Thursday, December 30, 2004

On the Large-Scale Loss of Children

So many people want to ignore the news stories, to continue with their holiday celebrations, but to do so is inhuman. Essay writers are starting to intrude into the psyche, to become a catalyst for the conscience, and make us feel the pain that we ought to feel.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Tsunami disaster is the loss of so many children, almost simultaneously. Many more in the next weeks wills succumb to injury and disease in the absence of adequate medical care. From In the Loss of Young Lives Far Too Soon, The World Is Gripped by a Special Grief,
in today's Post, Libby Copeland discusses the loss:

The waters rushed in and the waters retreated and at least a third of the bodies left behind were those of children.

In one picture from India, a father carries his son. The son's head flops, the grave worker's arms extend like the arms of Hades to take the child to the underworld. There is no morality in nature; if there were, a parent would never have to cradle his dead child.

Now, on the other side of the world, there are thousands of children being buried in mass graves, or starving and vulnerable to disease from dirty water and dead bodies. It is on a scale too big to imagine, so you think about it small, think about what it does to parents when their future is gone.

It was irrational, Lifton says, but many of those parents felt responsible for their children's deaths. It was their duty to shepherd their own flesh to adulthood. They failed.

Newspapers give two numbers: the number killed and the number of children killed, as if they are separate populations. The Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia: more than 170 children. The Oklahoma City bombing: 19. Columbine: 12.

Part of the reason so many of the tsunami's dead are children has to do with demographics. In most of the 12 countries affected, 30 to 50 percent of the population is younger than 18, according UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. The agency also cites eyewitness accounts indicating that children had trouble holding onto trees and other stable objects that might have kept them from being swept away. What of the parents who were able to save some of their children at the expense of others? What of the parents who were unable to save any? What of the parents who still don't know?

Safe Shores in the U.S.

Paragraphs lifted from Joel Achenbach's The Tidal Wave That Touches Our Safe Shore, important comments on the U.S. reaction toward the Asian Tsunami disaster (from today's Washington Post):

Sunday afternoon, anyone turning on cable news would have seen two breaking stories: Thousands dead in Asian tsunami, and thousands of Americans delayed at airports. Unspeakable tragedy in Asia, tremendous inconvenience in the United States. Lost children, lost luggage.

Days later, that story from the other side of the world has evolved into something that has vividly placed the concerns of Americans into perspective. There have been other catastrophes around the world in recent years, but this one is of a different order, not just bigger but crueler, a great swallowing of human life, one that devoured children preferentially.

This has our full attention. And we may find ourselves wrestling with some difficult questions. What is the right response to the suffering of people far away? What can we do, what should we do, where do we even start?

And on why Americans suddenly started giving more to charitable organizations days after the disaster:

The holidays have put people in the mood to give, Sherman said, but that doesn't explain the phenomenal response. Another factor, she said, is that the visual images from Asia have unearthed a painful memory.

"It is a little bit of a flashback from 9/11 when you saw the people walking the streets of New York in a state of trauma, looking for their loved ones."

And now suddenly we meet these people, in photographs and videos, and so many of them are dead -- including children, eyes closed, lying on the ground, who in a kinder world would be merely sleeping.

Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, said that although Americans are a charitable people, we are also traditionally isolationist. We don't know much about the rest of the world and have little familiarity with the lives of people in places like Indonesia.

"Americans are a very generous people, both among themselves and for others. But they don't have any idea how to be generous. We're protected from the suffering of other lives," Hauerwas said yesterday.

On President Bush's delay in addressing the tragedy:

President Bush, meanwhile, continued to vacation, unseen and unheard through Tuesday, and the world may well have wondered what kind of catastrophe would be sufficient to interrupt the president's agenda of clearing brush and riding bikes. Yesterday morning the president finally made a formal statement and wore a suit and tie to connote that he is on the job, if perhaps 72 hours too late.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Electrelane mp3s

Electrelane is recording the follow-up to their acclaimed 2nd album from this year, The Power Out. According to their website:

Happy New Year


We are currently at Electrical Audio in Chicago recording our third album. It's going really well and we are enjoying being here again. The album will probably be released in mid-May 2005, and after that we will be touring extensively in the UK, Europe, USA and hopefully in Japan and Australia too.

Until then, some riffy, noisy mp3s from their website and from The Wire online:

Gabriel (mp3) from Rock it to the Moon
On Parade (mp3) from Power Out

Blogs Are Forever. Maybe Not Yours, But In General.

Another meditation on the blognomenon, from the Independent.

From "Have you read the one about me?", in the Independent online:

Anyone can keep an on-line diary - and now 4 million of us do. Michael Bywater explores the desire to share our deepest secrets and dullest moments with the world. And why millions more bother to read them.


...the blog is here to stay - although it might just have reached the critical mass at which any internet activity ceases to be cool. If you haven't encountered a blog yet, you can't have been on the net. They are everywhere: daily (or weekly, or intermittent) diaries of observations, carpings, epiphanies, happenstance and dull self-examination.

Susan Sontag, Dead at 71

We've lost a vivid mind and voice in Susan Sontag, who died with leukemia yesterday.

Stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Here are examples of what she left behind:

An excerpt from On Photography.

A New Yorker essay, Looking at War

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pics for Chicks

Sailor Moon

From Girl Power Fuels Manga Boom in U.S., in today's New York Times:

Look out, boys. There's a new kid in town.

Sales of Japanese comics - more familiarly known as manga (pronounced MAHN-gah) - are exploding in the United States, and much of the boom is due to efforts by comic book publishers to extend their reach beyond young male readers. Beyond all males, in fact.

For years, elementary school reading teachers have lamented that the pool of good books for young males is shallow, if not dry, partly because of a lack of male authors. Males have spent most of their reading time in Marvel and D.C. comics. Now,

Even the home of Batman and Superman, DC Comics, created a separate imprint for its manga line, CMX, which began in October.

John Nee, the vice president for business development at DC, said that "the biggest challenge we see is carefully growing the imprint." To that end, CMX has staggered its releases. Three titles began in October, two last month and the next wave will not begin until February. Unlike Tokyopop, CMX plans to dig deep into the past. "Manga has been published so long in Japan and only a successful category in the U.S. for five years," Mr. Nee said. "We haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of the material available."

Could this lead to a feminization of the comic world, where reading manga earns young males a "girly" stigma? Undoubtedly, Manga will bring more females to comics than Supergirl and Wonder Woman. I don't have a crystal ball, but I think the next 5 years will tell.

Monday, December 27, 2004

mp3 - Sparklehorse with Flaming Lips

I posted several songs from the 2-CD Daniel Johnston tribute album, Daniel Johnston Discovered Covered. I considered not posting anything else from it, thinking maybe this is getting old. It's not. Both of the CDs in this set are enduring, and will give you a lot of mileage. My favorite track changes from one week to the next. Maybe next week I'll post an original Daniel Johnston song, after leaving Michigan, and my lonely CDs warmly welcome me home.

For now, here's Go, covered by Sparklehorse with the Flaming Lips, originally from Daniel Johston's Respect (1985).

Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse)

The lyrics are simple, seemingly a song of encouragement from Johnston, reassuring a friend (you) that you'll find true love or whatever it is you seek: To understand and be understood/is to be free/So I think that you should go/Go on ahead/Take her in your arms and be wed/Go go go go you restless soul/you're going to find it/Go go go go you restless soul/you're going to find it.

But listen to it enough times, and eventually you'll pause, suspecting that Johnston is telling you that you'll find it, because you're not him. He's a wounded soldier on life's battlefield, resolved to stay behind, telling you to carry on. Maybe Johnston isn't capable of carrying joy: Yes, life's a bowl of cherries/You can have as many as you can carry/And someone once said that life is like a cow/But I don't know how that applies.

For all of you who got new guitars for Christmas, the lyrics and tablature are here.

