High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Wiper Fluid! It Was Wiper Fluid!

I feel like I've been Captain Cultural Bombardment of late. That's good and that's bad. It's good because it means that I'm actually following through on a promise I make to myself regularly, namely not to take the chocolately, culturey center of Chicago for granted. It's bad because Captain Cultural Bombardment spends an awful lot of time with the Burgermeister of Pomposity.

It's worse, because we're going to see Assassins tomorrow night, and nothing brings out my snooty hifalutin' nature like a Sondheim, particularly one I know well. So I figure that a newsy little post about our trip to see Cars tonight is welcome respite for everyone. I figure that even I cannot get pomposity from an animated movie about cars. Especially an animated movie about cars that definitely did not make me cry. Oh, and never fear: Nacho Libre is on the horizon.

I can't really remember why the Lone Star Steakhouse brought up the topic of strip clubs. Oh, I tell a lie. And tragically, the conversation tangentially hearkens back to Blues Part 2. Tangentially, I swear! Don't hit. Or yell. So that crazy Hokum style has a fondness for the weiner-level of genital euphemism. This brought up the issue of a new hot dog stand that is opening near the Western El stop, which happens to be called: Chubby Weiners. I had noted this before and kept forgetting to tell M, who is an aficionado of ridiculous business names. (I beg of you not to ask him about Mandrill.)

But I was reminded of Chubby Weiners last night in Outlaws of Country when B revealed that he'd been discussing the aforementioned Weiner Vendor with J, who commented that it was almost as bad as "Flash a Taco." (Note: I have no idea whether or not such a business exists in Chicago, but my lowbrow blog recon for the day is done, given that I have just discovered a website that may or may not be related to Chubby Weiners, but its URL is ). M, with a sparkle in his eye, commented that Flashy Taco was a great name for a strip club.

So naturally, we got to discussing food at strip clubs. Specifically, he reminded me that when he moved to the Decks and Ducks place (100% literal and guaranteed euphemism free), he received a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" coupon from "The Brass Rail" for a free prime rib buffet. This, of course, led us to planning his putative visit to The Brass Rail during which he would demand his prime rib and ostentatiously sit facing the wall, while reading a book. Given that we had segued into this discussion from one about the history of Pullman Porters, I think it's safe to say we were doing our duty to weird out the waitstaff and other diners around us. We get that a lot.

After dinner we had about 45 minutes until the next movie, so we went to Best Buy to pick up some games so that Guitar Hero won't be lonely. (I promise low brow, I deliver low brow---would you like to hear about Pandora's Gibson Les Paul with its Green Lightning Flames?)

From there, we finally wound up at the theater, where we were able to confirm that there is now a one-to-one correspondence between the number of people alive on planet earth and the number of animated movies currently or recently in production that feature talking animals. The only possible good news about this is that Pixar's Ratatouille seems to feature Patton Oswalt as the lead rat. (There is some disagreement on this point, with some folks claiming that it's actually David Cross [I could buy this, but it's a stretch], and others [who have been visiting the crackpipe a bit too regularly] who say it's Billy Crystal.) This was doubly funny to us, because we'd just been talking about the impending DVD release of Weird Al Yankovic's short-lived children's show, on which he'd appeared. I guessed that his segement would have been called Patton Oswalt spends the worst 45 seconds of his life trying not to drop the F bomb.

The short in front of Cars is called One Man Band (sic, sadly---but trust me, the lack of hyphen really hurts me more than it hurts you), and it's cute and clever. Then again, you might not want to take my word for it, because I loved Bounding, in front of The Incredibles, so my short bar may be set too low (erm . . . ). It's basically a Bears/Packers, Crunchy/Creamy, Springfield/Shelbyville situation: One one-man band is brass and percussion, one is strings (except for the piano, which is technically percussion). A typically unmoppety Pixar moppet has to decide which one will get her coin, and wackiness ensues.

Cars itself is almost uniformly cute, very often funny, and overall a good, solid Pixar offering. Uh, it also definitely did not make me cry, because they're CARS and that would be RIDICULOUS. There was a section in the middle that I felt was a seriously wrong turn (which would be a right turn in the NASCAR context. I kill me. Which saves time, as it means J won't have to) with a very strange "Cars love nature and the small town economy" facet to the "X learns an important lesson" plot. I mean, really, the arrogant, friendless main car has a quasi-religious experience at an abandoned gas-n-stop hotel overlooking "Ornament Valley." WTF? Very odd "Brought to you by Megalodinoexcavators" feel to it.

Another bonus to the movie is the soundtrack, which features the Rascal Flats (although there's something weird going on with their song), The Chords, Hank Williams, and of course Chuck Berry. Another detriment to the movie is the soundtrack, which features Brad Paisley in not one, but two numbers (I don't care if he's the supposedly traditional "new country" guy, he's a dirty hack). But the worst is James Freaking Taylor (and, yes, I have proof that he wrote ONE actual country song [and it's not a bad one, but this is not it]) doing a song called "Our Town" for which Randy Newman may have completely shot his treacly, maudlin wad, a feat I previously believed to be impossible. Likewise, the rest of the score is unremarkable. But when the soundtrack is on, it's on. Even better, the Songs Inspired By CD has none other than the last of the full-grown men, Mr. Webb Wilder, doing Johnny Cash's I've Been Everywhere, which I cannot WAIT to hear. (Not on iTunes. Grumble Grumble.)

It's not the best Pixar movie, which is still The Incredibles in my opinion, which is admittedly the opinion of a giant nerdlinger.

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