Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hallowe'en Horror Movie Round-Up

Happy Hallowe'en! Here's some quick thoughts on horror movies I've watched this October. Generally, it seems I watched some really weird flicks this year. I mean, all horror movies are a little weird, even the 80's slasher flicks, but a lot of these have that "what the fuck am I watching?" quality to them.

Night of the Demon - I bought some kind of pocket-sized book about movie monsters from one of those Scholastic book fairs when I was a kid. The cover had a picture of this fearsome looking demon:

As I recall, it was in color--don't know if it was a color still taken on the set, or if it was colorized for the book cover. Anyway, I always wanted to see whatever movie this came from. Years later I found out (in Dan Peary's Cult Movies 2 book) that it was something called Curse of the Demon (or Night of the Demon). The beast was actually controversial on the set--director Jacques Tourneur wanted to leave the demon's existence ambiguous and let the audience's imagination do the work, as it had in his earlier horror films for producer Val Lewton, but the producer insisted on having a scary monster appear. I'm a little torn on this. It probably would be a better film done Tourneur's way, but as a monster fan, I'm in love with that beast. I can't think of a better monster design from the 1950's. That is some shit I would not want to run into.

Straightjacket - This is another one I've been wanting to see for a while. I didn't know the name of it, I just wanted to see "the movie where Joan Crawford plays an axe murderer." What's cool is that sometimes you see these washed up actors in B-movies, and they give a performance that's like "look, I know this is a bad movie, you know this is a bad movie, let's just get it over with so I can spend my money on liquor." But Joan puts as much into this performance as Mildred Pierce, or any other thing she ever did. A consumate professional.

Black Christmas (1974) - This is considered the begining of the slasher genre, and while it's not quite as good as Halloween (which owes this film a great debt), it has a weird creepiness that's maybe even more scary. Bobbie actually had nightmares after watching it. I also have to say, after watching this and DePalma's Sisters, my opinion of Margot Kidder's acting chops has gone up considerably.

From Beyond - I thought I'd never seen this, but as I started watching it, I remembered it a little. (Jason, do you remember watching this at Tercio's house? Possibly a New Year's Eve party or something?) Anyway, this movie is fucking WEIRD. Like, Cronenberg weird, with bizarre mutations and cosmic horror and all. This should be a stoner classic--in fact, the movie it most reminded me of is Altered States.

The Brood - I think this is the one I liked the best. It might be my new favorite Cronenberg movie. Something about these little mutant kids running around killing people with blunt objects and terrorizing the little girl just freaked me the fuck out.

The Tingler - I'd seen this once before, and hated it. Just couldn't get past the basic concept, that there is a giant centipede that lives in all our spines and feeds on fear if you don't scream, but nobody's ever seen one...that's just too idiotic. That's up there with Superman turning back time, or Elizabeth Shue wanting to fuck Woody Allen. But watching it again on TCM, I enjoyed it for it's complete, psychedelic kookiness.

The Last Man on Earth - I've been wanting to see this for a long time. It's the first adaptation of My Name is Legend (later remade as The Omega Man with Chalton Heston, and a third version with Will Smith is coming out this year) starring Vincent Price. This version is very faithful to the book. I can see why fans of the book hate Omega Man (which I still think it a cool movie in its own way). Last Man captures the desolation and loneliness of the book, and being filmed in the outskirts of Rome (or some other Italian city) gives it an alienness that you couldn't get from America.

The Diabolical Dr. Z - I've seen one Jess Franco movie before this, Vampyros Lesbos, which I hate (I watched it again recently on IFC, and it failed to grow on me), but this turned out to be great fun. Again, just the sheer kookiness of it, it's like some lunatic pulp horror, with robot arms and poison fingernails and stimulation of the "center of evil" and...you just need to see it.

The Fog - I think this was pretty the only pre-90's John Carpenter film I'd never seen. Wait, no, there's Starman, but whatever. I loved the way the back-story/mythology is slowly revealed as the action occurs. Reminded me of the story "Harpnotes in the Mist" from this album.

Black Christmas (2007) - This sucked. It's basically a typical slasher, but with the violence of the kills ratcheted up (lots of eye trauma). But there were a couple scenes that were so nuts that I kinda liked them, particularly the inevitable shower scene, which defied the laws of perception in a most nightmarish way.

The Frighteners - I hadn't seen this since it was in theaters, and I remembered feeling let down by it, but that was largely the fault of the ad campaign, which marketed it as a straight horror flick instead of the Ghostbusters/Back to the Future-type comedy that it is. It's a fun action-horror-comedy, mostly a special effects movie, but a bit too light. I have to give it up to Jackson for how long he keeps things going without boring me.

