the Long Tail

Adventures in the Low End of the Demand Curve

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Andy Richter Controls the Universe

Back in 2001, Fox Broadcasting developed a bad little habit of cancelling shows that I wanted to watch in favor of more American Idol. Inconsistant scheduling of several shows caused them to falter in the ratings, including Futurama, Greg the Bunny, the Tick, and the show that I'm writing about today, Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

Andy Richter was the former sidekick of Conan O'Brien. For a quick round of "I Never", I have to confess that I've never watched an episode of Conan O'Brien. Partly because I just can't stay up that late, partly because someone that I used to date told me not to bother watching if I hadn't been watching from the beginning. That didn't stop me from getting in on this show from the beginning.

When Andy left the Conan show, this was his first project, and I have to say that I am now sad that I never got to watch him on Conan. It was extremely funny, in a Drew Carey Show meets Family Guy kind of way. Andy played a technical writer working in Chicago, and the show followed him and a few of his office mates. While some of the stories were a little bizarre, most of the time, they were stories that I could relate to. The best feature of the show was the brief cutaways that happened when Andy would imagine situations going a particular way, usually in a way that would almost never happen in real life. These were fun to watch, and the sharp contrast they provided to real life always led to a laugh or two.

Each character on the show was richly detailed, and by the middle of the second season, you really felt you were getting to know them. You weren't as surprised when you saw the world through their eyes, to paraphrase the shows theme song. The entire cast was excellent, especially Paget Brewster (who you might remember as Kathy from Friends during season 4) who plays Andy's boss Jessica, and Jonathan Slavin who plays Andy's office mate, Byron (who also appeared on an episode of Friends). The scenes in Andy's imagination can be a little strange, but the cast is able to pull them off, and make them fun to watch. There are just too many good moments to go into any sort of detail.

The show went off the air in 2003 following a fill-in type run. When Andy Richter started to appear in the much less stellar show Quintuplets, I figured that this show would probably not be coming back. While I am aware that bootleg copies of the show are available on eBay, I'm still holding out hope for a legitimate DVD release. I know that this would be an instant classic in my house. Especially for the scene where Andy has wheels. (I kid you not!).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Little Plastic Trees

I'm going to do something different today. Instead of reviewing a particular piece of media, I instead would like to highlight something that I'm seeing more and more of on the old Internets; it was something that was pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago, and since then, I've been unable to get them out of my head.

What I'm talking about are re-mixed (spoofed might actually be the correct term, but I'm going with remixed) movie trailers, especially the ones that put the movie into a completely different genre. Imagine Fight Club as a romantic comedy or Sleepless in Seattle as a stalker-horror movie, and you've got the idea.

None of the movie clips are doctored in any way, except to be completely taken out of context, with different voiceover and background music.

I'll leave you this time with some of the better trailer re-mixes that I've found.

1) the Terminator

2) the Shining

3) Fight Club

4) Big

5) Sleepless in Seattle

6) Say Anything

7) Taxi Driver

Note that some of these contain violent or raunchy content, just in case that concerns you. I'll post more as I happen to find them.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mystery Men

Back in the summer of 1999, a small movie was released that I thought had the potential to be a big hit. It was about a group of misfit super-heroes, and their journey to save the world. It was marketed as a parody of regular super-hero movies.

Upon seeing the movie, I realized that the movie and the characters in it took themselves way too seriously for this movie to be considered parody. Instead, what we have is a fable about underdogs rising to the occasion.

The story begins with Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) attempting to save a nursing home from an attack by the Red Eyes, a local gang of Hooligans. The situation soon escalates beyond their talents, and Champion City's resident super hero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), swoops in to save the day.

Later on, the insane super-villian Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) is released from prison, who soon captures Captain Amazing, and begins hatching a plan to destroy Champion City. Sensing an opportunity to make a name for themselves, Mr. Furious, Shoveler, and Blue Raja hold a recruiting drive to fill out their ranks. However, the recruitment drive is a bust. They haven't even settled on a name for themselves, how can they can take on Casanova? It is at this moment that the legendary Sphinx shows up, to train them (and a couple of hangers on) in the art of being a super hero. Nothing they learn is anything new if you've ever read any sort of self-help books. Be yourself, believe in those around you, and have faith in what you're doing.

