31.12.08

Are You Gonna Make a Best (Albums) of 2008 List?

I wasn't going to either.

But after a few recent feeble answers to that question like, "No, but if I did I'd put [Artist/Album] on there...", I ended up with a list anyway. Maybe it's my
Most Referred releases, Most Shared, or simply Most Memorable of 2008. Perhaps it's Anything, Off The Top Of My Head, Released In 2008 That Had A (Somewhat) Formative Effect On Me. In no particular order. Enjoy.


Portishead - Third
While I would have bought it anyway out of long-time fandom, I really this one. I also like that they successfully tried to shake their trip-hop fan base loose by going prog. [link]


Ladytron - Velocifero
I was never all the way into Ladytron until this album. Now I am. Big sound, catchy tunes, tight production and, as Maria says, "they always have the best hair." [link]


The Duke Spirit - Neptune
This band's singer turned up on the last UNKLE album, and this album had the same producer (Chris Goss). But it's probably her voice that quickly made this standard listening around our house. [link]


Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
There's an overabundance of chimey indie rock laced with whispery vocals, but this was one of those albums that changed the trajectory of my listening habits for weeks, if not months. [link]


School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms
Turns out the tune on Prefuse 73's last album is also on this, and it is but one of many intricately woven tunes here. Maybe you should just give them a listen. [link] [bonus]


Christian Prommer's Drumlesson - Drum Lesson Vol 1
One of the Truby Trio busts out on his own with one of the most creative albums of the year. Check out what this guy did to Kraftwerk and Daft Punk songs. Amazing. [link]


Double Dee & Steinski - Who Owns Culture? (Live)
The founding fathers of mash-ups, bastard pop, blends (whatever you call them), Steinski and Double Dee open for DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's
The Hard Sell (made even better by the Ben Stokes visuals). [link]


Instigator - Reduced Materials
Full disclosure: shameless self-promotion. However, strictly speaking, this
is the music I listened to most in 2008. It's my final release as "Instigator", much as this is my final post of 2008. Cheers! [link]

9.12.08

Stop Making Money Off My Vote Already

There's a lot of chatter this morning about the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Now, we're used to corruption in this state's politics. Rod can't help but have dollar signs in his eyes - that's how Illinois politics works. (Either you're corrupt and unethical like Rod and Ryan, or you're a completely moronic bigot like James Meeks or Monique Davis.) But Rod's arrest this morning reveals that there's yet another asshole desperate to make a quick buck off the way America voted last month.

What bothers me is the fact that no one seems offended by any of the innumerable other attempts to make money off Barack Obama's president-elect status. Every chump out there is already serving not only to cheapen Obama's presidency before he takes office, but to prolong America's reputation as a nation of blithering idiots. (If we made sense and acted responsibly, I suppose we couldn't call ourselves Americans, could we?) Too many of our fellow Americans are wasting their precious dollars on useless novelty items that commemorate a presidency that has yet to happen. Obama plates, Obama t-shirts and buttons, Obama lipgloss, wine, mousepad, pocket-knife keychains, teddy bears, action figures and bobble heads -- all this and HE HASN'T DONE ANYTHING YET! This is worse than gloating, people. It's stupid and pathetic.

The people behind this crass commercialization, and the idiots buying their wares, make me (still) embarrassed to be American and (particularly) sick to be a resident of Illinois. They should all be locked up with Blago. And then I should really think about moving elsewhere.

28.11.08

The Farewell Instigator EP


Finally. My farewell release as Instigator: Reduced Materials.

This EP is FREE. (Heh,"reduced", get it?) Please make a donation to show your support. Or not. Hear more layers with repeated listening. Or not. Here's the official blurb, from the official page:
Instigator - Reduced Materials EP
2008, PYLBUG / Noise Throng [Chicago, IL]

Selections from Instigator's 2002 debut, Used Materials, are revisited on the fifth anniversary of the album's digital release in 2003. Careful reductions in program length unearth and enhance the song structures, and a strategic price reduction (it's FREE) make Reduced Materials the perfect companion to Used Materials, as well as a fitting farewell to the Instigator moniker. Tracklist:

01 Reforestation (Berry Jungle)
02 Recognition (Depress And Enter)
03 Requisition (High-Style Takeover)
04 Reevaluation (Hydrocodonarcotica)
05 Reinfestation (Miracle Earworm)
06 Recollection (Okanna Borra)
07 Resignation (Panhandler)
08 Reiteration (Poh Sukumer Vidro)
09 Remodellacion (Puerto Reconditioned)
Download Full EP [.zip]
Only available online: Reduced Materials EP (High-Quality 320 kbps MP3s plus album art in a .zip archive).

Make A Donation
This EP is free, and donation is recommended as the best way to show your support. If you like it, pay a little something for it; 100% of your support goes directly to the artist. It doesn't get much easier than this convenient PayPal button:





Second Coming of The Jesus Lizard



This is the kind of news you want to get on your birthday. The Jesus Lizard are reuniting in 2009, and I think "a 'final appearance' in Chicago next November" sounds like an excellent 35th birthday present. Just saying.

15.11.08

Saturday Morning Serials

Welcome to the first installment of Saturday Morning Serials: the irregular and unrelated links I save up during the week to inspect and digest over Saturday morning coffee. A fist-full of quick hits. Or maybe just a pair for now:

Defensor Mundi


AKA Robert Burdon's Voltron. The choice of music could have gone in an entirely different direction, but I like how serene this is. Makes me imagine the feel of an exotic Voltron rug under my feet. In my living room. Watching cartoons.