Sparklehorse with the Flaming Lips - Go (mp3)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

mp3 - Routineers

The Routineers are a Dischord band, which you will immediately recognize with the tense opening riffs of Simply Smooth, with Amanda MacKaye on vocals, though you won't really hear her on this track. Yes, she is related to Fugazi's Ian MacKaye (she's his sister), who recorded their self-titled CD in Anacostia, the future stadium site of the Washington, D.C. Nationals.

Routineers - Simply Smooth (mp3)

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to you, and thank you for visiting our blog this year. I hope you get everything you wish for this holiday season. I'll be out of town until January 2nd, and will be posting sporadically between now and then.

Take care and be safe.

mp3 - The Bravery

Slang n.
1. Excessive publicity and the ensuing commotion
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

NME calls The Bravery a killer stroke combination: "a perfect genetic splice of the Strokes and the Killers." Filter says that they "are ready to kick down the doors The Strokes built to join the ranks of contemporaries Franz Ferdinand and The Killers." They're one of Rolling Stone's 10 Artists to Watch.

Their Unconditional EP backs up the hype. Unconditional is a beautifully jacked up love song: "I just want love/I just want something/something for nothing." If Bach did synth pop, his 21st century Brandenburg would sound like Out of Line.

Listen to the EP at their website (launch music player).

Watch the video for Unconditional:
Windows Media

And of course I have an mp3 for you.

The Bravery - Out of Line (mp3)

Ignoring Paris

LLoyd Grove, writer of Lowdown, the New York Daily News gossip column, is quitting Paris Hilton cold turkey.

From this morning's story, We'll Never Have Paris Again:

Even a gossip columnist has limits.
Paris Hilton has finally abused mine.

Over the past five years - without any discernible talent, education, scruples, manners, modesty or underpants - the pretty blond great-granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton has waged a terrifying campaign for world domination.

The arc of Paris' "career" - from rich, witless party girl to rich, witless party girl with a hit television show - is an insult to the American sense of fairness: the idea that you get ahead by working hard, playing by the rules and acquiring a skill of some sort.

Paris has bothered with none of the above, and yet society continues to reward her with money and fame.

It can't be said more eloquently than that, can it. More:

Make no mistake: I plead guilty to having been one of Paris' enablers - encouraging and even celebrating her silly ways through countless boldface mentions.

I admit that Paris and I have been snared in an ugly web of mutual addiction: She to all the lurid ink, me to all the pointless drama.

But on the "Today" show this morning, I'm planning to announce my New Year's resolution: going cold turkey. No more Paris Hilton.

The announcement is a done deal. But that's not all...on the Today show, he also suggested that he may resolve to drop one annoying celebrity at the end of every year. Who's on the bubble for 2006? Lindsay Lohan.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Queen's Engrish, Butchered

Jazz83 has some ridicurousry funny signage that you should look at now.

Images from

Google Search: Sermon Powerpoint

Powerpoint has been the primary medium of communication in the business world for a long time now, and has recently become ubiquitous in religious communication. Sermons are outlined in powerpoint, eliminating the need to follow along in scripture, songs are displayed on slides, so we can save trees by getting rid of hymn books, and disturbingly, if you are a pastor, you can download sermons from other sermons and use them as your own.

I wondered, if He were among us in flesh today, would Jesus (or any other religious leader) use powerpoint in His sermons? Would He have a laptop, a projector, a screen, and someone to click the mouse when He says "next" in a modern-day Sermon on the Mount?

Anyway, I googled "sermon powerpoint" and wasn't surprised to get 48,600 results.

The movement of powerpoint haters may be growing faster than that of powerpoint users. The search "hate powerpoint" begins with the article, "Edward Tufte doesn't hate PowerPoint, he hates the culture that spawned it."

mp3 - Mendoza Line

I don't do twang as much as I used to, whether it's country, bluegrass, alt-country, alt-bluegrass, whatever. It seems that every year I listen to even less than the year before. The Mendoza Line, of Athens, GA, is one of the few twangy bands I've listened to this year, maybe because the twang on this year's LP, Fortune, is more embellishment than centerpiece. It's a solid album; the songs are catchy and spirited, the solos are inspired, and well, they're just so likeable. This track, it's a long time (but it moves quickly), is a pop-rock gem featuring Shannon McCardle sounding a lot like Liz Phair at her sassiest.

Mendoza Line - it's a long line (but it moves quickly) (mp3)

Top Ten Myths About Assisted Suicide

From Spiked Online.

Myth #6:

This is all about 'dignity'.

What sort of dignity? Right-to-die campaigners condemn the lives of the disabled as bereft of dignity, apparently associating dignity solely with control over bodily functions. According to this definition, if someone loses their bodily 'autonomy', they no longer have human dignity. In my mind, dignity comes from bearing up under suffering we meet throughout our lives rather than letting it destroy us, and from facing fears rather than caving in to them.

The Baseball Stadium Myth

So last night FOX preempted the Simpsons rerun to show the announcement of baseball coming to DC. If you are lucky enough not to live in Washington you may not know about the long-running and extremely boring saga of DC trying to get a major league baseball team again (they lost the Senators 30 years ago).

City leaders promote public financing of baseball stadiums by claiming that the new stadium will attract business and create jobs. Is this true? I had heard of some cases where the city ended up losing money on the deal, but I had assumed that other teams had ended up making money for the city. My own team, the Baltimore Orioles, for instance, have been very successful with Camden Yards. So I looked them up and guess what?

All publicly financed stadiums have lost money for their cities.

Even my beloved Camden Yards! Johns Hopkins study, PDF

Having a major league team does have benefits. It contributes to area pride and it's great for families to take their kids to the ballgame. Camden Yards is gorgeous, I'm a lifelong Orioles fan and to me it's worth the about $15 a year the stadium deal ends up costing each Baltimore household. But the benefits are quality-of-life, not economic. Maybe if I didn't care about baseball and my kids were going to crumbling schools I'd be pissed off.

Just an FYI so that if this issue ever comes up in your city or state, you know what you're getting into.

You wouldn't know it by the way the press blindly reports the "new business and jobs" claims, but there's a ton of economic analyses of how these stadium deals have worked out for cities. Here's a decent basic summary by the CATO Institute.

Everything in its Right Place

Go here and watch Brad Mehldau perform Radiohead's Everything in its Right Place. Don't tell me he ain't feeling it. He looks like Tori Amos playing with menstrual cramps. While you're there, you'd be missing out if you didn't also check out the videos from the lovely Bebel Gilberto and the equally lovely Erin Bode.

Sin City Trailer

Here's the trailer for Sin City.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Winter Fiction Issue

The New Yorker Winter Fiction Issue has stories from Ian McEwan and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones, a Personal History from A.M. Homes, a Reflection from W.G. Sebald, a review of "Spamalot" by Dave Eggers, poetry by Simic, Szymborska, and Edward Hirsch, and letters from Robert Lowell to Elizabeth Bishop. It also has "Dick Public," a graphic "Situation Comedy" by Chris Ware, author and illustrator of Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth.

From "Dick Public:"

Joseph Epstein Disses Bloggers

From Saturday's Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstien, in his article "Blog, Blague, Blog," says:

After admitting all the successes of bloggers in politics and journalism in recent years, I myself remain a bit of a blogophobe. My problem with blogs is, to stay within computerese, a RAM problem. RAM is, of course, random access memory, denoting how much information one can store in one's computer, or, in human terms, in one's brain. Those little gray cells, as Inspector Poirot likes to call them, are dying off in impressive numbers in all of us; and do we wish to spend many of them reading blogs, in which a large percentage of the material cannot be relied upon, and lots more of which is beside any possible point? Well to remember that the French word blague, pronounced the same as blog, means to talk chaff, to hoax, to humbug.

and finishes with:

All success to the best of the bloggers. But, as the Jews of Russia used to say about the czar, so I now find myself saying about them: May they live and be well, but not too close to me.


Love your rock music played hard, with balls? The Moaners are two ladies, but they got more balls than a record store full of hipsters. If you like the Kills, you'll like the Moaners. Their LP, Dark Snack, will be out on 25 January, 2005.

