Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Make me dance, I want to surrender

Dang, I need to steal some of Stuart Murdoch's moves:

(See also: 2:25 in the below video)

Anybody care to guess what album I am eagerly awaiting?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dear Radio Stations:

I don't know if you're aware of this, but Big Boi recently put out his long-awaited solo album, and it's really, really good:

Plus, this song by Robyn is just insanely catchy:

But I guess if you just want to keep playing "California Gurls" on a constant loop, that's up to you.

(Is it too much for me to hope that the title of Katy Perry's upcoming album will give Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House an unexpected sales bump due to mis-typed Amazon searches?)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Where Did I Go?

Boy, I haven't written anything for a while, have I? Anyway, I thought I might create the illusion that I've been insanely busy lately by recounting the two vaguely notable things I've done lately. Enjoy!

I'm not what I would call a She & Him fan. Sure, the lead singles off of their first two albums were insanely catchy, and I have the requisite indie-crush on Zooey Deschanel, but I never felt much need to delve any deeper than that. So my attendance at their concert last Friday night wasn't due to some burning desire to see them, but more because I hadn't been to a show in a long time, tickets were fairly cheap, and it was a nice night to see a concert on Penn's Landing. In any case, I ended up having a pretty good time. It wasn't exactly revelatory, but it was entirely pleasant music to hear on a warm summer night. In addition to their own songs, they played some welcome covers -- Joni Mitchell's "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" and a rollicking "Roll Over Beethoven" (sung by M. Ward).

I didn't take many picture because I was afraid Zooey would beat me up. Also, I was really far away.
You see these people? They all want to marry Zooey.
Hey, wow! A light source!

In case you're wondering, the number of drinks required to make it possible to dance to any She & Him song is 5.

The opening act was Jolie Holland, who is, as far as I can tell, no relation to Jools Holland. I wasn't paying especially close attention, so I can't offer an informed opinion on her music. Then again, the same could be said for the rest of the crowd, judging by the low-level roar of conversation and the girl standing near me who was playing a game of "count the straw-hat-wearing hipsters." (Answer: many!)

Was so drunk that I was taking pictures in a bar? You decide!

After the show, I walked over to National Mechanics, where I moved in a fashion reminiscent of a man suffering from some mental or muscular disorder.

Then on Wednesday, I went to the Phillies game against the Braves with some co-workers, which was fun. I hadn't been to a baseball game since 2004, when Citizen's Bank Park had just opened, and had forgotten what a different experience it is seeing a a game in person versus watching it on TV. Basically, when I'm in the stands at a ballpark, I don't have to option to open my laptop, or read a magazine, or flip to another channel, or do any of the other things that conspire to keep me from watching a baseball game all the way through. Also, unlike the last game I saw, the Phils hit a couple of home runs, so I got to see the big Liberty Bell swing back and forth.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of minor things that lessened my enjoyment of the game. Record-breaking heat, for one. Also, I had some nachos that didn't really agree with me. I've never gotten so drunk or hung-over that I swore off alcohol, but by the time I went to bed I swore multiple times that I would never again order ballpark nachos (and if you know my affection for nachos, you'll understand what a sacrifice this is). Also, the Phillies lost. But there will be more games this season; the loss of the nachos is something far more tragic.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rocket Symphony

Step 1: Click the play button to listen to a portion of Philip Glass's score for Koyaanisqatsi:

Step 2: Once the music starts, open this time-lapse video of the space shuttle being prepped for launch in a new browser window/tab.

Step 3: Enjoy.

(There is an optional "Get high" step that you can add in there somewhere if you prefer.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

All the White Girls Trip When I Sing at Sunday Service

In a year that has seen new albums by The Hold Steady, the National and (next week) LCD Soundsystem, it's to my great surprise that the two records that I've immediately fallen in love with are from a Jack White side project (I like the White Stripes just fine, but would never call them one of my favorite bands) and a Pitchfork-hyped duo that traffics in loudness and distortion. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sea of Cowards by the Dead Weather and Treats by Sleigh Bells, my favorite albums of 2010.

Some words of warning: Sea of Cowards is great for anyone who likes sludgy rock, but Sleigh Bells are not going to be for everyone. Be sure your speakers/headphones are set to a reasonable volume, and if you don't like what you hear at first, skip to "Rill Rill," the song least likely to cause offense.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Theologians, They Don't Know Nothing 'Bout Wilco's Soul

A retro-soul cover of one of the more dour songs on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a tricky proposition. At one end of the spectrum, it could end up like one of those tiresome ironic punk or ska cover songs that were all the rage a decade ago.

At the other end of the spectrum, it could be this:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Batmania Begins

I simply cannot believe that I've gone this long without knowing that Melbourne, Australia was founded by none other than Batman. And that there are numerous streets, parks, and other places throughout the country named after Batman.

