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Everything That's Wrong with "Cars"

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Since this week's Sound of Young America is all about what's wrong with this country, and Pixar just released its latest flick "Cars," I thought I'd reprint this remarkable piece of invective from the normally quite temperate Matt Belknap of aspecialthing.com and AST Radio. Is Matt on-target or off the rails? You decide.

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There are so many problems that grow out of one central issue (that issue being: in a world without people, where cars are people, why would cars still look like cars, since cars were designed by and for people?).

1. Early in the movie, we see a field of crops, and throughout we see tractors in fields. WHAT CROPS ARE THEY HARVESTING, AND FOR WHOM ARE THEY HARVESTING THEM?! This would've made more sense if they had been oil fields (oil and gas are the soda and food of these car creatures), but of course oil has negative connotations, so they couldn't "go there."

2. If I'm not mistaken, we also see "flowers" being watered, but on closer inspection the flowers look like taillights or something -- in other words, they're mecha-organic, just like the cars themselves apparently are (I could be wrong about this, but if they're real flowers that creates other problems similar to the crop question). So if flowers are taillights, then WHY ARE THERE REAL TREES? WHY ARE THERE WATERFALLS? WHAT IS THIS WORLD THAT LOOKS LIKE OURS*, EXCEPT CAR-PEOPLE LIVE THERE?

*Even more infuriatingly, natural rock formations look like classic cars, radiators, engine blocks, etc. WHAT?!

3. There are a couple of references to Jimi Hendrix after we hear his National Anthem... WAS HENDRIX A CAR, AND IF SO WHAT KIND, AND HOW DID HE PLAY GUITAR WITH WHEELS INSTEAD OF HANDS?! HOW IS ANY MUSIC CREATED?

4. We see fans wearing colorful afro wigs in the stands at different races. WAIT, SO EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE NO PEOPLE, THERE IS STILL THE CONCEPT OF A HAIRDO CALLED THE AFRO?! IS THIS SOMEHOW CONNECTED TO THE EXISTENCE OF JIMI HENDRIX IN THIS WORLD?

5. Mack, the truck that drives Lightning around, communicates with Lightning over a video com-link that shows his face. But his "face" is the front of the truck, not inside the cab (the cab is his head), so where is the camera?

6. Romance is heavily suggested in the story, specifically between Lightning and the Porsche. But we're never told if cars procreate or if they're built somewhere, which to me is a pretty important question. If they don't procreate, why would the concept of love exist? If they do, how the FUCK does that work? Is it like the album cover for Aerosmith's "Pump?" Do baby cars come out of the mother car's tailpipe?

Every other Pixar movie has airtight internal logic. Usually, the anthropomorphized things are already living creatures (fish, bugs, monsters), so we have no trouble understanding that they could speak and have consciousness. in "Toy Story," the toys having a secret life grows logically out of the fact that children imbue their toys with personalities, and the toys are usually representations of living things anyway (cowboys, spacemen, pigs, dogs). But Toy Story takes place in our world, with a twist (the toys being alive). Cars never even begins to explain itself. Instead, it's built on the hope that people will go, "Ooh, cool! Shiny cars!" and not question anything (the same willful ignorance that allowed George Bush to get elected twice and go to war against a country without credible evidence). Given their past work, I hold Pixar to a higher standard in this regard, which is why I was so disappointed with this film. It's just lazy. It's bad, lazy storytelling, and up until now Pixar seemed to understand how important good storytelling is to a successful film. This makes me question that, because they seemed to just say, "We like cars, NASCAR is hugely popular, we can make a billion dollars very easily here by trading on our name and pairing it with a cultural phenomenon," and that all came before any concern for telling a good, solid story. The story elements -- not just the concept but the characters, the locations, the plot -- all feel like afterthought compared to the clear mission to make a shiny, flashy movie about race cars for kids and NASCAR fans.

World Cup news!

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Is this Diego Maradona snorting blow on worldwide television?

Maradona was banned from soccer for a year in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine. He also tested positive for drugs in 1994 and 1997. In 2000, he suffered a heart attack due to a cocaine overdose. He OD'ed again in 2004.

