subway
- The Moscow Zoo, circa 1920 (note the Joseph Stalin look-a-like in the second picture)
- Soviet-era condoms (made in the same factory as rubber gas masks)
- Lines at the first Soviet McDonald’s (I’m pretty sure my parents waited)
I can’t honestly review the blog without mentioning the offensive content (see the 68 Russia Demotivators), but that’s Russia for you.
I think this angry commenter’s sentiments pretty much sum up the whole site:
The site is full of negative info about my native country. Looks like an American anti-Soviet propaganda of Cold War times. Have you guys seen anything in Russia except drowned tractors, street fights and drunk subway bums?
10 out of 10 bizarre images of Russian life