Evan Peters: On the Edge of Gory

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the stars of FX's fabulously frightful American Horror Story, Evan Peters.

My piece on the talented young actor, appropriately titled "On the Edge of Gory," can be found in the September (fall fashion) issue of Bello, which hits the iTunes newsstand next week.

As cliched as it sounds, I chatted with Evan over a couple of bottles of Vitamin Water high up in the Hollywood Hills while beauty editor Mathias Alan set him up with hair and makeup.

The photo shoot went extremely well. One factoid I learned: the Missouri-born actor keeps things light on set by listening to Christmas music.

Check out more previews below.



@TheFirstEcho


Why 'Felicity' Still Matters 10 Years Later

Ten years ago, a young woman named Felicity Porter graduated from the fictitious University of New York and embarked on a new life with Ben Covington, the boy she had originally moved across the country for.

Felicity (1998-2002), the WB drama about the trials and tribulations of a California girl in Manhattan adapting to the real world, was the brainchild of J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves -- long before the words "Star Trek reboot" and "Cloverfield" were ever printed on the pages of entertainment magazines everywhere.

Over its four-year run, Felicity featured one of the most likable and engaging ensembles on television. The show wasn't just about its titular heroine and her struggle between Noel (Scott Foley), the cute nerd of an RA, and Ben (Scott Speedman), the sensitive jock with daddy issues. Storylines evolved to include those hovering around one of GenY's most memorable love triangles. There was Elena (Tangi Miller), the uptight med student who had problems letting people in, vulnerable Julie (Amy Jo Johnson), the girl on a search for her biological mom (hello guest star Jane Kaczmarek!) who ends up getting raped by Brian Krakow from My So-Called Life, Sean (Greg Grunberg), the get-rich-quick schemer who ends up falling for former goth Megan (Amanda Foreman), and Javier (the hilarious Ian Gomez), Felicity's flamboyant manager at Dean & Deluca (for those of you who argued that the entire show was a blatant ad for the New York-based coffeeshop, in hindsight, you may have had a point).

The show coincidentally debuted the same year as Darren Star's Sex and the City. However, this was an entirely different perspective on life in the Big Apple. Instead of chicks downing cosmos and kissing-and-telling their way through brunch, viewers were given the chance to glimpse the struggling lives of young people who were far from glamorous. It also gave real-life college students (myself included) a romance they could root for...and relate to. While Noel developed a crush on Felicity, he broke up with girlfriend Hannah (who looked a lot like Alias's Sydney Bristow -- oh, hello Jennifer Garner). Then Ben came to his senses and realized his feelings for Felicity, and suddenly the audience (and our gal pal) was faced with a crucial dilemma. Both suitors had their strengths. Both of them were worthy of her love. Which one to choose? Forget The Bachelorette. We were given a legitimate cliffhanger by the end of Season 1 that had people signing up for either Team Noel or Team Ben.

Looking back on the show a decade after it went off the air, Felicity still holds up as a beautifully cast portrait of collegiate life at the turn of the 21st century -- and the tail end of the 90s -- a time right before things "went viral," before Homeland Security became a reality, and before the term "DVR" entered the nation's lexicon. Despite some of its now-dated references (floppy disks! Sarah McLachlan CDs!), the show remains relevant and somewhat timeless in its sensibility.

Credit the simple and insightful writing. The first season was chock-full of those rites of passage most 18-year-olds still experience in college: learning about separating whites in the laundry, the thrill of getting a mini-fridge for your dorm room, vomiting on a friend after a wild party, struggling to declare your major. That said, these carefully constructed episodes were no afterschool specials, and they weren't glorified depictions of life after high school either. Felicity was all about the subtleties, the whispered greetings and conversations, the emotional moments, and that minimalist score (thank you, W.G. Snuffy Walden, for your acoustic soundtrack). All of those elements, including the nuanced performances, seamlessly blended together to resonating effect.

Kudos also go to the wardrobe team for styling the characters in timeless and realistic garb. You see, Felicity didn't have to rely on flashy trends or fashions to keep viewers hooked. It proved that you could have a female protagonist with frizzy hair run around in bulky sweaters and talk to an unseen woman named Sally on a tape recorder -- and still get ratings.

