Monday, February 28, 2005

A True Bovine Story

Damn those motion sensors!!

Negatives of the Divine

'Oh,' he said, 'I have lived with nothingness
so long it has lost its meaning.
I have said "yes" to the universe
so many times its echoes
have returned increasingly as "no."
I have developed my negatives
of the divine and preserved their technicolour
in a make-believe album. I realise
the imagination is alive only
in an oxygenated world. The truth
is less breath-taking than the vacuum
into which it withdraws...'

- From "Mischief" in No Truce with the Furies (1996) from Bloodaxe Books

“Cows look calm, but really they are gay nymphomaniacs" the quote of the day, from The Secret Life of Moody Cows, in the Times Online, via AL Daily.

"You know, once you go black angus..."

From the article:

ONCE they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found.

Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future. But if farmers provide the right conditions, they can also feel great happiness.

...Dairy cow herds can also be intensely sexual. Webster describes how the cows become excited when one of the herd comes into heat and start trying to mount her. “Cows look calm, but really they are gay nymphomaniacs,” he said.

Friday, February 25, 2005

How to be a Superheroine and not Flop

Rachel Bilson as Summer Roberts as Wonder Woman
on The O.C. My heroine.

Here's Christina Larson, on why Elektra and Catwoman flopped despite the female starpower and fetishwear, from Seven Mistakes Superheroines Make, in the Washington Monthly, via ALDaily.

Superheroines since the 1970s—from Wonder Woman to Princess Leia, Charlie's Angels to Lara Croft, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to "Alias's" Sydney Bristow have all followed a few simple rules to find success on the big and little screen. And every would-be action babe who has flopped has broken at least one of them. So what's the secret?

1. Do fight demons. Don't fight only inner demons.
2. Do play well with others. Don't shun human society.
3. Do exhibit self-control. Don't exhibit mental disorders.
4. Do wear trendy clothes. Don't wear fetish clothes.
5. Do embrace girl power. Don't cling to man hatred.
6. Do help hapless men. Don't try to kill your boyfriend.
7. Do toss off witty remarks. Don't look perpetually sullen.

In the real world, we men prefer that our heroines follow the don'ts. So Wonder Women wannabes, copy and paste. Just make sure you delete #4 first. And take it easy with the lasso.

iPod in the News (because we haven't had enough iPod news stories already)

It's 9:20 p.m. on a recent Wednesday. P.Vo, known by day as Paul Vodra, is the first of 21 DJs -- ahead of Seeking Irony and Weird Curves -- who will play at this city's version of an iPod DJ party. On this night, the most popular MP3 player, the iPod, serves as the lounge's source of music, roughly three songs at a time. No turntables. No vinyl. Bring an iPod. Be the DJ. Please sign your DJ name on the white board in the front.

The iPod Jukebox night, held at Cafe Saint-Ex every second Wednesday of the month, attracts mostly white-collar types in their twenties and thirties who heard about it from a friend of a friend, or read about it in a link to a blog...Cafe Saint-Ex doesn't host the only iPod DJ night -- add the Hi Hat Lounge & Garage on the East Side of Milwaukee, APT in New York City's meatpacking district and Tonic Room in Chicago's Lincoln Park area, among others, to the growing list.

- From Downloaded and Ready to Rock: iPod Nights Turn Amateurs Into Digital DJs at D.C. Club, in yesterday's Washington Post.

This worries me a little. A few days ago, I read an article somewhere about people plugging in their earpods and tuning out of the world on buses, in the subway, in waiting rooms, or wherever they are. Apple is The Matrix. Imagine if an advertiser could infect your computer or iPod with a virus that inserts subliminal messages into all of your mp3s, which are shared with other iPodders, and so on. Or maybe "they're" already doing it, and "they" are Apple, and the message is "you need an need an iPod..." If the X-Files were still around, Chris Carter would have created a stellar episode on the iPodnomenon. I ramble. It's okay, it's the digital age.

Contriva - Stuck (mp3)

Here's an instrumental oldie from waaay back in the Year of Our Lord 2000. If you've got the software to do it, you'll notice it's mixable to the infinity degree, and thus perfect for your independent film's original motion picture soundtrack. Maybe you've heard the Superpitcher remix on the 2003 Contriva Club Hit 12" of this track from the If You Had Stayed double LP. I think the 12" sold about as many copies in Germany as the David Hasselhoff bobblehead, though alas, I doubt it has the longevity.

Contriva - Stuck (mp3)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sentence 6,7,8

Arethusa passed on this exercise today:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

This is from the book sitting closest to me:

He would not experience this sort of deep artistic despair again until he was nearly eighty years old.

Music for a puppet to sing!

On July 17, 1776, another terrible holocaust ravaged the town destroying the town hall, the monastery, the brewery and the church.

I haven't a clue what it means because I haven't read the book yet. But it's clearly tragic. Not the brewery!

This Unfair Fate

Too bad that, cut out as you are
for grand and noble acts,
this unfair fate of yours
never helps you out, always prevents
your success;
that cheap habits get in your way,
pettiness, or indifference.
And how terrible the day you give in
(the day you let go and give in)...

- From The Satrapy, by Constantine Cavafy (1910).

Say it aint so!!

I should have followed my original calling and been an actor!!
End of an era

Monty Alexander - That's The Way It Is (mp3)

Monty Alexander's Live at the Iridium, released yesterday, is amazing, full of noisy, rambling improvisation that you don't see coming.

That's the Way It Is is a blues jazz tune, full of satisfying turnarounds and licks, all in a neat little four minute package. This track isn't representative of the album, which has longer jazz compositions that come apart and then pull back together again, with flurries of brilliant, inspired improv moments. I'm posting this one because I love me some jazz blues piana, and the other songs just have too many notes.