Moaners - Heart Attack (mp3) from

Monday, December 20, 2004

mp3s - Moving Units

The Moving Units have generated some serious buzz for some months now with their Dangerous Dreams LP. They're another one of those snazzy new 80's dance-y new wave throwback bands. Are we getting bored of these indie dance-rock image bands influenced by Duran Duran, Talking Heads, Gary Numan, and/or Devo yet?

Nope, not yet. Not when they sound good, and these guys can flat out play. Maybe in the next six months, they'll all blend into the same heap of clutter, like a decaying pile of dead disco, only to be miraculously resurrected by hip kids in another 20 years.

I Am (mp3)- from Epitonic
Between Us & Them (mp3) from Insound
Available (mp3) via
Scars (mp3) via Ending East
Unpersuaded (mp3) from

Watch the video for Available here.


Here's an exercise in futility: Go to your local bookstore, pick up Blankets, the graphic memoir-novel by Craig Thompson, and read the first 20 pages. Then try to put it down before you get to page 100. You might not even be able to put it down at that point. You'll feel the gamut of emotion laid out in illustration--insecurity, infatuation, love, fear, guilt, confusion, loneliness, you name it. It won't just remind you of how you felt at this certain time; you'll feel it in your gut, presently, because he draws you back into scenes from your own life. That's the best I can explain it. You'll have to pick it up and try the above exercise and see for yourself. If you were in the "in" crowd back in school, or if you never questioned the things you were taught or told, you might succeed in the exercise, because you just won't "get" the book.

You can preview some of Blankets here.

Here are a couple of scanned pages:

Thursday, December 16, 2004

mp3 - Luna

It's that time of year that every blogger, magazine, organization, and association releases their "best of" or "worst of" lists for the year. Best 10 CDs, best 10 TV shows, best 10 movies, worst 10 dressed. Not this cat. My brain doesn't rank. I enjoy looking at others' lists, though, and nodding in approval or shaking my head in disbelief. I'm glad that a lot of the "best of" lists for music include Luna's "farewell album," Rendezvous. It's an album that flirts with you with warm, inviting harmonies and subtle gestures here and there. Like the best Yo La Tengo or early Velvet Underground material, nothing is overdone. The more time you spend with it, the more it slowly reveals itself to you, and your attraction grows.

Here's Cindy Tastes of Barbecue, a sweet, intimate tune that reminds me a little of Sweet Jane.

Luna - Cindy Tastes of Barbecue - mp3

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

mp3 - Lhasa

I put up a post about Lhasa de Sela a few months ago, but didn't post any mp3s. I'm making up for it here. This song is in French, and wouldn't sound right in any other language. It starts off with some dusty brass and percussion, then her deep passionate voice and guitar turn this spare song into an exotic confession.

Lhasa de Sela - La Confession (mp3)

Nirvana v. Pearl Jam

Legal Fiction has a great post about Nirvana and Pearl Jam. If you ever felt like Nirvana appealed to your gut feelings while Pearl Jam's songs appealed to your brain the post may explain why.
Nirvana started with an emotion – pain, anger, angst, sadness – and worried less about concepts. Many of their lyrics were essentially nonsense. Pearl Jam (even though Vedder could sound angry) started with a concept and tried to squeeze emotion out of it. In the end, even though Nirvana’s lyrics didn’t make much sense, they resonated more deeply with people because they were a more direct expression of emotion.
I disagree that Nirvana's lyrics were "nonsense", though. I think it's more accurate to say they were stream of consciousness. Listening to them as a teenager, they reminded me of the stream of consciousness literature we were studying in school at the time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

mp3 - Guy Davis

Every once in a while the soul hungers for some traditional acoustic blues. You'd have difficulty finding someone better than Guy Davis to fingerpick and slide your troubles away. Here's Pay Day, from his brilliant 2004 LP, Legacy.

Guy Davis - Pay Day (mp3)

Kids and Parents Today

Michael Dirda reviewed Huck's Raft, by Steven Mintz, in Sunday's Book world. From the review:

Unlike us, the young have yet to squander their lives. So we lay into them, hoping to rescue the apparent yahoos from their downward slide and somehow transform them into what they really ought to be -- which is roughly ourselves, but better, smarter, richer. Sadly, we grownups can't help these shameful desires. To feel proud of one's children -- this is the drug that every parent hungers after. Only when the kids start to disappoint our expectations, as must eventually happen, do we settle for wanting them to be merely happy.

...children of the past did possess something lost to their descendants of today: freedom. Once kids were allowed to ride their bikes all over town or idle away the summer in daydreams; they could fail a course or even a grade, and no one got overly excited about it; they might even make serious mistakes and find themselves pregnant or working on the line at Ford rather than studying lines of poetry at college. But now, in our test-driven, increasingly regimented educational system, we forthrightly aim to leave no child behind, which means that we leave no child alone...Little wonder that teenagers complain they are bored, with nothing to do. But when have they ever done anything for themselves?...

Our challenge is to reverse the process of age segmentation, to provide the young with challenging alternatives to a world of malls, instant messaging, music videos, and play dates. Huck Finn was an abused child whose father, the town drunk, beat him for going to school and learning to read. Who would envy Huck's battered childhood? Yet he enjoyed something too many children are denied and which adults can provide: opportunities to undertake odysseys of self-discovery outside the goal-driven, overstructured realities of contemporary childhood... (book excerpt)

Mintz notes that Cornelia A.P. Comer, a Harvard professor's wife, complained in the Atlantic Monthly that the younger generation "couldn't spell, and its English was 'slipshod.' Today's youth were selfish, discourteous, lazy, and self-indulgent. Lacking respect for their elders or for common decency, the young were hedonistic, 'shallow, amusement-seeking creatures,' whose tastes had been 'formed by the colored supplements of the Sunday paper' and the 'moving picture shows.' The boys were feeble, flippant, and 'soft' intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Even worse were the girls, who were brash, loud, and promiscuous with young men." This was published in 1911...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Juana Molina mp3s

What to serve up with your Federico Aubele Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, you ask? The perfect complement is Juana Molina, an Argentine singer-songwriter with a soft whispery-smooth voice. For those of you who like your clean acoustic guitar chords played with a wee bit of very subtle electronica. Ideal anti-stress music for your drive home during rush hour.

Find these mp3s at her website:

From 3 cosas (2004):
No es tan cierto
Tres cosas

From Segundo (2000):
El desconfiado

From Rara (1996):
En los días de humedad

mp3 - Mr. T Experience

I had to retire my MTX "Nein Danke" t-shirt recently. It was tragic, almost as devastating as the day I had to retire my Sonic Youth orange yarn doll tee. I feel guilty about throwing it away. I imagine it's cold and entangled in a pile of rotting food, used condoms, and jagged can lids. I should have burned it with dignity.

I bought it in Denver in 1996, the year they released Love is Dead, at the Snakepit. It looked like this, except it was green:

At least I still have some of their CDs. I don't listen to them as much as I used to, but yesterday, Love is Dead demanded a play. It was the least I could do.

Mr. T Experience - Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, from Love is Dead (mp3)

The Crusades & Positive Violence

Stolen paragraphs from a New Yorker book review of “The First Crusade: A New History” (Oxford; $35), by Thomas Asbridge, and “The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople” (Viking; $25.95), by Jonathan Phillips:

In its original meaning, a crusade was a Christian holy war, and in that sense it was a contradiction in terms. Christ’s whole teaching was to love thy neighbor, not kill him. But, like everyone else, the early Christians had enemies, whom they needed to fight on occasion. So the Church fathers went to work on the doctrine, and by the eleventh century it was agreed that in certain circumstances God might not only condone war but demand it. Of course, there had to be an important cause...

In 1095, he [Pope Urban II] went on a tour of France, and one afternoon in Clermont he gave a sermon calling on Christians to journey to the East and reclaim the Holy Land. “A race absolutely alien to God,” he said, was defiling Christian altars, raping Christian women, tying Christian men to posts and using them for archery practice. None of this was true, but it had the desired effect...

