Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jon Stewart is so funny, its true.

Watch the video then read the blog. The video will be worth your time, the blog’s worthiness is a crap shoot.

I’ve been a fan of the Daily Show for a while now. The writing is great and consistently makes me laugh and makes me think. After seeing this clip from Crossfire, I understand why the show is so great. Jon Stewart is funny and passionate. It would be easy to just make jokes each weekday at the current news, but the Daily Show has something that SNL’s “Weekend Update” and many others like it don’t have; An agenda. It would be easy for people to say that the Daily Show simply has a “left-wing agenda” and that would be a mistake. While I am sure the writers, producers and many of the viewers lean left, the agenda of the show isn’t about political parties.

The agenda is discourse, people debating issues on their own merit and making an educated decision. Stewart doesn’t see his show to be the place for this, it sees it as a catalyst for politicians and the media to pursue his agenda. When the media simply operates as a platform for inane talking points, it doesn’t fulfill its purpose. Free press was not written into the constitution so that media conglomerates could profit, it was intended to hold politicians feet to the fire.

I took a class in journalism and ethics in college and it made me long for the Agenda of the Daily Show to become reality. The teacher was an older gentleman who seemed to have little hope when he considered the lack of journalistic integrity among most outlets. I can post a blog like this with no sources and just my ramblings, I could make up any story I wanted. And the media can simply quote me and claim they didn’t need to have multiple reliable sources, they are just reporting on my reporting. This is sad.

I didn’t anticipate writing an article that is so pointed and passionate, but this is a passionate subject for me. I really want to see our nation have debates and discourse that go beyond talking points and rhetoric but make us ask ourselves fundamental questions. My hope and the hope of Jon Stewart is that the media will do the job. Until then I look forward to The Daily Show calling out people Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central at 11:00pm. I also appreciate that after this clip aired on CNN, they later canceled the lame “debate” of Crossfire. Go get ‘em Jon!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

John Mayer shouldn’t just be on my iPod, he should be on my TiVo!

watch before you read, its worth it.

John Mayer: ”Ladies the Fleetwood Mac Concert has been cancelled.”

Last week I caught a few minutes of TMZ. Okay, I watched the whole show because I have a season pass, its one of the only things I am not proud of on my TiVo. It makes me laugh to see celebrities make fools of themselves. Anyway, I had the rare opportunity of seeing a celebrity make a fool out of TMZ. John Mayer had the cameras follow him on the streets of New York for a half hour while he made a fool out of them. He has a reputation for making jokes while he exits clubs, but this time he took a good chunk of his day to be stupid.

It cracked me up and reminded me that John Mayer is not just a great musician, he is a down right funny fellow. A few years back I came across a TV show called “John Mayer has a TV show.” It was really funny then and cracked me up again when I watched it this week. Here is a guy that is ridiculously talented on the guitar. Here is a guy that has thousands of girls screaming his name every time he goes on stage. And here is a guy that will dress up in a bear costume to mock himself and his fans.

He is not mean spirited; he just doesn’t take himself that serious. It is his willingness to laugh at what he does that is appealing. The TV show has one episode, which makes no sense to me. Hopefully he considers making more shows in the future, because I would not only watch the show, I would buy the DVD. The show certainly isn’t perfect, but it is ridiculous. Luckily we can watch the show on YouTube and enjoy the shenanigans at our leisure. Thank you John Mayer for amazing music and down right funny TV.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Joker is no laughing matter.

It wouldn’t work if he was throwing money off a parade float while Prince sang. This is a whole new joker.

Saturday afternoon I was going to have a little free time and figured I would catch a matinee of this film that I’ve been anticipating for a few years now. That morning when I checked show times for the Arclight at 9 am. I discovered that all shows that day were sold out. This film was packed and even the 3:10 showing on Monday was 75% filled. After looking at the box office totals I made some calculations and discovered that everyone in America saw this movie. So instead of a spoiler warning, I can just speak to this film with the assumption that we’ve all seen it. (To our foreign readers, beware of a little spoiling in this article.)