Richard Ludmerer, director of the NY Jazz & Blues Society, wrote:

Monty Alexander is a Jamaican born jazz pianist who left his home in the early 1960's. A consummate musician, he has collaborated with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Frank Sinatra. This recording captures Monty "Live at The Iridium", the New York City Jazz club, in May of 2004. In a classic trio with bassist Hassan Shakur, and drummer Mark Taylor (and with occasional additional percussion by Robert Thomas Jr.), Monty performs a wonderful set and reminds us why we listen to music.

Monty Alexander - That's the Way It Is (mp3)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Beats a Family Trip to the Zoo

On a weekend afternoon in the bland, uptight nineteen-fifties, shortly after I’d finished college, my parents persuaded my boyfriend, who was always eager to please them, to take us to New Jersey to attend a burlesque and striptease show...So we piled into the car, mother, stepfather, boyfriend, and I, and went to Union City’s Hudson Theatre, where the pie-throwing episodes and lewd dialogues of classical burlesque alternated with a succession of gorgeously clad women who, to the strains of such numbers as “Blues in the Night,” very slowly and majestically disrobed.

One stripper that I remember particularly well was attired in a sumptuous black sequinned evening gown, with a huge feather boa draped across her shoulders. As a raucous male chorus of “Take it off! Take it off!” rang out through the theatre, she lingered for a good five minutes over the disposal of her gloves alone, strutting about the stage with an expression of smoldering aloofness...

Up to now, there has been curiously little satisfying literature about this venerable American genre. A number of entertainers have published their reminiscences in the past few years, but, with one or two exceptions, these have tended to be tedious. So the first serious history of the form, Rachel Shteir’s “Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show” (Oxford; $30), could prove to be a landmark work.

From a review of Stiptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show, by Rachel Shteir, in the New Yorker.

The Oscars: Billions Served?

About the Oscars this Sunday, one thing may safely be predicted: someone will do something embarrassing onstage, and someone else will point out that it was done in front of a billion people. It is common knowledge that the Academy Awards are watched by a billion people around the world. “They keep reminding you, like, every two seconds,” Cate Blanchett, who is a nominee for Best Supporting Actress, recently complained to Oprah Winfrey...

But the worldwide audience for the Oscars isn’t even close to a billion, as a little common sense makes plain...

Leslie Unger, the publicity coördinator for one of those entities, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said. “I don’t believe any entity now thinks that the number has any veracity.” The division of the Walt Disney Company that distributes the show internationally also disavows the figure. Unger added, “Our best estimate is several hundred million.”

- From ONE BILLION, in the New Yorker
America has lost faith in pop/rock radio. Every station on the dial has a paper-thin range of music, programmed nationally by a Clear Channel robot. More and more, people are plugging their iPods into their cars while their retracted antennae rust. You'd think it's time to kiss radio goodbye.

Then you find a station like Minneapolis' KCMP 89.3, The Current. It hires DJs who are free to choose the songs they play. The hosts know the bands and reminisce about their earliest gigs, and they give extra attention to local acts, from legends like the Replacements to upstarts like the Bleeding Hickeys. The station's website streams audio to the world, and their management keeps a blog tracking every baby step and new development-- all the better to draw you into their community. And it's a public radio station, so instead of getting crass blocks of commercials, you'll only hear the occasional pledge drive.

The Current, which hit the air last month, is a reminder of what radio should be. Except it's not that simple...

From Minnesota Becomes Eclectic, in Pitchfork.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Certain Butchery

From a refugee camp in Darfur

The butchery of the innocent
Never stops. That's about all
We can ever be sure of, love,
Even more than the roast
You are bringing out of the oven.

From Sunday Papers, in Night Picnic, by Charles Simic.

The President-Reject

He puts on a brown overcoat, shuffling toward the door, then stops abruptly. Over his shoulder, hung in a hallway, is a framed photo of himself on the cover of what appears to be the November 13, 1972, issue of Newsweek magazine -- or a News-week from a parallel universe. The headline says, "THE GREAT UPSET." Beneath those words, alongside the candidate's beaming visage at age 50, is the cover's subtitle: "President-Elect McGovern." Newsweek prepared the cover, McGovern explains, just in case he beat the odds and won the '72 race. It is one more reminder for him of what might have been.

...He strolls onto the small campus of about 700 students, a few of whom mutter hello to him on their way to classes. If he had become president, McGovern knows, it would be different. Students would crowd around him, and the Secret Service, talking into wrist radios, would be ready to pry off any huggers who wouldn't let go. There would be university officials to greet and maybe a political candidate hoping to squeeze into a photo op. "It would be hectic," McGovern says, not relishing the thought, "and it would be harder just to pick up a phone and walk over to somebody's office."

- From What Might Have Been: In which George McGovern, the senior member of a rare and burdened tribe, reveals just how long it takes to get over losing the presidency, in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine.


I AM THE WORLD'S WORST SPELLER. I have been all my life. My homework -- from Miss Pedrow's third-grade language arts class to Dr. Gurevitch's doctoral seminar in persuasion and attitude change -- all came back with the measles, solid red marks from top to bottom. "Good writing, atrocious spelling" was the verdict of just about every essay contest I ever entered (even those I won).

I don't misspell just hard words (diaphanous, anyone? soliloquy?); I misspell words like "maybe" and "because" and "famous." I misspell my own mother's name, Elfreida. My misspelling is epic. It's rich and vibrant and ever changing. It can even be fun.

"I think of them as little puzzles," my Post editor K.C. Summers once said of the find-the-funny-word challenge inherent in proofing my raw efforts.

But mostly it's just hugely embarrassing to be a professional writer who is routinely laughed out of Scrabble games. Not to mention perilous. I was put on probation at an Atlanta newspaper for causing excessive spelling trauma on deadline...

