Friday, September 25, 2015

Staff Picks: 'Documentary Now!', Google Cardboard, Daniel Romano, hangovers and more

Posted By , , , , and on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 3:10 PM

click to enlarge Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in "Documentary Now!"
  • Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in "Documentary Now!"

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

This week my brother introduced me to the IFC show "Documentary Now!" created by and starring Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers. Every episode is a parody of a canonical documentary, is the idea. So far I've only seen one, "The Eye Doesn't Lie," which reimagines Errol Morris' "The Thin Blue Line" so directly and successfully that Morris must be incredibly flattered (or confused). The jokes are often very specific — so much so that I don't know if it would be particularly funny if you aren't familiar with the original movie. Though, I guess, it probably would be. But it's unusually exacting for a parody: the abstract, noir-ish recreations, the faux Philip Glass score, even the film grain. The look, tone and feel are carefully modulated — it's more tribute than caricature. As my brother put it, it's done "lovingly." I've heard good things about their "Grey Gardens" and VICE News parodies, also. — Will Stephenson

I recommend not drinking to excess on a Thursday night. I recommend not flooding your body with a known toxin to achieve the coveted prize of gumming up your mental processes. I recommend not convincing yourself that being hungover on a Friday will be a manageable issue that can be overcome with sheer force of will. It's not. — Benji Hardy

My recommendation this week is for Google Cardboard, a pair of super-cheap virtual reality goggles that works with your smartphone. As the name implies, it was created by the wizards at Google, and the originals were made of brown cardboard. You can still get the cardboard versions on Amazon.com, but this is the one I bought for under $12. It's made of a little bit stiffer and more water-resistant stuff, so it might be better for kids. Put it together, start a Google Cardboard app (most are downloadable for free), put your phone inside and enter the Matrix. It's that easy. For a kid who grew up on three TV channels, all of which quit at 1 a.m., it's Buck Rogers-grade stuff, and the possibilities for use as a toy and teaching tool are bound to get your wheels turning. I hear online, for example, that Google is in the process of rolling out Virtual Field Trip kits for school classrooms — a package deal on phones and Cardboard goggles that will allow a class to visit historic sites around the world in 3-D. The Google Cardboard app already includes a 3-D tour of the Palace of Versailles in France. With your Google goggles on, it's like being there, minus the stinky cheese and condescending French. Look up, look down, look all around, in a 360 degree sphere (sadly, you can't "walk through" yet, but that might be for the best, given that you've got a set of cardboard goggles over your eyes). Granted, the sensation of not being able to see your feet is a little weird. Otherwise it's neato, dirt cheap, and most folks already have the smart phone needed to make it go. What's not to like? — David Koon

click to enlarge nw6307.jpeg

Apparently country music is the most popular form of music in the country now. Which is a real bummer because now it is producing some of the lousiest acts we've ever known. If you just can't even with that and need something that sounds a little less like death by tight-harmony noose, listen to any of Daniel Romano's albums. I could go on, but I think a quick look at this album cover should give you all you need to know. People call him the King of Mosey. Go listen to Daniel Romano here. Then go see him at the White Water at 9 on Wednesday. — Bryan Moats

I feel like everyone needs to see this video today. Not for the hilarity, but for the inspiration. The naked man dancing with a rubber chicken is not only celebrating himself and the world he's living in, but encouraging us to love and accept ourselves as well. If it doesn't inspire you, at least you got a laugh. Happy Friday! — Kaya Herron

I'm a big fan of folk music, so the current folk upswing has made for some good times of late. If there's one thing about the genre that gets tiring, though, it's the overwhelming earnestness with which the songs are presented. Heartbroken troubadours lamenting lost loves wear thin, and so it was very refreshing to pick up a copy of "I Love You, Honeybear" by Father John Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman, which takes the conventions of modern folk and turns them inside out. A superficial listen will delight with lush arrangements, and Tillman's plaintive vocals, but closer inspection reveals a compelling wit and lyrics that are often funny and caustic. "The Night Josh Tillman Came to our Apt." is a particularly fine example. Even Tillman's love songs, like "Chateau Lobby #4" are filled with wry observations about the nature of relationships. It's music that is technically solid and filled with some of the best lyrics I've heard. — Michael Roberts

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