Friday, June 22, 2007

5 A Day: Day Five

I have totally been pre-occupied today. Between doing my laundry and sleeping, I didn't even get through my RSS feeds. Today just has been a hot mess. I clearly cannot blog from bed. So, with that I leave you with this video from the original O.G. Big Daddy Kane. 50 Cent doesn't have shit on the B-I-G-D-A-Double D-Y-K-A-N-E!

And, like earlier in the week, I have posted a picture of the reviews. The albums are color coded as well.

The code:

The Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control is in blue
Julie Ruin - S/T is in yellow
Kleenex - S/T EP is in grey
June of 44 - Four Great Points is in pink
James Brown - There It Is is in purple

Why Congress Has No Respect

If you have been reading the news, you are fully aware of the fact that a recent Gallup poll has come out with some fairly disturbing yet unsurprising news. In this report, Congress's approval rating is at a very low 14 percent. With the swing that occurred in November 2006 to the Democratic side, many political commentators are wondering how such an event occurred. There is a much simpler answer to this: backbone.

Frequently, we have watched the Democratically led Congress back off from bills that have been divisive. Instead of standing their ground and passing the bill or allowing the right to appropriately filibuster*, the left just takes the bill away and runs off with their tail between their legs. I don't need to expend a lot of my time talking about why the Democrats are useless in Congress like I could. Their actions speak more than loudly enough.

*Under parliamentary rules, the filibuster is the means of which to hold up legislation. More importantly, filibustering is the refusal to vote for cloture, or the end of debate. With this in mind, the opposing parties have to maintain debate on the floor. It slows down the work of the legislative body, but the Senate moves at a snail's pace anyway, so no one would really notice. The maintaining of debate means the presentation of speeches. The best known filibuster is Strom Thurmond talking for a day straight to keep Black people down. But, as can be figured out, filibustering exposes the people who are against the legislation, something that would be strategically advantageous for the Democrats.

Someone Agrees

As may well be known, I'm into fashion. In particular, I'm into fashion writing. When it is not caught up in poetic wanderings about the whimsy of the new post-industrial look generated by the newest Japanese designer that Rei Kawakubo has taken under her wing, fashion writing is one of the only forms of journalism that is frequently fueled by immense amounts of hating. And, I'm not talking about casual hating. I'm talking about haterade-gulping by the gallon types of hate. One of the primary proponents of this form of hate is Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan.

Today, in her weekly article, Givhan goes to town on Bush for wearing Crocs and black socks. This is, as it seems, really dumb. But, she concedes it was appropriate as he was going biking and would need the comfortable shoes after saddling up in bike shoes, something that any biker can nod their head to.

She goes into a history about the nature of crocs, but that it immaterial to why I agree with her. I agree with her because Crocs are the most hideous shoes ever created by man. I've put them on before. They are comfortable. But, I'm also smart enough to know that if I wore them in public, I would hate myself forever. But, this is not a deterrent to anyone else as people wear them all of the time. You know, I'll let college slide. I knew cool people in college that wore crocs, but that was college. I've seen grown ass men and women wearing Crocs in public, and that is just unacceptable. You pay bills; you have no right to walk around in a pair of plastic shoes that are orange/pink/yellow.

Epilogue: Givhan also rallies against flip-flops, another argument I agree with. Flip-flops are lazy clothing. If you wear a pair of flip-flops, it's says I give up. They are the foot equivalent of sweatpants. They say I don't have the effort to actually put on a pair of shoes, seeing as that would take all of ten seconds, five if you don't have to tie anything.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sky is the Limit

A bonus post. Biggie f/ 112 - Sky is the Limit.

5 A Day: Day 4

This is all done to the rhythm of Sleater-Kinney. It popped in my head while I was grilling earlier.

Anyway, we proceed...

Baden Powell - Enciclopedia Musical Brasileira

This is a 1966 release from the Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell de Aquino, more commonly known as Baden Powell. Powell is an interesting guitarist. While he is clearly of Brazilian origin due to his sonic similarities to Joao Gilberto and Tom Jobim, Powell is also culling his cues from classical guitar as well as more traditional electric jazz guitar. But unlike traditional jazz guitar, Powell plays an classical acoustic guitar with precision and great technicality. As one would suspect from a musician the quality of Powell, the music is electrifying and thoroughly engaging. Over the course of the album, Powell references American jazz, Bossa Nova, and classic Brazilian samba. As well, Powell shows off his brilliance in solo pieces that allows him to show off his technique and skills. For anyone who calls themselves a guitar player, they should have this album in their collection so they can listen to the brilliance of one of the masters of the instrument.

Beck - Mutations

Through his catalog, Beck has always existed in two forms: the postmodern ironist who has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to music and the considerate folk artist who sits in a room playing pretty folk songs and strums his guitar. Mutations is based in the latter form of Beck. The cacophony of samples and Dust Brothers production of Odelay is replaced by acoustic guitars and the smooth, reverb-drenched production of Nigel Godrich. While I think that Godrich is unadventurous as a producer along with being ridiculously heavy-handed and predictable, Beck shines as a different artist on Mutations. Following the masterwork that is Odelay, Mutations is a great shift of form and sound, showing a more sensitive and pondering side of his character. The sampling geek that I love hasn't left either. Beck samples different musical forms, calling upon tropicalia, bossa nova, samba, country, and the blues. The trick to Beck's sampling is that it sounds like he has been playing these forms for years. Unlike other artists who sample different forms and come across as hacks, Beck integrates them into his folk base easily and makes it sound like he has been playing all of these forms for years. According to Beck and his record labels Bong Load and Geffen, Mutations was intended to be a stopgap between Odelay and the mess that was Midnight Vultures. For a stopgap, this is an amazing album. Mutations is considerably better than a lot of other bands' practiced and intentional releases. It just helps to show that Beck is truly where it's at.