Faith may have inspired the Crusaders, but not for long, Runciman said: “High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness; and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God...”

…historians…could not understand, though the evidence was there, “how intellectually respectable the Christian theory of positive violence was” to the medieval mind. Positive violence—what is that? Just what it says: the idea that killing is virtuous...

Urban, in preaching the First Crusade, offered them a solution. He called upon them to kill, and told them that on this occasion it was not a sin—indeed, that it would win them remission of past sins. By the Fourth Crusade, participants were guaranteed absolution of all confessed transgressions—in other words, a ticket straight to paradise...

So a great, ancient civilization was destroyed, in the name of God...

And if I have noticed certain resemblances between the Crusades and the war in Iraq—the exaggeration of the threat, to get the war going; the enormous financial cost to the attacking country; the mixture of idealistic and commercial motives; the surprise of finding that the liberated may not thank you, indeed, may attack you—Asbridge and Phillips have surely also noted the parallels...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

AFI Movies & TV Programs of the Year

AFI's Movies of the Year:


AFI's TV Programs of the Year:



Friday, December 10, 2004

No iPod

Yeah, I won nothing at the Holiday Gathering.

But I feel good about my contribution to humanity.

Holiday Gathering

I'll be late or never with the regular posts today. I have to go to our "Holiday Gathering" and give to charity so I can try to win a 40G iPod. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

mp3 - Oneida

Inside My Head (mp3) is from Oneida's new EP, Nice: Splittin' Peaches. It's organic electronica, in the tradition of...nothing, really. It's some sort of trash-noise pasted psychedelic rock, perhaps a little Beck influence in here, but without the blues/folk edge. Listen closely; each noise is meaningless when isolated, and some are plain harsh and grating, but in the context of the song, they become components of harmonies and melodies, and the overall effect is hypnotic and relaxing.

Wes Anderson Interview

Heather Havrilesky interviews Wes Anderson at

From "Wild Wes:"

...even die-hard fans will find themselves in stranger territory than ever before with "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," from the wildly unpredictable story to the seriously strange little baby-blue short shorts worn by Willem Dafoe. As we follow Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) on a nonlinear adventure to find the mythical jaguar shark, it's clear that all of the usual Anderson elements are here: the perfect ironic retro fashions; the disaffected, borderline flat acting; the unexpected splashes of bright color; the infectious soundtrack.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Donnie Darko 2-CD Reissue

It's a UK import, with songs not on the original score. It's not the Director's Cut soundtrack, as 'Til Tuesday's Voices Calling is absent, but still worth a listen.


mp3s - Okay

Marty Anderson is Okay. Well, really he's brilliant...his one-man band is named "Okay." Okay's debut double album, Low Road and High Road, is due out in March 2005. "Now" is a subtle pop reminder that you are not in control, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. It begins with some strummed chords reminiscent of a Yo la Tengo progression, and his raspy, yet inviting voice. Then there's an octave-hopping guitar melody that dances around the strummed chords, and then suddenly, the song gets really interesting. "Compass," an mp3 posted on Okay's website, is a melancholy meditation on the confusion of loss.

Okay - Now (mp3 from Low Road)
Okay - Compass (mp3 from High Road)

Life Aquatic Soundtrack Track Listing

Mark Mothersbaugh put another eclectic mix together for the Life Aquatic. The track listing is here.

Long Live Rock

From Long Live Rock - a poem by John Foy in The New Criterion:

Electric guitars, I thought, would redeem
the dying I endured behind machines.
But that redemption never came to pass.

On War

I stole these sentences and paragraphs are from "On War," a review by Chris Hedges in the current New York Review of Books (Dec. 16th).

The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with stories of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war. The vanquished know the essence of war—death. They grasp that war is necrophilia...

...the words of the vanquished come later, sometimes long after the war, when grown men and women unpack the suffering they endured as children, what it was like to see their mother or father killed or taken away, or what it was like to lose their homes, their community, their security, and be discarded as human refuse. But by then few listen...

War is presented primarily through the distorted prism of the occupiers. The embedded reporters, dependent on the military for food and transportation as well as security, have a natural and understandable tendency, one I have myself felt, to protect those who are protecting them...the reporting, even among those who struggle to keep some distance, usually descends into a shameful cheerleading.

Those who cover war dine out on the myth about war and the myth about themselves as war correspondents. Yes, they say, it is horrible, and dirty and ugly; for many of them it is also glamorous and exciting and empowering...

The reason wars should always be covered from the perspective of the common soldier or Marine, as Wright does, is that these foot soldiers are largely pawns. Their lives, despite the protestations of the generals and politicians, mean little to the war planners...

Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage is not. Those who defy the machine usually become its victim.

Combat has an undeniable attraction. It is seductive and exciting, and it is ultimately addictive. The young soldiers, trained well enough to be disciplined but encouraged to maintain their naive adolescent belief in invulnerability, have in wartime more power at their fingertips than they will ever have again. From being minimum-wage employees at places like Burger King, looking forward to a life of dead-end jobs, they catapult to being part of, in the words of the Marines, "the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth."

These Marines have learned the awful truth about our civil religion. They have learned that our nation is not righteous. They have understood that there are no transcendent goals at the heart of our political process. The Sunday School God that blesses our nation above all others vanishes in war zones like Iraq...It is why they feel distance and anger with those at home who drink in the dark elixir of blind patriotism, and absorb mythology about themselves and war.

But these veterans will also miss war...They will miss the brief, unfettered moment when they were killer gods and everyone around them fighting a common enemy, and facing death as a group, seemed fused into one body.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

List-weary in Washington

Peter Carlson, the Washington Post’s Magazine Reader, seems to be sick of lists, especially Rolling Stone’s “Greatest-Of.” In an article section from yesterday's paper titled "For All Time's Sake":

A panel of distinguished savants -- including Joni Mitchell, Ozzy Osbourne and Jello Biafra -- voted for their favorite songs and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young tabulated the votes. And the greatest song of all time is (drumroll, please) . . .

"Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan!

Following close behind are "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, "Imagine" by John Lennon and --

Wait a minute! Hold it right there. Didn't Rolling Stone do this same thing last year?

No, it just seems that way. Last year, Rolling Stone published "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time."...

...All of this raises some questions: Is Rolling Stone becoming a nostalgia magazine for aging baby boomers? Or is rock-and-roll a dying art form that isn't producing new music worth writing about? Or both?

Surely RS could find a better way to waste as many pages as they did on the top-however many of whatever lists. If they must do lists, how about a list of 500 great songs you never heard. Maybe stick a sampler cd of 20 songs in there, with a web link to the other 480 downloadable from their website. Now there's an issue worth my money.

Y: The Last Man Author Brian K Vaughan - Blog & Interview

BKTV (the blog) is here.
Also, the Annotated Y: The Last Man???, from, a site that provides notes on comic book series.
(links via Bookslut)

The insightful interview is on his Vertigo series, Y: The Last Man, is here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

mp3 - Anne Summers - No Fun (music for the proud slacker)

I ran into Anne Summers singer and guitarist Andrew Pontano in CDepot in College Park, Maryland, years ago. He told me to bring as many friends as I could to their show at the Black Cat that weekend. I regrettably never made it myself, and apparently, not enough people made it or bought enough of their records to keep them around. And so another hard-working independent-label band with good material disappears into that void that lies beyond the bargain bin.

No Fun is the tenth track from their first album, "the dandy." The lyrics perfectly capture the desire to sit and rot, forced upon us by the cold, short, lethargic days of winter:

Why don't you leave me alone
I'm in no mood for you this evening
Don't you call me on the phone
Leave me alone
God, you're getting old
And boring

I don't want to see a movie
Or go dancing, I'm too tired
I just want to sit at home
And watch the game
Drink a couple beers
And get loaded

Ant that's about as deep as these boys get on this record. But then, that's exactly the point. So here it is, my gift for the determinedly unmotivated:

Anne Summers - No Fun (mp3)

Nirvana Bassist to Highest Bidder

Krist Novoselic really sold out this time. Himself, that is. On E-bay. What's next...will we be able to buy Courtney's Love?