- From Why Stevie Can't Spell, in this Sunday's Washington Post Magazine.

Sonic Darko - Wake Up Barracuda: A Conspiracy of Bullshit (mp3)

I picked up the director's cut of Donnie Darko earlier this week, and as I said in an earlier post, I loved it. It loses the mystery, but gives Donnie his due as a hero. And though some of the questions are fed to the audience, more questions arise as a result. Is Frank also a hero, having known his demise at Donnie's hand, by giving Donnie a chance to save his girlfriend, or is he a selfish drunk trying to save himself? Does everyone in the end know somehow that Donnie saved them?

Here's a song featuring a clip that's in the director's cut, but was deleted from the original. The music is from Sonic Youth's Deluxe Edition of Dirty.

Turn it up. It's supposed to hurt.

Sonic Darko - Wake Up Barracuda: A Conspiracy of Bullshit (mp3)

Friday, February 18, 2005

PBS: BUBAR (Bleeped Up Beyond All Recognition)

Worried about FCC reaction, PBS is taking the words out of the mouths of some soldiers filmed during combat in Iraq.

The public broadcaster is distributing "clean" and "raw" versions of Tuesday's Frontline documentary about the Iraq war, titled A Company of Soldiers, and is warning it can't ensure member stations against FCC fines stemming from the language.

It's an example of the television industry's continued uncertainty about Federal Communications Commission standards for language and content, and a real-life echo of last fall's decision by 66 ABC affiliates not to air the movie Saving Private Ryan.

The documentary contains 13 expletives spoken by soldiers. Frontline producers decided to leave them in because it presented a true picture of how these men and women react to the fear and stress of war, said David Fanning, the show's executive producer.

...PBS decided to send the clean version out to all of its stations.

From PBS edits language in war documentary in today's Baltimore Sun.

I'm considering suing PBS for being lame, but I'm sure it will be just as good without the expletives.

M.Ward - Four Hours in Washington (mp3)

I wasn't going to do an M. Ward mp3 post, because the mp3 blog community is saturated with them already, and besides, you can stream the entire Transistor Radio album on the Merge site. It's like posting an Arcade Fire mp3.

But this is irresistable, from the opening guitar lines straight from a classic western to the drums that build in suspense, and seem to announce the arrival of an outlaw to a dusty town center. I surrender.

M. Ward - Four Hours in Washington (mp3)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Satan 101

Worried about the lure of the devil, a Vatican-linked university on Thursday debuted its latest course offering: a class on Satanism, black magic and exorcism.

The class for clergy and seminarians at Rome's Pontifical Academy "Regina Apostolorum" has arisen from alarm about Satanic practices among young people, especially in Italy.

In one case in Italy in January, eight people believed to belong to a Satanic sect were ordered to stand trial for their alleged role in three ritual killings.

One of the victims was a 19-year-old girl stabbed to death in 1998. She may have been targeted because her killers believed she was a personification of the Virgin Mary, prosecutors allege. The suspects belonged to a heavy metal band called "Beasts of Satan."

The Vatican is also concerned about a growing number of young people who develop personal forms of Satanism, outside the sects that are closely monitored by police. They often learn about the devil through the Internet.

"It's a more spontaneous and hidden phenomenon, a problem of loneliness and isolation, a problem of emptiness, that is fulfilled by the values of Satanism," said one of the teachers, Carlo Climati, a specialist on youth culture and Satanism.

From Vatican college debuts Satanism classes, in today's Baltimore Sun

Stylus Album of the Week - Bloc Party

Silent Alarm gets an A+:

Screw context, screw biography—Bloc Party have been around too short a time for either to matter. What is important is that they have a sense of adventure, romance, belief and intelligence, of art, a desire to explode preconceptions and exceed expectations that marks them out way above and beyond any of their perceived peers. Silent Alarm is a debut about desperation, about being desperately angry at injustice, about being desperately confused with the world, about being desperately in love. It sets its aim high from the off, drums deliberately mixed too loud in opener “Like Eating Glass” in order to make you fully aware that something important and intense is about to happen. Is happening.

Dude loves him some Bloc Party.


Lyrically Bloc Party are intriguing, mysterious and emotive; sonically they are intricate and explosive in equal measure. They’re rhythmically taut, aesthetically pleasing, ideologically sound and probably contain no harmful CFC gases either. Silent Alarm is an astonishing debut album and I love it. Bloc Party are the first band in eight years that I feel I can care about. The sky is wide open for them.

Dude loves him some Bloc Party.

Crooked Fingers - Twilight Creeps (mp3)

Doesn't Lara Meyerratken sing pretty.

It's not a question. Her angelic voice makes this song, adding balance to Eric Bachmann's rougher tone. She complements the piano, he the guitar. It's like a marriage, only it sounds pleasant the whole way through. From the Crooked Fingers' upcoming Dignity and Shame, on Merge.

Crooked Fingers - Twilight Creeps (mp3)

The Gold Medal of Chair Dancing

Goes to Gary Brolsma of Saddle Brook, NJ. From the NY Daily News, via LinkFilter:

A chubby New Jersey teen has become the hottest sensation on the Internet with an amateur video [give it a minute to load] of himself singing and dancing to a Romanian pop song.
Gary Brolsma, 19, who lives with his parents in Saddle Brook, has the lip-synching talent of Ashlee Simpson and the physique of the Pillsbury Doughboy.

But a clip of him manically bopping to O-Zone's international hit, "Dragostea Din Tei," which translates "Love Among the Linden Trees," has blazed through cyberspace and made him a global icon.

His derriere never leaves the chair, but he flails his arms in the air like one of the Supremes and vogues for the Web cam like Madonna.

The highlight may be the moment when he flicks his tongue at the lens. Or maybe when he raises one eyebrow twice over his wire-rimmed spectacles.

