|THE BLACK LIST: YOU TAKE THE GOOD AND TAKE THE BAD.|
|By The Black Table||
As a sitcom, the Facts of Life was a marginally funny show whose best moments were always unintentional, like in the beginning of its run, when Tootie nearly kills herself while zipping around on roller skates. Or whenever Mindy Cohn was used as a love interest. Or at the end of the show's run, whenever the supremely mulleted George Clooney was used to ferry along some plot point.
If only the Facts of Life could have stopped after the theme song finished playing, then you'd have a gripping metaphor for life in today's modern consumer culture. As the song goes, "you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have the facts of life." The same could be said of this week's edition of the Black List, where people either seemed to review good things, like time-wasting videogames and irresistible snacks, or very bad things, like America's current foreign policy or your local Mail Boxes Etc.'s hackneyed attempt to morph into the UPS Store.
Good things. Bad things. Both come with the territory when you're alive. Does it get any deeper than that?
No. No, it doesn't.
Without much more ado, The Black Table presents a dozen reviews of things that are demanding your attention, or time, or money, or some combination of all three. As always, we welcome submissions from the field and hope you enjoy this week's romp through capitalism.
UNILATERALISM: It was fun for a while. We got to thumb our noses at Old Europe and the New World Order and make up our own rules for military intervention, trade, and the environment. But lately, it's not so much fun. Iraq, whose citizens haven't let gratitude get in the way of their hatred of us, is descending into anarchy, and people who know about such things say it'll take half a million troops to prop it back up--as if volunteer soldiers grew on trees. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is going through a Taliban-revival craze, and we had to pretend not to notice the situation in Liberia for fear someone would expect us to get involved there, too. It's time to face the fact that unilateralism, like hip-huggers and flashmobs, is a summer fad that just hasn't worked out. Maybe if we bake a few nice apple pies, we can convince our former allies to welcome us back to the bloc party and chalk it all up to a little tantrum among friends. D+ -- Daniel Janzen
HARPER'S BAZAAR SEPTEMBER FASHION ISSUE: With more than 800-pages of crap, this is supposed to be Bazaar's big Fall fashion issue. Madonna is on the cover whoring herself out for the Gap in ugly pants, a tank top and "her own" newsboy cap. The tagline says "Madonna's New Look", which at first I assumed was Bazaar's first stab at irony, then I realized they were serious. Can't Madonna bankroll Guy's next flop some other, less pathethic way? If I want to look at Harper's Bazaar, I want to at least see fashion that I couldn't possibly afford, want to afford, or sanely purchase even if I could afford. This does not include Gapbody tank tops for $14.50. Even worse, the cover article manages to kiss her ass, be utterly vapid and incorrect all at the same time. I quote: "She introduced the world to the underground East Village punk style." Huh? As far as I can tell, her "new look" is an ugly mish-mash of tired-ass re-treads of the past decades' trends. (Speaking of tired-ass re-treads, Cindy Crawford's in the magazine!) The copy is laughably inane, even for a fashion rag, throwing out such sage advice as "The return of the important white shirt!" D -- Cathy Hannan
MADDEN 2004: In real football, the most exciting players (Michael Vick, Chad Pennington) are already out for half the season -- Sports Illustrated has had to reshoot its season preview cover twice now. The NFL will still be fun, but already a little bit of the upcoming season's air has been let out. It's more proof of the direction our culture is going: The virtual world is becoming more fun than the real one. Vick and Pennington live on in Madden 2004, which, like it does every year, is an improvement on its predecessor. The load times are faster, the players' expressions are more definitive and the scores are more realistic. The NFL doesn't start for another week and a half, but after four hours of Madden the other night, the actual kickoff is going to seem anticlimactic: My Arizona Cardinals are already 2-0. Now that's fantasy. A- -- Will Leitch
DIGITAL CABLE: We could go on and on here about the myriad technical capabilities of this product, or the improved resolution and sound, and the interactive programming guide, or the chance to sift through the likes of Bloomberg News, the BBC, the Travel Channel and the Golf Channel. But really, that's all a bunch of blather. It's easier to talk about the wonders of digital cable by just saying this: the other week, on two
different Cinemax channels, the Michael Dudikoff opuses American Ninja and American Ninja II were playing -- at the same time. Seriously. Ah, technology. May I die and be reincarnated as a semiconductor. A -- Dave Gaffen
FREDDY VS. JASON: Twenty years after New Line first took a stab, Freddy Vs. Jason has finally hit theaters. This movie is everything you'd expect from the genre. Tits? Check. Creative Killings? Gratuitous Blood? Check and check. There's enough of the red stuff to make you buy stock in the Karo corn syrup company. In addition to Krueger's brains and Jason's brawn, we have a slew of new characters with all kinds of asinine back-story. Idiot virgin stick figure, Monica Keena (think Brittany Murphy after a few big Macs) attempts to draw us in with her "did my boyfriend (played by the spawn of Jason Ritter) see my Dad kill my Mom" issues. Does anyone care? Fuck no. We just want to know who gets it and when. In a crowd-pleasing moment, one of those interchangeable Destiny's Child members calls Freddy's wardrobe "faggoty" and gets knocked through a tree. Call it nostalgia -- there's something strangely comforting about gore and one-liners. Robert Englund may be over the hill, but he still knows how to go in for the kill. This movie's been tops at the box office for two weeks -- as Freddy would say, "Welcome to the big time, bitch." B+ -- Tracy Weiss
SARA LEE BROWNIE BITES: Oh god. Sweet frozen chocolate. Mmm. Oohh. Yum. Chewy brownie. Oh god. Fudgy fudge. Oooh. Tiny little bites. Aaah. Another? Why not? Oooh. Oh, sweet Jesus. A+++ -- Claire Zulkey
