Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
Even though the past few weeks have been some of the most busy times in recent memory, I did find a moment or two for an email interview at Keikaku.net. It's terribly verbose and detailed, as is my want, and covers questions about what's it like to create a website with a Japanese Music focus. Since that is the sort of thing I do, I was happy to participate. It's the first in a weekly series of such interviews, and I look forward to hear from my fellow webmasters.
Thus, feel free to take some minutes to read my second Junk Magnet interview ever, and make sure to stick around Keikaku afterwards, because they're increasingly swell.
Most bloggers are concerned primarily with relating their everyday experience. I, on the other hand, want to keep a clear separation between the things that I like (which I share) and the things actually going on with me (which I don't). Privacy and all that. So, anyway, things are definitely going on right now with my family - medical things - and thus my nights and weekends are totally occupied with everything but this website.
Thus, I ask for your patience, since future posts to junk.log will be sporadic until March, at least. Someday soon I'll be able to post most every day again, but not this month.
Anyway, if I was posting, I would tell you about Joss Whedon at Wondercon SF, or the amazingly attractive and talented actress Andy Goldblatt of Andy and Scott productions. Look for those nuggets, along with other topics of interest, as my energy and time permits.
During 2004, I effectively didn't watch any TV. Sure, I had to see TV at work (during my tests of EyeTV), but the only show I followed was [Lost]. My theory was that the best stuff that was on would eventually make it to DVD, and then I could watch it in larger chunks, without commercial interruption. That served me well for [Arrested Development], and also for my latest "best show ever", [Wonderfalls], the entire series of which is now on DVD.
First, it would help you to understand that [Wonderfalls] only aired for 4 episodes on Fox in early 2004, and was killed quickly despite lots of great reviews. Thus, 9 out of 13 episodes on the DVDs never were seen until this month. That said, it's a shame that [Wonderfalls] received such poor treatment, because it's clearly one of my most favorite shows, inspiring lots of intelligent laughs, not to mention crude jabs and few tears at the end.
The plot is unusual, yet simple to grasp. Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas) is a lowly gift store clerk in Niagara Falls, who becomes touched by forces she neither understands nor likes. These forces make animal-shaped objects talk to her, directing her to do good deeds in the most round-about way possible. Each episode is about the chain of chance leading to these good deeds, intermixed with everyday adventures involving her eccentric friends and family. There's even a well-constructed love story, which culminates greatly by the last episode. It's [Joan Of Arcadia] with balls, the hand of God for the [Gillmore Girls] set.
Let me make myself clear - [Wonderfalls] is an amazing series of 13 hour-long episodes (that is, 40 odd minutes each) which is immensely entertaining, and quite deserving of much more acclaim and attention. Rent it, buy it, and visit Save Wonderfalls to petition the powers that are for more of this insane goodness.
Did I mention that Caroline Dhavernas (pictured) is amazingly beautiful and surly at the same time, or that the entire cast knocks it out of the ballpark? It really doesn't get much better than this when it comes to comedic drama, so get with the program already.
If you're looking for great, New Wavey music from Columbus, Ohio, then Manda And The Marbles are the cure to all that depresses and offends. Manda Marble, the titular beauty with a voice to adore, leads Mark Slak and Joe A. Damage to all sorts of tuneful places, that recall early No Doubt, The Epoxies from Portland, OR, or many other bands you may remember from the 80s. Of course, there's also sounds suitable for the new Millennium, which fully cement the sing-along sidewalk.
Over the past month or so I've been running a contest to give away two copies of their latest album, [Angels With Dirty Faces], which will be re-released widely in a few weeks on 2.27.05. Each CD comes with a poster, and out of the collected entries, the two winners are:
Scott David Orr
They will be contacted shortly, so band representatives can send off their prizes. Look for another non-Manda related contest come March.
For five years, JunkMagnet.com has had pretty much the same interface and focus. Games, Tech, Music and Text were covered, but some sections more than others. For the past few years I've been trying to figure out what the next shape of Junk Magnet would be, and over the next few months I'll be starting to implement it. The most obvious change is the death of the Games and Technology sections, since I no longer play games more than one or twice every few months, and spend way too much time with electronic stuff for work.
In their place, I'll be slowly but surely spinning off new sections from this junk.log, while I continue to focus on the Japanese Pop section (since that is the most popular part of the site). Furthermore, the entire interface and design will start to change, above and beyond the more obvious shift away from big skinny graphics. What you see now is a hybrid built upon the old template, but that will completely transform soon.
The goal is to keep things mostly hand-coded and simple, yet to throw in some tricks I've learned over the years. Usability will always be the primary focus, but I want to build a foundation for the next five years.
Thus, look for the official unveiling of Junk Magnet 1.5 at the beginning of March, the foundation from which the future will be built. Let me know how it works for you.
I'm sure that the news has already appeared elsewhere, but I received an email today from Utada.com asking me to enter a contest. Not just any contest, but a drawing to see Utada performing live in New York City later this month. Specifically:
We're proud to announce Utada's first US live appearance on February 23, 2005 at Skylight in New York City . It's sure to be an amazing event, and to celebrate, we're extending to Utada Newsletter subscribers like you, an opportunity to witness history and get on "The List" for the performance and party! All you have to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, birthday, email address, and phone number - by 2/17/05 at 6:00pm (EST) - and you will be entered. 25 winners will be chosen at random to get their name on the list plus one guest for the showcase.
Yes, I entered immediately, and if for some magical yet unlikely reason I'm one of the winners, then I will gladly take off some vacation days, buy a round trip ticket to NY, and bask in the warm glow that is Hikaru Utada's music. Obsession or appreciation - you be the judge.
No matter; at least she's being promoted more, which is all I care about in the end. Oh yeah - you can use the above instructions to enter, too, without being on the mailing list.
