Monday, January 31, 2005

Scene From a Theater

This is the part with the flashback that will explain it all. The back story. Faster than it will unfold over the years through my words and deeds, faster than it will be conveyed in my stingy revelations and incomplete confessions. This plot is the balloon that slips out of a chubby kid’s fingers and swims away. Nature calls. What will you miss during the trip to the restroom. The important clue or meaningful glance you’ve waited your whole life for. Something flickering ten feet high on the screen and impossible to misunderstand. Make a break for the exit light and sprinkle Excuse me and Thank you along the way. When she gets back, she asks, What did I miss? and he whispers, Nothing.

- Colson Whitehead, Down in Front, Granta, Summer 2004

Krist: Nevermind the Old Electoral Process

"Once music becomes predictable and a formula to sustain the establishment, people tune out, they become cynical and they stop buying records. But then a new wave of bands come in, and that restores vitality to the music scene," Novoselic told Reuters after a recent appearance at a Washington think tank.

"What we need is a new wave of democracy, because elections are predictable and they're formulas for sustaining the establishment," he said.

In a slim book, "Of Grunge and Government: Let's Fix This Broken Democracy!," Novoselic outlines two approaches that he believes would breathe new life into politics.

Instant-runoff voting allows voters to pick several candidates for the same office, ranking them in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority of first choices, second choices are considered.

Supporters of third-party candidates like Ralph Nader (news - web sites) could feel like they're not throwing their votes away because their secondary choices would be considered in a close election, Novoselic said.

The second method, known as proportional representation, would allocate legislative seats based on the percentage of votes a party receives -- if the Republicans win 60 percent of the vote in a district, they would get 6 seats out of 10 available.

- from Grunge-Rock Pioneer Stumps for U.S. Election Reform

Arcade Fire on Conan

I almost forgot...last night Win Butler told us that the Arcade Fire will be performing on Late Night With Conan O'Brien Tuesday night. He quipped that they were only invited because Maroon 5 had to cancel, and "I'm not kidding about that. I'm being serious." I'm a little worried...The Conan environment seems a little cold for the Arcade Fire. And people will be listening to them through television speakers. It's almost a sin.

Another Lottery Winner Trainwreck

Sunday's Washington Post Magazine has a long story about life afterwards for the West Virginia man who won the biggest single Powerball payout, in 2002. You might remember him, he dressed in all black, including black cowboy hat.

I have always been fascinated by these lottery-winners-gone-wrong stories, and this is a particularly horrible one. It boggles my mind how fast people can spend millions of dollars and ruin their lives. I can't get enough of these stories.

Rich Man, Poor Man: Jack Whittaker's big Powerball win cost him -- and everyone around him -- dearly

Arcade Fire Concert Review

When I set out to post a proper review of the Arcade Fire’s show at the 9:30 club last night, I quickly found that it’s all been said before.

Their live shows have been described in terms of what they do to their audiences: PopMatters said that they lifted the crowd to a state of “pure, atomic joy,” and Walter Riley, of the Dallas Music Guide, echoed so many comments left on bloggers’ concert reviews: I felt as though something truly special had occurred. People speak of their performances in religious terms such as "rapturous" or "transcending." One look at my face or any of the other faces leaving the 9:30 last night, and you would wonder what holy spectacle you just missed.

The live performances and their album differ mainly in intensity. Take all of the tension and heartbreak of Funeral. Multiply by 50. That’s their live show. If the album lifted you, the band will make you spasmodic with their ebullient attack on their instruments, perhaps with an unexpected screeching violin or a drummed motorcycle helmet. And I’m not talking about any one song. I’m talking about ALL of them. All of the time. It’s sick. If the album saddens you, their live performance will leave you weeping, with moments such as Regine Chassagne’s passionate contortionism as she sings “My family tree’s/been losing all its leaves” and “Alice died/in the night.” Funeral touches you; the performance penetrates you, and while it lifts you to soaring heights, it pierces your heart.

If you’ve seen this band live, you know how hard it is to say something intelligible immediately following a show. They leave you speechless. Hell, after their high-strung performance of “In the Back Seat,” they left themselves speechless, drained, and nearly in tears. Lead singer Win Butler smartly said good night and thanked the audience for coming before playing the song, which reaches a plateau that the album version doesn’t even hint at. The band left the stage and roamed around the club like ghosts haunting a dance hall.

I don’t have a setlist. They opened with “Wake Up,” played everything from Funeral, closed with “In the Back Seat,” and threw in a new song called “Intervention.” The likeable Win Butler owned the crowd with light conversation, but the music reigned. Times 50.

While waiting in line outside the club, I gave an extra ticket I had to a young couple in need, in exchange for a beer. It might have been the best thing I ever gave anyone.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Blue Oyster Cult on Will Ferrell and Cowbells

In April 2000, Saturday Night Live broadcast a hilarious skit in which Blue Oyster Cult is recording "The Reaper" in the studio, and producer Christopher Walken repeatedly barges in to insist on "more cowbell." Since then, "more cowbell" has slowly become a regularity in American English. When an album or a live performance is bland, we say they "need more cowbell." You can use the phrase for more than music, as well: The Matrix Reloaded had great potential, but it just needed a little more cowbell. This chili is okay, but it could use a touch more more cowbell.

It seems the band loved the Saturday Night Live skit in which Will Ferrell maniacally plays the cowbell after being urged by Christopher Walken:

Among the more amused viewers of the bit are the actual members of Blue Oyster Cult. "We didn't know it was coming," says Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, co-founder and lead guitarist of the group. "We all thought it was phenomenal. We're huge Christopher Walken fans." He adds, "I've probably seen it 20 times and I'm still not tired of it."