Clip courtesy of The Kasper Hauser Skit Club

George Saunders Reads from "In Persuasion Nation"

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A couple weeks ago, the members of the brilliant sketch group Kasper Hauser were over at my house. They were talking excitedly about their favorite author (apparently, their literary taste is collective). His name is George Saunders.

I had Saunders' publisher send me his most recent book, and it's hilarious, insightful and fantastically written.

He'll be on this coming week's show, but in the meantime, here's a sample, him reading a bit of the title story of his new book "In Persuasion Nation."

Download it (MP3)

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Robot Repair

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This classic Phil Hartman sketch, suggested by Jordan Morris, "Boy Detective."

Sly & the Family Stone Live

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Here's Sly & the Family Stone live in the early 70s. Greg Errico (drums) and Larry Graham (bass) have already quit the band, but Sly's relatives are still by his side. So is a violinist, for some reason. They perform "Thank You (Falletinme be Mice Elf)," "Everybody is a Star," and "I Wanna Take You Higher."

Here they are on the other side of their career, in 1968 or so, performing "My Lady" and "I Wanna Take You Higher," at a televised talent contest at the Ohio State Fair. Sly takes the opportunity to do some crazy dances while Cynthia slides behind the organ to jam and Freddie and Larry Graham do a frantic version of the Chuck Berry duck walk. Needless to say, they walk home with the $10,000 prize.

And here's one last later clip, with Sly clearly high, but nonetheless putting in a great performance of "Stand"

Has anyone seen any footage of sly performing any of the big tunes from There's a Riot Goin On or Fresh? I'd love to see him singing my all-time favorite song, "If You Want Me To Stay."

Sketchfest NYC: Fempyre Interview

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The Sound of Young America is proud to sponsor this year's Sketchfest NYC. We're featuring a few interviews this week with artists performing in the festival.


Fempyre are two of the hardest-(mock)-rocking chicks you'll ever meet. Janet and Kit tear into female empowerment armed with nothing but a bass and an acoustic guitar, releasing a torrent of psued0-feminism designed to achieve maximum airplay on Alice-formatted radio stations across the country. I talked with Janet, who's also a co-founder of SF Sketchfest and the co-host of a TV show, about Fempyre's "steaming cup of femininity."

Where did Fempyre come from? What was the genesis?

We've been working together for about a year and a half. We had written one song together shortly after we'd met through a mutual friend; it was written for CJ Arabia's Sci Fi/Fantasy Pageant. Based on that show, we were invited to do a show in LA called "Hot Bitches of Comedy." We started thinking about the sort of mixed signals put out by a show of that name, and while joking about the use of the term "bitch," intended ironically by the guys who programmed the show, we came up with this idea to write a song parodying that type of Chick Rock that portends to empower women, but really ends up pushing the point so hard, it has the reverse effect. After writing our first song in that vein, we developed a taste for it and eventually ended up as Fempyre.

Are you a fan of the sort of act you're parodying here or does the humor come purely from contempt?

Pretty contemptuous, I'm afraid. It's not like we're parodying Chrissie Hynde, or someone who legitimately and inarguably kicks ass - it's more about those bratty songs you find on soundtracks like "Legally Blonde" that make you embarrassed to even discuss feminism. Whiny, misinformed, and almost anti-feminist, all the while trying desperately hard to seem tough and edgy. We always say at our shows that we're dedicating our work to Meredith Brooks's song "Bitch," which is essentially unlistenable. Is that a word?

You're the rare all-female group in a dude-dominated field, but your joke, in part, is at the expense of women in another dude-dominated field, rock. What's up with that?

This goes back to who we're taking the piss out of. Or "out of whom we're taking the piss," I guess, if we're going to be stodgy about grammar. We have no issues whatsoever with fantastic, strong female musicians. Or fragile demure ones, for that matter - it's a really specific archetype we wanted to parody, and then beyond that we started to develop the idea that our characters are just morally questionable people who are looking to get famous and just happened upon feminist rock as an option. The main problem being that they don't accurately represent feminism.

You recently married (are still engaged to? I dunno) another guitar comic. Well, a melodica comic. Do you two listen to Weird Al around the house?