As the seasons wore on, and as our favorite UNY students got older and wiser, the show inevitably pulled some stunts to spice things up. 

Let's begin with The Haircut Heard Around The World. The vitriol with which viewers expressed their rage over Felicity's decision to cut her curly locks was unbelievable. TV critics blamed the decrease in viewership on the new 'do. That never stopped me from watching the show. I mean, come on, we've all experimented with our appearances in college. I myself am guilty of rocking a goatee for one month in the spring of 1999. Then there was Noel's early quarter-life crisis during which he shaved his head, called himself "Leon," and took an impromptu trip to Europe with a girl who "looks a lot like the hot chick from the Doritos commercials." This was followed by a revolving door of new characters (British Molly! Pregnant Ruby! Tyra Banks!), a cliffhanging shooting at a winter party, and one of the first portrayals of a same-sex marriage on television (the heartwarming nuptials of Javier and Samuel). 

But what was probably the craziest thing to happen to Felicity was that out-from-left-field plot twist towards the end of the final season when our Miss Porter traveled back in time to right some wrongs (preventing Noel's accidental death, winning Ben back, etc). Granted, the show's writers and producers were given an unexpected, last-minute 7-episode order by the network after they had already graduated most of their characters and tied up loose ends in what was intended to be a proper send-off.

I for one would have preferred to see the show go on and portray life after college (could've been helpful with my own move across the country after graduation). But alas, it made sense, ending it all there. After all, we have to leave things behind in order to prepare for what's in front of us (I'm feeling the urge to sing Semisonic's "Closing Time" all of a sudden).

Finally, here's where things get a little personal...One of the reasons why Felicity resonated with me (still does) was because I too was a member of the Class of 2002 while the show aired on television. For once, I was able to watch characters learn and grow up along with me -- as if in real time -- and feel like my own life was being reflected on my small TV set in my small dorm room. I remember waiting for the T at the Kenmore Square station in Boston and studying the billboard from across the tracks (as seen above on the left). It looked interesting with his golden hue and promise of...possibility. Kind of like my freshman year at BU.

What was once a pleasantly watchable hour of television alone turned into weekly group viewings in dorm rooms throughout campus. And what we were all being treated to week after week was an unforgettable journey made by a brave, young woman who pursued a dream, stuck by her guns, stumbled graciously, and discovered a whole new trail she wished to blaze on her own.

Thank you, Mr. Abrams, and thank you, Mr. Reeves.

@TheFirstEcho

*P.S. -- And whatever happened to Sally?


The Divided States of America

As most of you can tell from the rants and raves I publish across this great frontier we call the blogosphere, I normally don't get all political on people's asses, but I do feel that we are once again living during an important time in our country's history. A time, I feel, that will either plunge us further into an abyss of bigotry and constricting (potentially dangerous) policies...or send us down a road to a shinier, more hopeful place.

Every election is arguably more important than the one before it, but there's just something electrifying about the possible switcheroo of administrations that screams "This is big, people!" Maybe it's the fact that I'm older and have finally taken an interest in how I want my homeland to be run. Maybe it's because I have developed a preference to tune into what's currently happening around the world (thank you NPR, your All Things Considered complements my drive down Santa Monica Boulevard). Or maybe it's because I've learned to look at The Big Picture ever since I turned 30 (interpret that however you want).

It is during times like these when I make several admissions to myself (I'll do my best not to stack up the soapboxes as I write this):

First, I admit I am still not fully educated on world events and foreign matters, which, when you think about it, makes me totally...American. But, thanks to Anderson Cooper 360 and Piers Morgan, I've been sharpening my sense of where we stand as a society, as a people, as the "most powerful nation in the world," and I hope most of my fellow Americans can still feel proud to call themselves Americans (for the right reasons, that is).

Secondly, I admit that, once this whole election thing is done and we have our new/same guy in Office, chances are I, like most people I know, will go back to being numbed by the barrage of pop cultural distractions that will come my way. Jon Stewart can continue his punditry on Washington while I continue mine on Hollywood.