Still, they stand by the cowbell:

Fact is, there is a cowbell on "Reaper." If you listen closely to it on oldies radio, you can make it out in the background. But it was an afterthought. The song was recorded without it, and was added as an overdub at the last minute. According to former BOC bassist Joe Bouchard, an unnamed producer asked his brother, drummer Albert Bouchard, to play the cowbell after the fact. "Albert thought he was crazy," Bouchard told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press in 2000. "But he put all this tape around a cowbell and played it. It really pulled the track together."

See, it pulled the track together, people. Let's let the cowbell have its dignity.

Quoted paragraphs are from Blue Oyster Cult, Playing Along With 'More Cowbell' in the Washington Post.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Buster's New Lesbian Buddies

PBS took the heat, but it was Buster's idea all along.

Buster's website.

Happy Birthday, Wolfie

And thanks for the Requiem in D Minor that drove you to death in Amadeus.

Mozart - Requiem in D Minor: III. Sequenz - No. 5 - Confutatis (mp3)
Mozart - Requiem in D Minor: III. Sequenz - No.1 - Dies irae (mp3)

From Mozart: Requiem (Duetsche Grammophon, Composer: Herbert von Karajan)

Mozart's Birthday

From today's Writer's Almanac

The circumstances of Mozart's early death are still speculated about today. Many people speculate that he died of mercury poisoning while being treated for syphilis, while others think he died from an illness brought on by a meal of badly cooked pork. Others insist that Mozart was murdered by his rival Antonio Salieri.

It is also popularly believed that Mozart died poor and forgotten, but that is not true. His popularity had declined, but his work was still in demand in Prague and other parts of Europe. His financial difficulties stemmed from his inability to live within his means, not from a lack of income. Mozart was buried in a mass grave because the country was battling an outbreak of bubonic plague, and not because his family could not afford a proper burial.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Dudes! Dig this righteous photo that I have obtained from a person who knows a person who knows a person:

Debbie, Only In Your Dreams.

Arcade Fire Live mp3s

I'm psyching myself up for the 9:30 club show this weekend with some live mp3s courtesy of Bradley's Almanac. He also has live photos and a slew of inspiring testimonials posted as comments.

mp3 - Trailer Bride

There's nothing groundbreaking about this track from Hope Is a Thing With Feathers (2003), but it does something to me. It's Melissa Swingle's voice, soft and drawling, yet carrying echoes of harsh experience. She reminds me of Mary's Danish, just a little. I want to classify this as "dirty southern rock." Or sweaty. How about grimy? The guitars here are certainly harsh and grimy. Trailer Bride are from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but there's more of the Carolina than the Chapel Hill in there. I think she sums it all up in half a verse: "It's like runnin' on electric when you're thirstin' for gasoline." Trailer Bride smothers us with the gasoline.

Trailer Bride - Skinny White Girl (mp3)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Debbie Gibson Wants You to Shake Your Love

DEBORAH GIBSON (perhaps still more famously known as '80s teen queen pop princess Debbie Gibson) has gone the way of so many and shed her clothes for Playboy. The March issue hits newsstands Feb 11.

Deborah, 34, has made some significant, successful strides in separating herself from her teen image. But apparently these changes are not significant enough...The layout, which shows a "well-defined, yet very sexy, feminine look," coincides with a new single titled "Naked."

- from Pop princess of the '80s bares all for Playboy in the Baltimore Sun

link via Largehearted Boy

Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, Deb-Ski, a popular Deborah Gibson fansite run by the creepily dedicated Dariusz "Ski," had this news bit way back on Jan 11:

Submitted on: 11 January 2005 at 07:40:29 GMT
In a secret still not being officially released (except to paying fanclub members of the official Deborah website), the worst kept secret has been confirmed.

Deborah Gibson has sold out, and decided to pose for Playboy magazine... yes, that means there will be real nude photographs of Deborah.

As a protest, this website will be taken down. The when and how and for how long I do not know because I have not decided (I may even dump the site completely). This is the only way I can protest about this terrible decision of Deborah's.

To that end, I would like to apologise to the fans that visit this site. I know how popular this site is.

Tragic. Oh, wait...

Submitted on: 24 January 2005 at 08:59:41 GMT
I have decided that I will not be pulling this website as a protest against Deborah's decision to pose in the "adult" magazine.

Instead I will be writing an open letter onto this website.

My thanks go to the supporters of this site who have asked me to carry on with it, also the people who have heaped lots of personal and immature attacks and insults (mostly anonymously) at me, for coming up with this decision.

Carry on, "ski." You'll make it through this trying time.

Q and Not U Interview on Dischord

Pitchfork: Do you think your affiliation with Dischord had maybe kept you in that DIY mode?

Chris: Dischord to us is about freedom. And most relationships between bands and labels are about control, and it's a struggle. Dischord, it's like basically, here's what we're gonna do, we're gonna buy your record, we're gonna get it to these stores, we're gonna do this amount of press work, we're gonna help you with this much and then that's it, the rest is on you to do whatever you want, and you're free to do whatever you want. They're not gonna delay your record an extra month because they're waiting for the market to be right, they're not gonna rush you to get the record before.

The label is such a huge part of the musical landscape in DC and the music we've had an intense relationship with since we were all teenagers. That's kind of our collective experience. Dischord has been so supportive of all the stuff we've done, and as long as the relationship remains free and enjoyable, we hope to still be working together.

From the Pitchfork interview.

NASA Killing Hubble Telescope, Going Back to the Moon

NASA Said Thinking About Killing Hubble
Hubble's Future FAQ

What a bummer. I remember when the Hubble was launched and something was messed up, a mirror I think. Everyone was freaking out about how much money was wasted. Then NASA fixed the problem and the telescope started sending back all these unbelievable photos. I got to see things I had only read about or seen artist's visualizations of, like stars being born in cloud nebulas. Well, at least we'll have a lot of cool pictures to look at.