Third Generation Elliott



Daughter of Chris Elliott / grand-daughter of Bob Elliott, Abbey Elliott is one of two new SNL cast members. Which makes me think... with all the 1990's pop-cultural "redux" on television, this could be the perfect time for a Get A Life redux. (Not You've Reached The Elliotts) Here's a sample of the show (which was sampled by Handsome Boy Modeling School) for the unfamiliar among you.

13.11.08

Hip-hop is dead. So is god.

We have these seniors to blame for it:


[Thanks (I think) to Ken Schafer for the link.]

The Only Shocker We'll Get From Dubya:


Talk about senioritis. Dubya, classy world leader that he's always been, raises the shocker in a photo taking during his White House welcome to 2008's NCAA champs.

4.11.08

Polling Place Ponderings

While waiting in line to vote, I turned my attention to the things I can't wait to be end with the election season. Three things in particular have been grinding my nerves over the past few weeks...

Claiming "this is the most historic election" ever...
You're only proving that you don't understand what "historic" means when you make claims like this. Stop being such a magpie; everyone knows you're just chirping what heard that on the news (which is more interested keeping you in the audience than keeping you properly informed). Something is either "having importance in or influence on history" or not; there is no graduated scale in the making of history, only in the way it is interpreted afterward. Every Presidential Election is equally historic. Every Election Day makes history. Even if we thought it was uneventful, it would still be historic because it's influencing history, one way or another. If you want to consider the voter turn-out a historic thing, that's fine -- but every voter turn-out before this was historic, too. Historic lows, historic highs... they're all recorded as public record and therefore part of the fabric of history. But, what's so ground-breaking about a US Presidential Election that boils down to one candidate from each of the two controlling parties, both of a Judeo-Christian faith? The choice isn't much different than it's ever been. It's good that you're voting, but keep things in perspective.

Implying that your vote counts more than mine because you're going to Grant Park tonight.
My vote counts just as much as yours; it always has and always will. But I don't create more waste with stickers, pamphlets or buttons; I don't lie that my middle name is Hussein or "donate my status" on Facebook (Why do some of you think assuming a fake name convinces me to vote for Obama, anyway? It doesn't make you the voice of reason you think you are. In fact, giving a false name may violate Facebook's terms of use); I don't consider my choice of candidate a status symbol -- it is our civic duty to vote, plain and simple. It's good that you voted, but you're not any more unique for it. If you secured tickets to gain entry to a public park for a speech tonight, good for you. I will have a better view from the comfort of my living room, and I won't be making the downtown area impassable for the people who traverse it every day. You are free to stand outside and clap for a jumbo-tron if you want. Just don't count your chickens before they hatch -- a lot of us thought Gore won eight years ago, but that's not how it played out.

Thinking it's a good idea to create election-themed advertising campaigns.
I work in advertising, and have been sick to my stomach with the inane "election" themes that have been pitched since before this time last year. Thankfully, not many made it to the public - but a lot of them did. Realize this is part of the reason people hate advertising: when you take something serious and belittle it to sell automobiles or donuts, you make us all look like idiots. You make people feel fatigued by the time election day comes, and dillute the power of real voting as though it were as inconsequential as picking the right soft drink in the supermarket, or as trivial as selecting the winner of a game show. I am happy it will be another four years before bad advertisers belittle our civic duties again, even though I know I have peers who will revisit those inane themes again and again and again.


7.10.08

Three Words To Retire

I imagine this will be a recurring post theme for me (though I'm sure there are other folks out there making similar efforts). Let's start with three words that need to be retired from the English language: diva, luxury and maverick.
Diva
A diva is an operatic prima donna. A diva is not the latest tramp to butcher R&B, soul or hip-hop conventions. Much of the blame for this forced retirement falls on VH1. Don't ever refer to a musician as a diva when she has just one or two releases to her name. In fact, don't refer to anyone as a diva -- odds are she's probably just an ordinary bitch.

Luxury
Luxury is a word, like diva, that carries very little of its original meaning in the ways it is most commonly used now. Chocolate is not a luxury; you can get it at any corner store or vending machine. Two small bedrooms and one bath do not add up to a luxury condominium, especially when there's no parking space included (let alone a chauffeur). To never again encounter any such abuse of the word "luxury" would, ironically, be very luxurious for me.

Maverick
I don't need to remind anyone of who's butchering this one, but it's clear the culprits are not the best-read people in the news today. A maverick is a lone, independent dissenter -- NOT the candidate nominated by the incumbent party, nor his Alaskan twit sidekick (who is, coincidentally, more likely to shoot a true maverick from a helicopter than ever embody the term herself).
Got a word on the verge of retirement? Let's send it away early! Leave your suggestions in the comments and we'll go from there.

2.10.08

Skinny Puppy's American Memory


Favorite author / occasional email pal Douglas Rushkoff, while guest-blogging at BoingBoing, posts today about American Memory - which features the music of Skinny Puppy (well, Ogre and Mark Walk as OHGR).


Rushkoff may perform with the group when this tour stops in NYC. For those of you around these parts, watch for The 2008 OHGR DTour (supporting Ogre's new solo effort, Devils In My Details) at Double Door on Sunday, 30 November [tix].