However, I'm also reminded that, come November, my life -- as well as the very existence of countless others -- could be determined for better or for worse. Either we'll come closer to living as one nation, under God, completely divisible, with no liberty and justice for all...or we'll be pushed further down a path along which we will learn to accept differences, educate others in an attempt to eradicate their fears of what they don't know, continue to expose the hypocrisy behind dated teachings and philosophies that have cultivated those fears, and ultimately embrace the essence of what this damn country is all about.

That said, I would love it if Hollywood producers could spin a successful sci-fi movie franchise in which the future isn't so bleak, isn't so dystopian. I'm not asking for utopian perfection. Sure, the new Star Trek may have offered us a glimpse at a brighter way of living down on Earth (forgive me if I can't think of other examples), but where's the rest of it? Why are stories about teens slaughtering one other in televised competitions and tales of collapsed governments and deteriorated morals so appealing? Why do we insist on romanticizing a future world in which there's hardly any hope left to hang on to? Because it's that more exciting? Because it sets the stage for the most compelling of conflicts?

Is this how we see (and enjoy) ourselves? Is this how the rest of the world sees us, swirling around in a giant toilet-whirlpool, slowly making our way down the drain?

While I do find myself drawn to international relations of the pop kind (if you haven't jumped on the Emeli Sande bandwagon by now, then do so), I realize how some of the world views our United States of America. One moment we're perceived as a land of opportunity and fulfilled dreams, a proverbial melting pot of success stories, and the next, we're one big hot mess of a country full of contradictions, wasteful expenditures, and warped priorities.

I'm sure there's a crapload more to discuss here, but I don't wish to further open this can of worms. After all, that's what comment boxes are for.

As much as I sometimes want to slap the shit out of Elisabeth Hasselback (another admission: she's actually become more tolerable), I understand and accept why she sits across from Whoopi on The View. That estrogenic roundtable, like many diverse platforms, represents what America should always and forever be: United.

Soft-rocking the vote,

@TheFirstEcho


I Did Another Podcast

I offered some movie review soundbites for the folks at Picktainment (soon to be called Screen Picks). This time around: The Dax Shepard-Kristen Bell car chase comedy, Hit and Run, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Premium Rush (now in theaters):


I Listened to Christina Aguilera's "Your Body" 17 Times Within 8 Hours

*Updated 9/14/12
Christina Aguilera's hotly anticipated new single leaked across the interwebs today, and I made sure to snatch it up before the Music Police shut down every link in the joint.

The title of the track: "Your Body." Naturally, there are explicit and clean versions of the song.

Upon my first listen, I had my doubts. I cringed at the blatant, sexually-charged lyrics. The hesitant and concerned fan in me thought, Did the girl learn nothing from 2010's "Not Myself Tonight"? Then, I was informed that Max Martin was the puppet master behind this jam -- a hitmaker for the new millennium if there ever was one. Look him up if the name doesn't ring a bell (seriously, I'll wait while you do).

Then I played it again. The opening beat was, thankfully, something that didn't come off as another David Guetta/Calvin Harris/RedOne production. Then came the chorus, and it was undeniably hot; she had me at that drawn out "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh." Then the hard bassline kicked in, blending in with her R-rated proclamations.

I played it again. Her vocals were strong as ever, a sexed-up siren clutching to those "Dirrty" roots of hers, despite the fact she's now a 30-something divorced mom (yes, to those of us who feel like "Genie in a Bottle" only dropped a few summers ago -- we're old). I played it again; the synths sucked me in this time around.

To the youngin's out there who were too young to appreciate "Beautiful" back in the last decade, you may see her as a washed-up diva who now has to resort to critiquing hopeful singers from an oversized chair on network television. One music blogger, who shall remain nameless, insists on calling her "Floptina."

At the risk of sounding like a delusional, die-hard fan who's been blinded by love and appreciation for an artist, I say "Back off." If you want to talk about aging pop stars who are desperately reaching for a Top 40 audience, I have four letters for you: MDNA. Christina, on the other hand, at the ripe age of 32, still has enough cred to warrant legitimate, chart-topping singles.