This film was great, but the greatness of the film was overshadowed by the performance of Heath Ledger. People are pontificating non-stop with the “he left us too early” sentiment so I am going to avoid that and judge his performance on its own merits. It was so good that I forgot about his tragic death. I was enamored the second he came on the screen. The opening shot takes your breath away and the following sequence sets the tone for the type of man the joker is. His next appearance shocked me and had me turn to my friend and say simply, “It is no on.”

The best strength of this film is that it follows the style set by Batman Begins. The Joker is one of my favorite villains and I love it all the more with the realistic interpretation. That guy is just plain crazy. We don’t get any back-story, and it is unnerving to see this man operate on his skewed morality. I thought I would be frustrated with this but really just loved it because it seemed to fit the character. Batman asks some big questions about his role and its prompted by the Jokers way of operating. While every other actors performance didn’t seem as strong as the first film, I think its because I was captivated by Ledger. It is not just a good comic book film, which is a genre that forgives for sub-par writing and acting all too often. It is a great film on its own. Ledger’s performance is like watching Anthony Hopkins’ original performance of Hannibal Lecter.

When I left the theater I started to question whether I was just riding the hype. Was I just enamored because of all the post-death praise? A few days later I think I really did like it that much. Better than Jack Nicholson, and I loved Jack. It is like comparing apples and oranges because the tone is so different. Honestly, I love this version of the franchise and want to see where it goes next. I hope not to see the Joker return in this set of films because it is so great the way it is. I enjoyed the themes and asked myself some probing questions in the days that followed. While this article may seem to be hijacked by a review of the Joker, the film was too, so it’s fitting. I am planning on seeing the movie again next week and maybe after that I can talk about things other than the Joker. Until then I have a great memory of the film. Based on the first half of the year, we have an Oscar for-runner in Ledger. If you haven’t seen it, go see it today, it is worth it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barnes & Noble, you’re on notice!

The environment looks so inviting doesn’t it... it’s a lie

It’s early, I’m not tired and just wrapped up dinner with a friend. I don’t feel like going home but with gas prices and money being tight until my next paycheck, I don’t want to spend money. While this thought process is happening my eyes spot a Barnes & Noble. It’s literally down the street from where I live yet I’ve never been inside. I haven’t taken the time to enjoy this spot. They have a Starbucks, I have a Wi-Fi subscription there, so sweet. I also have a gift certificate so maybe I can buy a new fun summer book. Sounds great, let’s go for it.

As I walk in, I spot an AT&T logo in the corner of the window. I am reminded that this is a franchise Starbucks and therefore not contractually bound to providing Internet for Starbucks customers. No worries, I don’t have to be connected to the World Wide Web to enjoy a relaxing time in the bookstore. I continue through the café to the floor of the store. As I walk around looking for a comfy chair to inhabit I am getting dirty looks from everyone I pass. Remember that scene in Forrest Gump where he gets on the school bus and all the kids glare at him and say “this seats taken”, “can’t sit here”. I wish this story ended like the film where a cute sweet girl would invite me to sit next to her, it didn’t. It ended with me walking all over the store without finding a chair. Mind you there were plenty of chairs open but someone would always speak up and curtly say “taken”. Everyone conversed like they were in high school cliques. They all knew each other and didn’t like the looks of anyone new.

Half of them were reading books that they had no intention of purchasing. I loathe this. People consistently visit these stores, read the book they want, fold it up, fray the pages and then hide it somewhere in the store so they can grab it the next night. Not only are they rude to other customers, but in a sense they steal the books. I mentioned this epidemic to a friend and they said, it’s not stealing, they’re borrowing. There is a place where you borrow books; it’s a library. I don’t go to car dealerships and drive cars around the lot once a week, until the new car smell has faded and the seat has a Trent-shaped groove. Someone would see that and declare shenanigans. Well guess what folks; there is an equally unjust system and I DECLARE SHENANIGANS!!!! I wouldn’t even spend my gift certificate because I was too angry at the system.