I wish it was at a better venue, and not on a Sunday night, but might have to go check it out anyway. (Hopefully the club isn't the same death-trap it was in August when it flooded twice during the Melvins show.)

17.9.08

Unnecessary Typos

I thought I had a new favorite site: Unnecessary Knowledge.

But it can't be my favorite; way too many typos. Of the first six facts I viewed, three of them contained typos. I was going to say this was still good, nerdy fun -- but it's really not that nerdy with so much bad grammar.

If anyone from Unnecessary Knowledge is reading this, please, hire a proofreader. Your site went from charming to pissing me off inside of five minutes.

Oh, great.

Just great. Chicago is the most stressful city in the country. According to Forbes. [sigh] I would suggest moving, but that's too stressful.

[link via Gaper's Block]

2.9.08

An Open Letter to James Meeks

Hey, James.

I'm referring to you as neither "senator" nor "reverend" today, because you're not living up to either title. You're not even living up to your last name. Instead, you are high on your own fumes with the most ill-conceived boycott ever.

Let's get a few things straight. All schools need more funding. All teachers are underpaid. These are issues not unique to your district, not by a long-shot. Funding is uneven, yes. So is the median household income; if your district puts less in, it will get less out. It's that simple.

Still, in your ever-so-finite wisdom, you have encouraged skipping school as a means to improve the education system. Let me clarify. You have publicly encouraged and arranged for thousands* of Chicago children to miss the first four days of school this year. You actually think that these kids are going to just camp out in the lobbies of corporate offices, and "hold" class there? Those kids won't get past building security -- which, incidentally is the best job they could ever hope to get if they follow your lead.

You spent a lot of money on bus rentals. That money could have been donated to schools that need funding more than they need a ride to a publicity stunt. Your behavior not only insults the teachers and students you purport to be helping, but you also make a mockery of the professional environment for which all those kids truly do need a better education. It's clear you have not considered the consequences of your actions. You have exploited your self-righteous religious affiliations for a publicity stunt predicated on ignorance, yet you offer no intelligent solutions or shred of common sense. I imagine you're the type to recommend praying that one wins the lottery rather than finding an honest day's work.

Are you such an ineffective senator that you need to make pawns of students, teachers, parents and Chicagoans' places of business? Even the kids you've implicated in this crack-pot scheme can see through it:
One New Trier student described the boycott as "a big publicity stunt."

"They are trying to make it racial," said New Trier senior, Andrew Scherer, 17. "It's a better media story." [Source]

Racial and religious make for sensationalism, but not a better story. The only supporters of today's boycott are churches -- churches that should be donating to schools instead of wasting money on go-nowhere publicity stunts. I seriously doubt you exhausted that option, James. I think instead that you relish the potential for this stunt to be racially charged, even though it's really just about your school district getting exactly what it pays for. Here's what you were quoted saying two days ago:

“I want the whole nation to look at Illinois. I want the whole nation to ask, ‘Why is Illinois racist?’ I want them to ask, ‘Why is Illinois treating low-income students like that?’”
James, come on. Why are you racist? I find it obscenely insulting that you equate racism with low-income students. I come from a low-income family. Welfare, food stamps, free school lunch programs, church-donated groceries and Christmas presents... I've been there. One lasting life lesson I learned is that money doesn't know what color my skin is, and it never will. Another lasting lesson: the world doesn't owe you anything. I genuinely feel sorry for the kids who don't know any better, being led down this path by a divisive panderer like yourself. You've already admitted openly that you will lie about the number of students you see today.

What a great example you set! The spectacle of your actions is more important to you than the substance of your actions. But you can't even get that right...

* One bus arrived with four people on it. Four. Is this the kind of inefficiency and waste you want to teach kids? Hope so, 'cause you just did.

Keep the preaching of ignorance confined to your precious mega-church, James. The rest of Chicago will do better without this self-righteous, racially-charged divisiveness in the classroom, in the state senate and in the media.

Now, please, just shut up and get back to class.

28.8.08

It Takes A Nation Of Monkeys...



Last night, Analog Monkey Video tipped me off to some freshly released work of theirs. Particularly this three-part piece (1, 2, 3) on Public Enemy while in town for an appearance at the Chicago Cultural Center and another at Pitchfork Music Festival last month. E and I took photos of the Cultural Center event, but I haven't posted pics yet. Mine don't compete with the videos, frankly. Seeing PE talk about how they made their music -- music I have listened to regularly since it first came out -- was inspiring. After E shared with me his extra ticket to the group's performance at Pitchfork Fest, I went home and stayed up for hours tweaking my own music, inspired to see "live" the music that taught me about sampling some twenty years ago.

And cheers for Analog Monkey Video. They've been at this a while and it looks like it's starting to pay off. As E points out, you can spot the crew in the mirror in the third installment of the also-recently-released Daytripping with Brandon Cox series (also on P4K.tv).

[I like Pitchfork so much better when they're not over-writing music reviews.]

22.8.08

Cut Chemist's 360-degree Big Break

Okay, this might be a more entertaining way to ease your mind into a ten-dimensional weekend, if such a thing is possible. I am honestly not sure how I missed this when it was first released, considering I've seen Cut Chemist perform multiple times since then. But we can all watch it (in HD here) now, it all its 360-degree glory.



