Friday, August 17, 2007

HSM2: Instant Review

Fosco just finished watching "High School Musical 2." Some thoughts:

  • there are several very catchy songs--at least two to rival HSM1. "The Music in Me" is the standout.
  • just like HSM1, there was almost an hour of dead space in the middle of the movie. I really expected the pacing to be better.
  • Zac Efron is indeed unpleasantly bronzed. Two delicious shirtless scenes for him, though.
  • the black girl had even less to do in this movie than in the first.
  • Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans was gratifyingly more central to this movie than the first; unfortunately, his character couldn't quite handle the increased depth.
  • kudos to the writers and to Disney Channel for refusing to fix the clearly proto-gay Ryan up with any of the stray girls in the script. I was worried throughout the whole second movie that there would be a "happy ending" in which he becomes interested in a girl. And more kudos to portraying his relationship with his father as supportive and playful. There is good anti-stereotype work here.
  • boos to the sound mixing. All of the vocals in all of the songs clearly had the electronic tang of Pro Tools. Obviously, occasional electronic help is necessary for most artists, but the work here was purposefully obvious. I suppose the music producers thought it made the songs sound more hip-hop or whatever, but it's going to make these performances sound dated by, oh, tomorrow.
  • What is wrong with Ashley Tisdale? Her voice sounded extremely weak--much weaker than in the first movie. And after her hilarious "Fabulous" number (around minute fifteen), all the fun drains from her performance. She played the villain with such elan in HSM1, but can't pull it off here.
  • the climax: a talent show that is crashed by the resort employees. Hmmm. "Dirty Dancing?" I love a movie that isn't afraid of cliche...
  • and what about that moment where Zac Efron's character hugs Vanessa Hudgens from behind and puts his forearm completely across her breasts (as opposed to under her breasts). Do you hug people like that? And isn't that a bit racy for a movie that prevents the main couple from kissing until the final resolution?
  • For the most profitable franchise in Disney Channel history, the special effects were laughable. I've seen better effects in Ed Wood films.
  • the most enjoyable moments: the wacky family dynamics in the Evans family. There could have been more.
On the whole, I would rate HSM2 as enjoyable, but not nearly as good as HSM1.

Now Fosco has to learn all of the songs before the special "sing-along-at-home" version airs on Sunday night.

We're all in this together!

It's Friday night and Fosco is staying in. And not (just) because he's too engrossed in Armadale to hit the bars. No, tonight Fosco will be in front of his television to watch the premiere of "High School Musical 2."

Fosco has considered himself an honorary tween for several years now, at least in terms of his taste in music (Aly and AJ) and lip gloss (raspberry, baby!). But even more so, Fosco adores the tween sensation made-for-TV movie HSM. He owns the CD and the DVD and can do serious karaoke to all of the songs. Oh and someday he's going to write about the latent queerness in the script (yay Lucas Grabeel!). (Hmmm. Am I now going to get some tween commenter to write in to tell me that HSM isn't queer? Ooooh, I can't wait.)

And tonight... a whole new HSM! With all of the original cast returning (and yes, I'm sure some of them did have other things to do)! From the reviews I've read, it sounds as if HSM2 wisely takes its cue from the "Saved by the Bell" summer episodes in which the characters all get jobs at a beach resort. Beach resorts are the perfect place for singing and dancing and romance! Although let's hope there is no dirty sanchez action in this one.

Here are some HSM-related titbits:

  • My good friend Nathan found the best blog today: Zac Efron Please Stop Tanning. The title refers to the male lead in HSM and HSM2 and his quite unfortunate exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It's a hoot. I think I'm going to add it to my "Blogs I Read" sidebar...
  • You can purchase life-size cardboard cutouts of the main characters in HSM (see photos accompanying this post). Lucas Grabeel, who plays Ryan Evans, is 5'9" in real life. Did you know that his character wears nine different hats during the first movie? How many will he wear in the second movie? I hope very many. They are like his trademark.
  • The character Sharpay (played with scene-chomping gusto by Ashley Tisdale) is a dead ringer for one of Fosco's ex-girlfriends.
Oh, and just in case you were interested, Fosco now knows what flavor lip gloss he would be. See below.

You Are Raspberry Chocolate Lip Gloss

You tend to approach life as a fun game - being playful at every turn.

You're a flirt with flair, and your the type most likely to surprise your date.

But you're popularity doesn't stop with guys... you've got a great group of girlfriends too!

You're fresh, aggressive, and more than a little sassy. The tangy taste of raspberry and watermelon goes great on your lips.

Decline and Fall: What's Wrong at The New Yorker?

Even during the school year, Fosco always reads The New Yorker. I would like to suggest that it is a defining characteristic of any New Yorker subscriber to feel as if the magazine was at its best when she began her subscription and that ever issue since then has been symptomatic of a decline. Fosco still cherishes his memories of the editorship of Tina Brown and execrates the muscular current events focus of Dandy Little David Remnick. But suddenly, in the last few months, The New Yorker has been getting pretty bad. Ergo...