I made my way back to the café so that I could blog about my bad experience, and sure enough the dynamics in here are gross. No one is friendly and people certainly don’t smile. They talk to the people they know and scowl at those they don’t. The only person I connected with was the special needs guy who was perusing a copy of “Combat Tactics”. Will and I shared a table and talked for a while and I learned he knew way too much about weapons. I told him that I’d give him a shout out on the blog, so I hope he’s reading.

I love a good chitchat with anyone but the idea that the only person who didn’t act like a jerk is the guy with an off chromosome count is sad for Barnes & Noble. I have sat in bookstores and coffee shops all over the greater Los Angeles area and enjoyed a much more friendly, inviting and positive environment elsewhere. This assures me that this phenomenon isn’t just an LA thing. So it’s either Barnes & Noble or Westlake. I am not done investigating this issue; Thoughts of Trent is on the case.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vantage Point; Good idea, poorly executed.


It’s 1:50 and we haven’t even taken lunch yet. The mood of the office gets a little bit edgy when this is the case. As my hunger grows, Mike again mentions that the movie “Vantage Point” opened today and there’s a 2:10. After being reminded of this fact, I cave at the last minute. “Okay, let’s go right now, because I need to sneak food in, and I hate missing previews.” We jump in the car and within minutes we are sitting in the theater, eating Quiznos and watching this movie that I have been interested in for far too long. They started showing trailers for this movie during the summer, when it was intended to have an October release. For some reason, it was pushed back to a late February release. Now this is not a good sign.

Studios don’t hold a movie back because it’s looks great and they want to have movie goers wait a few months. Generally they hold back because the test screenings have not gone well and they need to do some tweaking. With Vantage point it is clear that their tweaking did not redeem this movie. As I sat in the theater, enjoying my sandwich, I found the dialogue with Sigourney Weaver had a very cheesy, poorly directed vibe. It was more Lifetime TV movie, then Blockbuster Hollywood Film. Unfortunately this direction plagued all of the other actors.

The gimmick of the movie is that you learn the story from different points of view. I think this idea can work great when the film is good. When the film is bad, it is annoying and gains collective sighs from the audience. It is a good idea but poorly executed. It really comes of the rails at the end of the movie. It becomes campy and unbelievable. Everything was working in this films favor, good preview, good stars, great non-linear story telling format… but it fell flat and the plot twists were not good enough to redeem this bad film.

I have to put this film in the category of “Rent it only if your significant other really wants to see it and you love them and want to make them happy and not always pick the film you want.” This is a very narrow category because this is really not a good film. Save the rental, put something else in the queue, avoid Vantage Point.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

“Nice Bag” leads to seeing the funniest folk parody duo live.

I am a fan of pictures of people jumping. I am a fan of these two funny fellows. Therefore, this picture brings me joy.

As I walk out of the theater leaving rehearsal, I look down and see a Flight of the Conchords (FOTC) bag. I remember when I was a kid and the desire to have as many products for the show or music group you liked. Over the years I owned a General Lee Big Wheel for Dukes of Hazard, an ALF backpack and a New Kids on the Block T-shirt. As I eye the hip FOTC messenger bag my friend Rich grabs it. We start a conversation about this great comedy duo that has a show on HBO and has become a cult classic within one season. He said his girlfriend bought him tickets to the show that was coming up. I had tried to grab tickets weeks earlier but they were sold out within 10 minutes. My mistake for waking up at 10:10 that Saturday Morning. Snooze cost me something awesome…again.