Anyway, back to "Your Body." I played it three times in the car on the way to a lunch meeting. I played it again on the way to meet a friend for coffee. And then I played it twice at the gym while sweating off my mocha Frappucino. After hearing it up close through my earbuds, I suddenly had the desire to hear it magnified in a club. I couldn't wait for this to hit the nightlife circuit. I found myself mouthing the lyrics while pumping my legs on the elliptical machine.

I was in it.

I'm not saying Aguilera has a "comeback" on her hands. I'm wary of even using that word nowadays because it's become so overused that it's become trite. And the woman didn't really go anywhere (no one really ever does). However, I admit that she's clearly trying to erase everyone's memories of Bionic, the album that unfortunately became a pop casualty, falling under the shadow of all things Gaga.

That all said, I still have hope for the new album. (out November 13!)

Okay, enough rambling. Here's "Your Body":


And that's my two cents.

@TheFirstEcho


What Reality TV Has Taught Me: Jersey Edition

If reality TV has taught me anything, it's this: people from New Jersey fancy themselves being just as fashionable, worldly, and sophisticated as their counterparts across the Hudson River.

The harsh truth, however, is that they're just low-rent, overly-tanned, obnoxious wannabe versions of New Yorkers.

All of the gaudy jewelry, hair product, and not-so-subtle clothing a fashionable Jersey boy/girl does not make. All of the trips "down the Shore" does not earn you the title "world traveler." And all of the pride you take in your "argumentative skills" with friends, family, and random strangers at the gas station does not qualify you as a master debater.

Thank you reality TV!

@TheFirstEcho


The Nerdist & I

So this happened:


After months and months of trying to schedule a meeting and interview with head Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick, I was finally able check off one the items on my 2012 wishlist.

Last Thursday I drove out to Santa Monica to sit in on Chris's photo shoot for the October issue of Bello. There I chatted with "my Obi-Wan" about his passions, his newfound dominance in nerd culture, and his sharp fashion sense (the guy knows how to dress). I'm sure I'll have more to share as we get closer to the publication date (when Talking Dead premieres on AMC after the third season debut of The Walking Dead).


I also couldn't resist a little autograph request (*either he misheard my name, or his penmanship is sloppy when it comes to jotting down the letter H).

@TheFirstEcho


Theme Song of the Month: August 2012

Better late than never.

We may be halfway through the eighth month of the year, but that doesn't mean I can't find the right tune to accompany these final days of summer.

I discovered Youngblood Hawke on this hot August night (thanks to iTunes's trusty Single of the Week column), and I have a feeling it will follow me well into the fall (it's already found a slot on next season's playlist). This adorable quintet from L.A. specializes in big choruses and tubular bells along with an anthemic sensibility that should have fans of alterna-pop cheering.

See Exhibit A: "We Come Running".



@TheFirstEcho


My Anne Hathaway Story

After being an active member of the blogosphere and dabbling in the occasional journalistic gig for the past 5 years, I've had my fair share of up-close shoulder brushing with celebrities (musicians, reality TV stars, and actors who don't wish to be called celebrities -- cough, Ewan McGregor, cough). Living and working in L.A. for the past decade also comes with the "hazard" of capturing famous people in their natural habitat...or in candid moments that would make their publicists cringe (ahem, Tracy Morgan, Shia LeBeouf...I'll save those for later). 

However, rarely does a run-in with a Big Name leave an outstanding and positive impression on me. And since she wowed audiences as Selina Kyle in this summer's The Dark Knight Rises, I thought I'd share a little story about the fabulously talented Anne Hathaway...

In December of 2009 I was fortunate enough to co-write The Trevor Project's 12th annual Cracked Xmas show with my friend (and fellow writer) Xaque Gruber.

Cracked Xmas was a holiday-themed benefit held at the historic Wiltern Theater near the Koreatown district of Los Angeles. It is now known as Trevor Live. In 2010 it had undergone a major renovation in its production when the organization's publicity received a ginormous celebrity boost after a rash of teen suicides made headlines across the country. Soon enough, everyone wanted to be a part of Trevor's admirable work and do their part in spreading the good word about the org's preventative efforts. Global superstar Daniel Radcliffe even shot a couple of PSAs for the Project (you can check out one of them here).

