December 2005 Archives

although actually

| | Comments (0) favorite song of 2005 would be "Theme from Ocean Wonders Aquarium model 2" (hit the "music" button to hear a little of it). And I'm still wondering who wrote it, and what it's actually called.

that's how we roll

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I've been waylaid for the last few days by the Inevitable Winter Cold, in all its phlegmatic glory, but also by my Chanukah present from Lisa: a PS2 and Katamari Damacy. Sterling is now officially a Katamari orphan. This afternoon, as I was taking him out for a constitutional in his stroller, I saw a couple of orange-and-white-striped signs guarding a hole in the sidewalk, and found myself thinking: "hmm, he's probably still too small to be able to roll those up..."

I have an ambivalent relationship to listmaking at the best of times, and sometimes begrudge making best-of-the-year lists before the year's actually ended--you never know when you're going to hear something significant on New Year's Eve, say. But what the hell: it's up at ILX already:

Your Pazz & Jop albums ballot was submitted as follows:

1. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem - Capitol (16)
2. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema - Matador (14)
3. Various Artists - One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost
and Found - Rhino (12)
4. The Fall - The Complete Peel Sessions - Sanctuary (12) (although perhaps I should just direct you to this site and say you really want to hit "download" for "Me and Yer Granny on Bongos")
5. Sufjan Stevens - Come On Feel the Illinoise - Asthmatic Kitty (11)
6. Judee Sill - Dreams Come True - Water (9)
7. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods - Sub Pop (8)
8. Various Artists - You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots
of Country Music - Sony Legacy (7)
9. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree - 4AD (6)
10. Princess Superstar - My Machine - !K7 (5)

Your Pazz & Jop singles ballot was submitted as follows:

1. Supersystem - Everybody Sings - Touch and Go (listen here)
2. The Legendary K.O. - George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People - no
label (listen here)
3. The White Stripes - Walking With a Ghost - V2
4. The Juan Maclean - Tito's Way - Astralwerks (see the video here)
5. Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To - Epic
6. Ying Yang Twins - Wait (The Whisper Song) - TVT
7. Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre - Life After Sundown - Troubleman
8. Teenage Fanclub - It's All In My Mind - Merge (stream it here)
9. Melt-Banana - Sweeper - Sounds of Subterrania
10. Fireball - Arsonist - High Roller Society

knot the foundations

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It's good to have little goals for oneself; it's good to reach them. After two years of nibbling away at it, I am finally, finally freaking done with Rising Up and Rising Down--finished reading the last couple of scraps, notably the completely terrifying chapter on Madagascar, "The Jealous Ones," this week. I'm very, very glad to have read the unabridged version, even though it probably led me to drive a couple of my friends batty by talking about it for so long. And now, of course, I have the urge to find a way to teach a class that would let me assign at least the "Moral Calculus" section.

Of all the series that are going away in the post-Infinite Crisis purge, the one I'm saddest to see end is Gotham Central, which played to both Greg Rucka's and Ed Brubaker's strengths as writers, had a distinctive visual style, used the DC Universe as the backdrop for consistently entertaining police-procedural stories that couldn't have worked without it, and naturally sold horribly--a bit over 17,000 copies a month, by the end. The idea was that it was set at a police station in Gotham City, where the cops have to deal with the usual street crime and internal corruption, but also with costumed vigilantes who probably do them more good than harm but are really tough to work with anyway. (My favorite storyline was probably the recent one where a teenage boy in a Robin costume is found dead. Is it the real Robin? Obviously not, but the cops have no way of knowing that, and the fact that Batman shows up, says he's taking care of it, and disappears again doesn't help. Then another dead kid in a Robin costume turns up...) Was the problem that there wasn't enough boom-boom action? Or not enough spandex? Or that a lesbian Latina cop as a lead character was a hard sell for the fanboys?

Anyway, I'm glad to hear that the cop in question, Renée Montoya, will be one of the protagonists of the forthcoming weekly series 52, but the leaked preview that's been going around-- "Down-on-her-luck Montoya will see her bed become a revolving door of lovers -- one of whom will make her mark on the DCU before all is said and done"--makes me want to pretend the series ended last month, with Montoya and Allen making it back home safely. Also, the bed-as-revolving-door image just makes me imagine people landing on the floor, or getting their capes caught.