Google Search: "Moral Values"

If you watched the post-election coverage this year, you were told that G.W. Bush won again due, in large part, to a large turnout of conservative voters who proclaimed that "moral values" is the most important issue to them. If you are a conservative, perhaps you thought to yourself, "Yeah, moral values, that is why I voted for Bush. This country is headed in the wrong direction and we need a good church-going president to keep us on the right track." If you're a liberal, you wondered exactly which moral values Bush has that Kerry lacks: honesty? compassion? humility? tolerance?

Recent articles in the New Yorker (and the Washington Post have pounced on the "moral values" issue. In the Post's "The Anatomy of a Myth," Dick Meyer asserts, "It's a neat theory -- but wrong. How it came to be regarded as the real story of Bush's victory is a fascinating and sobering example of journalism's quest for freshness and surprise."

The moral values question came to the forefront in exit polling, which Louis Menand, in his New Yorker essay, "Permanent Fatal Errors," reminds us, were "a fiasco." Recall that they embarrassingly predicted Kerry as the winner in a landslide. Menand also suggests, "...polls that ask people why they voted for a particular candidate have usually been regarded with a heavy drip of saline solution--not because people do not tell the truth but because they often don't know the truth."

Twenty-two percent of people polled stated that moral values was the issue that mattered most in deciding how to vote for president. Bush pollster Jan Van Lohuizen, of Stanford, stated, "...if you give people a list of seven and you ask them what's their top concern and the highest number is twenty-two, that means there is no concensus. It means that there was no one issue that drove the election."

Still, according to a Pew report, "The survey findings parallel exit poll results showing that moral values is a top-tier issue for voters. But the relative importance of moral values depends greatly on how the question is framed. The post-election survey finds that, when moral values is pitted against issues like Iraq and terrorism, a plurality (27%) cites moral values as most important to their vote. But when a separate group of voters was asked to name ­ in their own words ­ the most important factor in their vote, significantly fewer (14%) mentioned moral values."

Also, "those who cite moral values as a major factor offer varying interpretations of the concept. More than four-in-ten (44%) of those who chose moral values as the most important factor in their vote from the list of issues say the term relates to specific concerns over social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. However, others did not cite specific policy issues, and instead pointed to factors like the candidates' personal qualities or made general allusions to religion and values."

As I sat thinking about moral values last night, I Googled the phrase. Here are the results. The 20th hit is from a "Global Values Survey," conducted by the The Institute for Global Ethics at the State of the World Forum's annual meeting in San Francisco in 1996. Of 272 international participants surveyed, the 15 moral values listed were ranked in the following order of importance:

Reverence for Life
Preservation of Nature
Social Harmony
Respect for Elders

This list is obviously not all-inclusive. But what "moral values" do abortion and gay marriage fall under? I see abortion falling under "reverence for life," if one believes that life begins at fertilization. But gay marriage? That's more a biblical value. If you're a fundamentalist Christian, your moral value is likely to mirror the biblical value, and so you vote for Bush; but if you're not, you moral value of "Tolerance" may guide you to vote Democrat.

The divide in this country is not between a party or a group that has moral values and a group that does not; it is more a divide between groups with differing moral values.

As it was, as it is, as it will be.

I think you'll find that the global list of values correspond to character traits. What a great wishlist for an American voter looking for a morally upright leader. Hang on to it for the next election. Maybe there will be a candidate whose character reflects the values you hold dear. More likely, you'll have to vote for the candidate that strays less from those values.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Music Video - House of Flying Daggers


If you don't click on the "Wow," I pity you for missing a gorgeous spectacle.

See more HOFD stuff here.

Friday, December 03, 2004

mp3 - tremulous monk

This song has an opening couplet of a spare nine words that say so much: When you gonna choose/To sparkle like your shoes. Don't let the light plinking pop sound fool you. The lyrics are simple, but the message is poignant. This song is a bearing of the heart, an expression of caring, and the best way to do that is with simplicity and sincerity. God, I'm starting to sound like Beavis & Butthead's hippie teacher.

From Tremulous Monk's January 2004 album of the same title.

Tremulous Monk - Sparkle Like Your Shoes (mp3)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I like to imagine the Patron Saint of trash art rock looking in the mirror, early in the morning, or in a drunken stupor, singing this song to himself.

This is a Beck B-side that you can get on Stray Blues. For all of you who, like me, are suffering from Beck withdrawals. Is that new album really coming early next year? What the hell is it going to sound like??

Beck - Totally Confused (mp3)

Charles Douglas streams

Joey Santiago plays guitar on Charles Douglas' album, Statecraft. The RealAudio streams here are the catchiest songs I've heard all day. But then, it is only 12:10 AM.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Y: The Last Man

Brian Vaughan's Y: The Last Man, a Vertigo graphic novel series in which all men except one die of what may be a mysterious bioagent, continues with Book 4: Safeword. According to DC Comics,
...the story takes a detour into the psychological.
In the care of a fellow Culper Ring member, Yorick Brown is forced to confront his tremendous feelings of survivor guilt that lead him to constantly put his life in danger.
The characters are likeable (or hateable), the plot is riveting, and the movie is going to be made by New Line Cinema.

A Memory of My Melancholy Whores

A Memory of My Melancholy Whores is the English title of what may be Gabriel Garcia Marquez's last novella. The English translation will be out next year. From the Guardian Unlimited:

No doubt, debate will focus on whether the story, which centres on the love of a 90-year-old man for a 14-year-old girl, is pornography or a love story. It explores, in its muted way, ideas about time, love, sex and death familiar to readers of his earlier books. There are elements recognisable, too, from his own fabulated life - brothels, tropical heat, a house full of ghosts and a fondness for European culture in a continent better defined by boleros. But, in the end, Memoria de mis putas tristes is, more than anything, a fairy tale: sentimental, unforgiving, wise, ironic and twisted.

mp3s - Pidgeon

This photo has nothing to do the Pidgeon, the band. I just liked it.

San Francisco's Pidgeon make driven guitar rock that sounds a lot like the Pixies. According to their website, they "have three guitarists if you don't call the bass a guitar (four if you do), one singer, one singer/screamer, and one screamer." They also "try to write catchy songs but not 'I've-heard-that-before' catchy."

Here's Down, from their July release, From Gutter With Love, featuring vocal harmonizing in the Black Francis/Kim Deal tradition, underlaid with surging, assertive rhythm guitar.

Get more Pidgeon here. Pidgeon generously puts out for you.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Personality Test

Paragraphs stolen from a New Yorker article here.

In the evenings, he could often be found sitting by the fireplace in the living room of his commanding officer, sipping tea and listening to Tchaikovsky. As a boy, he once saw his father kill a hawk and had been repulsed. When he went into active service, he wrote a friend to say that he had no feelings of hate, and did not think he could ever kill anyone out of hatred. He had none of the swagger of the natural warrior. He worked hard and had a strong sense of duty.

In the second week of January, the Japanese attacked, slipping hundreds of snipers through the American lines, climbing into trees, turning the battlefield into what Reck calls a "gigantic possum hunt." On the morning of January 12th, [Sandy] Nininger went to his commanding officer. He wanted, he said, to be assigned to another company, one that was in the thick of the action, so he could go hunting for Japanese snipers.