Blancmange - Irene & Mavis

Blancmange is a fairly successful British band that had problems crossing over into the American musical sphere. They play a brand of synth pop that is very dreamy and influenced by Indian music. On this EP, the sound is a bit more experimental with no clear reference to the East. As well, the EP shares a kinship with the new romantic movement, reminding me a bit of OMD. For a band that was very successful and has a kinship with new romanticism, this album displays a clear sense of amateurism. On the song Concentration Baby, the singer is laughing through the song. He can't deliver lines correctly. Additionally, the production throughout the album was not very good. It was muddy and the violin on the aforementioned Concentration Baby sounds like a kazoo. While the songs are not bad, they do not flow together and the quality of sound is low. On the whole, this is a very spotty release that could have benefitted immensely from editorial discretion and a little less snickering.

Boogie Down Productions - Criminally Minded

I'm not going to wax prosaic about this album because this is a seminal hip-hop album. If you haven't heard this album and you call yourself a hip-hop head, I'm straight up putting you on blast. You are some weak shit. Period. You can start up the road to victory by buying this album. You still will suck and should get criticized by your friends for sucking, but your friends probably suck too if they haven't put you on this album.

For the non-heads, this is the rap album that changed the game in a lot of ways. It took rap out of the clubs and put it on the street and opened the door for hardcore rap to flourish. It wouldn't have approved of the current rap style, but it definitely opened the door. Super important album. Definitely a must have and a must listen.

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Bravery, Repetition, and Noise

While they were the subject of a documentary, do not let that fool you into thinking that the Brian Jonestown Massacre is as worthless as the Dandy Warhols musically (yes, I said it. The Dandy Warhols suck!). To the contrary, The Brian Jonestown Massacre is one of the more entertaining band in the music world and it isn't because of their onstage antics; it's because their music. BJM is best known for combining shoegaze, psychedelic rock, and eastern influences into a maelstrom of hazy, swirling rock and roll. does recognize this tradition, but also deviates from it. The main deviation is that these songs have actual verse/chorus/verse structures as well as a solid pop foundation. This isn't the traditional BJM style, but you would have never convinced me of that. The album are strong all the way through. The songs are catchy and, like any good pop song, easy to sing along with. Standouts for me are the country/psych-tinged rambler Open Heart Surgery, the swirling Nevertheless, and the upbeat Telegram. Bravery, Repetition, and Noise is one of those albums that you will start nodding along to without knowing that you are nodding along to it. This is what happened to me. I guarantee this is what will happen to you too.

If You Feel at a Loss

If you are feeling at a loss like I am with everyone being on vacation and not doing anything interesting, you can take the last nine days of June and celebrate National Gay Pride Month! That is correct, June is officially National Gay Pride Month. Commemorate the tragedy of the Stonewall Riots (you actually can a week from today. The anniversary is the 28th of June). Play a Judy Garland Record. Watch Mommie Dearest and anything involving Divine (I recommend Pink Flamingos). Watch a drag queen show and marvel at the fact those guys can work a catwalk out. As well, give your local queer a hug to tell them that you are proud of them for being unapologetic about who they really are. Also, this is your last meaningful month to celebrate because it goes downhill from here. Next month is National Ice Cream Month. I'm jazzed about that, but I also love ice cream.

The Dead One Gets Paid

Apparently, once P. Hilton a/k/a The Dead One is getting a huge payday from NBC once she gets out. To the tune of one million dollars. Honestly. Is it worth this much?

Why Hillary Just Lost My Vote

As if you didn't already know, Hillary Clinton chose her new campaign song. It is "You and I" by Celine Dion. I will not add to the chorus of boos coming from places as disparate as CNN to the liberal blogosphere. I will say that I could let the fact that she waffles all the time slide. It pisses me off, but I could let it slide. The fact that she chose this song, a love song about an airplane, by Celine Dion sealed her fate as someone is completely out of touch with the youth and probably the rest of America, an amazing feat for someone of her plainly high level of intellect.

Here is the song if you don't believe me in saying that it sucks.

Told you.

The Quest for Blue Velvet

While this summer has seen the return of old shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, American Inventor, Big Love, and Pirate Master (They test all the reality programming now. What can I say?), this summer has also seen a new disturbing trend in programming: the attempts to out-David Lynch David Lynch.

If you are unfamiliar, David Lynch is a filmmaker who is best known for his 1986 cult film Blue Velvet and his infamous ABC television show Twin Peaks, which revolved around FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's attempts to solve the mystery of who killed town prom queen Laura Palmer. Lynch is known for being decidedly obtuse, abandoning traditional ideas of plot and narrative, and moving his stories at a dreamlike pace. For some, these characteristics are what make Lynch compelling. For others, these aspects make watching Lynch unenjoyable. Regardless of personal opinions, Lynch has changed the perspective that many viewers have taken towards film and television, allowing for more surreality and abstraction in plot.

Lynch's distinct perspective towards storytelling and narrative are being challenged by two new shows that have premiered on television in the last two weeks: John from Cincinnati and Meadowlands.

John from Cincinnati is a new show created by John Nunn and David Milch, a creator of the crime drama NYPD Blue and the controversial western Deadwood. The plot revolves around the Yost family. Father Mitch was a successful surfer until he suffered a knee injury that forced him to retire from professional competition 20 years earlier. Mitch and his wife Cissy had a boy named Butchie who was a phenomenal surfer, but, due to the actions of his manager, he became a heroin junkie who fell out with his family. In family tradition, Butchie had a son named Shaun who is 13 and a fantastic surfer, but the family is in conflict about what to do about his life. Mitch does not want Shawn to fall victim to sharks like Butchie, but Butchie wants Shawn to pursue what makes him happy.

The family is thrown into chaos with the arrival of a mysterious man. This man has no origins, no background. He also has very little verbal ability; he repeats what everyone around him says as well as the same five phrases over and over again. There is a clear switch of reality around the family. This man is magical, but no one is sure how or what his purpose is here. While the show has only been on for two weeks, the question that the show is trying to answer is very clear: Who is John Monad? The best that they know is that he is from Cincinnati, but that is uncertain given his tendency to repeat what people around him say when not repeating his stock phrases like "the end is near".