The show changed venues, moving to the larger Hollywood Palladium, and the Board decided to amp up its talent roster. That included bringing in an entirely new production team, this time headed by choreographer-producer-director-SYTYCD judge Adam Shankman. Out with the old, in with the shiny new. Needless to say, Xaque and I weren't asked back. We each received a personal phone call from our producer who broke the news to us. Naturally, I was disappointed, but I understood. At least they softened the blow with tickets to the revamped production. Come and enjoy the show you weren't hired to write! That was the year Katy Perry surprised the crowd, walked out on stage, and joined Glee star Darren Criss halfway through his awesome rendition of "Teenage Dream." Fun all around.

However, my first experience with the event was in 2008, and that was when I fell deeper in love and admiration with Anne.

That year's major honoree was Sigourney Weaver. She was to receive The Trevor Project's Life Award for her outstanding work, particularly for portraying real-life mother Mary Griffith in Lifetime's Prayers for Bobby. In addition to being stationed backstage with Xaque, I was pulling double duty, working the press line on the orange carpet and getting some photos and soundbites to post up on Hotter In Hollywood. There was word that Anne Hathaway was to present the award to Sigourney that night, but she was nowhere to be found before the festivities started (she may have made a quick appearance after I left the press line to get ready backstage, which would explain the above picture I found).

Towards the end of the show, as we were getting ready for Sigourney's segment, Anne showed up with her date/boyfriend/escort/whoever backstage. Even in the dimly lit space she glowed. She was in a snow-white top with a ruffled gold skirt that fit her perfectly. Actor-comedian Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace), who was standing on the sidelines, complimented her on how gorgeous she looked.

"Thank you!" she beamed. "I don't feel it. I am as sick as a dog." Turns out she was coming down with the flu, but you couldn't tell by the way she was poised.

Figuring this was my chance to have a little interaction with the actress, I stepped up and introduced myself.

"Hi, I'm Anne." The nice ones, those trained in Proper Celebrity Etiquette, will introduce themselves back to you, even though they may assume you know who they are.

"Thank you so much for doing this," I told her.

"It's my pleasure. I mean, how could I not be here? It's Sigourney frickin' Weaver! She's amazing." She was geeking out over a woman who meant so much to her. For that brief minute, Anne was a fan, pinching herself over this special moment. She then went on to praise The Trevor Project's work. None of it sounded rehearsed.

I asked her if she needed a bottle of water before she went out for her presentation. She kindly declined the offer, expressing how nervous she was. "I hope I don't mess up or cough up a lung while I'm out there," she said, sounding a little congested.

"You'll be fine," I assured her. I also wanted to add, "Because you're Anne frickin' Hathaway!"

You know how people usually describe celebrities they meet as "so nice and down-to-earth"? That's probably because they were in a public venue and had to smile for a nearby camera. Here, there was no press line. There were no cameras. There was no need to impress anyone. Ms. Hathaway was coming from a genuine place. It was easy to see she's a believer in that treat-others-as-you-would-want-to-be-treated philosophy. And after reading a couple of interviews with her and seeing her speak candidly at other events, that impression still holds up. No diva theatrics. No snobby, condescending demeanor. After chatting with her for a few minutes, I could still see the theater geek in her, that girl we all know and grew up with.

Needless to say, her presentation to Sigourney Weaver was a success. And on top of that, what Anne did next blew away the crowd. During the live auction that followed, she came out on stage to volunteer herself as an impromptu item. Let me clarify: she auctioned off herself as a drinking buddy for one night (she'd pick up the tab). Had I had $12,000 at the time, I totally would've jumped at the chance to experience a night on the town with her.

And remember: she did all of this while hopped up on cold medicine and feeling like shit. Talk about being a trooper.

Anne, it was a pleasure meeting you. Consider this a belated thank you for doing all that you do (with the exception of Bride Wars, which I'll overlook -- just kidding...maybe).