I've got the flu. I should be back to posting tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A New Kind of Personality Test

Take the Implicit Association Test at

From See No Bias, in this Sunday's Washington Post Magazine:

The results of the millions of tests that have been taken anonymously on the Harvard Web site and other sites hint at the potential impact of the research. Analyses of tens of thousands of tests found 88 percent of white people had a pro-white or anti-black implicit bias; nearly 83 percent of heterosexuals showed implicit biases for straight people over gays and lesbians; and more than two-thirds of non-Arab, non-Muslim volunteers displayed implicit biases against Arab Muslims.

Overall, according to the researchers, large majorities showed biases for Christians over Jews, the rich over the poor, and men's careers over women's careers. The results contrasted sharply with what most people said about themselves -- that they had no biases. The tests also revealed another unsettling truth: Minorities internalized the same biases as majority groups. Some 48 percent of blacks showed a pro-white or anti-black bias; 36 percent of Arab Muslims showed an anti-Muslim bias; and 38 percent of gays and lesbians showed a bias for straight people over homosexuals.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Epileptic, the graphic novel by David B., is reviewed in the New York Times:

People are devouring the graphic novel across the whole range of human I.Q.'s. It's not uncommon now for readers of literature to admire Chris Ware or Julie Doucet or Joe Sacco or Joe Matt with a partisan vigor formerly reserved for renegades like Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. Among the reasons for this popularity is that comics are currently better at the sociology of the intimate gesture than literary fiction is.


The graphic novel may originally have been aimed at ''a less-educated and/or intellectually blunted segment of the consumer pool,'' as Chris Ware observed, but ''Epileptic'' proves that this relatively new form can be as graceful as its august literary forebear. Recent novels by Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon have indicated how formative comics can be for writers who rely only on words. Now comic artists are expressing their facility with the strategies and ambitions of the word-smitten crowd. This cross-pollination is to be celebrated.

More at Time Magazine, which reviewed Epileptic Part 1 in 2002:

All great works of art must at least pass this test: does it use the unique properties of its medium to further the meaning of the work? Beyond that, does it offer us a new experience? Does that experience have depth, rewarding revisitation? Lastly, does it posses that aesthetic quality, that no matter the substance, can be called beauty? "Epileptic," (L'Association; 176pp.; $24.95), the graphical autobiography by David B. (né Pierre-François Beauchard), passes all of these tests, making it one of the "must-haves" for 2002.

Some pages from Epileptic:
I no longer believe in anything.
I decided to change my first name.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Moving the Coleus

From Poetry Daily:


“Honey? I think maybe we should move this coleus. . . . Honey?”


“I said I think we might want to move this coleus.”


“Because I know it said partial sun or partial shade or whatever but I’m just not sure
it likes it behind that rock.”

“I said ‘okay.’ ”

- Mary Leader
The American Poetry Review
January/February 2005

Will Ferrell, Beck's Dancer

Pitchfork reports on the release date (March 29) and tracklist for Beck's new album, Guero, and comments on his tsunami benefit show in Los Angeles:

Despite a few songs having already leaked into the lawless quagmire that is the online music-swapping community (who leaks this shit anyway?), the album's release date has not and will not be brought forward. Beck did, however, make an appearance earlier this week at the tsunami benefit gig at the Wiltern LG theater in Los Angeles, where he performed a few songs. Then "Lost Cause" began, Will Ferrell dipped on stage in a red body suit, and he started humping Beck's pump organ.

You can download audio of the performance here, if you have BitTorrent or a similar program. It's hilarious. Beck stops in the middle of Lost Cause to laugh and ask Will Ferrell what he's doing.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Drinking is Good for the Brain

Just as I always suspected.

From Daily Drink Helps Keep Brain Sharp, Data Suggest, in the Washington Post:

Women who imbibe a little wine, beer or even spirits every day are less likely than teetotalers to see their memories and other thinking powers fade as they age, according to the largest study to assess alcohol's impact on the brain.

"Low levels of alcohol appear to have cognitive benefits," said Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, senior author on the study, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

While the study involved only women, the findings probably hold true for men, although previous research indicates that men seem to benefit from drinking slightly more -- one to two drinks per day, researchers said.

The findings provide the latest evidence that indulging in alcohol, long vilified as part of an insalubrious lifestyle, can actually help people live longer, healthier lives. While heavy drinking clearly causes serious problems for many people, recent research has found that drinking in moderation protects the heart. A few small studies have similarly suggested that alcohol may help the brain. The new study is by far the largest and most detailed to examine that question.

Sweet news and great use of the word "insalubrious." But remember, though it may prevent cognitive decline and protect your heart, drinking will never make you a better driver.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

mp3s - Bloc Party

Bloc Party is going to hit it huge in the U.S. this year, with their upcoming album. But you don't care about that, do you? You are a purist, and will judge a single based on the music alone. You play an instrument, and know what a pedal point is and how it lends gravitas to Radiohead's Street Spirit, and why it does the same for This Modern Love, below. Hackneyed, facile lyrics make you cringe to any song, no matter how well sung. You know the importance of having the right drummer, and how the whole chemistry dissolves when you lose him or her. You don't care what color belt the lead singer wears. He, or she, for that matter, could look like any one of the Wiggles and it wouldn't bother you a bit. You like smart, original songs played well. You want the guitar to make you rise and the beat to move you. That's why you like Bloc Party. Not because they're going to hit it HUGE in the U.S. this year.

From Silent Alarm:
This Modern Love (mp3)
So Here We Are (mp3)

Buttload more mp3s here.