Imagine William Hung of "American Idol" channeling the Star Wars Kid - the last big cult hit in computerland - and you get the picture.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jukebox Junkies

This week's Washington City Paper cover story is about jukebox junkies in the machine's dying days:

That former ruling tribe that enjoyed a special kinship with the jukebox has seen its numbers scatter and begin to die off. They've been poached by MP3s and TV—but they're not extinct yet. There are still folk who bond with the machines, but, like the Mole People, they are hard to find. Their most sanctified gathering place, the malt shop, has like them experienced a sharp decline.

What are left of the jukebox junkies tend to accumulate in the darkest corners of town. And the torches they carry for their ancient, booming gods burn in strange ways.


The Washington Post's "Going Out Gurus" give you tips on what to do when you're in the D.C. area on their "GOG blog".

James Newton Howard, Featuring Hilary Hahn, Those We Don't Speak Of (mp3)

The Keoki gave the soundtrack to M. Night Shyamalan's The Village to me, and I was delighted to see Hilary Hahn as the featured violinist. She adds a large measure of passion to the James Newton Howard's creepy compositions. If you get the chance, see what she does for Elgar on this CD. See how she adds her own dimension to Bach on this one.

James Newton Howard Featuring Hilary Hahn - Those We Don't Speak Of (mp3)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

PJ Harvey - The Falling (mp3)

I was going to put this up yesterday, but as it's PJ Harvey, it's just a little too harsh for that. The Fallen is not as musically abrasive as the songs on Uh Huh Her, but it's far bleaker than the optimistic Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. It falls somewhere in between, which was probably why it was left off Uh Huh Her, and used as a B-side for the The Letter CD single. You'll also find it on this B-Sides CD. It would sound more at home on To Bring You My Love; its strummed acoustic guitar is reminiscent of the tragic Send His Love to Me and C'mon Billy.

Unfortunately for me, I can't help but think "that'll never be me...that'll never be me..." and "joe lies...joe lies...joe lies...when he cries" when I listen to this.

PJ Harvey - The Falling (mp3)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Love, French Style

In On Love, Michael Dirda writes about love in French literature in this Sunday's Book World:

Love, sings Carmen in Bizet's opera, is a gypsy child who has never recognized any law. Take guard against him, though it will do no good. Any of us may become his helpless, fated victim, and the old cards of the fortune-teller will alone declare our destinies. Passion leads nearly always to suffering, madness and death. Even the most respectable may grow ardent and reckless, paying no heed to consequences. Who cares about anything else when the sex is hot and sweaty and feverishly intense? There is a cost, though. When jealousy suddenly pierces us like a knife, every affair risks ending up a blood wedding.

Needless to say, Carmen isn't French.

...In fact, the French tend to be leery of mad passion; they are, after all, a practical, civilized people, brought up on Cartesian philosophy and classical alexandrines...Love is one of the cultivated pleasures of life, like good food and wine. It gives zest to the quotidian routine, adds a healthy glow to the skin, encourages one to dress well, stay in shape and keep intellectually engaged.

Obviously, such thoughtful romance is largely impossible for the young...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Blog Readability

Click here and enter your URL under "Readability of a Website" to find out whether your blog is as readable as the TV Guide, the Wall Street Journal, or academic papers. MS Word will tell you the grade level at which you're writing, but this site uses three indices and tabulates the results nicely. If you want to make your blog read at the 12th grade level, you'll have to lengthen your sentences, as well as increase the number of polysyllabic words, like atavistic or ephemera.

If you're running a music or entertainment blog, you probably want to aim for relatively low numbers to hold the attention span of your MTV-Generation audience. Cut the commas, and turn those long sentences into short, choppy ones. Cut the commas. Shorten the sentences. This review of Kings of Leon's Aha Shake Heartbreak at got a 3.67 on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level index, and a 6.33 on the Gunning-Fog index, both of which estimate the number of years of schooling required to understand the written material. This Pitchfork review scores a 6.76 and a 4.29. Fluxblog gets a 7.86 and a 4.88. Contrast with this article on competition in architectural design at Ground Zero, from the NY Review of Books, gets a 17.00 and 12.00.

It's a fun exercise to experiment with different types of pages. I entered the url for today's poem at Poetry Daily, and the Flesch-Kincaid grade was less than 5, which means that a fourth grader should have no trouble understanding it. The following passage from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass was also graded at less than 5:

1. One’s-Self I Sing

ONE’S-SELF I sing—a simple, separate Person;
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-masse.

Of Physiology from top to toe I sing;
Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the muse—I say the Form complete is worthier far;
The Female equally with the male I sing.

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful—for freest action form’d, under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.

4th grade, sure.

I was compelled to find an online readability tool by this post at First Draft by Tim Porter.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mint Royale - Little Words (mp3)

This is from Mint Royale's upcoming album, See You In The Morning, due in April. Subtle, soothing effects lead into strings and percussion to set the organic tone, a fingerpicked guitar takes the lead, then fades into a gentle voice, elements enter in layers, building into an elaborate get the idea. Very Air-ish, and though a little out of place in the cold of winter, the summer's parties will be all the better with this tune.

Mint Royale - Little Words (mp3)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Carla Bruni mp3s

All Hail Aurgasm! for this post, with these mp3s from the French-singing Italian model/songstress Carla Bruni:

Tout Le Monde (which means "All the World")
Raphael (which means "Raphael")

From her album Quelqu'Un M'a Dit

These songs are like gourmet dark chocolates and a warm crackling fireplace.

When is she going on tour?

Heartbreak Kills

Gathering all the rains
Of May,
The River Mogami rushes down
In one violent stream.


As Valentine's Day approaches, scientists have confirmed the lament of countless love sonnets and romance novels: People really can die of a broken heart, and the researchers now think they know why.