Welcome to new recurring feature here at Fosco Lives!: a column grousing over editing/fact-checking/writing problems at The New Yorker.

This week's offense is from the "Talk of the Town" piece by octagenarian baseball aficianado Roger Angell. Read closely:

Bonds's record dinger, in the fifth inning of a night game against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park, in San Francisco, came in his third at-bat of the evening, succeeding a loud double and a single. (p.25)
I don't think you have to be Morganna the Kissing Bandit to notice the factual error in the above sentence. Of course, Petco Park is in San Diego, not San Francisco. The San Francisco ballpark in which Barry Bonds hit his "record dinger" is, as millions of people know, AT&T Park. Do they have fact checkers at The New Yorker anymore? Do editors read Talk of the Town pieces? And is Roger Angell senile? I want answers.

Oh, let's do one more... I owe this one to the editorial-eye of my good friend Jean Goddard. It's from John McPhee's essay on the US Open golf tournament from the 8/6/07 issue.
Soon, though, a day of epiphany came, on a specific round, when, aged twenty-four, clearly, if not for the first time, I envisioned golf as a psychological Sing Sing in which I was an inmate.
Readers of this blog know that Fosco is a longtime admirer of John McPhee, but the above sentence is hideous. McPhee should have to give back the Pulitzer for writing it. And even if McPhee thought this was a good sentence, is he now beyond editing? Couldn't a New Yorker editor have done something about all those commas?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Go Rimbaud!

In the sheets
there was a man
dancing around
to the simple
Rock & roll

Fosco saw Patti Smith in concert last night. That's right: the legendary Patti Smith. She's a prophetic poet. She's a rock goddess. She's a shaman. She's the godmother of punk. She's an ecstatic visionary. She's #47 of the 100 Rock and Roll Immortals as identified by Rolling Stone (below Bruce Springsteen, but above Elton John).

It was amazing.

She played the Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz, which is a much better club than it looks from the street. The club holds 800; I'd say there were 600 there (how does Patti Smith not sell out this show?) The crowd was totally Santa Cruz: aging hippies with hash pipes, packs of graying lesbians, the painfully sincere. Oh, and Fosco's academic advisor was dancing right in front of the stage. And further back in the scrum, Fosco sighted both the current and former directors of UCSC's Center for Cultural Studies. Nothing like the presence of some academic heavyweights to make a newish grad student feel self-conscious.

But it didn't matter once the show started. Fosco was about 20 feet from the stage. Patti Smith looks great. She's sixty this year, and has some lines and some gray; but even so, her eyes are compelling and her smile winning. She was wearing jeans, cowboy boots, a t-shirt with a peace sign and "LOVE" written on it, and a cool black blazer with flared cuffs (Fosco wasn't quite close enough to see the label when she took it off). Her hair is long--well past her shoulders--and a bit frizzy. She may be older, but she's still unmistakably the woman in the famous Robert Mapplethorpe album photograph from "Horses" (below).Damn, that's a good picture. Here's a not good picture, taken by me last night:When she's dancing, she does these wonderful hand gestures.

She seemed extremely friendly and down-to-earth. When she came on stage and between the first four or five songs, she walked to the corners of the stage and waved to the crowd with both hands. She reached down to shake hands with the people in front.

As the show went on, she seemed to lose a bit of her equanimity (and who can blame her--crowds are always so annoying). At one point, she confronted a bleached blonde lesbian in the front who was videotaping her with her camera: "Get that fucking camera out of my face." After the song, she elaborated: "If you're going to take a fucking picture, take a picture. But don't make a fucking documentary film. I fucking hate that." Hear hear!

And, in response to some women in the front who kept trying to have a loud shouting conversation with her between songs: "You must be from New Jersey like me, because people from New Jersey can't shut the fuck up."

Here's another bad picture:

Between songs, she told great stories in her charismatically laconic way:

  • about her day in Santa Cruz and how she and the band went to beach and how she saw an attractive girl in a bikini doing a seal call. It reminded her of something out of H.P. Lovecraft.
  • how the girl who sold her pizza earlier in the day warned her not to order the anchovies because they had been in the freezer way too long. (She dedicated "Redondo Beach" to her.)
  • how she used to watch Television at CBGB.
  • how she ended up making out with a seal near a muffler shop in Santa Cruz (actually, this may have been more of a vision than an actual story).
  • about one of her favorite shows when she was growing up which featured a Buddhist bunyip.
  • how she browsed a great Santa Cruz bookstore earlier in the day (almost certainly Logos) and bought another copy of William S. Burroughs's Interzone, even though she owns six copies at home. But she wants to read it while she's on the road...
  • how her father once turned off a television when Frank Sinatra missed a note and how that made her "break out in a cold sweat."
  • and about how much she misses Jerry Garcia.
And the music? She played for almost 2.5 hours. Fosco stood near the front for the first hour, but then got tired and hot (and tired of having pot smoke blown in his face) and moved farther back. For that reason, the first part of the setlist below isn't really in order (note-taking so close to the stage is difficult):