Behind BitTorrent

From Wired Magazine's The BitTorrent Effect, on the story of the peer-to-peer program, BitTorrent, and its founder, Bram Cohen:

Bram Cohen is the creator of BitTorrent, one of the most successful peer-to-peer programs ever. BitTorrent lets users quickly upload and download enormous amounts of data, files that are hundreds or thousands of times bigger than a single MP3. Analysts at CacheLogic, an Internet-traffic analysis firm in Cambridge, England, report that BitTorrent traffic accounts for more than one-third of all data sent across the Internet. Cohen showed his code to the world at a hacker conference in 2002, as a free, open source project aimed at geeks who need a cheap way to swap Linux software online. But the real audience turns out to be TV and movie fanatics. It takes hours to download a ripped episode of Alias or Monk off Kazaa, but BitTorrent can do it in minutes. As a result, more than 20 million people have downloaded the BitTorrent application. If any one of them misses their favorite TV show, no worries. Surely someone has posted it as a "torrent." As for movies, if you can find it at Blockbuster, you can probably find it online somewhere - and use BitTorrent to suck it down.


What kept Cohen going, say friends and family, was a cartoonishly inflated ego. "I can come off as pretty arrogant, but it's because I know I'm right," he laughs. "I'm very, very good at writing protocols. I've accomplished more working on my own than I ever did as part of a team." While we're having lunch, his wife, Jenna, tells me about the time they were watching Amadeus, where Mozart writes his music so rapidly and perfectly it appears to have been dictated by God. Cohen decided he was kind of like that. Like Mozart? Bram and Jenna nod.

"Bram will just pace around the house all day long, back and forth, in and out of the kitchen. Then he'll suddenly go to his computer and the code just comes pouring out. And you can see by the lines on the screen that it's clean," Jenna says. "It's clean code." She pats her husband affectionately on the head: "My sweet little autistic nerd boy." (Cohen in fact has Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the mild end of the autism spectrum that gives him almost superhuman powers of concentration but can make it difficult for him to relate to other people.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The New New International Version

Zondervan issued a new translation of the Bible, called The Bible: Timeless Truth in Today's Language. From Bookslut, the USA Today reports that Rolling Stone magazine refused to print an ad from Zondervan. From the article:
"it doesn't quite feel right in the magazine," said Kent Brownridge, general manager of Wenner Media, parent company of Rolling Stone.

"The copy is a little more than an ad for the Bible. It's a religious message that I personally don't disagree with," Brownridge said, citing "a spiritual message in the text." But, he said, "we are not in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages."

Here's my New International Translation of Brownridge's statements:

"it doesn't feel quite right in the magazine" = "we're going to piss off all the satanists who cut out Marilyn Manson pictures to hang on their walls"

"we are not in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages" = "if it has nothing to do with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, all of which we carry ads for, it ain't going in there"

All he really needed to say was "the ad will ruin the decadent tone that Rolling Stones strives for."

I don't like the newer translations. The King James Version has a certain authority that comes from the language of the day, and a historic feel that is lost with the new versions. Dullness is the cost of readability. Compare two passages from the King James Version, the New International Version, and the Today's New International Version, taken from a table in And the Word is "Update", from the USA Today:

Hebrews 12:7

King James Version (1611): If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

New International Version (1978): Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

Today's New International Version (2005): Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Psalms 1:1

King James Version (1611): Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

New International Version (1978): Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

Today's New International Version (2005): Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.

mp3 - Jennifer Gentle

Jennifer Gentle are a daring band from Padova, Italy. Who else would make choppy pop with frenetic 60's era pop guitar and rhythm synth, toss in a few wacky sounds here and there, play it like they mean it, and expect to get away with it?

I Do Dream You (mp3) ( is from their upcoming record, Valende.

Let's Blame the Readers

Obviously, as various community institutions fade in importance, so does the amount of coverage they receive (seen much on the labor-union beat lately?). As television has grown in importance, so has the space allotted to it in print media — not just in listings and reviews, but in coverage of TV celebrities, even the recently minted varieties that have started to emerge from reality shows. When news executives are asked why they put so much effort into covering celebrities, the answer is that “readers want it.”

...Why are so many people avoiding the hard task of keeping themselves informed about what is going on in their government and society? Why is ignorance so widespread at a time when higher education is more widely pursued than ever before?

...Perhaps we should, to an extent, blame the readers. Perhaps the old notions of an engaged and virtuous citizenry, upon which the founding fathers’ hopes for the republic were based, are archaic concepts.

-Let’s Blame the Readers: Is it possible to do great journalism if the public does not care?
By Evan Cornog
In Columbia Journalism Review

mp3 - Madvillain

What happens when you take a traditional Asian or African acoustic instrument sample and infuse it into the electronic samples & beats that are Madvillain?

Better things than you might expect.

Here's the Stones Throw Remix of Madvillain's Figaro.

from, via

Bunch more stuff here, including a download of Madlib on 106 FM, Los Angeles, featuring unreleased and in-progress tracks.

And some splendid videos to top it all off.

Monday, January 17, 2005

New Beck Album Leaked - mp3s!!

Get 'em while you can, here.


Happy MLK Day.

Remember him by reading his work. His letter from Birmingham Jail is here, including audio of MLK reading it.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford includes sermons, papers, articles, and much more, and it's right here.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

mp3 - Low

It's cold in Minnesota, and this menacing track from Duluth's Low might be just the thing to pass a dark evening. I love the way it opens with one note on synth organ, then the ominous drums kick in. The drums stop as another organ note is hit an octave higher, and an acoustic guitar leads into the harmonizing vocal duet. From the forthcoming The Great Destroyer (Jan 25).

Low - Monkey (mp3) (from

NPR Peers Into the Crystal Ball of Music

In NPR's 2005 Music Preview, "Bob Boilen speaks with All Things Considered music reviewers Tom Moon, Meredith Ochs and Mikel Jollett about the most anticipated releases for 2005. Hear sneak previews from Marianne Faithful, Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Son Volt and more."