A traumatic breakup, the death of a loved one or even the shock of a surprise party can unleash a flood of stress hormones that can stun the heart, causing sudden, life-threatening heart spasms in otherwise healthy people, researchers reported yesterday.

- From Study Suggests You Can Die of a Broken Heart, in today's Washington Post

The Century of Humanity vs. Digital Emptiness

In Dallaire's final chapter, he links the forces of desperation and poverty that he saw at work in Rwanda to the rage evidenced in the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the United States. He concludes: "No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour, religion and national self-interest and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe."

This heartfelt plea provides a counterpoint to an earlier incident. Shortly before going to Rwanda, Dallaire attended the funeral of a Canadian soldier killed while on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. The soldier's father asked Dallaire to explain to him why his son had died. Dallaire said he had no answer; it did not occur to him then to talk about the good of humanity. Rwanda transformed him. He is, like most of us, a creature of his own experiences. The problem for the world, and for Dallaire's hopes, is that for all its horror, Rwanda's tragedy did not transform the world's will or capacity to carry out humanitarian interventions.

- From The Helpless General, Madeleine Albright's review of Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire's SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.

...Click. We are watching a commercial about deodorant, then a news broadcast of some hurricane in Honduras. Hundreds of men and women huddle beside crude shelters, children play in the mud. Trucks load and unload food and medical supplies.

...As I rub the sleep from my eyes, I am tempted to turn off the TV.

The truth is, I feel no connection to the faces on the screen. The Hondurans are just so many electronic pixels. I've decided that has been the great achievement of our age: to so thoroughly flood the planet with megabits that every image and fact has become a digitized disembodied nothingness. With magnificent determination, our species has advanced from the Stone Age to Industrial Revolution to Digital Emptiness. We've become weightless, in the bad sense of the word.

The Honduran women in their earth-colored shawls, the vacant men wearing their lopsided straw hats, are nothing more than bits on the screen, surges of electrical current, evaporations. I wish Shiela had never turned on the TV. I'd like to drift back to sleep, or read.

- From Reunion, by Alan Lightman (2003).

Kertesz Jewel Box

André Kertész, "Bocskay-tér, Budapest," 1914, gelatin silver print.

"Andre Kertesz" is a jewel box of an exhibition, partly because of the intimacy of the museum's photography galleries but mainly because so many of the 116 photographs on view are perfect little gems.

The earliest pictures, taken between 1912 and 1924 when Kertesz lived in Budapest, are vintage prints barely two inches tall and an inch and a half wide. Toned a warm brown (presumably a result of their age) and minutely detailed, they invite us to be charmed.

And charming they are. Some are conventional landscapes and genre scenes, but others come from the front lines of World War I where Kertesz served as a soldier of the Austro-Hungarian army. Here Kertesz's knack for lyricism first shines forth. What could conceivably have been a crude subject -- four soldiers visiting a makeshift field latrine -- instead seems sweet, even sentimental.

-From Andre Kertesz: Photographs With Time's Warm Patina, in Tuesday's Washington Post

Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Nature of Pho

For the fifth or sixth time in less than a week, I am driving through the Lion Arch at the Eden Center in Falls Church, the commercial heart of Washington's Vietnamese American community. At my side, a worn canvas tote bag contains several plastic to-go containers filled with soup.

In the buildup to the Lunar New Year, I am delivering my version of Vietnam's traditional beef noodle soup, pho (pronounced fuh), for tasting by chefs and merchants who grew up eating it.

Pho is supposed to be simple. But so far, the response to my efforts threatens to drive me round the bend.

"Too much spice," says one Vietnamese expert.

"Not enough spice," says another.

"Too much beef."

"Not enough beef."

"The problem," opines one restaurant owner, "is not enough depth."

Who knew this steaming soup, swimming with rice noodles, filled with heaps of cilantro and other herbs, could stir such different opinions? Yet, such is the nature of pho...

- From How's the Pho? - One Man Gets Passionate Feedback About His Version of Vietnam's Favorite Soup, in the Washington Post

Love Potion I'll Decline

Martha McClintock and Natasha Spencer, psychologists at the University of Chicago, may have found chemical compounds that increase female sexual motivation. Strangely, the potion comes not from hunky men but from breast-feeding women and their infants.

Studying the mechanism behind this effect could yield new treatments for women with low libidos and further establish the reality of human pheromones. The treatments are still a long way off, McClintock warns...Meanwhile, she is also pondering the evolutionary significance of her discovery. “For most of human history, fertility was limited by the environmental conditions and food available to potential mothers,” McClintock says. “A successful birth nearby would have been the best signal to infertile women that it was a good time to get pregnant.”

-from There’s Nothing Sexier Than a . . . Nursing Mom? in

One problem. If the experimental subjects knew what the compounds were and where they came from, they might have been weirded out and turned off. I'd have to be beyond desperate before I rub eau de nipcharge on my neck.

Hank Collective - Be True to Your School (Beach Boys cover) (mp3)

It's short, but it will make you smile for the entire 1:39. With the obligatory 80's style synth opening the song, and not much more added after vocals, it's deceivingly spare. According to Hank Collective's 25 November 2004 news post, "Our newest completed number (if we had enough money, we'd release it and call it our New Single) is a cover of the Beach Boys classic Be True To Your School"

Hank Collective - Be True to Your School (mp3)

I got this and many more mp3s here, including God Slick (mp3).

Check out their spiffy album covers page.