  • Dancing Barefoot
  • Redondo Beach (the order gets iffy after this one)
  • Are You Experienced? Jimi Hendrix, of course. (with a kickass clarinet solo!)
  • Summer Cannibals
  • We Three (was GORGEOUS tonight)
  • Within You Without You (George Harrison).
  • Ain't It Strange
  • Beneath the Southern Cross
  • some other song I can't recall...
The second half of the show...
  • a song performed by her lead guitarist Lenny Kaye.
  • White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane.
  • Because the Night
  • Soul Kitchen, The Doors.
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana. This is a great cover, check it out on her cover album Twelve.
  • Gloria. My favorite moment of the concert? When Patti sang: "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not miiiiiine."
And the encore:
  • Perfect Day, Lou Reed. She changed one of the lines to "Shakespeare and anchovies and Santa Cruz--What fun!" Then she traded singing "you just keep me hanging on" with the audience. It was pretty powerful.
  • Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly. Dedicated to Jerry Garcia.
  • Babelogue-Rock and Roll N*****. It was impressive, especially when Patti demanded that we form our own political party and that we refuse to buy the "shit" that corporate American keeps trying to sell us. I was a little disappointed she didn't speak my favorite line: "I spare the child and spoil the rod. I have not sold myself to God." But it still rocked.
Oh yeah, and then Patti Smith ripped the strings off her guitar.

She RAWKS! See her if you can, my friends. Oh, and check out her very cool website. What other rock legend would have a tribute to Victorian essayist Thomas de Quincey? Shweet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hidden Meanings Department

This is pretty cool. For the past year or so, there's been an art installation at the top of Adobe's Almaden tower in downtown San Jose. It's called the "San Jose Semaphore" by artist Ben Rubin. The idea is that there are four rotating orange circles that produce, over time, a coded message. It looks like this:

What is the coded message? That's part of the fun!

Deciphering Semaphore’s encryption technique and decoding the message is posed as a challenge for the public. To the first person or group to successfully crack the code, Adobe will award bragging rights and acknowledgment on both the Adobe website ( and the San Jose Semaphore website.
Well, there is finally a solution. Two San Jose research scientists have cracked the (extremely complicated) code. You can read about (but probably not understand) their work here. You can read the (somewhat more comprehensible) artist's explanation of the cipher here.

Basically, the code uses portions of the text of James Joyce's Ulysses (and why not?) to encode the entire text of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. The entire novel is playing in the air in San Jose! What a hoot!

In the same spirit, Fosco would like to offer a similar event for his readers. Fosco has embedded a secret message in the gibberish below. The first person who decodes this passage (title and author are required as well) will win a special feature story here at Fosco Lives!

Secret gibberish passage:
Ce livre a son lieu de naissance dans un texte de Borges. Dans le rire qui secoue à sa lecture toutes les familiarités de la pensée--de la nôtre: de celle qui a notre âge et notre géographie--, ébranlant toutes les surfaces ordonnées et tous les plans qui assagissent pour nous le foisonnement des êtres, faisant vaciller et inquiétant pour longtemps notre pratique millénaire du Même et de l'Autre. Ce texte cite << une certaine encyclopédie chinoise >> où il est écrit que << les animaux se divisent en: a) appartenant à l'Empereur, b) embaumés, c) apprivoisés, d) cochons de lait, e) sirènes, f) fabuleux, g) chiens en liberté, h) inclus dans la présente classification, i) qui s'agitent comme des fous, j) innombrables, k) dessinés avec un pinceau très fin en poils de chameau, l) et caetera, m) qui viennent de casser la cruche, n) qui de loin semblant des mouches >>. Dans l'émerveillement de cette taxinomie, ce qu'on rejoint d'un bond, ce qui, à la faveur de l'apologue, nous est indiqué comme le charme exotique d'une autre pensée, c'est la limite de la nôtre: l'impossibilité nue de penser cela.

Good luck, codehounds!

Psst. The fun is elsewhere.

For those readers who have been missing the fun at Fosco Lives! over the past few days, here's the tip: check out the strange comment thread currently going on here.

Apparently, Pat Buchanan is the way to spice up a blog (or your marriage? Hmmmm.).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday Reading: "My Favorite Book Is... Magazines."

This begins a new weekly feature at Fosco Lives!

It wouldn't be Sunday without my favorite column in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the musings of "Crazy" Dan Harper. Every week, I count on Dan to say something both banal and insane.

Who is Dan Harper?

Dan Harper is an Aptos photographer, journalist and former English department chairman at Cabrillo College.
While I've never seen Dan's photography, I've read plenty of his writing and I'm not too optimistic about his work with a camera.

Today's gem:
I'm sorry but this is not a column about heavy petting. Magazines are nothing more than little books, so for the sake of this argument I will include magazines with books.
Learn more here.