The heroes soon realize that they are the city's best hope for salvation. Instead of running away, and leaving Champion City to its doom, the heroes make preparations to take on their greatest challenge. They transform themselves into the heroes they've always imagined they could be, and for the first time, learn how to perform as a team, instead of individuals with a common interest.

I don't believe that its a great spoiler to say that our heroes are able to save the day. For those who want to see it, this movie has a great inspirational message about the power of a positive self-image and that anyone is capable of rising to the occasions that are thrown at them. It's not a super-hero parody. Instead, it's the essence of being a super-hero.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Indigo Prophecy

One of the missions of the Long Tail is to bring items to your attention that you might have otherwise missed or overlooked. Possibly one of the best video games of the past year certainly qualifies.

If you're looking for something that goes deeper than the latest Madden or Halo, tells a fantastic, deep, and engaging story, and tries hard to be something different, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.

This is billed as an adventure game, and initially, I was put off by this billing. When someone says adventure game, I think of games such as King's Quest, Quest for Glory, Secret of Monkey Island, or any of the old Sierra or LucasArts games. These games certainly had their moments, but my strongest memories of these games is the unnaturally obscure things that you had to do in order to progress in the stories of these games. Maybe it was because I was between 12 and 15 at the time, but I couldn't come up with the strings of actions required to make the Rube Goldberg machines these games were start turning.

Indigo Prophecy is different. This is designed to be more of an interactive movie, and to the degree that that is a poisoned phrase as well, it succeeds as a first step to show what an interactive movie might look like. You're allowed to get into each characters head as the story progresses. These are not paper dolls either. Each character has a rich backstory which has an effect on the game's events.

I'll avoid plot spoilers for the time being. You start the game playing the part of Lucas Kane, who has just dropped the knife that he has used to murder a complete stranger in a restroom of a New York City diner. You will spend the game unravelling the conspiracy that led you to this point.

While the story does seem rushed at the end, this is a fantastic first effort from develop Quantic Dream, and I'm looking forward to their next effort.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Silvercrush - Stand

One of the risks in trying music that you've never heard of is that it just might become a club with a very exclusive membership. As such, the band goes off the grid, leaving behind a single album for archeologists to discover and analyse, and come to conclusions about the lack of musical taste that existed in the early part of the twenty-first century.

The particular album that I'm talking about today was put out by a band from Salt Lake City, Utah, called Silvercrush. According to one of the remaining websites that reference this band, there was a bit of trajedy that made this album bittersweet. I won't discuss it here, because my purpose is to talk about the music.

It's nothing you haven't heard if you're a fan of bands like Collective Soul, matchbox twenty, Live, or Creed. What sets this band apart is a focus on melody, harmony, and inspiring and personal lyrics. I like just about every song on this album, but the songs "Stand", "Dance" and "Tommorrow" really stand out, as I find them really inspirational. Stand and Tommorrow both strike me as statements of faith that some higher power will continue to be there with you, so nothing in this world should be holding you down. Dance inspires me because it encourages a spirit of adventure that I think a lot of people miss out on, and I want to make sure that I keep dancing.

When I found this album in August of 2002, I enjoyed it immensely, partly because I detected a strong spiritual core to this album, which is true on a lot of my favorite albums. Perhaps it was this spiritual core that has led lead singer Steele Crosswhite to become involved in a church in Salt Lake City called the Rock. Perhaps it was this shift in priorities that led to the band just drifting apart. I hope, however, that Steele is inspired to get the band back together, because the world needs more music like this.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lazyboy - TV

Without hyperbole, I think that I can say that this is a one-of-a-kind album. It appears to be a project of some sort, and not a true artist, but here's hoping there's more where this came from.

What is "this" exactly? This is an album that at first seems easily dismissable, but gets into your head once you spend any amount of time with it. It seems like any other electonica album, but what sets this apart is the voiceover contained on each track, each centering on a particular theme, from love, society, choosing to have a positive attitude, or simply the facts of life. Each track is designed to be provocative, make you think, and possibly be a better person once all is said and done.

There were two tracks that I especially enjoyed, "Inhale Positivity" about the importance of having a positive attitude, and "Desiderata" about the importance of having inner peace, and how to achieve it. However, to call these two the best tracks on this album really means something, as the entire album is outstanding. It's unlike anything else out there, which is unfortunate. Image how different the world would be if there was more like this, and that it was taken to heart.