Bright Eyes in the NYT

"Digital Ash" is the album more likely to convert nonfans (and, for that matter, music supervisors for Hollywood movies - a handful of songs sound distinctly soundtrackable). Somehow, the music is both louder and softer than anything Mr. Oberst has done before: instead of grabbing you by the throat, the songs float gently toward you. The desperation in Mr. Oberst's voice remains, but now it's cushioned by fuzzy guitars and keyboards, and the old tantrums and rallying cries have been replaced by resigned shrugs and halfhearted optimism. The album's first single, released late last year, was "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," a bubbling collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello, the beatmaker behind the Postal Service. As an electric guitar twists around him, Mr. Oberst sums up lost love not as tragedy, but as bittersweet relief: "Now I do as I please and I lie through my teeth/ Someone might get hurt but it won't be me/ I should probably feel cheap but I just feel free/ And a little bit empty."

-From Mr. Sincerity Tries a New TrickBy KELEFA SANNEH

Bright Eyes Website

Singularity of a Face

...They say an infant can't see when it is as young as your sister was, but she opened her eyes, and she looked at me. She was such a little bit of a thing. But while I was holding her, she opened her eyes. I knew she didn't really study my face. Memory can make a thing seem to have been much more than it was. But I know she did look right into my eyes. That is something. And I'm glad I knew it at the time, because now, in my present situation, now that I am about to leave this world, I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face. Boughton and I have talked about that, too. It has something to do with incarnation. You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider this to be the one kind of vision, as mystical as any. Boughton agrees.

-from Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Friday, January 14, 2005

Flup Flup Flup

A year ago my wife moved out of our apartment. If she'd found a lover or something, believe me, I would've killed them both, but that didn't seem the case. Her exact words were "You've got things all wrong. What a fool you are." I didn't understand what she meant, so one time I went to her new apartment and sort of forced my way in and tried to get a good explanation.

"Look at you," she said. "You drive that big truck around for ten hours a day, then you come home moaning and groaning, you don't even try to talk to me, just plop down in your lounge chair, drink a quart of beer, eat a bowl and a half of rice, chomp on your pickled vegetables, and fart and burp, and when we make love it's just flup flup flup about five times and then it's over, and you call yourself a man? Don't you see how ridiculous you are? You've got things all wrong."

I asked her what if I tried to do something about the farts and the flup flup, but it was no go. And I still didn't understand what it was I had all wrong.

- Ryu Murakami, It's Been Just a Year and a Half Now Since I Went With My Boss To That Bar, from the Winter 2004 Zoetrope All-Story.

Children for sale

Children for sale.

After such a devastating act of nature, God, science or whatever, how could predators move in to hurt children left homeless and hungry and vulnerable?

The incomprehensible becomes more horrible as we read reports of child smugglers and pedophiles preying on the devastated areas after the Indian Ocean tsunami. An e-mail advertises that hundreds of children orphaned by the water are now available for sale or rent.

Yet those who have long worked in disaster zones say human predators are part of a pattern. The natural disaster strikes, people die, people mourn, compassion and aid roll in -- and so do the predators.

It raises questions about the nature of humanity and its capacity for evil, for wickedness.

- For Small Survivors, A Cruel New World

By DeNeen L. Brown

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Jay-Zeezer: Black & Blue

Download the Black & Blue Album, a mash-up of Weezer's blue album and Jay-Z's black album, by "Jay-Zeezer," here.

Link via Largehearted Boy.

HFS is Dead

In the Washington, D.C. area 80's, WHFS used to be only one place you could turn your dial and hear something other than Whitney Houston or Madonna. Nobody else played R.E.M. before 1987. Nobody else played the Cure before Just Like Heaven. Hell, nobody else played the Pixies until last year. They didn't give away tickets to Pink Floyd or NKOTB; they gave away tickets to shows at the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat. Sonic Youth, Elastica, Cinerama. If you wanted to listen to a station without having to hear the same five songs played every two hours, HFS was your only choice.

So the almost unannounced demise of HFS yesterday, where Washingtonians rudely learned that HFS switched to a Spanish-language format, is a little sad, but not tragic. Sad, because you remember the good days, the first HFStivals, and the quirky DJs. Not tragic, because at the end, the station turned into that which it originally despised. HFS became a beast that needed a good shot in the head to put it out of its misery. After Nirvana, when "alternative" and "grunge" owned the airwaves, HFS reminded us incessantly that "We're the original alternative," and "We played it first, everyone else is just a cheap imitation." And then alt-grunge evolved(?) into rap-metal, and HFS played it into the ground. No more bands that you never heard of. No more weird 2-minute silences at 2 A.M. The same five songs. Every two hours. Predictable. Boring.

I wasn't aware of the switch until this morning, because I didn't even tune in at all yesterday.

So we're left with this hole now, but it's a hole that has been there since the mid 90's. Our WFMU is the free-form format WRNR Annapolis, 103.1, but you can only hear it on the east side of town, and though the music is reliably good, they play mostly adult-alternative. The DJs are the aging (in a refined way) HFS firees and evacuees. WTMD from Towson comes in every now and then. And that's it. Until we get something worthy of some of the best music fans in the country, we can only fill that hole with XM or mix CDs of singles from music blogs.

Washington Post story here.

So I dedicate this song to HFS.
When you're in your little room
and you're working on something good
but if it's really good
you're gonna need a bigger room
and when you're in the bigger room
you might not know what to do
you might have to think of
how you got started sittin in your little room

-Little Room, White Stripes

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

mp3 - Bravery

It seems that there are a lot of people looking here for the Bravery's rousing pop throwdown, Unconditional.

Here you go. Something for nothing. I'll bet anything you'll have to play it at least twice in a row.

Bravery - Unconditional (mp3)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

mp3 - The Thing says of The Thing's album, Garage, "This is a disc you know you are going to love from the first sound of the pounding, kick-ass drums...It consists of high-energy, slightly extended covers of left-of-center art/punk songs and free jazz gems...adapting the garage rock aesthetic and breathing more life into songs than I thought was possible. You cannot but surrender to The Thing's heated energy."