If this all seems eerily familiar to you, it should. This show pretty much has the same flow and plot as Twin Peaks. Instead of a bleak logging town, John from Cincinnati is takes place in the California border town of Imperial Beach. While the location is different, the plot is the same: a stranger comes into the community, people are uncertain about whether to trust him, and there is a central question that has to be answered. Additionally, the show is just as intentionally weird as Twin Peaks with bizarre neighbors and supernatural occurrences. For example, from time to time, Mitch just floats into the air above the ground for no reason. It will probably be explained in time, but we don't know for now, just like in Twin Peaks. To the show's positive, it is very engaging to watch if not slow from time to time.

The other show battling for the crown for Lynchian absurdity is Meadowlands, a group project between a British production firm and Showtime. This show revolves around the Brogan family made up of Patriarch Danny, Matriarch Evelyn, and twins Zoe and Mark. The Brogans move into a new community called Meadowlands where everything seems ideal. All of the neighbors are happy and friendly, the neighborhood is clean. But, as signaled by some initial flashbacks, the Brogans are hiding something about their own life. The only thing that can be certain is that something that happened in a fire that led to a death. What this something is has not been elucidated.

In addition to the mysterious circumstances of their existence, it also made clear that the Brogans are not the Brogans. The Brogans are, in fact, a different family, one with a very different and sordid past. Additionally, the people who live in the neighborhood are very much not like they seem. There is an inspector in the town who maintains the peace. When Danny told him that he wanted the town handyman to stay away from his daughter, the inspector proceeded to trip the player in a pick up game and kick him with full force in his eye. Danny asks the inspector why he did this; he said to protect the purity of his daughter, just as Danny had wished.

Amongst other strange things, the son Mark, who hasn't spoken for four months, is obsessed with the woman who lives across from him. Mark corners her one day wearing a pair of red gloves, which she says are pretty. Mark then sends her the gloves in an envelope that night and watches from his window as she puts them on and masturbates, baring herself to this mysterious stranger who has decided to take an interest in her. Mark also takes a shining to the woman's daughter Jezebel who has returned from a strange place called Purgatory.

This show reeked of the aspects that made Blue Velvet such a haunting, engaging movie with its placid, suburban ideal infused by an insidious undercurrent of evil and violence. Additionally, the presence of the inspector and the fact that no one leaves the neighborhood is very reminiscent of another challenging British drama: The Prisoner. While no secrets are trying to be discovered, the inspector is the roaming bubble that captured dissenters. Additionally, the fact that people cannot escape Meadowlands is very reminiscent of The Village. For example, when the Brogans arrived, their neighbor already knew their name, a disturbing fact as they had not been on the grounds for more than a minute.

While John from Cincinnati has been on for two weeks, Meadowlands has only been on for one. Both of these shows will be exactly like a Lynch movie. There is no clear idea where either show will go and there are no hints as to anything that will happen, even between episodes.
It will be captivating to see where each show goes from where they are now.

John from Cincinnati airs on Sundays at 9 PM on HBO. Meadowlands airs at 10 PM on Showtime.

5 A Day: Day 3

Click the photo and read the reviews for the day. And, yes, I do have a copy of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme on my desktop. It's for a mix tape that I'm making. It's a perfect introduction for the tape that I have stewing in my head. Also, yes, my personal folder is named after Ms. Kahlo and the hard drive the protagonist of The Bell Jar. Esther Greenwood was the name of my iTunes on my old computer, but that name is now Phlox Lombardi.

In this update, I have reviewed Au Revoir Simone's The Bird of Music, Joe Band's The Chocolate Undertow, The Church's Forget Yourself, Experimental Aircraft's Eponymous Release, and The Gories's I Know You Fine, But How You Doin'.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NBA: More Dramatic Than Anything On Broadway

The National Basketball Association is home to some of the best basketball players in the world. Players come from Alaska to China and everywhere in between to play the game invented by James Naismith in Springfield, MA. While these men are some of the best athletes on the face of the planet, I will need you to disregard that for this argument because it is not of concern. This post will not argue about the athletic skills needed to be a successful basketball player. To the contrary, this post will argue that basketball players, whether they are aware or not, share a kinship with the actors of the theatre.

The primary reason for such a belief is the nature of basketball as a sport on an aesthetic level. Unlike in other team sports, the crowd is positioned at a critical distance from the athletes. In football, this gives the feeling of a coliseum of ravenous fans dressed in ridiculous colors such as bright red and purple (LET'S GO RAVENS!!!!) cheering as their warriors go off into battle. Baseball is the same visual concept. Cricket puts the spectator farther away than these sports. Basketball deviates from the idea of separating the athlete from the spectator. Basketball puts the athlete and the spectator next to each other. Frequently, the athletes fall into the spectators. Spectators, to their pleasure or dismay, can feel the sweat and heat of the athletes as they hustle up and down the court.

Given the proximity of the spectator to the athlete, the sport of basketball takes on a different aspect. Along with it being a display of physical talents and athletic abilities, basketball is a form of performance. This holds true on all levels of the sport. Basketball is not just about putting the ball in the hoop; it is definitely not all about this on the NBA level where 15-20K pay hard-earned money to watch these men perform on the court. The performance given by basketball players in NBA games can be considered akin to that of a Broadway play.

First, let's look at the surface of the game. I do mean the literal surface. Basketball is usually played on hardwood floors installed in gyms. Broadway stages are also constructed of wood. Both surfaces can speak of gracing some of the best in their respective fields. Additionally, both fora are entered through a dark space. The athletes and actors, upon entering the space, are placed under the direct scrutiny of the audience. There is nowhere to run or hide. The naked emotions or sheer nudity is placed in the public arena for full scrutiny. The most obvious way in which these two forms is linked is through the usage of teamwork and performance under pressure.