About a week after this I get an email from Rich, who I haven’t spent too much time with. He informs me that he has an extra ticket to see FOTC Friday night. Without even thinking about my schedule or his girlfriend, I email back immediately YES!!! I didn’t even consider the loss of a relationship. This is how guys operate, no pity, no “do you want to get a movie and bottle of wine and complain all night”, nope. We’re going out to have fun. Sure enough two days later I’m in front of the Orpheum with Rich. I found out that he and his lady of two years had broken up. He was going to take another friend but that fell through and wanted to take someone that would appreciate the talent rather then some chick that would be self-absorbed and a distraction. As we sat in this beautiful theatre in Downtown LA, I thought about how I would never let a lame blind date ruin a night like that. Good call Rich, good call.

The concert was perfect. If you haven’t experienced Flight of the Conchords, I’ve done you a favor and placed a few videos below. Take a look and enjoy their wit. They were everything you want when seeing a band live. They performed all but one of the songs that I wanted to hear. They played new stuff that cracked me up. They mixed it up, harmonized, stylized different favorites, it was so good. This isn’t a group you go to enjoy for the music but if more bands made the choices they made musically, then bands would disappoint with live performances . Sitting in the third row allowed me to catch the little looks and laughs between Bret and Jemaine. Their characters are dry and deadpan, but it was great to see them have fun. They engaged with the audience and had plenty of banter (which is just professional talking.) It was really a great night. They lived up to expectations, which is impressive considering how high of a pedestal I’ve placed them on. I got to enjoy their music, just feet away from them, all because I said Nice Bag. Here’s to kindness and paraphernalia, and the great things that happen when they come together.

Please watch these videos in order…


Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros (feat. Rhymenoceros and the Hiphopopotamus)

Business Time

Funny story…I found out about this band when a friend told me that they saw a song from some New Zealanders about the realities of marriage. This was in a church small group and prompted some great discussion. This made me laugh and want to give that small group leader a big hug. Well done.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wall-E floored me.

When I find myself saying “I am so similar to Wall-E”, I’m reminded there’s a talented group of artists in Emeryville.

Everytime I caught a glimpse of Wall-E, I found myself a little nervous. As a stockowner of the Walt Disney Corporation, I have a fiscal desire for the movie to succeed. As an uber-fan of Pixar and Disney I have another motivation for want to see success. But still, a whole movie about a robot that doesn’t talk, I really didn’t know. I had faith that if anyone could pull it off, it would be the team that brought us Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Even still, this is a movie about humans destroying earth and eventually becoming fat lethargic waifs in a world run by robots. I just didn’t know.

I went in with a desire to see success and was blown away. I loved this film. It starts of with photo-realistic imagery that is stunning, I really had to remind myself that this was a cartoon. The way they had the character set up his world and give us a window into his personality, it was entertaining to watch and an impressive feat considering he didn’t say a word. This was accomplished not by beeps and whistles, like R2-D2 in star wars (who I really believe is speaking English, seriously I can hear what he’s saying.) Within 15 minutes of this movie, I felt like I was identifying with this little robot. I felt like there were parts of our personalities that were very similar. I thought to myself, we could be friends. This is a fictional character, technically ones and zeros, and not using a voice. I realize I’ve been redundant here, but it can’t be said enough.

The film was fun, I followed the story with anticipation and concern. Some people are saying it is a heavy-handed “propaganda piece” about mans destructive nature. I found the story to be more about relationship and connection and living your life and not about going green. Some fox news junkies are going to be told by Sean Hannity to beware of the Al Gore agenda in the film, and these people need to think for themselves and consider the story and that it’s all about relationship.

I loved the love story, the depth of the relationship between two robots from two different worlds… SO GOOD! While I am not sure this movie has the repeatability or PPS (potential plush sales…stuffed animals) I know that it is a great story and a great accomplishment. Go rent a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton movie and learn from the masters of the craft. Then head over to the theater and watch this millenniums “silent film” star, a little Johnny-5 looking robot named Wall-E. I give this a go to the theater tonight and have an open mind recommendation. My fears of dropping stock prices and poor story telling have been dashed…Best movie of the Year!

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