Reminds me of this video for Meat Beat Manifesto's "Spinning Round Dub", but with a much better execution of a 360-degree view formatted to a single, flat screen.

Ten Dimensions for the Weekend

You know what? It's been a long week. Sometimes, after a long week, I can only watch a stupid comedy or indulge in some other mindless activity. Other times, I have to explore a topic that stimulates the parts of my brain that starve in the ad agency environment. This is one of those other times.

As I was blowing off some proverbial steam during lunch today, I encountered a Kitsune Noir post about the ten dimensions of our universe. Forget that silly Donny Darko crap KN prattles about and just take some time to geek-out on this explanation of these ten (theoretical) dimensions. If you're like me, it'll clear your head. If not, it'll might just hurt your head.



More on these ten dimensions, plus the book for which this video is a promotional vehicle, here.

15.8.08

Borgnine Has The Tip

Can anyone among you argue that Ernest Borgnine is not a bad-ass?

No. You can't.
Click play to see how this 91-year-old stays young. Then wash your hands.

12.8.08

The Whole Hog, In A Pig's Eye


In her book PIG 05049, Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma chronicles over three years of an art / research project, an investigation on what happens to a pig after it has been slaughtered. Specifically, the book highlights 187 products made from one pig - and BBQ isn't necessarily on the list. Today's post about it on We Make Money Not Art is enlightening. Here's the gem quote that got me reading the whole thing:

Over three years, the designer tracked the products made from parts or even tiny particles of pigs. Her quest led her to a tattoo artist, dentist, farmer and weapon specialist. She discovered that the skin, bones, meat, organs, blood, fat, brains, hoofs, hair and tail of the pig are used in no fewer than 187 products: shampoo, medicine, munitions, cardiac valves, matches, desserts and bubblegum, beer and lemonade, car paint and brake discs, pills, bread, etc.
You know you want to know more. So here's a little more from the same post:
After slaughter, bits and pieces of the Dutch pig travel around the world. Gelatin from its skin ends up in liquorices and gums, and even cheesecake and tiramisu. In the weapon industry the gelatin is used as conductor for bullets. Pork fat is one of the ingredients of, amongst others, anti-wrinkle cream and shampoo, information that producers are not too keen on admitting. The glue made from pig bones makes matches sturdier and porcelain is manufactured from its ashes. Protein from pig's hair contributes to making bread soft. Every part of a pig is either eaten or processed. Should anything be left over, it is converted into green electric power.
I am certain the vegetarians and vegans among you will be interested to know about all the pork-oriented products you're not eating but using regularly. Read more here, while I go satisfy this sudden taste for bacon...

[Photo via We Make Money Not Art]

8.8.08

"Fascinating."

When I was earning my journalism degree, CBS was considered the grandparents' network. Well into my professional career, CBS was still seen as struggling to shake off that reputation... their first sign of success was a little reality show called Survivor. Eight years later, CBS may be poised to become more relevant, to more people, than its Viacom sister network MTV.

This post started as a video I wanted to share (below), a video attributed to CBS. Apparently there's a division of CBS called EyeLab. The group's purpose is nebulous, according to their "about" blurb. In fact, there's nothing about what I'm about to share with you here, though there has been a smattering of press coverage for the past year or so. Regardless of the vague self-description, a few of their promotional videos are becoming successful in the much coveted "viral" way.

It all started with this drawn-out "supercut" of Caruso's cornball one-liners that open every episode of CSI Miami. It wasn't created by CBS, but it wasn't removed for copyright infringement, either. In fact, the creator is cited by CBS as the inspiration for EyeLab.

Fast-forward about a year and there's this one, an "official" EyeLab production, which promotes the DVD set of the remastered original Star Trek television series: DJ Spock. That's because CBS Home Entertainment is using its big sister television network to help move more units. We have CBS Digital to thank for the enhanced digital effects in the remastered series, too.



It'll be interesting to see if a group within a big conglomerate like CBS will be able to sustain the scrappy and nimble approach of folks like stewmurray47. I doubt stewmurray47 had a bottom line to worry about, committees to deal with, advertisers to keep happy, or investors and stockholders to appease. That said, it's kinda cool that CBS started a division that gets to jam the company culture... but I'm sure the fun little videos are just a small part of their job.

It'll also be interesting to see if this mash-up approach to promotion carries into CBS's forthcoming record label, which we should hear from early next year.

1.8.08

Find Some Time

This Last month's posts were almost entirely about music. Time to switch it up a bit, and what better way to do that than with a few of my favorite sites for daily "finds". Today we'll cover four sites, each focused on a different realm of "found" content. You'll want to have a few minutes to get the full effect of each.

Sorry I Missed Your Party
This blog trolls Flickr for photos tagged "party" and posts some of the more provocative ones. Occasionally there's video, but it's usually a Flickr photo - which often links to an entire set of party photos that probably shouldn't have been made public. I recommend checking this site daily, as it never disappoints.

Photoshop Disasters
There are a few sites like this out there, but this one posts the most frequently and, usually, has just the right balance of snarky and savvy. If this site proves anything, it's that having a copy of PhotoShop does not make you an art director, or even teach you anything about composition. You'll learn to spot the marks of an amateur yourself after just a few pages of this site.