The disc is certainly energetic - every note is played with heated fervor, though at times, overheated. It's similar to being used to straight rock, and then walking in on a Sonic Youth show. If you are tuned in to it, you get it. If not, you're pulling your hair out and digging your nails into your face. Their music seems to me less an expression than extraction, or an exorcism. There's something mean in there, and that shit is coming out one way or the other. I'm tuned in.

Having said all that, here's a tamer, accessible track: a cover of the Sonics' Have Love Will Travel. The AllAboutJazz article says this version "is covered in a tongue-in-cheek mode, keeping the original raunchy, rhythmic drive while Gustafsson switches between a soulful tenor delivery of the song's chorus and soloing in the upper registers of the instrument."

The Thing - Have Love Will Travel (mp3)

Barrels to the Ground in Iraq

From Battle Lessons, in the Jan 17th New Yorker:

The Iraqis were shrieking, frantic with rage. From the way the lens was lurching, the cameraman seemed as frightened as the soldiers. This is it, I thought. A shot will come from somewhere, the Americans will open fire, and the world will witness the My Lai massacre of the Iraq war. At that moment, an American officer stepped through the crowd holding his rifle high over his head with the barrel pointed to the ground. Against the backdrop of the seething crowd, it was a striking gesture—almost Biblical. “Take a knee,” the officer said, impassive behind surfer sunglasses. The soldiers looked at him as if he were crazy. Then, one after another, swaying in their bulky body armor and gear, they knelt before the boiling crowd and pointed their guns at the ground. The Iraqis fell silent, and their anger subsided. The officer ordered his men to withdraw.

It took two months to track down Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hughes, who by then had been rotated home...

Monday, January 10, 2005

mp3 - Henry Butler

Legendary New Orleans blues pianist Henry Butler can quicken the dead with his piano. Here's a groovy little track from Homeland (2004).

Hey Little Girl (mp3)

Boink! in Boston

The Sunday Washington Post had this article on Boink!, an independent porn...correction... sex...oh, wait, it is porn, but without all the connotation, magazine run by Boston University students. Editor Alecia Oleyourryk wants to outdo Harvards more pretentious, Ivy League sex mag, H Bomb (Warning! Nothing to see here but nude ivy leaguers!! You dirty people!). According to Bared in Boston,

Oleyourryk and Anderson promise more nudity than Harvard delivered -- naughty bits and everything. Faces, too. (Many of the models in Harvard's magazine didn't want their faces shown. Something about wanting careers.) The Harvard editor says her magazine isn't porn, that it serves as "a rebellion against all of our porn-saturated popular culture." Boink has a different ethos.

"It is porn," Oleyourryk says. "There's nothing wrong with porn. Porn has such a negative connotation."

That's right, go back to the first paragraph--Oleyourryk's first name is Alecia. As in female. I hope she has an unlisted number.

Here's more:

"We can do whatever we want," Oleyourryk says.

Oleyourryk, 21, felt it would be hypocritical for her not to pose for Boink while asking others to, so she did two photo shoots with a 20-year-old student named Erica Blom. She and Blom didn't know each other before they started working on the magazine, but during the first photo shoot they got to know each other more via a kissing session. Oleyourryk says it felt weird and she tried to imagine Blom as a boy.

"I've kissed my friends before but not passionately," she says. "Just like, 'Hey, we're drunk and betcha if we kiss, he'll give us a free beer.' "

More likely he'll spill the one he has all over his pants.


The magazine's prospective cover came out of the women's second photo session, when they'd apparently gotten to know each other even better. In it, Oleyourryk is wearing only a pair of frilly red panties and her hand is wandering down Blom's torso.

Go BU! Beat Harvard.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Robert Pinksy's Choice

Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky will take over the Washington Post's Poet's Choice in the Book World.

Here's a Pinsky poem chosen by the outgoing Poet's Choice writer, Edward Hirsch, from Sunday's Book World:

If You Could Write One Great Poem,
What Would You Want It To Be About?

(Asked of four student poets at the Illinois Schools
for the Deaf and Visually Impaired)

Fire: because it is quick, and can destroy.
Music: place where anger has its place.
Romantic Love -- the cold or stupid ask why.
Sign: that it is a language, full of grace,

That it is visible, invisible, dark and clear,
That it is loud and noiseless and is contained
Inside a body and explodes in air
Out of a body to conquer from the mind.

"If You Could Write One Great Poem, What Would You Want It To Be About?" appears in Pinsky's book "The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996." Farrar Straus Giroux. Copyright © 1996 by Robert Pinsky.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

If Murakami was a Muppet

BBC Collective has an extract and review of Haruki Murakami's novel, Kafka on the Shore, due out this month.

From the review:

Kafka On The Shore, Haruki Murakami’s tenth novel, entwines the fates of 15-year-old Kafka Tamura and mentally deficient pensioner Nakata, who talks to cats and causes fish to fall from cloudless skies.


...Aside from Norwegian Wood and the brooding South Of The Border, West of the Sun, his fiction tends towards a chaotic, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to theme and plotting. If Murakami was a Muppet, he would be the Swedish Chef.


Kafka On The Shore is as Murakami as they come: gripping, ragged, thought-provoking, funny and largely inexplicable. If the Möbius-strip illogicality of a movie like Lynch’s Lost Highway gives you palpitations then steer well clear. But if, as Kakfa muses of The Arabian Nights, the thought of stories that “have this sort of vital, living sense of play, of freedom that common sense can’t keep bottled up” appeals, then come on in, the water’s lovely.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Double Dutch

Ladyflash (Quicktime) is one of the best Double Dutch videos ever made, from the The Go! Team. And Thunder, Lightning, Strike was one of the best albums of 2004.