Sadly, Batman died of syphilis at the age of 37.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I'm Into These Days: Drawings Edition

The idea behind Axe Cop is so simple that it's shocking no one thought to do it before: the stories are written by a six-year-old with a hyperactive imagination, then illustrated by his 29-year-old brother, with all of the strange logic, randomly appearing and disappearing characters, and bizarre plotting intact. Read it now, before the author gets old enough that he starts trying to make sense.

Kate Beaton's Hark, a Vagrant, on the other hand, has a charmingly hand-drawn style and a predeliction to make jokes about obscure historical figures. It's also quite hilarious, even if you have to head to Wikipedia before you can understand the references.

It was via a link on Ms. Beaton's site that I came across a pair of great Lost-themed comics. First, there's Nedroid's #lostcomics on Twitter, a bunch of dumb/brilliant three-panel gags, often involving a heavy-lidded, grinning Jacob and a hope that Vincent still has an important part to play before the series ends.

Also, there's Lost Showdowns, a collection of cute drawings of major conflicts from the series (Faraday vs. Jughead, Desmond vs. the computer, Eko vs. the Smoke Monster). My personal favorite is the drawing of Keamy, Alex and Ben, which is just adorable, until you remember what happens next.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What I'm Into These Days: Music Edition

Childish Gambino is better known as Donald Glover, a comedian who used to write for 30 Rock and currently plays Troy on Community, and has a side career rapping over songs by Pitchfork-approved artists like Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. There's plenty of stuff to download over at his website, and my current favorite is "New Prince," which features shout-outs to Sports Night, Anna Wintour, the Situation and "nerd girls losing their shit like Prom night," all set to the eardrum-punishing "Crown on the Ground" by Sleigh Bells.

I had never heard of Pavement when they were actually together making music, and didn't bother to do much remedial listening in the time since. Then this track comes along and makes me think this was a foolish decision on my part.

Your calender probably says that summer starts on June 20. Well, your calendar is a filthy liar. The first day of summer is May 17, when the new LCD Soundsystem album is released.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Correction of the Day

From Slate:
In an item in the March 12 "Slatest," Jessica Loudis incorrectly stated that Karl Rove left the Bush administration a year ago. He resigned in August 2007.
OK, so the mistake itself isn't so bad, but the image of Karl Rove still lurking around the White House months into Barack Obama's presidency, like one of those Japanese soldiers who thought World War II was still raging, is too amusing for me to resist.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And When I Woke Up, My Makura Was Gone

So today would have been Akira Kurosawa's 100th birthday. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead and call out sick from work so I could take full advantage of TCM's all-day marathon, but I did do the next-best thing: have a really weird dream about the legendary director last night.

I was on the set of a movie he was shooting with Toshiro Mifune (of course) and set in feudal Japan. The film was going to be an ambitious, multi-part work (My sleep-addled brain might have thought that Kurosawa had something to do with Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) in which the performances would be mostly improvised. On the very first take, though, one of the actors missed his cue or something, and Kurosawa became so enraged that he grabbed a bow and started shooting arrows at Mifune. Why he was trying to kill his lead actor made no sense; it wasn't his fault that some other guy messed up. Plus, if you're trying to make an unscripted movie, it's hardly fair to punish your actors for not doing exactly what you expect them to.

Kurosawa was also giving direction in English; I was a little embarrassed that he was doing that for my benefit when I was just some guy hanging around, and his actors probably couldn't understand him very well.

Anyway, that's the story of my wacky Kurosawa dream. Although if you ask him or Mifune what happened, I'm sure they'll tell you a totally different story.

"This is a big fucking deal."

With those 6 words, caught by a live mike and broadcast on CNN, Joe Biden moves a little closer to becoming the hilariously sleazy character found in the pages of The Onion:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rock 'n roll is here to stay / Come inside now, it's OK

Alex Chilton has passed away at the age of 59. I can't quite explain why that saddens me as much as it does, since I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan of him or of Big Star. I mean, I knew and liked a handful of their tunes -- "Thirteen," "In the Street," "September Gurls" -- but never went much deeper than that. But I'm a sucker for all things power-pop, and Chilton was very much an elder statesman of that genre. I always meant to get into his music, because it seemed like it would be exactly the sort of thing I would love. In fact, after spending the last hour or so listening to songs on YouTube, I can confirm that it is exactly the sort of thing I love. Thankfully, the music's not going anywhere, though it probably sounds a little sadder than it would have last week.

To further highlight my ignorance, I've heard the Box Tops' song "The Letter" so many times, but never knew that it was Alex Chilton singing.

Was the Chilton School in Gilmore Girls so named as an homage to the singer? I'd never made the connection, but it seems obvious in retrospect.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I'm Going Back to New Jersey, I Do Believe They've Had Enough of Me

If you like any combination of the Gaslight Anthem, the Pogues, and/or song-cycles based on the Civil War, you really owe it to yourself to check out Titus Andronicus's new album The Monitor. If nothing else, listen to the epic closing track "The Battle of Hampton Roads."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Absurdly Proportioned Doll Fail

I wonder if whoever came up with the idea to make a Mad Men Barbie doll of Joan Holloway has ever looked at a picture of Christina Hendricks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get Matlock on the Case

March 7, 2010: 114-year-old Mary Josephine Ray, the oldest person in America, died in Westmoreland, New Hampshire.