He took several grenades and ammunition belts, slung a Garand rifle over his shoulder, and grabbed a submachine gun. Starting at the point where the fighting was heaviest-near the position of the battalion's K Company-he crawled through the jungle and shot a Japanese soldier out of a tree. He shot and killed snipers. He threw grenades into enemy positions. He was wounded in the leg, but he kept going, clearing out Japa-nese positions for the other members of K Company, behind him. He soon ran out of grenades and switched to his rifle, and then, when he ran out of ammunition, used only his bayonet. He was wounded a second time, but when a medic crawled toward him to help bring him back behind the lines Nininger waved him off. He saw a Japanese bunker up ahead. As he leaped out of a shell hole, he was spun around by a bullet to the shoulder, but he kept charging at the bunker, where a Japanese officer and two enlisted men were dug in. He dispatched one soldier with a double thrust of his bayonet, clubbed down the other, and bayonetted the officer. Then, with outstretched arms, he collapsed face down. For his heroism, Nininger was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first American soldier so decorated in the Second World War.

Suppose that you were a senior Army officer in the early days of the Second World War and were trying to put together a crack team of fearless and ferocious fighters. Sandy Nininger, it now appears, had exactly the right kind of personality for that assignment, but is there any way you could have known this beforehand? It clearly wouldn't have helped to ask Nininger if he was fearless and ferocious, because he didn't know that he was fearless and ferocious.

...What you need is some kind of sophisticated psychological instrument, capable of getting to the heart of his personality.

Arcade Fire Streams

CBC Radio 3 has live, shit-hot Arcade Fire streams. I hope you have good speakers. The music deserves more then that tinny work-desktop sound. If you already have Funeral, that doesn't excuse you from needing to hear this. The music is more urgent heard this way. It's comparable to the difference between the studio tracks on War and the ones on Live Under a Blood Red Sky. And their cover of the Talking Heads' Naive Melody is brilliant.

link via largehearted boy.


Sometimes I wonder how things slip by me, like the January release from Lhasa de Sela, The Living Road. I came across the Lhasa audio player just clicking around, and immediately wondered how I missed something this good. It wasn't all that quietly released--there were reviews from the BBC and the Guardian. It makes me wonder...what else did I miss??

It's her second release, a follow-up to her 1997(!) debut, La Llorana. Her voice reminds me of Nico, but she sounds sexy and mysterious, rather then learned and cold, especially when singing in French or Spanish. Not to say that she doesn't sound cool; her spare, ghostly songs would be right at home in any Tarantino film. Her lyrics are as poetic as the Velvet Underground's. From Anywhere On This Road: My heart is breaking / I cannot sleep / I love a man / who's afraid of me / he believes if he doesn't / stand guard with a knife / I'll make him my slave / for the rest of his life (lyrics from a rootsworld interview).

Here's para el fin, an mp3 from her site at Impresaria.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Correction to JEM

So I've been told I posted the wrong song again. The Jem song is really the Jem song now. It's been a while. I think I'm a little rusty. Thanks, Keokster. I'm thankful for you.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Paris Review Interviews

The Paris Review has made serious improvements to their website, generously adding entire stories, poems, and their long-awaited DNA of Literature series of interviews with important writers. Go there and be impressed.

mp3s - Walkmen, Jem

I got these off the O.C. Mix 2, of all places. Jem Lennonizes McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed, turning it into a softer, more intimate tune. A live performance of Little House of Savages by the Walkmen will tickle your rhythm bone, and make you twitch.

Jem - Maybe I'm Amazed (mp3)
The Walkmen - Little House of Savages (live) (mp3)

By the way, Rachel Bilson has a fan site here. For losers, only.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

New Shins Website

The Shins' new site is up and running, in case you didn't know.

On an unrelated note, San Antonio is usually a great place to visit, but avoid it during monsoon season. I've never been wetter than I have in the last 2 weeks.

Friday, November 12, 2004

San Antone, Again

I'm going to San Antonio for a while again...I'll be back on the 24th. The Keoki, Sugie Duck, and maybe even litmaven will keep you company.

Until then,


Thursday, November 11, 2004

How I Will Die

...According to the Edward Gorey Death Predictor Quiz.

You will sink in a mire. You like to think you're
normal, but deep down you really just want to
strip off your clothes and roll around in
chicken fat.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla
Thank you for your courage and service.

mp3 - Adagio for Strings, from Platoon.

We Never Know
by Yusef Komunyakaa, from ibiblio.

He danced with tall grass
for a moment, like he was swaying
with a woman. Our gun barrels
glowed white-hot.
When I got to him,
a blue halo
of flies had already claimed him.
I pulled the crumbed photograph
from his fingers.
There's no other way
to say this: I fell in love.
The morning cleared again,
except for a distant mortar
& somewhere choppers taking off.
I slid the wallet into his pocket
& turned him over, so he wouldn't be
kissing the ground.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Baywatch Movie

Coming soon. Featuring action, adventure, romance, and half a ton of silicone. Yippee.

mp3 - The Black Keys - Till I Get My Way

Miyagi-san say: Either you rock hard yes or you rock hard no. Never rock hard so-so. Get crush like grape.

From The Black Keys' 2004 release, Rubber Factory:
Till I Get My Way

Stressbuster 3

The diversion of the day is the Punk-O-Matic. You choose your licks, riffs, and drum solos, and when to play them, put it all together and hit "play," and watch the band play the punk composition that YOU created.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Persuaders

I just finished watching Douglas Rushkoff's Frontline episode, "The Persuaders," which covers the advertising process, the psychology of marketing, and marketing in politics. If you missed it, you can watch it online, starting this Friday, here.

From the interview with Frank Luntz, Republican political consultant/syntax-meister (boldface mine):

What about replacing "global warming" with "climate change?"

What is the difference? It is climate change. Some people call it global warming; some people call it climate change. What is the difference?

Look, for years, political people and lawyers -- who, by the way, are the worst communicators -- used the phrase "estate tax." And for years they couldn't eliminate it. The public wouldn't support it because the word "estate" sounds wealthy. Someone like me comes around and realizes that it's not an estate tax, it's a death tax, because you're taxed at death. And suddenly something that isn't viable achieves the support of 75 percent of the American people. It's the same tax, but nobody really knows what an estate is. But they certainly know what it means to be taxed when you die. I argue that is a clarification; that's not an obfuscation.

The language of America changed with the election of Bill Clinton, because with all due respect to my friends on the Republican side, Bill Clinton is the best communicator of the last 50 years. He felt your pain. Now, I'd argue that he caused your pain, but at least he felt it while he was causing it. When Bill Clinton spoke, his words were so good, and they were spoken with such passion. And that biting of the lower lip and the squinching of the eyes -- you just couldn't turn away. Bill Clinton made Frank Luntz because Bill Clinton discovered the power and the influence of words. Now, I'd like to think that I apply them to clients, to philosophies, to products and services and corporations that I believe in, that are good. I don't argue with you that words can sometimes be used to confuse, but it's up to the practitioners of the study of language to apply them for good and not for evil. It is just like fire; fire can heat your house or burn it down.

Good point on the "estate tax" to "death tax" metamorphosis. But the word "death" is so connotative, it carries so much emotion and baggage, that using the word itself creates a cloud of negativity in the subconscious. Placement of "death" next to "tax" -- no explanation or definition needed. Instant repulsion.

Equally fascinating was the story of how a psychiatrist taps into the unconscious minds of focus groups to find the "reptilian" impulse that makes us buy things. This is the guy who told automobile companies to make their SUVs bigger (think HUMMER) if they want to sell products, because the reptilian desire for an SUV is really a desire for domination.

The Muse in a Milliamp

Having trouble digging your way through that massive, dense writer's block that obscures your face from all creative light? Blast it away with science.

From Wired:

Sending a weak electrical impulse through the front of a person's head can boost verbal skills by as much as 20 percent, according to a new study by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

...The only side effect reported was an itching or "fizzing" sensation around the scalp where the electrode was attached.


From the Seattle Times:
In the future, reality shows may have names such as "Extreme Makeover: Brain Edition" or "Sharp Eye for the Dumb Guy."...Some neurologists recently have wondered whether their field is the next frontier in elective medicine. The specialty now tries to protect ailing brains from conditions such as Parkinson's disease or migraine headaches. But doctors' efforts one day may extend to normal brains. There's even a name for the field: cosmetic neurology.

link via ALDaily

Stressbuster 2

My friend "Slim" Clady tells me that he likes to spank the monkey to take off the edge.

mp3 - Mosquitos - Dream Awake

Here's a little love song from the Mosquitos. This is for Julie. You know you're in love when you can spend the night quietly watching someone sleep.