Also, from an interview at

Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? My name is Cab Williamson and I live well. I am here because they threw me out of the United Kingdom. I am speaking to you at the moment, but soon I will be venturing outside to buy some fruit. You need fruit in your life. Ask any doctor.
Who/how many people now comprise the Hank Collective? What are their roles? The nature of the Collective means that there’s an ever-changing roster of participants willing to sacrifice their self-esteem and stand up on stage next to me as I bask in glory. Actually, in many ways they are Hank. They’re more than co-vocalists. Have you seen the way they dance? Yeah, very provocative. At the minute we’re rehearsing with Isaac, Paige, Day, Angela and KB.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Kournikova Stalked

A homeless man was charged with stalking and burglary after swimming nude across Biscayne Bay in search of tennis star Anna Kournikova's waterfront residence and getting caught near her neighbor's home...

Police said William Lepeska screamed, "Anna! Save me!" as he was taken away Jan. 30...

Lepeska, 40, who sports an "Anna" tattoo on his right biceps, was found near the swimming pool of a house three doors from Kournikova's $5 million home...

Police said Lepeska acknowledged that he spent several months searching for her address on the Internet and swam nude 200 yards after locating it...

Lepeska was also charged with exposing himself in the presence of a child after the 3-year-old daughter of Kournikova's neighbor saw him "laid out spread eagle in a very lewd manner" on a lawn chair by the pool.

from Man Accused of Stalking Anna Kournikova a Yahoo! Sports Headline.

Sports?? Maybe he swam the 200 yards in record time to see Anna.

What an idiot. I mean, come on...shrinkage, you fool!

Gender Imbalances in Science

When I was an undergraduate in the early 1970s, I was assigned a classic paper published in Scientific American that began: "There is an experiment in psychology that you can perform easily in your home. ... Buy two presents for your wife, choosing things ... she will find equally attractive." Just ten years after those words were written, the author's blithe assumption that his readers were male struck me as comically archaic. By the early '70s, women in science were no longer an oddity or a joke but a given...

Yet to hear the reaction to Harvard President Lawrence Summers's remarks at a conference on gender imbalances in science, in which he raised the possibility of innate sex differences, one might guess that he had proposed exactly that. Nancy Hopkins, the eminent MIT biologist and advocate for women in science, stormed out of the room to avoid, she said, passing out from shock...

From THE SCIENCE OF DIFFERENCE. Sex Ed, by Steven Pinker, in the New Republic Online.

Owen Pallett Answers Your Final Fantasy Questions


I'm launching a Final Fantasy specific website. It's

It will have: ways you can buy merchandise! Exclusive MP3s and videos! Drawings of trolls!

It's going to be illustrated by my wonderful roommate John McCurly.

When? Very soon. This week or next week.

If you would like to buy the Final Fantasy CD (or Les Mouches CDs), visit:


The Final Fantasy CD won't ship for another week or so, I'm doing up a lyric book.

Lyrics will be also posted on the new website.

There are no immediate plans for any local Final Fantasy or Les Mouches shows because I want to finish a couple of 7"s and start rehearsing Les Mouches again.

Final Fantasy mp3s

Two more Final Fantasy mp3s, but this is it, no more, and I'm taking them down this Friday. I'm trying to not be excessive. Saturday is, of course, the release date for Has a Good Home, which I urge you to order now. Buy it for your Valentine and I guarantee you will get laid.

This is the Dream of Win and Regine (mp3) is about guess-who. Please Please Please (mp3) is an octave-jumping adventure, but the highlight for me is the rest after the repeated line "Give me your hands" at 1:17, followed by a euphoria-inducing crescendo from there to 1:25.

That should round out your homemade CD-single. I'll post a link to the image of the homemade cd album cover later this afternoon.

One more thing...

Peach, Plum, Pear (Joanna Newsom cover) (mp3) from (Holy SHIT it's good)

HERE are the JPGs of the cover and liner notes for Has a Good Home.

Kills and Bloc Party mp3s

Kills mp3s from No Wow, here.

Bloc Party mp3s from Silent Alarm, here.

That should hold you over until you get your copies.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Barron's Guide to Electronic Music

Anne Francis of "Forbidden Planet"
gets stroked by Robby the Robot

The 1956 sci-fi thriller Forbidden Planet was the first major motion picture to feature an all-electronic film score -- a soundtrack that predated synthesizers and samplers. It was like nothing the audience had seen -- or heard. The composers were two little-known and little-appreciated pioneers in the field of electronic music, Louis and Bebe Barron.

Married in 1947, the Barrons received a tape recorder as a wedding gift. They used it to record friends and parties, and later opened one of the first private sound studios in America.

-from The Barrons: Forgotten Pioneers of Electronic Music

HIV and Black Women

He was, Precious Jackson said, a very fine black man. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall with an almond-milk complexion, dreamy dark eyes and a deep voice. During their nearly two years together in Los Angeles, he was the sunshine of her life, even though he had a habit of landing in jail and refused to use a condom when they made love.

"I didn't ask him any questions," Jackson said in a recent interview. "I didn't ask him about his sexual history. I asked him if he had been tested, and he said one test came back positive but another one came back negative. I was excited to have this man in my life, because I felt I needed this man to validate who I was."...

From U.S. HIV Cases Soaring Among Black Women, in today's Washington Post.

mp3 - Al Dexter - Pistol Packin' Mama

From the Handbook of Texas Online:

Clarence Albert Poindexter, country and western singer known as Al Dexter, was born in Jacksonville, Texas, in 1902. While working as a house painter, Dexter began performing in local bars and clubs...In the late 1930s Dexter owned a honky tonk himself, called the Roundup Club in Turnertown, Texas. Through his experiences there and in other roadhouses, Dexter developed the idea for his future hit, "Pistol Packin' Mama."...The record was released in 1943 and in its first six months sold one million copies. The song "Pistol Packin' Mama," a controversial number due to its lyrics, remained at Number One on Billboard Magazine's best sellers chart for eight weeks.