The New Pornographers' All For Swinging You Around (Real) was a sweet Double Dutch video, too. Not to mention a solid slumber party vid as well. But you can't possibly have a bad one of those, can you?

mp3s - Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958) was an acoustic bluesman from Chicago in the 1930's and 1940's. His material predates Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Howlin' Wolf, but is no less important.


Bill became an accomplished performer in his own right, and, on 23 December, 1938, was one of the principal solo performers in the first "From Spirituals to Swing" concert held at the Carnegie Hall in New York City. In the programme for that performance, Broonzy was identified in the programme only as "Big Bill" (he did not become known as Big Bill Broonzy until much later in his career) and as Willie Broonzy. He was described as:

"the best-selling blues singer on Vocalion's 'race' records, which is the musical trade designation for American Negro music that is so good that only the Negro people can be expected to buy it."

I couldn't decide which of these infectious songs from Can't Be Satisfied to post: I Can't Be Satisfied or Long Tall Mama. So here are both.

Big Bill Broonzy - Long Tall Mama (mp3)
Big Bill Broonzy - I Can't Be Satisfied (mp3)

Happy Birthday, Dear Hip-Hop

From Greg Tate's Village Voice article, Hiphop Turns 30 (Whatcha celebratin' for?):

...some among us have been so gauche as to ask, What the heck are we celebrating exactly? A right and proper question, that one is, mate. One to which my best answer has been: Nothing less, my man, than the marriage of heaven and hell, of New World African ingenuity and that trick of the devil known as global hyper-capitalism. Hooray.


Given that what we call hiphop is now inseparable from what we call the hiphop industry, in which the nouveau riche and the super-rich employers get richer, some say there's really nothing to celebrate about hiphop right now but the moneyshakers and the moneymakers—who got bank and who got more.


...have no doubt, before hiphop had a name it was a folk culture—literally visible in the way you see folk in Brooklyn and the South Bronx of the '80s, styling, wilding, and profiling in Jamel Shabazz's photograph book Back in the Days. But from the moment "Rapper's Delight" went platinum, hiphop the folk culture became hiphop the American entertainment-industry sideshow.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Woodpecker Pecks, But the Hole Does Not Appear

From The Woodpecker Pecks, But the Hole Does Not Appear, a poem by Charles Wright in the Jan 10th New Yorker.

It's hard to imagine how unremembered we all become,
How quickly all that we've done
Is unremembered and unforgiven,
how quickly
Bog lilies and yellow clover flashlight our footfalls,
How quickly and finally the landscape subsumes us,
And everything we are becomes what we are not.

mp3s - Eleni Mandell

A review says of Eleni Mandell's Afternoon (2004):

Her music infuses alt-rock with a torch singer's sensibility and a punk's edge. While it's tempting to put Eleni Mandell into a box, like "noir-lounge" or "punk crooner," even odd and outside categories like these don't satisfy. Yes, she croons, and there's that lounge sensibility, and she is dark and edgy, but she also sings country with a Haggard heart and her terrific, concise writing is consistently compelling. It's as if she writes an unspoken question or a pregnant space into each song or character, making them profound, but not inaccessible, buzzing with tension, but not without dry humor--reminiscent of Tom Waits, whom she claims as an early influence.

Pretty much right on. Listen to these clever little gems:

Eleni Mandell - Afternoon (mp3)
Eleni Mandell - Can't You See I'm Soulful (mp3)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Brian Wilson on Leno, Black Keys on Letterman

Brian Wilson plays Good Vibrations on Leno tonight.

Meanwhile, the Black Keys play on Letterman.

Survival Tip For the Drunk

Tom Tom sent this to me. It's in verse form so you can remember it more easily:

Next time you are too drunk to drive,
Walk to the nearest pizza shop,
Place an order,
And when they go to deliver it,
Catch a ride home with them.

Tragedies and Statistics

Last night's CBS world news covered the tsunami disaster, and followed the story with one about a young female soldier who was killed while returning from duty in Iraq. I wondered which story affected people more: the one in which horrifying disaster scenes are shown, with wreckage as far as the eye can see, and with staggering statistics about the dead and orphaned, or the story which showed a photo of a young lady with an all-american face, in uniform, a photo that might have come off the neighbor's wall. I admit that I was saddened by both stories, and though I recognize that the tsunami disaster has caused magnitudes more pain and suffering, the story did not cause me magnitudes more grief.

Then there's this, from a story in the Boston Globe today:

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Just because the famous aphorism is attributed to Joseph Stalin doesn't mean it isn't true. It is a commonplace of the pulpit and the editorial page that we are all joined in one great brotherhood of man and woman, that "each man's joy is joy to me, each man's grief is my own," to cite a popular hymn. But for many years I have wondered if that is true. I think compassion is like a radar signal that loses force the further it radiates from our hearts.


Human apathy toward mass deprivation is legendary. Aid organizations know this. For decades, the relief organization Save the Children has urged first-world donors to underwrite the well-being of a specific child somewhere in the Third World. Why? Because no one cares about saving children in the abstract. But people do care about saving Marzina, an 8-year-old from Bangladesh, who is currently seeking a sponsor.

The media likewise know that gargantuan disaster stories have to be correctly packaged to capture readers' attention. There is an old, politically incorrect saying in newsrooms: How do you change a front-page story about massive flood devastation into a 50-word news brief buried inside the paper? Just add two words: "In India."

(link via ALDaily)

And then, of course, this scene from Collateral comes to mind:

Vincent: Max, six billion people on the planet, you're getting bent out of shape cause of one fat guy.
Max: Well, who was he?
Vincent: What do you care? Have you ever heard of Rwanda?
Max: Yes, I know Rwanda.
Vincent: Well, tens of thousands killed before sundown. Nobody's killed people that fast since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Did you bat an eye, Max?
Max: What?
Vincent: Did you join Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Whales, Greenpeace, or something? No. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit.
Max: Man, I don't know any Rwandans.
Vincent: You don't know the guy in the trunk, either.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Earlimart mp3 - 1st Instant/Last Report


I know, I already did a post on Earlimart earlier this year.