Mosquitos - Dream Awake (mp3)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Frank Black Live mp3s

32 songs from a typical marathon performance, here.

Link via Largehearted Boy.

John Peel - The Autobiography

The autobiography that John Peel began last year may now be completed by his wife, Sheila. Story in the Guardian.

mp3 - The Forty-Fives & The Reverend Horton Heat

There's no better way to start the week than with a little revival rock.

The Forty-Fives - Superpill (mp3), from High Life High Volume (2004)
Ignore the blue pill and the red pill. If you want to escape your own private gray cubicle-saturated Matrix, the Superpill was made for you.

The Reverend Horton Heat - Indigo Friends (mp3)

The Rev still preaches the Gretsch gospel with a little brimstone and a whole lotta fire.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Wyeth in Watercolor

From the Boston Globe:

Long before Andrew Wyeth became the painter of ''Christina's World" and other sentimental, calendar-ready icons, he was a great watercolorist -- many would say the greatest American working in that medium since Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent.

Consider the 1934 ''In the Church Yard," whose paper looks so drenched that you could still wring moisture out of it. Stand close and admire the way the colors bleed into each other; stand back, and the image comes into clearer focus. Fresh and free, the work is imbued with a sense of mysticism courtesy of a traditional device -- a diagonal shaft of light falling from the sky.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Elliott Smith mp3s - Live Beatles Covers

Elliott Smith's From a Basement on the Hill is one of my two favorite albums of this year, along with The Arcade Fire's Funeral. Smith was an unapologetic Beatles fan, and that influence is evident in the new album's quieter songs, more than anything he has recorded in the past. "Let's Get Lost" opens suspiciously like "Mother Nature's Son," and features Harrison-style arpeggios. You've heard piano turnarounds like those in "Pretty (Ugly Before)" in Lennon's "Jealous Guy." "Memory Lane" begins with a fingerpicked descent along the fretboard that evokes "Blackbird."

This is not to say that the album is derivative of the White Album-era Beatles. Elliott Smith's personality comes through your speakers and touches you, and you feel an intimate despair that you never got from the Beatles. Listening to Basement is more like listening to the downtrodden Beck's Sea Change. In "Let's Get Lost," he sings, Burning every bridge that I cross/To find some beautiful place to get lost, and in "King's Crossing," he foreshadows his suicide: I can't prepare for death any more than I already have...All you can do now is watch the shells/The game looks easy, that's why it sells.

His guitar work has always been brilliant, but on Basement it's downright arresting. Listen to him strum, fingerpick, bend, and slide on his album. It's still available for preview here.

He really sounds like the Beatles here:
Elliott Smith - For No One (Live Beatles Cover)
Elliott Smith - Jealous Guy (Live Lennon Cover)

Listen to 'From a Basement': Elliott Smith's Posthumous Gift, on the making of From a Basement On the Hill, from NPR's All Things Considered.

Listen to a review of Elliott Smith's career in the j-files archive.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The National Divide

Think we've got an unbridgable rift between left and right in the U.S., as a result of recent partisan politicking? Imagine the 1800 election between Adams and Jefferson:

Federalists slashed Jefferson as a "fanatic," a "spendthrift" and a "libertine," whose election would unleash an orgy of "murder, robbery, rape, and incest." Jefferson's unorthodox religious opinions especially incited the Federalists. No one knew, a Connecticut paper asserted, "whether Mr. Jefferson believes in the heathen mythology, or in the alcoran [the Koran], whether he is a Jew or a Christian, whether he believes in one God or many or in none at all." The choice for every American, another Federalist paper proclaimed, was simple and stark: "Shall I continue in allegiance to GOD -- AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT; or impiously declare for Jefferson and no god!!!"


Adams was handled almost as roughly. A Republican paper in New York called him "a person without patriotism, without philosophy, and a mock monarch." A Philadelphia editor declared him "old, bald, blind, querulous, toothless, crippled."

How could our Founding Fathers allow this to happen in our electoral process?

The drafters of the Constitution ran out of energy and imagination when they got to the method for choosing presidents, and their lapse has haunted America ever since. The Founders initially hoped to craft a government above parties, which they considered evil manifestations of the corruption in British politics that had provoked the colonies to separate from England in 1776. And because they wanted a government without parties, they expected the electoral college to serve as a screening committee for the numerous favorite sons the states would doubtless put forward -- as well as a check on the popular passions that might give rise to partisanship. The electors, Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist No. 68, would be the men "most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations," and by employing them, the country would "afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder." ...But parties emerged almost at once...

Imagine if they ran against each other today. I think Jefferson would be toast against any contender, with "family values" and "moral issues" so important to churchgoing voters.

Who would you vote for?

Article here. More...More...More...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

mp3 - Poole - Oregon

Poole is one of those very good pop bands that came and went, completely missing the indie revolution. Their first album, Alaska Days (1995), has 11 guitar-based gems that have as many catchy hooks as any album you can name. Here's Oregon, track 8 from Alaska Days. It climaxes with an organ solo that will set you free.

The UItimate Stressbuster

Having a rough day at work?

Just get dumped by the love of your life?

You need to play The Kill Bill Game. It will make you feel better.

Star Wars: RotS Teaser Trailer

It's out today. Here's where you can watch it:

The Official Site: Hyperspace members will have exclusive access to a high-quality Quicktime version of the teaser in "early afternoon (U.S.) of November 4."

AOL Users: Since AOL/Moviefone will be hosting the trailer for download on their servers, we've received reports that AOL subscribers will have access to some version of the teaser (unknown of what quality) at 1 pm EST.

Total Request Live! The MTV program will have the first televised airing at 5 pm EST on November 4th.

Access Hollywood: The next televised viewing will occur on the syndicated Hollywood news program during Thursday, November 4th's evening broadcast. Check local listings for your time and channel.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Incredibles

The Incredibles is completely FANTASTIC!!! Even better than we thought it would be, and we had high expectations. Brilliant on every level. First, technically. With the improvements in animation technology, other studios are not as far behind Pixar as they used to be. So the technical achievments of The Incredibles will not blow your mind as much as, say, A Bug's Life did when it came out. The major advance in The Incredibles is the hair. On the male characters it still isn't perfect (short hair is really hard to get right because you can usually see some scalp showing through that you wouldn't in real life), but on the females it is AWESOME. You MUST see this movie in the theater, the greatness of the hair doesn't come through on the tv screen.

Pixar has also improved the movements on their people models, the motions look more natural. It's still not perfect (this is probably the hardest thing to get perfect in 3d and nobody has achieved it yet). But there are some perfect little moments, like at one point the mother is on the phone and pushes a lock of hair behind her ear and it is just right.

Another reason to see The Incredibles in the theater: the scene layouts and the color schemes. Lots of absolutely great, epic screen compositions. Some striking similarities to Sky Captain, in the city designs and the tropical island theme. Unlike Dreamworks, neither Pixar nor the folks behind Sky Captain seem like the type to plagiarize, so probably the similarites are due to using the same 1930s design influences. The color schemes in The Incredibles are genius. Could not be improved upon, the best of any Pixar movie yet. We're can't wait to see pastel "color script" drawings in The Art of the Incredibles book. (Damn you Amazon for not having a Look Inside for this book!)