To address teamwork first, Broadway casts and basketball players must satisfy the needs of the paying audience. Both do this in, essentially, the same manner: by playing their roles to their fullest extent. Once the lights go up on stage and the ball goes up in the air, the actors are in full effect on the stage and on the hardwood. In both situations, the players must satisfy their roles and present an engaging show to the audience. In basketball, this involves dunks and fancy movements. In theatre, presentations of raw emotion is more than satisfactory. Additionally, both actors have to work off of each other. The best teams are those that use each other to their fullest extent and add to the overall brilliance of the experience. The best teams make the best performances and go into history as the best.

Additionally, both forms require the actor to be calm under pressure. If a basketball player loses his cool, he makes mistakes like turning the ball over and missing free throws. This can lead to the loss of a game. If an actor cracks, they forget lines and are forced to think on their feet, something that very well may be uncomfortable to a less comedically inclined actor. This can lead to the closing of a promisingly good play due to bad reviews of the actors.

And like in a good play, the flow of a basketball game can rise and fall with the dynamics shifting between all of the actors on the court. Teams will go on streaks, raising the emotions of the audience to a fever pitch like the conflict rising in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Buried Child. Additionally, like in a good basketball game, quality scenes from a play can leave the art world abuzz for days in conversation about the decision.

Art and sports are not dissimilar by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, drama and basketball are quite similar. Both require a mastery of craft and a willingness to please and create a close intimacy with the paying audience. Both have similar dynamics as well as the ability to create memorable pieces of history during their runs of course. As well, both put their performers on center stage with nowhere to run or hide. All of this helps to show that, while both attract different audiences, basketball and theatre are really not very different at all on an aesthetic level.

I Actually Wish I Had Something To Post

That title is misleading because I actually have material that I can post. I should rewind from this moment and explain forwards.

I was reading my RSS feeds and getting ready to start posting until


the power went out. So, with the power going out, I decided to take a drive and go down to the park to read. The only park near my house that I could remember was about a fifteen-minute drive away. It was good times, but I felt like my position on the top of the kids' slide was giving me the hater eye from the parents in the area. Anyway, when I get around to going through my reader, there isn't a lot going on.

I have a lot of essay type things to put up such as how TV is trying to out David Lynch David Lynch and the NBA as performance art, another entry into the theoretical defense of athletics as artistic and/or intellectual endeavors. But, I don't actually have time to write these pieces right now because I have to go to dinner in about a half-hour, enough time to maybe get through the intros.

5 A Day: Day Two

This is one of the songs that I was listening to on my way back to my house, so this will be the post video. This is late because I went bowling. Not only did I have the wrong shoes (they were a size too small), my ball was a pound heavier than I would have liked it to have been (14 instead of 13). I bowled well given the circumstances. I should have done better, but it did take away the stench of our poor performance at trivia. Anyway, this is the video for Mass Appeal by Gang Starr along with the review of the five albums I listened to today.

Love of Diagrams - Mosaic

Love of Diagrams is an Australian post-punk trio that maintains many of the standards of post-punk through their brash, defiant sound. The guitar playing of Luke Horton at points reminds me of Sleater-Kinney at points, but the guitar is not the primary instrument on this album. The primary rhythm is that of the bass as played by Antonia Sellbach. The fact that the bass was at the lead made listening to the instrumentals entertaining because the guitar would snake around and through the bass line while the drums had an interesting interplay with the bass. The sound of the band overall was very reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees in their early, non-goth phase. But unlike a lot of post-punk bands in the current era, Love of Diagrams didn't sound like a rehash of previous post-punk bands. They had a little of a pop edge while still maintaining the angularity of post-punk, helping them to stand out from the cacophony.

I have listened to the first album The Target is You, which is a primarily instrumental album. This album is a clear turn from that point in time, but it is clear they came from that background as the lyrics are not particularly good. The voices are good. The interplay between the vocals of Sellbach and Horton are entertaining, but the words didn't really mean a lot and weren't super interesting. Additionally, on a negative, the album was a touch too long. It began to lose steam towards the end. The songs were still pretty good, but they were not as strong as the first half of the album.

On the whole, this is a band that has a very tightly wound sound. It is fun and interesting to listen to them work off of each other instrumentally. I thought that this album was definitely worth multiple listens, and I'm looking forwards to what will come next from them.

Magik Markers - Tale of the Whale

This is an compilation of live performances by the Hartford, CT-based trio of Magik Markers, who are well known as former openers for Sonic Youth. Magik Markers use guitars, random objects, and drums to make a cacophonous sound reminiscent of no wave bands like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and DNA. This would normally be a good thing for me as I love DNA and like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (I'm not a huge Lydia Lunch fan, but that's another discussion). Unfortunately, this similarity was not a good thing for them. I thought that this album was really uninteresting and uninventive. Frankly, it reminded me of really old Sonic Youth instead of sounding like their own band. It was a girl sing-talking over a cacophonous noise created by guitars and drums crashing together. I found their music to be really stagnant, which is something that can't be said for a lot of no wave. Additionally, I wasn't really feeling the improvised lyrics on the tracks, which would have been better served with banshee screams or wailing in my opinion. And, to pile on, the recording quality of this album is terrible. It sounds like their was a microphone set up towards the back of the room to pick up the sound of the band instead of getting a board feed, which would have been cleaner and clearer. Regardless of my school boy criticisms of their sound, this was really one of the more unenjoyable albums that I've ever listened to, as I found myself bored frequently while listening to it. Magik Markers never have to worry about me going to one of their concerts ever.

The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute

As is well known, The Mars Volta is one band that arose from the split of seminal emo band At The Drive-In (and no, not the emo you know and hate. good emo.). Containing Cedric and Omar, The Mars Volta has been pushing the boundaries of music since ATDI's dissolution. If I had to describe The Mars Volta to someone that was uninitiated, I would probably begin them on this particular album. Frances the Mute is the second cycle released by the band. And, yes, I used the term cycle instead of album. Mars Volta albums are to be listened to in one sitting, and, after listening to Frances the Mute, I don't know any other way that they can be listened to. The primary influence of prog on Frances the Mute allows for The Mars Volta to push the boundaries of music, infusing their own sound with Afro-Cuban rhythms, psychedelic influences, free jazz, art rock, and fierce band interplay dynamics.