28 Days Later - Damn, this movie's fuckin' brilliant, innit? You kinda forget, but those first 20 minutes are amazing, and the whole portion in the military compound is awesome, too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Orson Welles - War of the Worlds

The infamous Mercury Theater radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds from October 30, 1938. You can probably find this elsewhere online, but I bought it, so I may as well do something with it.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

There was a dinner party, a very select, elegant and exclusive dinner party; and this is a really true story--I must ask you to believe that. In Long Island, the night of this broadcast, which was Hallowe'en Eve, a lot of grand people were sitting at dinner, and about half-way through dinner the butler arrived serving the next course. He said to the host, in an undertone which carried around the table, "I beg pardon, sir; but New Jersey has just fallen." He then passed the next plate.

"Everyone was very contained and very polite; nobody panicked; they waited till the next course and the butler came round again, and the host said "Meadows"--(whatever his name was)--"What was that, Meadows...you said about...where did you hear that?

Meadows said, "On the radio, sir."

The host said to him, "Well, exactly what happened?"

Meadows said, "Well, I believe, sir, that the greater part of the Atlantic seabord has capitulated"--passing another plate.

"Of course everybody assumed it must be the Communists or something. Third round of whatever it was--by the time the Baked Alaska came, the host said, "Meadows, have you ascertained who it is that's attacking us?"
Meadows said: "I believe it's interplanetary, sir."

And at this point, accordign to my informant, who is highly placed, and should be believed, at this point they looked out of the window and there was a falling star. Everyone, not unnaturally, rushed for the nearest exit!

Anyway, all kinds of people reacted in all kinds of ways; for example, John Barrymore was listening to the broadcast, and although he was a friend of mine, ceased to identify me with the show, and believed implicitly that America had fallen to the Martians. Hearing all this on his radio, he rushed out into his backyard where he kept ten Great Danes in kennels, and released the dogs, giving them their freedom, crying to them as they ran in all directions of the compass, "The world has fallen, fend for yourselves!"

Four or Five years later, I was on the air doing a show, a very polite show with a lot of people, choruses, singing...I was in the midst of some hymn of praise to the American cornfields, or something of the kind, when suddenly a gentleman darted into the radio studio, held up his hand, and said: "We interrupt this broadcast--to bring you an announcement. Pearl Harbour has just been attacked!"

Of course, this very serious and terrible news was never believed, not for hours, by anybody in America--because tehy all said "Well, there he goes again. Really. Rather bad taste--it was funny once, but not a second time!"

-Orson Welles, slinging bullshit like it was hashbrowns.
Taken from The Fabulous Orson Welles by Peter Noble

Other fun Halloween stuff:

The Mostly Ghostly Music Sharing Blaaahg! has a ton of great Halloween-related audio, including haunted house sound effects records, Vincent Price reading ghost stories, and audio readings of HP Lovecraft. More good stuff on the Scar Stuff blog.

Check the Cool Wax has a bunch of Munsters-related stuff, including this awesome mix of Munsters music.

At Oddio Overplay, Otis Fodder's perenial Halloween mix Ghouls With Attitude, a new mix called Calling All Fiends, and of course, the Coconut Monkeyrocket/Martinibomb collaboration "Munsterbeat!"

Neato Coolville is renamed Neato Ghoulville in honor of the season, with piles and piles of Halloween flotsam and jetsam. Monster Movie Music has some very neat stuff, too.

Check this badass Tiki Pumpkin!

Have you been following CHUD's Forgotten Monsters of Filmland series?

I love this cheap-ass Buster Keaton mask!

A blog for those with a sexy witch fetish!

Monday, October 22, 2007

United Nations of Comedy

Thursday, October 18, 2007

30 Years of Ignoring the Bollocks

There's been a lot of typing this year in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Let's take a moment to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Autumn of Hate. Well, no, punk's not really about hate. Maybe we can call it the Summer of Outrage. Not quite as catchy, but whatever.

1967 was an important year, to be sure, but 1977 was also one of the most important (and just plain best) years in rock. Is that even a controversial statement? (EDIT: I guess not, since the current issue of SPIN is dedicated to a retrospective tribute to that year.) Let's review the record: The Ramones' Leave Home AND Rocket to Russia, Never Mind the Bollocks, The Clash, Damned! Damned! Damned!, Television's Marquee Moon, Richard Hell's Blank Generation, Talking Heads '77, The Dead Boys' Young Loud and Snotty, and Wire's Pink Flag all came out that year. And for each of these great punk albums, there were probably several bands that only managed to put out a great punk single: in Britain, classics like The Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict", Generation X's "Your Generation" and X-Ray Specs' "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" In America, more obscure stuff like The Pagan's "What's This Shit Called Love?", The Avengers' "We Are The One" and Pere Ubu's "The Modern Dance."