Mere hours later, 113-year-old Daisy Bailey, who became the oldest person in America upon Mary Josephine Ray's death, passed away.

The frightening implication: some deranged supercentenarian wants to get into the Guinness book and is willing to resort to murder to get there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Post-Mortem

I didn't see any films that were released in 2009. Not a one! But I certainly won't let that stop me from talking about last night's Academy Awards. After all, the Academy itself has proven over and over that a judgment on the artistic merits of the nominated films is besides the point (for evidence, please see the winners for 1952, 1956, 1976, 1980, 1990, 1994, 1997, 1998 & 2005).
  • Just because I didn't see any of the nominated films doesn't mean I wasn't rooting for anyone, though, and it was great to see Kathryn Bigelow win best director, partly because it meant we wouldn't be subjected to more ego-inflation for James Cameron. Plus, as the first female director to win an Oscar, she is heralding in a new era in which directors will now be subject to the same relentless red-carpet criticism as actresses.
  • Trivia time! I spent the evening reading the A.V. Club's live blog (skip to 11:31 to see my minor contribution!), and someone there mentioned the numerous Lost-affiliated winners: J. J. Abrams's Star Trek won for makeup, composer Michael Giacchino won best score for Up, Kate was in The Hurt Locker, Ana-Lucia was in Avatar, and George Minkowski directed the documentary The Cove.
  • Am I alone in finding Peter Sarsgaard incredibly creepy? He always seems to have this dead-eyed stare, and he always sounds like he's doing a John Malkovich impression. His unsettling intensity would have made him a great actor for Stanley Kubrick, if only he'd been born a couple of decades earlier.
  • Most Embarrassing Directorial Choice: the way the camera cut to random black actors whenever Precious won anything.
  • My favorite speech of the night was costume designer Sandy Powell, who dedicated her award to her fellow designers who work on contemporary and low-budget films, and thus are unlikely to ever win an Oscar. It's long been a pet peeve of mine that the costume (and art direction) awards almost always go to lavish period pieces. There are plenty of other films where the clothing choices are less obvious, but do just as much to define the characters: think of Adam Sandler's blue suit in Punch-Drunk Love, or the distinctive outfits in The Big Lebowski, or every stitch of clothing worn in a Wes Anderson movie. Aren't these just as interesting as the latest batch of corsets and formal gowns?
  • Hey, you know what they could do instead of having each acting nominee be roasted/eulogized by one of their peers? Maybe show a nice lengthy clip of the acting that got them nominated.
  • I was of the opinion that Jeff Bridges should have won an Oscar for his performance as the Dude, but after seeing his acceptance speech for Crazy Heart, I'm not so sure he was really acting in The Big Lebowski.
  • Hey, legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis got an honorary award! I always forget that he's alive (I am possibly confusing him with Gordon Parks).
  • Interpretive dance? More like misinterpretive dance!
  • In many years, the presenter reading the nominees for best screenplay will read some non-dialogue portions of the script while the scene plays. It's a nifty little exercise, but it always seems odd that to illustrate the importance of the script, they highlight the stage directions rather than the story or dialogue. I don't think passages like "George enters the room. He sits down and pours himself a drink" are really the pinnacle of the screenwriter's art.
  • This was the first year that Nick Park, of Wallace and Gromit fame, was nominated for something but didn't win. Looks like after two decades, the brutal anti-Nick Park backlash has begun.
  • Part of me hopes that Kristen Stewart, with her slouching, persistent lip-biting, and coughing over her shoulder, is engaged in a piece of performance art critiquing the demure behavior expected of young starlets. Could Ms. Stewart be a modern-day Andy Kaufman, or at least a modern-day Joaquin Phoenix?
  • I wonder which was the greater honor for T-Bone Burnett: winning an Oscar, or getting to meet Miley Cyrus.
  • Finally, the Coen Brothers didn't win anything last night, but that won't stop me from linking to the fansite Coenesque, where you can read the screenplays for every one of Joel and Ethan's movies. I have a feeling this will consume a great deal of my time.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What I've Seen: Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur is the sort of Movie They Don't Make Anymore (TM), namely because audiences eventually realized that a four-hour film isn't necessarily twice as good as a two hour film. I could expend a comparable amount of time talking about it, but frankly, there's not a lot to say. It's impressively mounted and held my interest for most of its mammoth running time, and the central story of a man subjected to injustice who seeks vengeance is the sort of thing that keeps getting remade on a regular basis (often in a similar setting; see also Spartacus and Gladiator).

In the interests of keeping things short, there's a reason why everyone talks about the big, thrilling chariot race (and it definitely is big and thrilling) and not the hour-long Sunday school lesson that follows it.