Yours truly,
The Asian Guy You Met Backstage at the Wiltern 4 Years Ago.

@TheFirstEcho


On the Set of 'Squad 85'


My talented friend, Gregory Bonsignore (second from left, above), wrote a web series/TV pilot called Squad 85, and as I write this, it's being produced and shot at various locations throughout L.A. With real actors! And craft service!

Squad 85 is a comedy about a group of young cops from 1985 who get transported to 2012 and go undercover at a high school to fight some crime (think 21 Jump Street meets Hot Tub Time Machine).

And it just so happens I spent my Friday afternoon hanging out behind the scenes with some of the cast: Breaking Bad's RJ Mitte (below, left) and Travis Van Winkle (Friday the 13th, Meet the Spartans).


Check out Squad 85 on Twitter for more updates (it premieres this fall). Naturally, I'll have some reportage and interviews coming your way via Hotter In Hollywood.

@TheFirstEcho


8 Reasons Why August is the Crappiest Month

Let's face it. August is the red-headed stepchild of the months. When was the last time anything awesome came out of it (birthdays and vacations notwithstanding)? Consider this my long-ass Random Thought of the Week...

1. In most places, the eighth month of the year tends to be the hottest.  So congrats, August. You officially qualify to be called National Swamp Ass Awareness Month.

2. Despite the networks' adoption of year-round programming, there really is nothing to watch on TV -- the Olympics don't count. My DVR is currently filled at a light (and rare) 39%.

3. The shitty selections at the box office. Know anyone who's rushing to go see The Expendables 2, Sparkle, or The Possession?

4. Back-to-school ads are nothing to cheer about (unless you're one of the actors who booked a gig on one of them).

5. The mounting pressure to start thinking about Fall:


6. No national holiday = no 3-day weekend (Labor Day technically belongs to September).

7. Realizing you might as well quit that diet now since your swimsuit won't be seeing the light of day soon (plus, the holidays are practically around the corner -- time to stretch that stomach in preparation for those family feasts).

8. Dealing with incoming college freshmen and their parents as they fill up your local Bed Bath & Beyond and block your parking spaces with moving vans and overstuffed SUVs.

Anything else I'm forgetting?

@TheFirstEcho


Hiko Does Dallas


I recently took a trip to the Lone Star State and experienced some outstanding southern hospitality (many thanks to my awesome host, Mr. Michael Rogers). I also experienced some ungodly heat (try a high of 100...every day). During those six days I tried some mouth-watering Texas barbecue (brisket, I love thee), brushed shoulders with a couple of 'mos from The A-List: Dallas, worked on my tan, had the Worst Hangover of My Life (peach-infused whiskey and watermelon vodka do not go together y'all), and fell in love with a Bullmastiff named Zeke. 


Unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera with me, so all I have right now are these Instagram pics I took with my phone. 

More to follow once my travel pieces for Bello Mag and Hotter In Hollywood are published (packed with reports on what I ate, where I went, and who I met). This is just a sample...


As you can see, I even attempted to stalk the Ewing family at the world-famous Southfork Ranch:


Left: Southfork Ranch. Right: the rooftop pool at The Joule downtown.

Stay tuned for more.

@TheFirstEcho


10 Things Pop Culture Should Stop Trying to Make Happen


Poor Gretchen Wieners. She tried so hard to make "fetch" happen, but those Mean Girls just wouldn't have it...

Which got me thinking about other things that have been forced down our throats by the zeitgeist, people, places, and trends that the pop culture puppeteers insist on making relevant. Here are ten items I could truly do without. If you know me, I'm not usually about spreading the hateration, but sometimes we all need a good vent.

1. Julianne Hough - Thankfully I never saw that Footloose remake. However, I did catch this summer's Rock of Ages, and while I was entertained, this 24-year-old bobblehead came close to spoiling the whole musical enchilada for me. And she's still dating Seacrest? And getting more movie roles? Why, Hollywood, why?

2. Fifty Shades of Grey - I picked up a copy at the L.A. Times Festival of Books back in April, read one page, and then felt the urge to bring it with me into a bathroom stall after eating a dozen shrimp tacos. The latest literary sensation will eventually become the next movie franchise sensation. Wake me up when it's over.

