John Otteni

Eat Your Heart Out

The Shins – Heartworms

“Do the Shins write catchy songs?” Don’t take this statement as “Do the Shins write good songs?” They do for the most part. I’m asking if any random blue collar slob walked into a karaoke bar and tried to sing any Shins song other than “New Slang“ could they nail even fifty percent of the right notes? I’ve probably heard “Phantom Limb” and “So Says I” hundreds of times but no way could I ever belt those tunes in a sing-a-long. This is a factor that has for years held me be back from loving The Shins. Their songs (or at least singles) are too complicated.

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Freaky Fridays: The Fan

The Fan (1996)

For those who may not have noticed (or cared) baseball season has reared its ugly 178-year-old face once again and will now haunt us for the next five or six months. I’m in a weird place with baseball these days. My love of football has far eclipsed my love for America’s pastime. If we still had a basketball team in Seattle, there’s no doubt in my mind, I’d be more invested in that as well.

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Freaky Fridays: Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th (2009)

If I have learned anything from the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th it’s that the slasher movie is dead. What was once a thriving genre in the 1980s has in the past few decades been reduced to a parody of itself. “Was it all worth it? The need for this derivative, explicitly violent, overly sexualized bastard stepson of cinema?” Let’s find out.

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C.A.T.: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963)

Last night I listened to The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady while drinking warm Pepsi and playing Tecmo Super Bowl. It turned what was a relatively quiet evening into an offbeat jazz odyssey. Also, the 1991 Seahawks beat the Jets 28-6. All thanks to the power of jazz. So we’re rolling a smoke and hitching a ride back to 1963 for this week’s Classic Album Tuesday.

I find writing about jazz, particularly for someone not well versed in the genre, challenging. There are no words and the intentions aren’t always clear, but that’s kind of the beauty. It’s how YOU interpret the music. I try to close my eyes and remember what I can. The first thing I recall is the music, swaying in, like a drunk elephant, followed by a bizarre low buzz, like a fart machine. Is it a tuba? An alto, something? I can’t believe it only took me two paragraphs to type “fart machine” describing one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

At first, the whole album has a chaotic feel. Like a circus that keeps piling on attractions and stunts before the previous performance has ended. From what I’ve read, Mingus utilized a great deal of overdubbing, piling on more and more instruments and unique sounds throughout the recording process. Himself a talented double bass player, Mingus is accompanied by the equivalent of a small chamber orchestra in a ten-piece backing band. Even instruments I wouldn’t associate with this bluesy kind of jazz are included like classical guitar and flute.

I could name the names of all the talented musicians on this record, or at least copy and paste their names–I don’t know any of them, but I’m told they’re amazing–but why do that when Mingus himself can do that right here. If you don’t feel like clicking on that, it’s a link to the album’s liner notes, written by Mingus. He’s very technical in breaking down the album, which is broken into four tracks and six modes like a ballet. I was surprised considering the album has an improvised vibe. Apparently, Mingus planned much of this in workshops and had a specific vision. The greats always do.

I find it interesting to note that the rest of the liner notes for this album were written by Mingus’ personal psychologist, Dr. Edmund Pollock. Though I don’t know the nature of their relationship the liner notes are not weird or science-y. Pollock is complimentary towards a musician often called, “The Angry Man of Jazz.” One of my favorite comments is when he says Mingus is in “great pain and anguish because he loves.” What a beautiful way to describe music as a vehicle for personal expression.

The album isn’t all downbeat rhythms and melodies. There are moments of elation when Mingus switches to playing piano as cherubic flutes play overhead. It’s the kind of album that can’t be listened to in pieces. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is a symphony, with all its highs and lows. There’s too much to take in on a first listen. It’s the kind of album you can listen to one hundred times and always hear something new. I look forward to hearing it again when the 1991 Seahawks go to the Super Bowl. Go jazz!

Freaky Fridays: Freddy vs. Jason

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Earlier this week, new footage was discovered from the Freddy vs. Jason weigh-in. That’s right, this match up was so hotly anticipated that to promote the film, Jason and Freddy were brought to a pre-fight weigh-in at Bally’s Las Vegas followed by a press conference. I still get a kick out of the idea, but there’s one lingering problem I’ve always had with this movie.

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Freaky Fridays: Jason X

Jason X (2001)

I remember seeing a cardboard display for Jason X in the lobby of a Regal Cinema when I was eleven-years-old. I hadn’t seen any of the films but I was familiar with the character. My immediate reaction was “Wow, that’s dumb” followed by laughter. Even as a child Jason X seemed like a bad idea and it is a bad idea. I actually ended up renting it with my dad on home video—that’s what we called it—however many months later. I remember thinking it was just so terrible and then falling asleep.

Looking back, I think I was a little hard on Jason X. Too much preteen angst, perhaps. Then again, preteen John hadn’t sat through nine other Friday the 13th movies beforehand. Because in the grand scheme of things, Jason X is one of the most entertaining installments in the series. Yes, it’s a terrible idea with cliche characters, cheesy effects, and flat story, but it’s fun. The action is solid and there are a few genuine laughs. Jason X, like Piranha 3DD, is a movie that knows exactly what it’s supposed to be. It never tries to be more than dumb fun and on that note, it succeeds. On other notes? Oh god is it bad.

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Freaky Fridays: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is a film I hated before I even pressed play. This is because Part IX is the first film in my Friday the 13th viewing odyssey that I was unable to watch on Amazon Prime. I gather because the first eight films are Paramount releases while Part IX is from New Line Cinema. I understand this is a completely arbitrary and unfair grievance in regards to the actual film, but when I have to go out of my way to watch a film I already know is bad, you better believe I’m going to be cranky.

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