As amazing as The Incredibles is technically, the script was even better. First, it was hilarious, the costume designer character in particular. Second, the character development was amazing. The family relationships are perfect. The way each character feels and reacts to things is so right. And most brilliant was the way the character traits were incorporated into each individual's superpowers, and even their feelings about being superheros. As much as we love Pixar, we have noticed that their movies were starting to fall into a rut: for each theme (toys, bugs, monsters, fish) the gimmick was that being toys or whatever was the characters' jobs and the setup would involve all these human workplace analogies. We were afraid The Incredibles would do the same thing, but thankfully it doesn't. The film goes much deeper. So much deeper that after a while we started to worry that it would be over kids' heads. But the children in the theater were engrossed the whole time. If you have a little boy, he will LOVE Dash, who is just the typical hyper little boy. Pixar is giving a huge gift to parents because when the DVD comes out, this is one movie that you will actually WANT to watch a gazillion times in a row.

We are so happy for Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles, whose Iron Giant was critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful. He deserves every ounce of vindication and success that The Incredibles will bring.

Hillary Beats Dick 2008.

Now that the people have answered the last big question, the next one is: Cheney or Hillary in 2008? Unless the law is changed and Arnold runs...

Bumper stickers go on sale soon...

Real Women Talk About "Desperate Housewives"

The Christian Science Monitor interviewed "ordinary" suburban mothers about the ABC show based on the premise that all women lead lives of quiet desperation.

mp3s - Patricia Barber

I love Patricia Barber's mysterious alto. If shadows had voices, they would sound something like her. I also love her controlled, yet edgy piano and guitar arrangements. She seduces you into a rhythm, and then surprises you with an unexpected slide or rest. Most of all, I love her smart songwriting. Listen to her with headphones.

mp3s From

Verse (2002):
I Could Eat Your Words

Live: A Fortnight In France (2004)
Company (live outtake)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Tarantino's Kung Fu is Better Than Yours

"Inglorious Bastards" is in the queue. Tarantino's next film will be a kung fu flick in Mandarin. News story here.

Monday, November 01, 2004

mp3s- Bow Wow Wow vs. Pretty Girls Make Graves

Remember when "ripping" meant placing the original cassette in Deck 1 of your "box," and placing a C-90 from your $1 3-pack into Deck 2, pushing "play" on Deck 1 and "record" on Deck 2? Maybe you taped "I Want Candy" from Bow-Wow-Wow.

Here's a tribute to those days. Bow Wow Wow's C-30, C-60, C-90, Go! is on The Best of Bow Wow Wow (1989 or 1996), and the Pretty Girls Make Graves cover is on Matador at 15.

mp3's - C-30 C-60 C-90 Go!:
Bow Wow Wow version
Pretty Girls Make Graves version

Rumsfeld's Rise and the Generals' Demise

If you missed the Frontline episode on Donald Rumsfeld's rise(s) to power, you can still watch it here. Learn about his struggles with congress, Colin Powell, and the Pentagon.

Also, 60 Minutes had a segment on ill-equipped soldiers in Iraq. If you saw the episode, you were as disgusted as I was. Soldiers are forced to drive plywood-armored vehicles through the streets of Baghdad?? Didn't we approve $87 billion "for the troops" last year? The check must still be in the mail. Where is the disconnect? This Veterans' Day, think of those who served valiantly in Vietnam, WWII, and the other wars and conflicts, but pray for the courageous men and women who are short-handedly doing their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Five Books of Moses

Robert Alter's new translation of the Five Books of Moses, otherwise known as the Torah, or Pentateuch, is reviewed in the NYT Book Review, by Dirda in the Washington Post Book World, and by John Updike in the New Yorker.

Dirda praises:

In his superbly attentive translation of the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), he has set himself a demanding three-part task: to translate every word of the Hebrew without fudging; to maintain, as befits the ancient text, a properly serious tone; and to provide useful commentary on key phrases, textual cruxes, and what he has called, in an earlier book, the art of biblical narrative. This makes reading his version of the Torah -- the Hebrew name for what Christians sometimes call the Pentateuch -- thrilling and constantly illuminating: After the still, small voices of so many tepid modern translations, here is a whirlwind.

Judith Shulevitz of the NYT also exalts Alter:

What Alter does with the Bible instead is read it, with erudition and rigor and respect for the intelligence of the editor or editors who stitched it together, and -- most thrillingly -- with the keenest receptivity to its darker undertones.

Updike laments:

Why should not Alter’s version, its program so richly contemplated and persuasively outlined, become the definitive one, replacing not only the King James but the plethora of its revised, uninspired, and “accessible” versions on the shelf?

Several reasons why not, in the course of my reading through this massive tome (sold sturdily boxed, as if to support its weight), emerged. The sheer amount of accompanying commentary and philological footnotes is one of them...It is difficult for the reader, given the overload of elucidation imposed upon the basic text, to maintain much momentum...


Reading through this book, or five books, is a wearying, disorienting, and at times revelatory experience. Our interest trends downhill.

Looks to me like a must-buy for every bibliophile.

Ted Prus Would Vote For Kerry...If He Voted

False dilemma is a logical fallacy.

From Gene Weingarten's "None of the Above," in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine, a Muskegon, Michigan man elects not to vote:

...I point out that if Ted favors Kerry but doesn't vote, he's really voting for Bush. Ted doesn't see it that way. The way he sees it, a vote for either man is a vote for a liar, a member of the privileged class who will promise whatever it takes to get your vote and then do whatever it takes to keep the country safe for the privileged class. Screw 'em all.

What about voting as a moral issue? The only moral issue, Ted says, is the immorality of the guys asking for our votes: "I feel fine about myself. I can look at myself in the mirror and not feel bad about not voting."

It turns out that only half of the total U.S. population registered to vote turn out to do so. This year, only about 60 percent of registered voters are expected to go to the polls.

In short, there is no political force more to be reckoned with, no constituency potentially more influential, no voting bloc potentially mightier, than those who are too lazy or indifferent or disaffected or angry to go to the polls. The candidate of a Nonvoters Party would win in a cakewalk. You know, theoretically.

The voice of their silence is deafening. It may be, as some studies suggest, that their political preferences would mirror those of voters, anyway. But the sheer number of nonvoters is so great that, in a close election, even the most minuscule difference in their pattern of preference could be decisive. If only they would vote.

The article is an interesting read, but don't let the photographs and Weingarten's verbal imagery fool you into thinking that Muskegon is a trailer-trash town:
Muskegon is a hurtin' place. Its downtown is desolate, the most impressive landmark being a pair of enormous sand dunes, six stories high, in an empty lot right across from the tattoo parlor. They're pulverized concrete, all that remains of a downtown mall that was returned into dust after the businesses fled for the 'burbs.

What crap.

I visit Muskegon several times every year. It's a beautiful city on Lake Michigan with uncrowded beaches and friendlier people than Weingarten's Washington, D.C. It seems that Weingarten intended to paint the picture already imprinted on his mental canvas before leaving D.C.: unsophisticated, culturally challenged Nascar fans in a small town with nothing to do but drink beer and watch TV. Come on. You don't have to fly out to another state to find those people, Gene. You see them every morning, two feet away from you, as you drive five miles per hour in our rush hour traffic.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Tales of Terror

In Sunday's Book World, Dirda recommends several books to scare your ass under the covers.

Ghost Stories

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Postal Service Expanded Double-Vinyl LP

A new double LP of Give Up is due out Nov 9th, on vinyl. From the news story at Pitchfork:
...the collector's edition will be issued on 180-gram colored vinyl (one red LP and one white LP), and will feature all of the B-sides from Give Up's two singles. The B-sides include tracks such as remixes, a cover of the Flaming Lips classic "Suddenly Everything Has Changed", and covers of Postal Service tunes by The Shins and Iron & Wine.

White T-Shirt, No Lip-Syncing

Go here and click on either pedal, then on the next page, click on the large yellow bird. You'll enjoy a plain white T-shirt, fraudience-free, real performance at KCRW by Earlimart. The mp3s below are from their 2004 release, Treble & Tremble. They hit the same melodic nerves as the devastating, brilliant acoustic numbers from From a Basement on the Hill, but without all the weight of the Elliott Smith songs. Don't get me wrong; I love the weight. It's appropriate. But sometimes the spirit needs a little break.

The Hidden Track, from Insound
Heaven Adores You, from
Hold On, Slow Down