As crazy as all of this sounds, Frances the Mute works because all of these things do not sound crazy together or unintentionally noisy. The primary problem that comes with being so heavily experimental is that is can be pretentious or predictable. These are two adjectives that will never be used to describe Frances the Mute as The Mars Volta own the sound, making it seem completely natural that a loud guitar solo came right after listening to frogs chirping in the night. Such dynamics made this album a complete standout as well as got me to understand why so many people that I respect (read: Henry Rollins) hold them in such high regard. Nothing comes quickly with this album. Songs rise and fall on their own pace, so that could be frustrating if you like quick resolution in your music. If you are willing to be a voyager on the sonic trip, The Mars Volta will be more than happy to take you to new levels of sonic experimentation, lyrical intensity, and emotional depth.

Broadcast - The Future Crayon

The Future Crayon is a compilation of EP tracks, B-Sides, and rarities from Broadcast during the period in which they recorded The Noise Made by People and Haha Sound. If you have heard about Broadcast and are interested in learning about them, this is a good place to get a sense of their aesthetic, which takes many cues from the work of The United States of America (the Psych band, not the country) with its vintage synths and floating, disaffected vocals. This is a bad place to get a sense of the band because the album is not cohesive as their regular albums.

The Future Crayon is broken into two parts: accessible and not so much. The accessible side is the material that would be later refined and turned into their "crossover" album Tender Buttons. The second half is more experimental, but is clearly born of the sessions for their earlier albums. If you have only heard of Broadcast in passing or actually listen to and love Broadcast like me, The Future Crayon is a pretty substantial pickup well worth its cost.

Chris Stines - Who Am I? Part I - Chris Stines

This album was made available to me by freeform stalwart WFMU as part of their 365 Day Music project. Although WFMU is a radio station that already goes 365 days a year, the 365 day project posts obscure, bizarre records everyday on the station's blog. This is one such album. While the name of Chris Stines is not certain, it is certain that this release is a prime example of outsider music. The album is strange, awkward, slightly incomprehensible, unrehearsed, and mildly uncomfortable to listen to. But, even still, it has the redeemable quality, a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it likable. One thing that goes the way of the album is the fact that he is just singing over other people's beats and the lyrics are slightly comprehensible. While I was skeptical when I started, by the middle of the first track, I was really into it. My enthusiasm didn't wane as the album went on either. If you are not into strange musical displays, this probably won't work for you so much as you will think it is just a really weird musical display by some half-wit with no talent. But, if you are into things like Gary Wilson, Jandek, The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston, and Jan Terri, I highly implore you to go over to WFMU and download this now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm Not Taking Sides Here

I just read this article at The Washington Post about the Congressional stunt of living off of food stamps for a week. The author has decided that it is possible to live off of such a budget, and shows how she did it. While her diet wouldn't do very much for me (I've eaten bean, rice, and grains diets. They usually leave me hungry, wanting something far more substantial.), something far more upsetting struck me about her argument. Her article reeked of something that The Washington Post has been awash in recently: classism.

The article is saying that if you can't live off of 120 dollars/week, you're pretty much an idiot. I know I can live off of 120 dollars a week, but I'm single and I have a lot of spare time to soak beans for a day then cook them for hours over low heat. I also know that if I applied for food stamps, that total is going to be a lot lower.

But, I also don't have three other hungry mouths to feed with each meal and other costs that may come up such as covering the phone bill or making sure that my kids have clothes for school, regardless of whether they come from a department store or a thrift store. The sheer disregard of the reality of being poor in this article is amazing, and just feeds into the constant reinforcement of the classism that has come into view in recent months at the paper.

I'm really getting fed up with writers of The Post sticking up their nose at so many different parts of the Washington community with such insulting pieces like this and the one about the concert violinist playing in the train system. I don't know a lot about classical music. Last time I checked, that wasn't really a crime. Get the sticks out of your asses, Post.

Not Film Friendly

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

Dudes in the Nunnery?

Juan Ramon Jimenez is a Nobel laureate, awarded the prize in 1956, from Spain. As can be suspected by anyone artistic from Spain (Buñuel, I'm looking at you), there is a problem with the Catholic Church. In this situation, Jimenez wrote a series of poems about a love affair he had while being taken care of by nuns of the Holy Rosary congregation. As a nun's only love is supposed to be with God, it is only but assumed that the nuns have asked for these poems to be silenced.

While I understand the nuns need for the poems to be silenced, they are actually pretty good. The Guardian published one of them. It is called Three Verses:

Sister! We stripped off our ardent bodies

In endless and senseless profusion....

It was autumn and the sun - don't you remember?

Added sweet sadness to the white splendour of our abode

Sister Pilar, are your eyes still so black?

And your mouth so fresh and red?

And your breasts...? How are they?

Oh, do you recall how you would come into my room late at night, calling to me like a mother, telling me off like a child?

"When she fled, in a flight of deranged wimples,

from the impetuous will of my desire

she would seek shelter in a corner, like a cat ...

but her nails were sweeter than my kisses.

I'm with Jimenez on this one, but I'm OK with judgments being passed against the Catholic Church. That one doesn't bother my protestant self too much.

Monday, June 18, 2007

5 A Day: Day 1

I should note before I start, these aren't all albums that I have had in my archive for years. The albums that I've chosen are albums that have no listens in my iTunes, even though I've actually heard all of the albums today. This won't be true on all days. It just worked out that way today.

Here is a really, really innovative video for the Band Fujiya & Miyagi. It's for Ankle Injuries.