Thankfully, no. But that doesn't mean we don't both know all of the lyrics for the album "Dare to Be Stupid." What can I say? My dad raised me right. And Hardwick and I have been known to indulge in a fair amount of Tom Lehrer. I think he's just happy he found someone who's seen "Tron" as many times as he has. If I ever had any, my coolness factor is in the toilet right now.

The two of you are obviously pals. How has being in a musical comedy duo affected your relationship?

It's been fucking awesome. We work great together, and we're pretty good about staying on task, despite the urges to just sit around and make each other laugh. Kit is ridiculously talented and extremely cool. I don't think we've ever fought creatively - it's totally synergistic. I'm gagging on all my enthusiasm, here, so I'm sure anyone still bothering to read this is wretching violently.

Download Fempyre's "Me & My Vagina" (MP3)

Previously:
Sketchfest NYC: 10 West interview

Sketchfest NYC: Ten West Interview

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The Sound of Young America is a proud sponsor of Sketchfest NYC, and for the rest of the week, we'll be featuring some brief interviews with groups performing in the festival.

Ten West are a Los Angeles-based duo who perform a hybrid of sketch comedy and old-fashioned vaudeville clowning. Their show is hilarious, sad and remarkable in it's raw craft. They've made a name for themselves in the sketch comedy world in the past year or two with accomplished, genre-destroying performances. I spoke with Jon Monastero about where the group stands in the sketch comedy firmament.

10 West seems to have one foot in the comedy world and one foot in the theater world. What do your theater backgrounds bring to your work?
I don't think the two worlds are mutually exclusive. Theater demands an empathy and understanding of one's audience, and an attention to staging and story telling that definitely complements and enhances our comedic work.

10 West's act stands out from the sketch comedy pack for it's physicality. Where does that come from?
It's just easier for us to express ourselves artistically in a physical manner. At least our first impulse is to go in that direction. It's probably part nature and part personal preference.

There's a lot of pathos in your work. Is that a choice? Why?

It's definitely not a deliberate choice. I don't think Stephen & I try to bring pathos to our material. We just write and collaborate and it just sort of shows up in a "Hello! I'm Mr. Pitiful and I'm going to be in your show! sort of way.

What have you learned working so closely with Stephen Simon, who has such extensive clown training, that you may not have learned at the Improv Olympic, where you trained?
Aside from how to juggle and do hat tricks, I've learned that clowning is more than just funny wigs, red noses and balloon animals. In fact, that is a less than desirable stereotype. That's why every time I write a "clown" sketch I include funny wigs, red noses and balloon animals. As long as I mime the balloon animal part Stephen is OK with it.

Both of you also work in children's theater... what are the commonalities and differences between the work you do for adults and for kids?

We don't change too much of what we do for the different age groups. We try to create shows that everybody can enjoy - young and old. That eliminates some word choices, of course, but our style and material lends itself to an all-ages type show anyway. The biggest difference in working in children's theater is that a youth show is a lot more interactive, whether you want it to be or not. Kids will talk to us mid-sketch, ask questions, get up and leave to use the restroom & sometimes join us on stage!

How does working with a single director, Bryan Coffee shape your work?

It shapes our work immensely. We both trust and respect Bryan and vice versa. I don't think either one of us would want to work without him. For example, there are many things that we can't readily see from the stage. He edits, shapes, directs and redirects our work. He shares our vision and has helped to shape it. He is truly an undiscovered & extraordinary talent. Everybody should be so lucky as to have a Bryan Coffee!

Ten West perform Friday at nine PM at Sketchfest NYC. More info or tickets here.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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I'm going to be working 22 hours tommorow as a Field Election Deputy for the San Francisco Department of Elections, driving hither and thither in an official van, protecting democracy. So in the meantime, I encourage you to talk amongst yourselves. Consider this an open topic. Please no meanness or self-promotion.

Adult Swim to air Pee-Wee's Playhouse?

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Yes, according to TV Squad. I used to watch the Playhouse every single week, absolutely positively without fail. I loved that show SO much. And it's still good.

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