Karaoke report: needed to get out of the house Tuesday night, and figured this was really the only week of the year where I could get away with Culturcide's "Santa Claus Was My Lover" (the original can be heard here, or should that be "original" in quotation marks?). Luckily enough, just as I took the stage, a couple of folks wearing (respectively) a Santa hat and some glittery reindeer antlers came in, and gave me some visual assistance.

comics quote of the week

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From Plastic Man #19 (and can anybody explain to me why nobody bought this series? WHY DO YOU HATE FUN?!): "I learned that trick watching tapes of the old Ali-Superman fight."

marshall and kristin

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You know, when I said a while back that a greatest-hits album by Eminem was something I was really looking forward to (actually I was hoping it'd be called something like Em1nem: 30 #1 Hits), I was thinking of the Em of "My Name Is" and "The Real Slim Shady" and "Forgot About Dre" and "Dead Wrong," etc.--not the grim 'n' gritty "mature" "peacemaker" of "Mockingbird" and "Like Toy Soldiers," and ESPECIALLY not the witless going-door-to-door-trying-to-shock-people husk behind "Fack," which, as Ryan Schreiber notes, is the worst song of the year made by somebody who used to be a major artist. And it's the first song on the album. Also, shouldn't this have been the one called Encore?

In happier news, Kristin Hersh's very loud and very fine band 50footwave has decided to release their new EP for free, just to see what happens. And a little digging around on this thread should reveal a very nice Festivus present from the DFA folks: three discs' worth of mixes by James Murphy & Juan Maclean.

my love is bigger than your love! SING IT!

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You know, just when you think that the idea of the classical music snob who disguises his contempt for lower-class music as amused tolerance is nothing but a strawman, along comes a blog post like this one from Alex Baker. Alex Ross, who linked to it (and highlights a very perceptive phrase about what's sapping classical music's cultural power, "a wave of anti-intellectualism from the right combined with a wave of antagonism towards the western tradition from the left"), writes "yawn on the pop-classical wargames." But I can't quite leave my reaction to Baker's post at a yawn.

For instance, Baker writes:

My mother was telling me stories she heard recently about how Evgeny Kissin, during the intermissions to his recitals, finds a piano backstage and continues practicing--this, a man who has probably practiced no less than 4 hours on any given day in his conscious existence. This makes me impressed by Evgeny Kissin, and the monomanical devotion that classical artists have for their craft. But I don't want to hear that this is what Bono does backstage during U2 halftimes. The man is a rock and roll star. He should be blowing lines or doing groupies or solving African poverty or something. I have no doubt he's an extremely talented musician and he writes very good songs, but the two just aren't comparable in terms of infinite technical craftsmanship, NOR SHOULD THEY BE.

So, wait: why don't you want to hear it? If a rock musician is monomaniacally devoted to craft, does that mean he or she doesn't count, somehow? Is the idea that all popular music ought to be totally spontaneous, proceeding from "talent" that doesn't take any effort to hone, and not from, say, artists working incredibly hard to make something that's meaningful and powerful, even if it comes off as effortless? (Do you think U2 just kind of show up at the recording studio every couple of years, grab some instruments, flick on their innate star quality for a couple of hours, and then go home to count their money?)

A little later on, Baker writes:

If [Sandow] thinks rock music is all about an authentic passion that somehow eludes classical music, I would invite him to come to one of our many fine clubs in Williamsburg and prove to me that 50 percent of the experience isn't just feelin' cool and enjoying the ambiance of the other dour hipsters. Live music is a social experience and it comes with a healthy dose of superficial environmental factors that have little to do with the actual music. That's fine. But let's not pretend like people that go to rock music don't have their own petty reasons for doing so. I mean...please.

This is one of the most tedious (and nonfalsifiable) my-taste-is-better-than-your-taste arguments: "you can't actually like that stuff, can you?" (Extra points off for that sneering apostrophe.) People's aesthetics come from all sorts of places, but bad faith is not generally one of them--especially among people who actively seek out music in performance. Tu quoque at best.