Album Reviews:

Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things

Fujiya & Miyagi is a three-piece band that plays live electronic music in the vein of LCD Soundsystem and Stereolab. It is synth-driven and very Neu!-style kraut influenced. This is actually a very good, creative album. The primary problem with this album is that it is not consistent throughout. The beginning of the album is its strongest part. The first three tracks where the band locks into the groove are the strongest. The band falters when they enter into playing standard, uncreative indie rock fare, i.e. losing the groove or start-stopping. These songs aren't bad, but they are not interesting enough to return to. This is actually OK because the good songs are really, really good. Like mixtape material good (not every song can make it into mix tape consideration). I'm looking forwards to see where this band goes next because this album was a little bit raw and their sound could have been further refined.

Galaxie 500 - On Fire

I'm not sure that I can say anything new and insightful about this particular album. This is an album that means a lot to different branches of the indie movement. Galaxie 500 is considered a forerunner to two fairly important indie movements of the 1990s: slowcore and shoegaze. This album is G-500 at its peak, displaying its full talents as a band. Dean's voice soars over languorous guitars, solid bass lines provided by Naomi, and spartan drumming by Damon. It all came together to create a beautiful sound and show the simple depth and magic of Galaxie 500. Dreamy, evocative, creative, melancholy, experimental yet utterly listenable. This is a fabulous, beautiful album. A must listen for anyone who calls themselves a shoegazer or is into slow guitar jams.

Urang Otan - S/T EP

Urang Otan is a relatively unknown art wave band. This five-song EP is from Zoar Records and was released in 1981. This band has post-punk elements that remind me of early Talking Heads, Size, and Au Pairs. The band combined these with no wave components as it was in the same scene as those bands. Additionally, Urang Otan shares more than a little resemblance with Bush Tetras in their adoption of adding dance rhythms to angular sounds. The EP displays a band that uses lock grooves to make dark, intense songs about living the urban experience interesting, danceable, and challenging. If you are unfamiliar with no wave, I would recommend starting somewhere else such as Liquid Liquid, ESG, or something involving James Chance or Arto Lindsay (DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James White and the Blacks, early Golden Palominos come to mind). If you are familiar with no wave/early 80's Downtown NYC underground rock, it is worth your time to search this out.

Zodiac Killers - Radiation Beach

Zodiac Killers are garage punks from the tradition-laden Bay Area of California. Keeping in that history, Zodiac Killers reminded me a lot of some stalwarts of that scene the Mummies because they are raw, uncut, fast, loud, frenetic, swaggering, and really fun. This is one of the most urgent albums I've heard in a long time that wasn't made by a band that specializes in song blasts like The Locust, Dwarves, XBXRX, or An Albatross. Zodiac Killers kicked out ten songs of fury in only 20 minutes. And, even though the album was done quickly, it was packed with inventive lyrics, quality musicianship, and a good vibe. They were actual songs with verses, choruses, bridges, and rhythm. I was surprised to hear such talent on display in such a small package. I'm disappointed that this is their last album because I would have loved to seen where this band went from here. Definite recommendation.

Wolf Eyes - Burned Mind

Burned Mind is the first release by Wolf Eyes for the Sub Pop label and the difference from their early work is clear. The production of the tracks is sharper, allowing more space for the sound to develop and envelop the listener. This is to the band's benefit as the new space allows for terror and confrontation to develop within the rise and fall of the music, making the overall listening experience much more satisfying and interesting. Burned Mind is far more accessible than their other albums. This doesn't mean that you will find yourself cruising down the road, jamming out to Stabbed in the Face. But, it does mean that if you want to understand noise, this is probably the best opportunity that you will have to do so because it will not be easier. I should note that while Wolf Eyes did clean up their sound, this doesn't mean they've compromised their sound. In all honesty, I think that this is one of their most brutal albums as the beats and ambiance are both much more terrifying and intense. I recommend this album as much as I can recommend a noise album, which means that if you hate drum machines, squelches, violent music, dissonance, atonality, and discordance, you probably should stay far away from this one. If you are willing to branch out and experience the brutality, Burned Mind is more than willing to kick your ass.

Best Week Ever Takes Advertising Meta

While The Soup has been advertising for its own channel for a while, I could let this slide because it was an E! show advertising other E! shows. Video Hits One has decided to cross a new level of advertising with its show Best Week Ever.

For those unfamiliar with BWE, the show is a recap of the past week in popular culture. If you don't keep up with this world, it is a quick way to keep tabs on what is going on. For someone who does, such as myself, I more or less watch it for the jokes and the ridiculous commentary from comedians and media observers such as Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessica St. Clair, Sherrod Small, Melissa Rauch, Frangela, Paul F. Tompkins, and Doug Benson. The show is usually broken into the headlines, the Sizzler, In Case You Missed It, and the award for who is having the best week ever (this week: Bob Barker!). This week seemed strange to me for one primary reason. During the headlines, there was a topic called "Tylenol Ad Campaign."

When this subject was breached, it was an ad for Tylenol. But, it was discussing the ad on the show that was being sponsored by the ad. The commentators were making jokes about the advertisement. This struck me as a bit meta: the idea of a show plugging advertising into its show, airing said advertisement, then proceeding to, essentially, bite the hand that feeds it. I wasn't sure if this was actually meta or if I was just paranoid about product placement.

It was proven to be the former. This was proven so by the presence of Mark McGrath in the Sizzler. When he rolled out of the segment, he plugged his work with WISH BONE SALAD DRESSING AND I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER! With such a blatant advertisement, I was right in thinking that the Tylenol ad was an actual advertisement and therefore totally meta.

I can only express my disappointment with Best Week Ever for a) putting Mark McGrath on the show and b) advertising at me in such a meta manner. If you are going to advertise at me, just do it. Don't cover it up with snarky commentary and jokes.

The Thinking Man's Blood Sport

In my mind, boxing is a sport that gets a constantly bad rap. A lot of people say that it is too violent and rife with corruption. I would not disagree. As a fan, I've seen a lot of dubious fights that can only be justified by the fact that a party has leverage over the other. But, this is not my primary concern.

A lot of people criticize boxers because some of them are dumb. Muhammad Ali is well documented as being too stupid to enter the military, having failed the entrance exam twice before the legal limit was lowered by Congress to ensure his enlistment in the draft. Mike Tyson was notoriously duped by Don King out of millions of dollars.