I just happen to like this song more than the others today, and I feel a little like I ripped you off. The sound more like the Comas here than Elliott Smith.

By the way, if you own Treble & Tremble, and don't have From a Basement on the Hill, you're ripping yourself off.

Earlimart - 1st Instant/Last Report (mp3)

Arcade Fire Live Video

Just to give you an idea about their live shows, LargeheartedBoy linked to this live Arcade Fire video today:

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

The lyrics are here.

What Smart People Believe

The NYT's Science Times has this fantastic article today, in "scientists, futurists and other creative thinkers" were asked by Edge "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?". 117 contributors responded.

Here are excerpts of three of the responses:

David Buss
Psychologist, University of Texas; author, "The Evolution of Desire"

True love.

I've spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating. In that time, I've documented phenomena ranging from what men and women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual treachery. I've discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I've studied mate poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators and spouse murderers. But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human mating, I've remained unwavering in my belief in true love.

While love is common, true love is rare, and I believe that few people are fortunate enough to experience it. The roads of regular love are well traveled and their markers are well understood by many - the mesmerizing attraction, the ideational obsession, the sexual afterglow, profound self-sacrifice and the desire to combine DNA. But true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It's difficult to define, eludes modern measurement and seems scientifically woolly. But I know true love exists. I just can't prove it.

Robert Sapolsky
Neuroscientist, Stanford University, author, "A Primate's Memoir"

Mine would be a fairly simple, straightforward case of an unjustifiable belief, namely that there is no god(s) or such a thing as a soul (whatever the religiously inclined of the right persuasion mean by that word). ...

David Myers
Psychologist, Hope College; author, "Intuition"

As a Christian monotheist, I start with two unproven axioms:

1. There is a God.

2. It's not me (and it's also not you).

Together, these axioms imply my surest conviction: that some of my beliefs (and yours) contain error. We are, from dust to dust, finite and fallible. We have dignity but not deity.

The entire list of contributors' answers is here.

Link via ALDaily.

The Basement Just Won't Be the Same

Speaking of baby names, "Ashton" sprung from #337 in 1996 to #66 in 2004. I wonder why. "Topher," however, is "not among the top 1,000 male names for years 1990-2003."


WILL SHOW GO ON?: Don't rule out an eighth season of That '70s Show just yet. According to Variety, Fox is in talks with the show's producers to bring the aging sitcom back for one more season — with or without stars Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher. Grace has stated publicly that he plans to bolt when '70s wraps its seventh season this spring. Kutcher, however, reportedly has agreed to return on a part-time basis.

Top Baby Names

Here's a list that never goes out of style, the way names on it do: The Top 100 Baby Names Lists. What are people naming their kids these days, in their attempts to avoid the plain and common?

The top ten boys' names for 2004 are:

1. Ethan
2. Jacob
3. Aidan/Aiden
4. Ryan
5. Tyler
6. Matthew
7. Joshua
8. Nicholas
9. Michael
10. Andrew

The top ten girls' names are:

1. Madison
2. Emma
3. Emily
4. Hailey/Haley
5. Alexis
6. Olivia
7. Alyssa
8. Kaitlyn/Caitlin/Caitlyn
9. Isabella
10. Hannah

Monday, January 03, 2005

mp3s from House Of Falling Daggers

This is a short, stirring percussive track from the House Of Flying Daggers soundtrack:

The Echo Game (mp3)

Zhang Ziyi

And here's Beauty Game, sung by the beautiful, multi-talented Zhang Zhiyi:

Beauty Game (mp3)

Thought of the Day from William Gibson

Gibson provides this quote from Henry James on his blog:

"I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride."
--William James

Wal Mart & Welfare

From Inside the Leviathan, an article in the Dec. 16 issue of the New York Review of Books:

With its deliberate understaffing, its obsession about time theft, its management spies, and its arbitrary punishments, Wal-Mart is a workplace where management's suspicion can affect the morale of even the best employees, creating a discrepancy between their objective record of high productivity and how they come to regard their performance on the job as a result of their day-to-day dealings with management. This discrepancy helps keep wages and benefits low at Wal-Mart.

One of the most telling of all the criticisms of Wal-Mart is to be found in a February 2004 report by the Democratic Staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee. In analyzing Wal-Mart's success in holding employee compensation at low levels, the report assesses the costs to US taxpayers of employees who are so badly paid that they qualify for government assistance even under the less than generous rules of the federal welfare system. For a two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store, the government is spending $108,000 a year for children's health care; $125,000 a year in tax credits and deductions for low-income families; and $42,000 a year in housing assistance. The report estimates that a two-hundred-employee Wal-Mart store costs federal taxpayers $420,000 a year, or about $2,103 per Wal-Mart employee. That translates into a total annual welfare bill of $2.5 billion for Wal-Mart's 1.2 million US employees.

Arcade Fire - 30 Seconds Away

The Arcade Fire's Funeral is deservedly on everyone's top-five list for 2004.

The Washington Post had this article on the album yesterday, in which Allison Stewart wrote:

Though richly instrumented -- it's loaded with string sections, xylophones, synthesizers and gourds -- "Funeral" sounds consistently tinny and remote, and always about 30 seconds away from total collapse.

Though it isn't immediately evident, underneath the rambling almost-melodies and frequently obscure lyrics lies a remarkable meditation on love and loss. And while the phrase "rewards repeat listenings" is usually rock critic code for "intensely dull album from which reasonable people will flee," this time we mean it: The more you listen to "Funeral," the more it makes sense, the more it seems like a carefully reasoned, lovingly crafted elegy instead of an occasionally baffling collection of noises made by willful Canadians.

I got my tickets to hear the "rambling almost-melodies" January 30th at the 9:30.