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE AND CHRISTINA AGUILERA'S "JUSTIFIED/STRIPPED TOUR" AT NASSAU COLISEUM: Since neither "pop sensation" could fill an arena on their own, Justin and "Xtina" (don't get me started on the extra T) have teamed up to not fill an arena (in this case, the horrid-smelling Nassau Coliseum). Though problems and delays plagued the show, those wacky kids really know how to entertain. Christina, however, has the edge -- actually proving her singing chops while changing into about twenty fabulously hideous outfits, all the while keeping up her message of girl power, albeit a bondage-and-stripper kind of power (and she rode a pink motorcycle!). Justin, on the other hand, wore as many layers as possible at all times (tank top over short sleeve over long sleeve), while dancing like a maniac, stealing some songs from that group he used to belong to, pretending to play the guitar, and of course, the endless beat-boxing. And the hats. Dear lord, the hats. The best thing? Seeing all the tweens scrambling for concert paraphernalia: from "I (Heart) J.T." tank tops ($40) to "Stripped" pink undies ($20). We were just wondering where the commemorative chaps were for sale. Christina: A- Justin: B -- Alexis Saarela
SUPERCHUNK "CUP OF SAND": A couple years ago my friend Pete burned two CDs full of Superchunk material that didn't appear on official LPs. Merge just released the same thing and called it "Cup of Sand," but it cost $15 and has better art. Superchunk draws from the past decade and throws 25 songs at you -- some acoustic renditions, B-sides, unreleased tracks, etc. (Granted, Superchunk is pretty into comps, what with Tossing Seeds in 1992 and Incidental Music in 1995, but it's all good so who cares?) Often with comps you realize why the cuts never made it to the final LP. Here, Superchunk just throws more goodness at you, and you thank them with all the purity of your indie rock heart. Besides the music (which is simultaneously familiar and new), the band wrote stellar liner notes. Consider it a director's commentary for the record. Mac, Jim, Jon and Laura all contribute bits about every track and you learn why a song is this way or their favorite part about that tune. All that, and it manages to not be totally dorked out. Boo to Merge (which Superchunk founded) for gumming up the jewel box with stickers that are impossible to remove without a healthy dose of Goo-Be-Gone. It's the only flaw. A- -- Aileen Gallagher
RENO 911: This show makes me miss The State. Not that Reno 911 -- which is written and produced by State alums Thomas Lennon III, Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney -- is a bad show. Far from it, in fact. The show's format, in which we follow bumbling Reno police officers on their various missions, Cops-style, is basically a jumping-off point for the same kind of absurdist humor that made The State an instant cult classic. So why the longing for the old show? I don't know. I suppose in part it's that The State felt like brand new ground, like something I'd never seen before on television, a little anarchic, even. Whereas this show, coming several years later, often feels like a bit of a retread. Or, like the group's other follow-up, Viva Variety, one really long State sketch. Also, when The State began airing on MTV, I had just started college and I was stoned all the time. Really stoned. Two-foot-bong-hits-in-the-afternoon stoned. So, in fairness, that probably has something to do with it too. Porcupine racetrack, indeed. B+ -- Mike Ingram
CHINESE SLIPPERS: One of my biggest fears is that while stepping out of a subway car wearing sandals, one of them will fall off in the crack next to the platform. It's like my version of the dream where you forget to wear pants to work. Anyhow, I've given some thought to what precautions I would take if this ever happened. Fortunately I am comforted by the knowledge that on almost every other corner in the city, you can easily purchase a pair of Chinese Slippers for the small cost of $2-$5. These colorful mesh and sequin kicks are the perfect pair of "emergency shoes." They are not however, good walking shoes. For a short distance, yes, but when walking 8 miles to get home during a blackout, sorry girls but they are called slippers. C+ -- Beth Frey
AXE BODY SPRAY: This is a setup. I've already seen and dismissed too many male-odor-enhancing products to consider it. But I am enticed. Is it the dorky guy in the elevator getting all the ass? Perhaps. Is it my putrid and overwhelming stink? Erm, yeah. But it's also the name. Axe. Very simple. I like that. "It won't be any different this time", I tell myself, "You're just being played the fool!". I try it anyhow expecting to be repelled by yet another product that doesn't live up to it's hype. From the moment I spray it on I'm in love. It goes on easy and dry. There are no sloppy liquids or haphazard sprays, just the smooth aerosol-like emission that makes your body smell so sweet you're sure a dozen chicks will be ready to jump your bones in the elevator. It's not overpowering and covers up all indications that there was a slovenly, grotesque creature there beforehand. This gives new meaning to the phrase "Italian shower". A+ -- Shane Abrahamovich
THE UPS STORE'S NEW SIGNAGE: No doubt about it, if you're lazy and have a lot of money to spend, Mailboxes Etc was the shit. Bring in any old object, dump it on the counter, say "here," and you could send it to Timbuktu by the next business morning for just a small fortune. So good for Mailboxes Etc, as it merges with UPS, combining the utility of shipment with the aesthetic quality of those cute brown shorts. Both companies seem to have money. Why, then, haven't any of the new UPS Store signs become permanent? Every one thus far is still simply a tarp thrown up over the old Mailboxes Etc. signs. This is not the way to gain customer trust. You don't want to look like you set up, or could leave, under the cover of night. Maybe they shouldn't have ordered their signs sent via USPS. C- -- C.Z.
SUBMIT. The Black Table has opened the lab. We want you review whatever new thing is out there that caught your attention so we can publish it next week. Keep entries at 150-175 words in one paragraph. Do not go long. Remember the grade. Entries are edited. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org