Buy Lazyboy - TV from Amazon

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Radford - Sleepwalker

This album came out of nowhere, made a little noise, and seems to have gone back to whence it came with little evidence it was ever here. Which is unfortanate, because this album was really special if you were lucky enough to find it.

When I first encountered it, it was in the famous clearance section of Amoeba Music in San Francisco. I found a lot of good music that unfortunatley was about to be sent to the Island of Lost Music.

Because Radford was in the process of going off the grid when I found this album, information about them has been hard to find. Today, its well nigh impossible. Even the web site listed on this album appears to be in use by an unrelated business.

A little bit about this album. It combines thought-provoking lyrics with a less synth-oriented 80's style new wave. My favorite songs include the lead off song "Therapy(I don't Need You)", "Out of the Dark", and "Fake a Smile." The album title even seems a little ironic. The Sleepwalker here seems to be struggling to wake up and join the world. Themes like resonate with me, because I've had episodes where I've felt out of touch, and almost asleep to the world around me.

This band had potential, and I'm sorry that they probably won't get an opportunity to go any farther. Without the ability to know what they're up to now, I'll just have this album and their previous album. If you happen to find this album, feel free to give it a good home. You just might be presently suprised.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

My Date With Drew

Any student of American History can tell you that we wouldn't be where we are today as a society if it wasn't for those who dared to have a dream and follow it, no matter what those around them would say. Brian Herzlinger's dream doesn't have that kind of scope, but he might inspire someone else who does.

If you haven't heard about this movie yet, filmmaker Brian Herzlinger has had a crush on Drew Barrymore ever since he was 10 years old, and this movie is a document of his journey to finally realize his dream of going on a date with her, with all of the pain and joy that that involves.

In the process of realizing his dream, he taps into something uniquely inspiring that you can't realize until you see this movie for yourself. Everyone has dreams about rising above their station in life, even if only for a moment. This is simply one man's journey to reach that goal. It just happens to be a date with a uniquely beatiful actress; someone else's dream might be different.

Following one's dream is rarely an easy or fun thing to do, and this movie does not hide this fact. Which makes it all the more real; the false starts, along with those who provide inspiration along the way are familiar to anyone who's embarked on the long journey of following a dream. There are a few laughs along the way, but it's hard to not give into hopelessness when the reality of the situation becomes a wolf at the door.

It is because of those universal truths that those who deride Brian Herzlinger as a stalker completely miss the point; he himself said that if Drew said no, that would have been the end of it. Instead, this movie is a chronicle of one man's journey to follow his dream, and see where it takes him. To that end, everyone who's ever had a dream will find something to relate to in this movie.

Buy My Date with Drew from Amazon.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I found out about this from a cool podcast called the Sounds in my Head. The song that was played was called "In the End," which is a happy little song about the end of summer, but wanting to hang on to the good memories. I instantly fell in love with the song, although I first heard it in the run up to a harsh Michigan winter.

The album is not sold in stores, oddly enough, so I had to order it. When it finally arrived for me to pickup, I played it immediatley, and it instantly rose to the top of my 2005 music purhases, which also saw fantastic albums from Carbon Leaf, New Order, and Ringside, among others.

The remainder of the album was also filled with happy little tunes, including Superstar, Human Condition, Serendipity, and my personal favorite, Warmin' Up, which made a good theme song for my New Year's Resolutions.

Who should buy this album? Anyone who likes music in the style of the eighties New Wave craze. This certainly has a good beat, and is easy to dance to.

(Buy From Amazon)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

the Killers - Hot Fuss

With the attention that the Killers have been getting lately, I initially believed that they didn't need my help, such as it is. The glowing reviews from Rolling Stone, Blender, and airplay on several radio stations, not to mention record stores around the nation can do so much more to help this band get the attention that they deserve. I thought about it, and then decided that its still important to do my part. Who knows what could make the difference?

Without a doubt, this is the best album that I've picked up this year. With a name like the Killers, I expected either a heavy metal band, or a hip-hop group, not the new wave influenced rock and roll singalong that I find so enjoyable.

Pair up enerjetic sounds with interesting lyrics, and you've got a great album, one that just keeps getting better and better. Don't buy this album for any particular songs. Just buy it for the entire package. Buy it now, so that we can enjoy more later.