While looking for new Japanese Music sites, I found the wonderful Keikaku.net, which is one of the few other places besides Junk Magnet to have a Sherbets profile. Sure, mine was the first, but their's is quite impressive, and managed to scoop me about their brand new album [Natural] (VKCS-31), due out 3.9.05
Why is this so exciting? Well, the Sherbets were one of the best rock foursomes in recent memory, and their supposed last album [Vietnam 1964] came out at the end of 2001. That's one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands, and I was resigned to relegate the Sherbets to one of Kenichi Asai's many projects now passed. But no! He, along with the masterful Qumico Fucci, Kenichi Nakata, and Kimitoshi Sotomura, are back to grace the world with their superior sounds, and I for one am quite grateful. Someday soon, you'll be grateful too. Read here for why.
After a long and anxious wait, [Paranoia Agent] Vol. 2 is now in my hands (released on 1.11.05, but I was slow). The series is the latest work from Satoshi Kon, the creator of [Perfect Blue], [Millennium Actress] and [Tokyo Godfathers]. The skilled Madhouse are also involved in this amazing serialized anime TV show.
The conceit of the story is that a connected group of people, each one at their wits end, is accosted by a mysterious baseball-bat-wielding youth on inline skates, called Shonen Bat by the public. This volume starts with the capture of the Shonen Bat suspect, a boy in his early teens. Things, of course, don't quite turn out as the detectives on the case expected.
Episodes 5 through 7 are expertly handled, deftly balancing rampant surrealism and "Lynchisms" (red velvet, strange small old people, twins) with a straightforward "catch the perp" plot. I particularly liked the Episode 5, [The Holy Warrior], which has both a number of unexpected twists relating to the whole Shonen Bat situation, and scenes that visually intercut reality with fantasy and memory, much like [Millenium Actress]. That's a very Kon-san touch, that's used just enough to make you perplexed yet entertained.
As detailed earlier, [Paranoia Agent] is highly recommended. Volume 3 comes out on 3.8.05, so make sure you catch up on the mystery before then.
Tonight I randomly discovered Nippop, a grand experiment in Japanese Pop information, started at the beginning of 2005. It has a crazy amount of profiles on bands covered by Junk Magnet, along with scores more.
With multiple contributers, XML feeds, a newsletter, articles, and all-sorts of other mmm-mm-good bloggy stuff, you really can't go wrong. They're already schooling me, so why don't you go and learn something too?
The anime adventures of Mikura and her DSA (Danger Service Agency) crew conclude with [Mezzo] Shell Three, released today in the US (I found it last weekend, as is the tendency of my local Best Buy). It contains episodes 9 through 13, which serve to wrap up the various plot points, with equal parts suspense, action and humor, all comingled with relatively realistic urban SF action.
Creator/director Yasuomi Umetsu tried his best to make a less "H" version of [Mezzo Forte], and largely succeeds save for a relatively demure Mikura shower scene. Fan Service stops for no one, but save for the death and destruction, [Mezzo] stayed surprisingly most-ages and asexual.
For this volume, Asami's introduction into the world of the DSA concludes with her becoming a mini-Mikura, tough and capable yet still sweet. I liked the conclusion of her story arc, as well as the penultimate fight against the relatively unsurprising meta-villain. Plus, the running subplot of a mysterious assassin gunning for DSA members concludes pretty satisfactorily, and thus I was quite happy with my jaunt into the world of [Mezzo].
I recommend the series for its fast pace and charming characters, and only wish that the animation quality would have better lived up to the high standard set by [Mezzo Forte]. Nevertheless, A JM Pick.
A few months ago I was raving about the Kleptones mashup masterpiece, [A Night At The Hip-Hopera], a skilled and tuneful mingling of Queen and hip-hop. Now, I'm raving about their latest work, [From Detroit To J.A.], which steals the soul and combines it with 80's pop, among many other things. Hard to quantify, easy to love.
Travel here for links to MP3 torrents, and enjoy this virtual album with your favorite digital player, or burnt to CD. Again, who knows if such meta-sampling is legal, particularly in the crazy-ass U.S., so partake at your own pleasure.
Elisabeth Esselink of Amsterdam is perhaps one of my most favorite musicians, yet relatively few people even know that she exists. She's the massive force behind Solex, and over the years has had a few Matador Records releases of much merit. Now she's graced the world with [The Laughing Stock Of Indie Rock] (Arena Rock Recording Co), which exhibits more of the same quirky amazingness.
Solex has an unique and immediately identifiable sound, a tub-thumping low end mixed with samples, random sounds and proto-electroclash. Fun, almost-intellectual music that makes you want to dance and sing not that ironically, yet still suitable for hipster head bobbing. Sung in mostly understandable English, Elisabeth orchestrates a soundtrack suitable for pedestrian trips past strip malls or down neon-lit alleys. Basically, it's modern music with more than just your typical guitar sounds, and I like it tons.
For specificity's sake, I'm particularly enamored by [A Round Figure] , [You're Ugly] and [Hot Diggitydog Run Run Run] off of her new record, and although I was late on the uptake (it came out last September) it's been warming me up as of late. Shouldn't it make you crazy with joy, too?
To be sneaky about it, the contest was only announced via my RSS Feed, and after a grand total of 3 entries, the randomly selected winner was Keith Ticer of Texas. He'll be receiving his prize shortly.
Now, let that be a lesson to you all. Contests will be appearing all over the place, from the JM Newsletter to this junk.log or my RSS Feed. Therefore, take advantage of all the ways to keep up with the Junk Magnet experience, and you will be amply rewarded.
Look for more contests once the Manda And The Marbles giveaway is over on 2.15.05.
contests: [enter here]
po box 11501