The Fail Blog
Evidence of failure is what this blog is all about. The nature of the "fail" varies, and sometimes it's a little hit or miss. But, in the same spirit of Photoshop Disasters and Sorry I Missed Your Party, this blog rarely fails to entertain with frequent updates that help you laugh at others' misfortune (usually the result of their own ineptitude).

FFFFOUND!
Considerably less hilarity than the previous links, but more about inspiring graphic design and photography which the sites' contributors find around the Internet (a lot from the Behance network, as it turns out). It's a bit like a visual tappas menu, with a slew of new tastes for your eyes to sample each day. Maybe that was a bad analogy, but take a gander anyway.

Of course, these and many others are always here for your perusal. Just check the link roll to the right for new additions each time you visit.

31.7.08

No Greyhound

Gun crazy isn't the only kind of crazy going around, oh no. There's Rambo-knife crazy, too: A Greyhound passenger stabbed and then beheaded the kid in the seat next to him last night. With a "Rambo-style knife." WTF?

The kid (victim) was 20, sleeping with headphones on, and en route to his home in Winnipeg. I was the same age the last time I took Greyhound. It was a relatively short trip from Chicago to DeKalb, to return to school after a holiday break. I was held up, a gun stuck in my ribs, while using the urinal in the men's room. I only lost twenty bucks, though, and intend to keep my head when it comes to going Greyhound. Which is to say, I vowed to never associate with that station or that bus line again.

I realize I'm making a huge generalization, but... what is it about that bus line that attracts the bat-shit crazy element? And why isn't the visual luggage search at security catching things like Rambo knives?

29.7.08

GUNS!

This past weekend, thousands of Chicagoans brought guns to church.

6,705 guns, to be exact, as part of the city's gun buy-back program. ("Buy-back?" Doesn't this imply that the city sold the guns to them in the first place?) Everyone turning in a gun got a $100 pre-paid MasterCard, while supplies lasted. Some folks think that's not going to make a long-term difference, since no actual gun-wielding idiots were taken off the streets. Speaking of idiots, the NRA is suing the city and two suburbs to make room for more guns on the streets.

As if on cue amidst all this gun-crazy gun-loving comes a rarity from seminal copyright infringers Negativland: the New American Radio version of "Guns!". It's not the same version that appeared on the SST Records original 1991 release, which was Negativland's attempt to earn the label some revenue after the big U2 lawsuit. Download the MP3 at Kill Ugly Radio. Burn it and the U2 tracks to CD so you're prepared for any Copyright Infringement Buy Back programs that might turn up.

See also:
Negativland: U2
Negativland: Guns!
Negativland: Fair Use - The Letter U and The Numeral 2


18.7.08

Home Studio Interview with Portishead's Adrian Utley

Music Thing points us to Sonic State's three-part interview with Portishead's Adrian Utley. With his daughter in his lap, Utley discusses the making of Third from the comfort of his home studio. Plenty of gear porn and shop talk for you, my fellow music geeks.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Previously on PYLB: Third, Finally.

14.7.08

Google & Radiohead Build House Of Cards

Here's a nice companion to my last post: Radiohead's new video for "House Of Cards". No cameras were used in the making of it. Google Code has a page dedicated to it, where you can download said code and mess with it yourself, and check out the making-of footage. That's pretty cool, and very "open-source" of them.

Here's the video.



Here's the making-of.



It's worth noting that this is not just a Radiohead promotion. This is a significant marketing move for Google, tying a major international rock band to a variety Google properties like YouTube, iGoogle, Gadget Ads and Google Code in one succinct effort. Smart stuff, even if the song's lyrics seem to contradict the actions of the Google empire.

10.7.08

Meeting The Walrus


I've traditionally stayed away from most things having to do with The Beatles -- partially because I always thought they were a bit too corny too often, and partially because I felt they already had more fans than they needed -- but this is one of the few exceptions: I Met The Walrus. The video's description does it more justice that I would do in paraphrasing...
In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it.
I can't imagine what it's like for Jerry Levitan to see this interview animated and go on to an Oscar nomination for best short. The animation is brilliant, but I'm sure the subject matter has a little to do with the over-flow of attention as well.

27.6.08

Will Smith is no Alan Arkin

If I may humbly venture into Booze Movies territory for a moment...



I am entirely uninterested in seeing Hancock, but I can't help but pick up the gist of this film from recent mentions it's gotten online. Will Smith plays a washed-up drunkard of a superhero. The IMDB entry for this film shows one comment that ponders, "Hancock has the kind of premise that you wonder why it took so long for someone to put it on the big screen."

No need to wonder; it hasn't taken that long. We've already seen this premise in big-screen format. And I'm not making the weak comparison to Last Action Hero that some folks are making. Twenty-five years ago, it was a film called The Return of Captain Invincible, starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. Did I mention it's part musical, too?

Check it out. You can own the DVD for the same amount it'll cost for just one ticket to see Will Smith's latest vehicle in a theater. Neither one is a great movie, but imagine how informed you'll sound when you can bust Hancock for ripping off an Alan Arkin movie from a quarter-century ago.

"On To Something" Coming Soon

Music Thing links to a trailer for the new Raymond Scott documentary On To Something, produced by Scott's only son, Academy Award winning cameraman and editor Stan Warnow.


Documentary Trailer for RAYMOND SCOTT: ON TO SOMETHING from Stan Warnow on Vimeo.