From the Nashville Songwriters Foundation Hall of Fame:

Inspiration for "Pistol Packin' Mama" came from a waitress in a roadhouse Dexter owned in the East Texas oilfields (song was written partly on a paper napkin); she was chased through a barbed wire fence by the gun-toting wife of the man she was seeing.

From Pistol Packin' Mama:

I’ll see you every night, babe,
I’ll woo you every day.
I’ll be your reg’lar daddy
If you put that gun away.

Lay that pistol down, babe,
Lay that pistol down.
Pistol packin’ mama,
Lay that pistol down.

Al Dexter - Pistol Packin' Mama (mp3)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Channel - Black (ogg)

Here's Black, a Will Oldham cover by The Channel, from their new album, Personalized. It starts out as a sweet, standard pop song, then enter some standard Brian Wilson-influenced harmonizing, and just when you thought you had an idea of how the song would end, they hit you with the junk, shortly before minute guessed it, minute two. These days, that seems to be the universal magic moment at which you throw your junk into your pop song to make it more distinguishing. Do the Channels overdo it here? I don't think so. The junk here is the highlight of the song.

I'm posting the .ogg file instead of the mp3, because my converter screws up the song at the same point every time I try it. So you'll have to listen with your Winamp or other .ogg reader.

The Channel - Black (ogg)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Absorbent and Yellow and Tolerant is He!

I received an "urgent" e-mail message today with a link to this letter from Dr. James Dobson.

Here's a paragraph from the letter:

I’m sure you can see, now, why I expressed great concern about the intention of the We Are Family Foundation in using SpongeBob and company to promote the theme of "tolerance and diversity," which are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy. It seems evident that had this connection not been exposed, the materials accompanying the video would have promoted a pro-homosexual ideology. Again, why do I believe that? Simply put, it’s because the past is often the best predictor of the future. In addition to the above material, a 2003 manual, produced in partnership with the We Are Family Foundation, featured exercises that attempted to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics, such as race or gender.

Imagine my delight when I came across this pic of Spongebob and Patrick on the Lifeteen of the Rockies youth ministry website:

Arcade Fire Video With David Byrne, Wolf Parade mp3s, Go! Team mp3, Kills mp3

A treasure of great media from the last couple of days:

Said the Gramophone has two Wolf Parade tracks from their CBC session.

Stereogum linked to this page, where you can download this poor quality, jiggly, but charming home video of David Byrne singing Naive Melody with the Arcade Fire.

Angels Twenty has a BBC Radio 1 performance of Ladyflash.

The reliable TTIKDA has Run Home Slow, a new Kills mp3 from No Wow.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

mp3 - Low

In Napster's heyday, and after its demise, when mp3s started to be sold online, music prophets declared that the death of the album is nigh. Others have refuted the doomsaying.

Hold on just a sec...I'm listening to WXYC, and they're playing Lou Reed's Take a Walk On the Wild Side, which is unremarkable, except that I can hear the noises that you only get from a needletip on vinyl. Ahhhh, it is so good, you have no idea.

But that's a dead topic about the death of another format, so back to my point.

I agree with the skeptics. The album wont die; there are too many people who care about it. I usually hate categorizing people, but I think you can generally fit music buyers into two groups: those who buy albums for a song, and those who are compelled to hear more. The first group pops a disc in, hits a button until that one track is up, listens to maybe one more track, and ejects. The latter group gives a good album the proper listen that it deserves. Each song is broken up into its components in the listener's head, then put back together one by one: the lyrics, the voice, drums, bass line, you get the idea. The listener can then see how the tracks fit together on the album to make a cohesive whole or a disjunctive mess. The second group is thus rewarded by achieving a greater understanding of the music and musician, which allows for greater enjoyment of the music.

The first group will download the single mp3 to avoid buying the album. The second group will buy the pre-released mp3 albums because they either can't wait for the official release date, or they can't find it at their usually reliable local record store and can't wait for it to arrive in the mail. This second group will keep the album alive.

I'm posting this track from Low's 2005 album, The Great Destroyer, because it's not a single. It's one of those songs that digs into you the more you let your album play. The song sounds like a lullaby, sung slowly in steady voices, and with the best ironic use of a heartbeat rhythm since Pink Floyd's Brain Dead/Eclipse (yes I did!!), but the irony of the these three lines leaves you with the cold feeling of being watched by a menacing God:

So what, pray tell
Will save you now?
Here comes that cold sunrise

It's more downbeat than most of the other tracks, but consistent with the album's ominous tone. What say I, you ask? You'll just have to listen to the CD yourself. The whole thing, more than once.

Low - Cue the Strings (mp3)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Evil Dead Minus Bruce Campbell

Come and get some.

From Evil Dead Remake Talk in Now Playing magazine:

The 1981 Evil Dead was the ultra-low budget horror flick that first got the Spider-Man director noticed. Now Raimi, producer Rob Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell are moving ahead with a proposed redux of the film. And for starters, Tapert has confirmed with Now Playing that Campbell will not be appearing as Ash, the idiot-hero of the original films.

Ash: [talking to mirror] I'm fine... I'm fine...
[Mirror Ash jumps out of the mirror and grabs Ash]
Mirror Ash: I don't think so. We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound "fine"?
(Evil Dead 2)

Just as frightening:

It’s already been established that Raimi will not be directing the remake either, but that he, Tapert and Campbell are looking for a fresh perspective on the series.

Ash: You bastards! Why are you torturing me like this? Why? (Evil Dead)

“[We’re] talking to various filmmakers about their possible interest, and it’s still in the germination stage,” says Tapert. “There are people who we would like to give a chance to create their own vision as to what Evil Dead is, so we’re kind of hearing what other people’s take might be and moving forward along those lines.”

Tapert explains that he and his partners are not just looking for a copycat Sam Raimi to make the film either, but rather they hope to find someone who can make the premise fun again even for the Dead creators themselves.