One thing I often find odd in conversations like Sandow and Baker's is discussions of how the "classical tradition" (equated with, inevitably, all of its institutions) can, or should, be saved--the tone is generally one of trying to preserve the Library of Alexandria from Visigoths, or woodworm, or something. Baker, very smartly, suggests considering it a "tradition in flux." But painting people who admire music outside of that tradition and those institutions as Visigoths and woodworm might have something to do with their antagonism, or (more likely, and more to the point) their indifference.

get my hat off the rack

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Spent most of the time since my last post on a great big boat with Lisa, Sterling and the in-laws. It's difficult to say anything about cruises that "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" didn't cover, so I'll only note: it's a lot like being in the world's tiniest hotel room, within the world's biggest airplane, except that there's also an enormous amount of pretty good food, and a significant concentration of drunk teenagers. And lots of drinking/performance lounges, all of which seemed to be named after Broadway musicals: "A Chorus Line" I can see, but "Paint Your Wagon"? And ping-pong tables; thanks to my disreputable backhand, there is currently a lonely little white ball floating somewhere on the surface of the Caribbean. Also, inevitably, karaoke. (For the record: "I'm a Believer" with the lounge's house band, "The Rock the Boat Band," went over decently--a drunk teenager saw me the next day and said "are you gonna do that Shrek song again?"; "Cruel To Be Kind" was a terrible idea for this crowd.)

Weirdest interlude of the trip was definitely the day on Cococay, the island owned by the cruise company. The thing is, Cococay isn't really a place--there's really nothing of itself about it. Every square meter of it is meant to evoke the experience of "being on an island in the Caribbean"--just not this island in the Caribbean, specifically--down to the guy who has a job I can't imagine anyone not getting sick of within the first hour: wandering up and down the beach with a tray, yelling "Island drinks! Is-land drinks!" I mean, white sand beach, pretty ocean, baby on my chest, cold lemonade at hand, nothing to complain about there, and not that there's any culture indigenous to what I'm sure was an uninhabited chunk of rock before the terraformers showed up. Just... could the cruise line maybe have thought about coming up with something that would hint at an identity of its own? As much as Virgin Atlantic's Rian Hughes-animated safety announcement, or The Village's typeface, or...

Fascinating conversation with my old co-worker Cheryl today. She's now working at a company that prepares ringtones for mobile phone companies, and notes that there are certain specific lengths that various kinds of phone tones need to be, and that the smart pop people right now are writing hooks to precisely those lengths. "'Hung Up'? That's one of them. Even the title of that song: 'I'm hanging up on you!'"

Winner of this week's comics batch: GLX-mas Special, which includes a scene in which MODOK yells "NOT THE FACE!"


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Yeah I know I know. Currently posting from a hotel in Miami, where I'm on a Top! Secret! Mission!, and have just found the secret code that allows me to access all those messages I've been waiting to get about how much I deserve a "solid executive time teller" &c. I'm incommunicado until the middle of next week; in the meantime, bask in the radiance of Scott Baio.

the other side of the finish line

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Happy December. How'd everyone's NaSoAlMo album go? If you finished yours, let me know and I'll put a big red "WINNER!" beside your name on the site. 15 winners so far! If you put up MP3s of it, I'll post a link; if you want to put up MP3s but don't have the server space, drop me a line and I'll try to hook you up.

Yes, I finished my solo album this year. No, I'm not making it public--I respect all of you too much. But here's the contents of "Fortress" (total time: 30 minutes and change):

Master of Timing
- What if math-rock bands forgot how to count?
Stardust for the Zoos
- So sensitive. So sensitive.
Secret Secret Service
- Redolent of the resin scraped from the very bottom of They Might Be Giants' discard pile; does, however, obey Attitude & Couture's dictum that all songs should be about espionage
Positive Gain
- Put down the flange pedal. Step away from the flange pedal
Top Hat Blues
- Somebody seems to really like Dylan's "Summer Days," hmm?
Whose Lawes We Keep
- A bit like a flu-ridden Elliott Smith doing an interminable, unfunny parody of Painful-era Yo La Tengo. Except longer. Much, much longer
Noon Chorus
- You know, the Oblique Strategies aren't necessarily always a good idea to use
Art or Arse? (You Be the Judge)
- A cover of a song by Thee Headcoats; since I couldn't make out most of the words, I made up new, very mean ones about people I like and admire, then sang them through so much distortion that they're now unintelligible anyway

Recent karaoke update: "The One On the Left Is On the Right" cinchy but got blank stares, "Back To Life" catastrophic, "Beautiful World" cathartic & decent despite its very long intro and outro, "Ignition Remix" a definite winner. Chelsey did a pellucid "You Needed Me," and we seem to have befriended a regular who often sings "Silent Lucidity." There will apparently be a staff-of-Chopsticks vs. Portland Mercury karaoke showdown soon, and I am PSYCHED for Chopsticks' revenge.