If you're not familiar with the innovative genius that is Raymond Scott, odds are you'll recognize his music - courtesy of one cartoon or another. If you've had the pleasure / displeasure of living with me in the last ten years or so, you know that the only way I can watch professional sports for any duration is with the broadcast's sound turned down and Reckless Nights & Turkish Delights playing loudly instead. (Try it; it's especially great with basketball.)

See also:
Manhattan Research - Book / 2-CD set detailing Scott's early, hand-made electronic instruments - which he often used in commercial work. This collection includes a collaboration with pre-Muppets Jim Henson and notes about the room-sized computer Scott used to essentially generate a click track.

Soothing Sounds For Baby - a three-part series of tone-poems designed to lull your little ones to relaxation, using instruments Scott created himself (in the lab featured in Manhattan Research, no less). Minimal, ambient music with a pop sensibility, years before Brian Eno or Kraftwerk.

20.6.08

Tuning In This Week

It's been an interesting week for music. Well, for the kind I pay attention to...



My Bloody Valentine played a warm-up show at a small London venue last week. Wired's Listening Post points to MP3's of the show (sounds like they were recorded in the room, not off the board). This tease of what's to come around Chicago in September might not be enough to make us forget that the much-anticipated MBV re-issues are delayed (again) because Kevin Shields is allegedly still writing the liner notes. Maybe he should have started those sooner.... like, in 1991?




Another bit of mixed disappointment came from Illegal Art this week: the new Girl Talk album. See, I paid for this album months ago as part of a four-release deal the label offered (I did it mainly to secure a copy of the Steinski retrospective). Well, the Girl Talk album, Feed The Animals, was delayed. Then released for free earlier this week. Hmpf! So in six weeks when the CD arrives (a schedule that still baffles me), I'll be long-since tired of an album that I legitimately downloaded yesterday. Girl Talk told Pitchfork that he pushed the release (wait, it was delayed... how can he call this a push to release it early? WTF?) because of the timely samples he's using, admitting that they'll be stale by the time the CD is pressed. Well, why bother pressing a CD at all, dude? And why ask me to pay for it several months before you're going to just give it away? You could have refunded me the purchase price, given me store credit at the label store, and made a better fan of me. Instead, I feel a bit swindled. I suppose I asked for it, but it's probably the last time I bother to buy Girl Talk's collage of what amounts to random preview clips of everyone else's songs in no apparent order. First listen: it's cute. Second listen: I think I could have done this better myself.




Things got better this morning when I was greeted with an email from Amon Tobin regarding his new online store. In addition to an official release of his soundtrack for Taxidermia, there is a slew of freebie content - live mixes and DJ sets mostly. There's also a feature called This Month's Joint, which is a new track available for purchase (MP3 or WAV) every month. This will help me keep my fix of Tobin until his Two Fingers collaboration is released. Nice. This guy is one of my favorite recording artists, and has been a big inspiration on my own recording endeavors.




Oh, yeah, there are also rumors flying about a leak of eight tracks off the much-fabled Guns-N-Roses album Chinese Democracy. If you're into that kind of thing.

4.6.08

It's Still Just Bud, Folks

Advertising Age this week published an article speculating that Anheuser-Busch's impending buyout by Belgian-owned, Brazilian-operated InBev would tarnish Budweiser's patriotic brand position. While Budweiser may lose the right to mix heavy-handed US patriotism into its brew of marketing, advertising and sponsorships (would this be such a bad thing, anyway?), the presence of foreign interests is nothing new to this brand. For example...
  • To this day, A-B pays a Czech brewery in exchange for rights to use the Budweiser name in the US. Paying royalties to a Czech brewery for your name isn't exactly what you'd expect of this allegedly "great American brand."
  • Clydesdales are another legacy in A-B branding and marketing. That's a Scottish breed of horse, for those of you keeping score. Again, not exactly Americana in origin.
  • Beer is not an American invention. In fact, its origins are traced to Egypt and Iran. The word "beer" is derived from the German "bier". American beer is the Johnny-come-lately in the history of the drink.
Of the Bud drinkers I know, everyone buys Bud for two reasons: price and proximity. As long as A-B provides the same cheap, available-everywhere swill that those folks enjoy (no offense, it's just not my ale of choice), who's going to care what the parent company is? The average Bud drinker isn't concerned with these things.

Would you stop drinking your favorite beer if the parent company - and nothing else beside perhaps the amount of patriotism in its advertising - changed?

2.6.08

MT9 An Empty Promise?

Buzz Feed spots a new audio format out of Korea called MT9. The buzz seems to imply that this format will overtake MP3 as the format of choice, but I think that's awfully premature and more than a little naive.
A new audio file format that may come to replace MP3s — six channels of sound that the user can control. What’s the big deal? MT9 files allow you to remix them — turn up the bass, make it a capella, create a music-only version for karaoke, etc. They’re getting a big push in Korea, whatever that means.
What that means: This is most likely a novelty format which will probably be aimed at mobile devices. That's my guess, anyway. In Korea, where they are light years ahead of the US in terms of mobile devices. Otherwise, there are too many issues with this format to be practical for proper music production.

First, you have only six channels. That might sound like a lot to the average consumer, but to anyone who's produced music it's extremely restrictive. The last forty years of popular music has been made with at least eight channels, with current releases going beyond 128 channels, limited only by processor speed and hard drive capacity. Some pop songs have more than six tracks of vocals alone!