[Upon gaining the chain saw in place of his lost right hand]
Ash: Groovy. (Evil Dead 2)

mp3 - Moaners

My last few mp3 posts have been less rocking than usual. Let me correct that here with a song that we can all relate to during those special moments when we just want to be left the hell alone. I give you The Moaners.

The Moaners - Too Many People (mp3)

Also get mp3s for Terrier and Heart Attack from But it can be a SLOOOW download.

MTV Smut Peddlers

Conservative watchdog group Parents Television Council blasted MTV as "smut peddlers" Tuesday, accusing the music cable network of targeting young viewers with oversexed programming.


"There's no question that TV influences the attitudes and perceptions of young viewers, and MTV is deliberately marketing its raunch to millions of innocent children," PTC president L. Brent Bozell said.


An MTV spokeswoman said, "It's just unfortunate that Mr. Bozell has yet again attempted to unfairly and unaccurately paint MTV with a brush of irresponsibility around sexual and violent content. The report underestimates young people's level of intellect and sophistication."

-from Report Rips MTV 'Smut' Aimed at Teens

She has a point there. Many young people are intellectual and sophisticated. But you won't find them walking out among the Reality MTV manure, or watching any of the station's infinite fuming shitpile of lame commercial dung. I do admit, though, that I check out a video or two online from time to time.

I remember when MTV was so innocent, so young, so fullscreen, and so much more dark and unlame than it is today.

Read the PTC report here.

Here's an excerpt of the report:

Foul Language

Examples of foul language on reality shows:

Making the Band 3/25/04 10:00 p.m.

Fred: “I say the [bleeped ‘fuck’] what I want to say to you or your [bleeped ‘mother’] fucking husband. Your [bleeped ‘fucking’] husband’s going to get my money before tonight so I can get my shirt. [Bleeped ‘Fuck’] both of ya’ll. [Bleeped ‘Fuck’] that. I was going to say this. If you gotta go home to your kids, let us know cuz we a group. All that [bleeped ‘fuck’] Fred shit.”

Sara: “I didn’t say [bleeped ‘fuck’] Fred. Didn’t nobody say that. I never said that. What the [bleeped ‘fuck’] are you talking about man?”

Fred: “You know what I’m gonna [bleeped ‘fucking’] do? I’m gonna [bleeped ‘fucking’] show you Fred . . . I got [bleeped ‘fucking’] kids.”

Ness: “Shut the [bleeped ‘fuck’] up [bleeped ‘mother fucker’]. Shut the [bleeped ’fuck‘] up [bleeped ‘mother fucker’].”

Sara: "What the [bleeped ‘fuck’] is he saying [bleeped ‘fucking’] Fred for, I never said that [bleeped ‘shit’].”

Making the Video – D12 My Band 3/22/04 11:30 p.m.

Eminem films the limo scene. Two women wearing tiny dresses are in the scene. Eminem says, "They [bleeped ‘fucking’] want me. They [bleeped ‘fucking’] want me, dude. I [bleeped ‘fucking’] rap, dude. I [bleeped ‘fucking’] rap."

The PTC website also has "The Worst TV Clip of the Week" in the right sidebar, which comes with this warning:

WARNING: Graphic Content!!!
Do NOT push play if you don't want to see the explicit video!!!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

iTunes Exclusive Beck EP

I strongly urge you to purchase the iTunes Exclusive Beck EP, Hell Yes. Is it that good? Hell. YES.

32% Evil and Rising (or Falling?)

This site is certified 32% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Our blog is going to burn in the flaming pits of hell.

We're evil, and we're not even trying.

Thanks to my demon loving, chicken blood drinking, virgin defiling friend RC666 for the link.

mp3s - Final Fantasy

Owen Pallett, of les Mouches, joined violinist Sara Nuefeld during the Arcade Fire concert at the 9:30 this Sunday. Sara, who I ended up standing in front of for the entire show, plays with passion and precision, besides having an absolutely perfect right armpit. Together, their violins sang with a sweet resonance that stole the show at times.

Owen's side project, "Final Fantasy," which he calls his "solo violin project," opened for the Arcade Fire. I hate to make this comparison, but you know how Jimmy Page worked the guitar? That's how Owen works the violin. He makes sounds that you never thought would come from a violin. The debut album, Has a Good Home, is out in February, available here.

Furniture is the fourth track from Has a Good Home. If David Byrne and Stephen Merritt mated and had a love-child, it would make music like this. I'm being serious, and it's a compliment. It's smart, witty, and melodic. So is the fifth track, The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead, which features a dizzying violin solo right at minute 2. See him live if you get the chance. The album is good, but you've got to see him play to appreciate fully appreciate his genius.

Final Fantasy - Furniture (mp3)
Final Fantasy - The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead (mp3)


"Here's to the winners," Frank Sinatra used to sing, belting out Joe Raposo's lyrics as only a winner can. "Here's to the winners all of us can be." Right, and if you believe that, have I got a bridge for you. One of the truths of human existence is that, to one degree or another, all of us are born losers -- in the end, of course, everyone loses, even Michael Jordan and Donald Trump -- and that coming to terms with disappointment, accepting the inevitability of it, is one of life's inescapable challenges. Kris Kristofferson, not Raposo, got it right: "Nobody wins."

-from Jonathan Yardley's review of BORN LOSERS: A History of Failure in America, by Scott A. Sandage, in Sunday's Book World

Sexy Kills Video

I tried to check it out the last couple days, but all I got when I went to their website was "bandwidth exceeded." Randy at ALotOfNothingness tipped me that it's working now. The new Kills album will be out March 8th, and dammit, you're buying it, and here's their arousing video for their rousing rocker, The Good Ones. By the way, they're touring. They'll be at the Black Cat in D.C. on April 13th.