Such incidents would only go to prove the lack of book smarts present in most boxers. But, boxing is not a sport that requires the recognition of the subtleties of Shakespeare's sonnets; it's about something way simpler than that: pure competition between two people in a ring. And, for one to even step in the ring, the boxer's mind has to be sharper than your average mind. Even above-average, book smart minds would be pummeled in the melee that is prizefight boxing because the mind of a boxer, while maybe not the most articulate one on the face of the planet, is the sharpest form of athletic mind.

People would consider arguing against that last point, suggesting that other sports are far more cerebral. And, on the surface, such an accusation may have merit. What sort of thought can go into punching the crap out of someone? Can't more thought involved in pitching a baseball game, calling a football game, or playing basketball. While each one of these sports does require a fair amount of thought on the part of the participant, basketball is instinctual while baseball and football are strategic sports. All three require intelligence, that is for sure. But, boxing is superior to them all.

Basketball's intelligence is having finite skills, a court awareness, and good visual recognition. You do not play basketball and think about what you are going to do; you more or less have a set of skills and do what you can given your situation. If you are a shooter and the defender gives you space to elevate, you are going to take the shot. If you play on the posts, you know which way the defender is working due to their physical input. At the point, the guard can see where players are going and makes decisions appropriate to their reads. If the guard is given space, they will push the ball down the lane to the hole. That's a component of making the initial read.

Basketball is not a cerebral sport in the sense that players are able to play games on instincts and feelings more than actual logic processes and mental calculation. What is meant by that is that basketball players can feel that they are hot and work themselves into positions where they can take advantage of that. Other players will respond to that by giving them the ball more or working them into situations where they can score. As well, a player can sense the weakness in another's game and force them to play that hand without having to make an adjustment to their initial strategy. Both of these are situations of feel and instinct more than they are actual end products of thought.

The same holds for football. Football, in some ways, is simpler than basketball mentally. Football requires each team having a general theme for how they would like their team to execute. When one team plays another, both are usually scheming against each other to figure out the most effective way to stymie the other. For example, if one team has a bad run defense, the other team will find out where that weakness is (usually through tape) and plan against it by doing a few more running plays than usual. But, all of what I said is in an ideal world and football is rarely predictable.

The game of football comes in with the idea of strategizing against the other team and adjusting said strategy when it is compromised. To use the above example, if the team has decided to go run-heavy but the other team is defending the run well, the offensive team will need to come up with a new plan of attack. Since maybe the team is biting run, the offensive squad will call a run fake that ends up with a 25 yard pass across the middle to the slot receiver. But, this is the core of football: tinkering. The only thing that is purely cerebral in football is the strategy and that is not done by the players; planning is done by the coaches in the days leading up to the game and is taught to the players during the same time. So, the players do not have to display a sense of mental acuity while playing. They do have to react, but that, like in basketball, is purely instinctual.

Baseball is another sport that plays like football in the sense that the athletes are not the decision makers strategically. They are reactionaries as in football. The players, like in both basketball and football, have specific skills that can be exploited to the benefit of the team. For example, if you are a fast player, fast players are usually placed in the lead-off position because they have the ability to steal bases and create offense. But, these types of decisions are not made by the players; they do not have the agency in baseball. Such tactical decisions are made by the coaching and managing staff who knows what each player on their team can do, but also knows what the other team can do as well. Once again, the cerebral aspect of the game is left to persons other than the actual athletes.

Boxing, unlike football and baseball, puts the mental agency in the hands of the athlete. Additionally, unlike basketball, instinctual action does not get one very far in the sport. If one acts reactively in boxing, they will end up with their jaw broken, laying flat on the ground. Also, unlike in other sports, the strategy used by a challenging boxer cannot be easily predicted. While there are trends, there is no guarantee that such information will be the same in the actual battle. What this means is that the boxer has a distinct need to act in a strictly cerebral manner while also displaying a high level of physicality. This does not hold in other sports due to the fact that there is a high level of information to work from. Baseball teams play each other multiple times a year as well as have people whose sole job is to watch teams to keep track of their patterns. Additionally, basketball and football rely heavily on scout work to prepare for their competitions. It would be misleading to say that boxing does not use this type of information, but it is important to say that such scouting work only gives a rough expectation due to the fact that a boxer can switch styles between fights and have different training.

With this high level of uncertainty and the need for restraint and instinct, the average boxer, by stepping into the ring, is on another level from the average athlete due to the fact that the pugilist has no concrete idea of what will confront them when the bell rings for the first round. This comparative advantage is increased by the execution of the sport and such critique extends to all levels of boxing from Golden Gloves to professional prizefighting. For each second that clicks off the clock, the boxer has to decide what their method of attack will be, keeping in mind that their opposition will more than likely have an appropriate reaction to their action. Such realizations will change the approach used by the boxer.

Thought in boxing is also greater than in other sports because of the fact that while you are determining a course of action, there is, most likely, another person who is trying to cause you bodily harm. There are fists flying, jabbing at the face, hard hands to the body, and other ways to distract the mind from actually pursuing a form of attack. So, in addition to thinking about how to start their own attack, the boxer has to contemplate launching a defense as well as a counter-defense, which is different from an offense that is also an important component. While a boxer only has two hands to work with, the number of things that can be done with those hands is infinite. Only the boxer in the ring can make such a decision. Additionally, the boxer has to make the right decision about how to attack. If the wrong decision is made, the person who launched the attack can end up on their back. I've seen it many a time when boxers will make the wrong decision on attack and end up sleeping on their feet.

While I am not suggesting that boxers are going to be the future intelligentsia , I believe that their intelligence is greatly undervalued by the public and other athletes. The fact that they think on their feet while getting hit in the face with a constant stream of jabs and crosses is something to be completely admired. Their sport, unlike all other sports, is not one driven by pure instinct and reaction like many other sports, but does require a bit of that to be successful as well. Boxing, unlike team sports or other individual sports, is the only sport that does operate like chess mentally; the initial action must be considered with its ramifications three steps later, and the athlete is the sole decider. While I am not saying that you have to be a boxing fanatic, I do want you to respect the beauty and intelligence that is the sport of boxing even if the athletes don't make the most brilliant comments on television.