The advantage over MP3 is that MT9 is modular to an extent, but it appears to be a novelty music technology for non-musicians. Like Guitar Hero; I'm sure it's fun and engaging, but it doesn't make you a guitarist. The modular aspect is not a unique advantage, save for the fact that the whole song seems bundled into one file - but that tells me that it's not going to be a file of any high fidelity.

I am immediately reminded of the loop packs that have been available for more than a decade - the most recent being things like Apple's Jam Packs for Garage Band or Randy Jackson's Producer's Packs for Acid. Sure, it is customizable sound, but it's not going to make you a producer just for turning one of six tracks on or off. This is actually content that's already been produced, then parceled into incomplete chunks that consumers can pay to re-assemble.

Realistically, as this article implies, MT9 is probably little more than a customizable karaoke format. It's certainly no MP3 replacement, though the press seems to want to make it one. Karaoke is a big business in Korea and much of Asia, so maybe this will be a hit there.

After over twelve years of producing and mixing music, I wouldn't abandon MP3 for MT9; I do work with MP3, but prefer uncompressed formats like WAV and AIFF. If this new format doesn't work with existing software and player applications, it's going to have a hard time being adopted. We'll see if MT9 ever makes it to US shores.

Venture Brothers Season Three is On



Yes. This is the clip reel shown recently at some Comic-Con or another, with scenes from the first three episodes. Last night was the premiere of episode one, Shadowman 9: In The Cradle of Destiny, which examines the origins of The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend (Maria and I call dibs on these characters for Halloween costumes, if she can get her voice low enough). Watch the full episode here.



This season, each episode has its own T-shirt, thanks to the Amazing Shirt Of The Week Club. I've already ordered my Guild Of Calamitous Intent shirt, but am not about to subscribe for a dozen $22 T-shirts. I'll just check back every week for the good ones.

Go Team Venture.

29.5.08

Wait, we've had cyborgs for 58 years?

This headline stopped me in my tracks today.

Obsolete Cyborg Dies in Power Outage
I didn't realize folks in this predicament counted as cyborgs, but it makes sense. This one was a cyborg for 58 years until a back-up generator failed during a power outage. Weird, neat and sad all at the same time.

Out of Optimism, or Not?

"I am not a pessimist; to perceive evil where it exists is, in my opinion, a form of optimism." - Roberto Rossellini
Most people assume I'm a pessimist. Maybe you've come to the same conclusion after reading a few choice posts on this little blog of mine. I've been called a pessimist to my face more times than I care to count, by friends, associates and even mere acquaintances. I like to counter them by claiming that my level of optimism is such that I'm disappointed in my fellow man for not knowing better, having more common sense, behaving more responsibly, being more respectful of others, and so on. I don't think I'm either one of these -isms, though I can admit that I swing toward the side of pessimism. So what.

The way I see it, the total optimist creates unreasonably high expectations, inevitably leaving people unpleasantly surprised by the facts of reality. The pessimist, on the other hand, creates reasonably low expectations, which leave people pleasantly surprised when reality turns out better than originally expected. I'm more interested in coping and understanding the nature of things than I am in pretending and ignoring it. Not saying it's right for everyone, but it feels right for me.
"Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable." - Voltaire
You know what makes me feel even more pessimistic? People who assume that pessimism (read: realism) is a bad thing. Not long ago I was asked - by someone I thought knew me better - to be an endless fountain of optimism. Spraying anyone nearby with a sticky-sweet outlook on an imaginary world where none of us really live. Rose-tinted glasses, even when I have perfect vision? All I can say is that I'll try; I'm not an optimistic person, and the very fabric of my personality is unlikely to do a complete U-turn. Only an optimist would think that possible, right?
"Optimism: The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong... It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious." - Ambrose Bierce
If you're the type who has always experienced an optimistic world, I can understand why you're stuck there. It's a safe place to hide from reality. Pessimism works the same way. But, practically speaking, the pessimists may be more likely to survive in the long run. For example, see Dumb Little Man's 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Always Be An Optimist.
"Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism." - Arnold Bennett
Do you think Dumb Little Man is a pessimist for posting that information? Or is he optimistic in the sense that he can help his fellow man lead a more fulfilling life through the sharing of this information? Post a comment and let me (and my handful of readers) know. Thanks.

14.5.08

No News Is The Best News


If only CNN and the other 24-7 news networks would do this instead of repeating the same sixty minutes of programming, twenty-four times a day. I'd watch the news more often, which would get their advertisers more exposure to my much-coveted "young adult" demographic. Just a thought.

30.4.08

R.I.P. Albert Hofmann, LSD Inventor


Albert Hoffman Autograph, originally uploaded by strikerr.

What's left to say about this man that isn't already being said by the likes of BoingBoing and Wired? His research was influential on a lot of people who were influential on me. Especially during my college years. Nuff said.

Hoffman was 102 when he died, just ten days after the 45th anniversary of Bicycle Day. While those numbers will surely inspire fits of numerology amongst fans of psychedelics, I'm inspired to pick up a copy of LSD: My Problem Child in his honor.


Dr. Hofmann Stencil, a graffiti tribute spotted in Lisbon last year by yours truly.