3. Ke$ha - The second full-length album from this glitter tramp is scheduled to arrive before the year is over. In related news, I think I just contracted herpes from writing that last sentence.

4. Adam Sandler - I did not need to see Jack & Jill or That's My Boy to realize that the King of Fart Jokes (and his entire production company) is running on fumes. It would be great if he went into hiding and then returned 20 years later to do a respectable cameo in a Tarantino flick.

5. Big-budget comic book adaptations - The Avengers should have been the grand finale that hammered the final nail in the genre's coffin. It was one giant, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am way to lasso up all of our favorite superheroes and send them off in a spectacular farewell. But no, we're getting Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Iron Man 3, and another Wolverine.

6. Charlie Sheen - This gimmick is deader than the silent graveyard otherwise known as my love life.

7. Anything labeled with the Kardashian name - Speaks for itself.

8. American Idol - Usually, when people are jumping overboard, that means the ship is sinking. This voyage plummeted to the bottom of the ocean a while ago and is now a piece of driftwood floating aimlessly in a pool of muck. How many more interchangeable "white guys with guitars" do we need to crown before every light on the stage burns out? Mariah Carey, prepare that life vest.

9. Movies based on the novels of Nicholas Sparks - Or, what I like to call The Notebook Effect. Forever fooling singletons into thinking they'll meet the love of their life during a war, in a car accident, on a beach, or in a torrential rainstorm. I think I liked these better when they were called Lifetime Movies of the Week.

10. Kristen Stewart - I'm sure she's a cool chick once you get to know her, but 1.) she ain't fairer than Charlize Theron 2.) I worry that future generations of impressionable actresses will be studying her two methods of "acting" which are: Look Like You're Constipated and Look Like You Got Cramps and 3.) the girl needs to enroll in a few classes on public speaking.

I'll stop there. And to those responsible for the above, I hope you will too.

@TheFirstEcho


Sandcastle: The 2012 Summer Playlist - Vol. 3

Much like Chris Nolan's Dark Knight legend, my Best Summer Ever trilogy of tunage must come to an end. August may mark the beginning of the end of the season, but cheer up. We got at least six more weeks of summery goodness, and you'll need a soundtrack to alleviate those back-to-school blues.

Keep that sunscreen handy...

1. "Spectrum" by Zedd feat. Matthew Koma

2. "Good Time" by Owl City feat. Carly Rae Jepsen - A welcome respite from the ubiquitous "Call Me Maybe."

3. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" by Pink - Despite that shrieking chorus, it's still a worthy addition (I have a feeling that better singles await us).

4. "Sex Yeah" by Marina and the Diamonds:

5. "Now or Never" by Outasight

6. "Shooting Stars" by Bag Raiders:

7. "Perfect World" by Gossip

8. "Rainbow Connection" by Weezer feat. Hayley Williams - A melancholy cover perfect for a nighttime drive through your neighborhood. Try not to get goosebumps.

9. "Runaways" by The Killers

10.  "Black Belt" by Teddybears

11. "Chokehold" by Adam Lambert

12. "Numb" by Usher

13. "Still Getting Younger" by Wynter Gordon

14. "Curtain Call" by Aiden Grimshaw

15. "I'm Out Tonight" by Jordin Sparks

16. "As Long As You Love Me" by Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean

17. "The War is Over" by Kelly Clarkson - A healing anthem to help you get over that summer fling that turned sour.

18. "Sleep Alone" by Two Door Cinema Club:

19. "Feel Alive" by Fergie feat. Pitbull

20. "Michael Jackson" by Cash Cash - An electro-pop tribute to the gone-but-not-forgotten King of Pop.

21. "Settle Down" by No Doubt - For those of you looking to inject a little 1997 into your 2012.

22. "Finale" by Madeon - EDM's wunderkind continues to amaze me, especially with this epic track that should be used for the Closing Ceremony at the London Olympics (or as the opening theme song to the action-packed drama based on my life):

@TheFirstEcho