No Responsible Sex on TV

Today, news has come out about television channels not allowing Trojan condoms to show a commercial where pigs turn into men from buying a condom. Apparently, this is not sitting well with Fox and CBS who have both decided not to show the ad.

I have to say that this is one of the dumber policies I've ever read about. Anything that keeps Americans healthy and producing less unwanted children, such as a condom, should be wholeheartedly support by so-called family channels like Fox and CBS. Additionally, I'd rather see ads for condoms that ads for prescription drugs and Viagra. I'm not really interested in thinking about the geriatrics of America having butt-hot sex with their other for hours on end because they can't get rid of their hard-on. For everyone else who just had that visual along with me, I'm sorry about that.

If you would like to learn more about this, I refer you to the post from Shakesville.

Clearing Out My hPDA

As I think I've told one person so far aside from the people who have seen me whip it out, I use a bizarre information keeping system. Instead of keeping a regular Moleskine notebook in my pocket (they're too bulky), I use this thing called a hipster PDA (Parietal Disgorgement Aid). People who like to get things done use them, but more often than not, I just need a place to write things that come up down. This tool has worked perfectly for such needs. Additionally, I've tricked mine out a bit for it to work like my regular day-to-day organizational tool: the Uncalendar. There are colored priority cards, graph paper for math and lists, lined and unlined white cards, and a Moleskine cahier attached for longer ideas and as a clipboard.

Anyway, from time to time, I have to clear it out because I have a lot of stuff in it that I haven't processed. Today is such a day because most of it is relevant to this process. While at the beer pong tournament, I have, on an index card, the outline to my boxing post. I also noticed something very troubling in Best Week Ever this week as well. So, I have a card outlining that too.

For the next week or so, I'm going to run a Five a Day project where I review five albums a day. They won't necessarily be new, but they'll be albums that I've wanted to listen to for a while now. The reviews won't be too wordy, but they'll be enough to know what's up with the album. This will go in for the late night sendoff instead of some strange rant about how one pop star is better than the other.

Also, strange story: I went to a model house about ten miles from my own house. The woman in this house was talking about making decisions about moving into a new house. And she said, you should make a Ben Franklin list to determine the pros and cons. I've never heard the phrase with regards to a pro-con list. I always just thought it was a pro-con list. So, to see what this was about, I wrote it down in my hPDA to find out its true origins. I'm still at a loss, so if someone could explain that term's history, i.e. did Ben Franklin create the pro-con list, I'd appreciate a comment.

And this is how I use my hipster parietal disgorgement aid. And, I keep my ID cards in a rubberband. But, I know people who do that and, once I started driving, I understood the utility of keeping cards in such a manner. Anyway, those are some things to look forwards to in the coming days from this lovely blog. I hope that you will return to partake.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday: Always Beer Pong

I went down to Frederick yesterday to participate in a tournament of beer pong. If you are unfamiliar with beer pong, it is called Beirut in some parts of this land we call America. If the name still rings hollow for you, beer pong is a game of skill and talent that gets people drunk really fast assuming both teams don't suck.

The rules are simple. Anywhere from two to eight people stand on opposite sides of, preferably, a beer pong table and throw ping pong balls at Dixie cups. If you make a shot, the other team has to drink the cup. If all players on the side, if playing in multiples, make their shots, the team "brings it back" and has the opportunity to shoot again. If a player bounces a ball into the cup off the table, the number of cups removed is equivalent to the number of players on the team. For example, if you are playing in fours and a player hits a bounce shot, four cups are removed. Defense is allowed on bounce shots, but not on regular, through the air shots. A person can blow, but not use their hands.

The game is won in a few different ways. One such way is to bounce a ping pong ball into the last cup off of the table, thereby ending the game immediately. Another way is to get two ping-pong balls into the final cup, also thereby ending the game immediately. The last way is to make one ball into the last cup. In this manner, the opponent has what is called rebuttal, in which the losing player has the ability to prolong the game. If the losing player makes the shot, the game continues on. If the shot is missed, the game ends. If playing in multiples, all players must make the shot for the game to continue.

With all of this said, I am a really good beer pong player. I have an immaculate stroke. This dude last night was commenting on how nice my stroke was. I would say this isn't about me right now, but it actually is. My consummate stroke led to me not losing in three games of beer pong. The only time I had real trouble was with the closeout, but I got help from my team with this. I hit a wall because I was way too caffeinated from putting an extra expresso shot in my coffee. So, I had to retire early from my efforts. Although, I did achieve my goal of getting drunk (although my game was better sober) and getting other people drunker.

While I may have passed out prematurely, I did get a barbeque out of it, and the barbeque was delicious. With this said, that brings me to the Sunday tradition of randomness. I have an actually pretty good article that I want to write in defense of one of my favorite sports: boxing. People hate on boxing a lot and usually with good reason, pointing to the deterioration of Muhammad Ali. I say that, while Ali's state is sad, there are many other boxers who have led a completely functional life following their careers and that these men and women are true warriors along with being some of the smartest people on the face of the planet, as boxing is not an instinctual sport. I'll explain this further tomorrow. The video for tonight is "I'm the Leader of the Gang" by Gary Glitter, who is a child molester but is also one of the most important British rock artists ever.

Random Tracks:

1209 Seminary - The Ponys
Run for Cover - Sugababes
The Ownerz - Gang Starr
Summer on the Westhill - Kings of Convenience
CSS Suxxx - CSS
HC Rebellion - Pussy Galore
Please, Please, Please - James Brown
Dark Star - Beck
The Only One - Roy Orbison
We're All In Love - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Diabolic Scheme - The Hives
The World Is Yours - Nas
All Things Great And Small - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
One for the Treble - Davy DMX
The Emperor's Soundtrack - Lupe Fiasco

I would listen to that.