23.4.08

Orchestral Meltdown

I never find out about these things with enough time to coordinate a trip to see them. But this sounds cool. Massive Attack and the 45-piece Heritage Orchestra are recreating Vangelis' original soundtrack for a rare one-off screening of Blade Runner: The Final Cut.


Incidentally, a slimmed down 35-piece Heritage Orchestra is playing a show of Amon Tobin covers on May 3. Tobin protege Bonobo DJs as part of the 180-minute event, too. Judging from the preview tracks on the orchestra's site, it's going to kick major orchestral ass.

If any of you attend either of these events, kindly return here to share the details.

14.4.08

Suspiring Over Spires & Spindles

Sigh. What is it with pointy structures around here? As one goes up, another is set to be taken down. Neither effort seems to do much for the local culture.


First, the sad news: Sun-Times and Tribune report that the Berwyn Spindle is up for auction. As a former resident of Berwyn, I have to say that this is a sad moment for the small city. Not sure what Berwyn would have going for it otherwise, frankly, save for a few Son of Svengoolie mentions, the Houby Day Parade (I have yet to see a single mushroom in Berwyn), and bungalows. If you want to help save this historic piece of Berwyn, visit SaveTheSpindle.com. (The Spindle will be there for at least a few more months, but get on it now.)

Secondly, the not-sure-if-it's-good-or-bad news: The Chicago Spire isn't for Chicago, it's just being built here. When some co-workers wondered out loud last week about who would buy all the condos in the Chicago Spire, I quipped "Japanese investors." I was closer than I thought. Turns out there's strong Malaysian interest in the 'Spire properties.

The Spire condos aren't remotely affordable for the vast majority of Chicagoans. (Compare the price of the Berwyn Spindle auction to the price of a single unit in The Chicago Spire, and think about the relatively small expense to nurture local culture versus the exorbitant expense put into making Chicago more like NYC or London. Consider our ridiculous new sales tax, the highest sales tax in the entire country. We're selling out in the hope of attracting the Olympic Games, tickets to which none of us will be able to afford by 2016. What fun!)

The lesson we can all learn here is, don't get rid of pointy structures you already have - they define your character more than another Walgreen's store ever could. But if you're building a new pointy structure, don't make it too expensive for the city in which you're building.

Spindle photo by Andrew Westel. Rendering of spire by Shelbourne Development Group.

8.4.08

June the first feels so far away.


Lately I've been rounding out my collection of my favorite J. G. Thirlwell side-projects, namely Manorexia and Steroid Maximus (thanks in part to foetus.org's digital shoppe). Listening to Steroid Maximus often turns my thoughts toward a certain cartoon I'm sure some of you know... Particularly when I hear Fighteous on Quilombo -- a track that was re-worked into the Venture Brothers opening theme. Knowing that Thirlwell is hard at work on next season's soundtrack only intensifies my craving for new Venture Brothers episodes.

Throwing gas on the fire, I read the LiveJournal lamentations of show creator Jackson Publick. Apparently, Cartoon Network aired very rough cuts of a new episode on April Fool's Day. To his dismay. Publick also reports that Kid Robot has created action figures of Dr. Girlfriend and The Monarch, to be sold in blind boxes with a variety of other Adult Swim characters. There was one other nugget of news...
Venture Brothers Season 3 June 1
With or without Stephen Colbert. In high-definition. Action figures drop April 17.
Go. Team. Venture.

We Can All Believe In Monique Davis' Resignation

Representative Monique D. Davis (IL) is not fit to hold public office. Just listen. In fact, I think you should email her and tell her what a bigot she is, demand her resignation, and maybe even tell her that she's probably already guaranteed a spot in whatever hell she believes in. To spit so much venom, to be such a short fuse... she's a liability to Illinois.

For added kicks, check the comments on this little site (coincidentally) run by a guy who used to sport Skinny Puppy T-shirts in the same World Religions and Journalism courses I took at NIU.

UPDATE:
It took a while to bounce back, but it's dead. That email address for our favorite hater-faith-having politician is undeliverable. No good. You'll have to contact this winner of world's worst person the old-fashioned way.

7.4.08

Hello Muxtape, Goodbye Muxtape?

For the past couple weeks, all kinds of folks have been hyping the Muxtape. I say live it up now, because it isn't likely to last. Why? The basic-yet-totally-vague requirement that your MP3 uploads must meet for Muxtape: "Users may not upload multiple songs from the same album or artist, or songs they do not have permission to let Muxtape use."


So, the first thing I think is, how do I know if I have permission to let Muxtape use a song? Apparently there's no way to know for sure. Muxtape doesn't explain itself, which could spell trouble with a capital R-I-A-A.

What was Muxtape thinking, exactly? The blog implies that it's a way for bands to post their original songs, but if you're a band you need to do more than just post your songs (you use sites like MySpace to collect fans' info, too). The majority of Muxtapes posted are begging for legal action. In fact, a cursory look at just a few random posts reveals rampant unauthorized duplication. (The only "safe" mix I can find is this genius offering from Catbirdseat.)

I'm going to get this out of the way now: Nice sorta knowin' ya, Muxtape. Find a good lawyer and make room for all the C & D's you're about to get.*

* Unless you're some elaborate means of entrapment, rigged by the RIAA, in which case I salute your sinister scheme and simultaneously shiver at the settlements you'll wring from the stupid saps who keep uploading illegally.