Now how much would you pay? Don't answer, because you also get Iggy Pop's best post-Stooges album, Lust for Life; David Bowie's first collaboration with Brian Eno, Low; Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers (not the one with "Roadrunner", but the second album, with "Here Come the Martian Martians" and "Abominable Snowman in the Market"--which are so much cooler than "Roadrunner"); Fela Kuti's best record, Zombi; Bob Marley's best studio album Exodus; arguably the best reggae album of the 70's, The Congos' Heart of the Congos (and probably several other important reggae records if I knew what I was talking about); Parliament's Funkplicity vs. the Placebo Syndrome (the one with "Flashlight"); Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express (I don't know much about Kraftwerk, but I think that's supposed to be considered a masterpiece); Pink Floyd's dark satire Animals; and John Williams' Star Wars score. And for good ol' frat boy rock, how can you resist a year that gave us Van Halen I, KISS Alive! II, AC/DC's Let There Be Rock and the first two Cheap Trick albums?

Obviously, it's Bollocks (released October 18, 1977) that stands out on that list as THE 1977 album (even though I personally prefer Rocket to Russia). When I was in high school (early-to-mid 80's), it was the one album that EVERYONE I knew had in their collection. Well, everyone who was in any way into punk, from the nerdy kid with the DEVO buttons on his Izod shirt to the most hardcore mohawked dude. It was like the gateway drug for punk rock. But 30 years later, how does it stand up? After all, it sounds awfully timid after you've heard Black Flag, Bad Brains or Bikini Kill. It seems to fall into that category with Sgt. Pepper and Ziggy Stardust--albums that are most loved by the people who were "there" at the time, for whom it's not just a collection of songs but the soundtrack to their reckless youth. It's an album that I've heard so many times that it's hard to listen to with fresh ears, to hear as something other than sonic wallpaper.

Well, if nothing else, I think you have to agree that Never Mind is a great pop album. It's just wall-to-wall hits, 12 great songs...well, let's say 11 great songs, since "New York" is pretty much a throw-away.

The album starts with "Holiday in the Sun," with Steve Jones' best riff. It's about a guy planning to escape over the Berlin Wall, so I guess it's a political song. The Sex Pistols were a political band, but their politics could basically be described as "anti-authoritarian." They didn't seem to have any important ideas about how to fix things, they just wanted to tear it down. Politics, for Johnny Rotten, are personal and emotional. He feels them, he doesn't think them. Leave that for The Clash to figure out.

"Bodies" is the most difficult song, lyrically, since it sounds like an anti-abortion song, which would seem to be in direct conflict with their political orientation. I finally came to the conclusion that Johnny is expressing his personal frustration through the narrator, a fetus about to be aborted. Makes sense to me, because again, Rotten's politics are personal and emotional. It's not about specific political ideas, it's about how he feels rejected by society.

"No Feelings" is my favorite on the first side. A great example of the Pistols' strengths, both as pop songwriters and as musical abrasive. Johnny's voice is harsh and nasty, but the melody is as simple and catchy as any Monkees song.

I never thought much of "Liar" until one day I was talking to Jason about the Sex Pistols, and he said that "Liar" was his favorite, and I made a funny face and said "Really?", but I went back and listened to it, and I'll be damned if it ain't one of the best songs on the record. Steve plays a chunky riff, and Johnny's voice cuts across it in quick chops: "Li-li-li-li-liar, you li-li-li-li-liar." So many of these songs rely on Johnny's voice to make them work, or at least to make them work in the way they do.

You can't write a song like "God Save the Queen." It's too hard to just write that simple--your own cleverness gets in the way, and you want to add stuff to it. Songs like "God Save the Queen" just show up in the songwriter's head. In fact, in some cases they seem to just be plucked out of the air, and could that be more true of any song than of this song in lower-class England in 1976?
Is "Problem" the last song on side one, or is it before "God Save the Queen?" I think I've seen different pressings with the two songs reversed.

"17" is another one that I used to fast forward past, but that eventually grew on me. It's noisy and obnoxious, and as good an expression of the band's collective personality as any.

I swear the first time I heard "Anarchy in the U.K." I thought it was a "live" recording. I guess that's evidence that this stuff was kinda far removed from what you could hear in mainstream rock at the time. No record I'd heard had sounded so rough and reckless. I've heard this song so many times that I forget how wild it sounded that first time.

I used to really love "Submission." It's funny, but I listen to it now, and I can remember everything I liked about it, it's all still there, but it doesn't excite me like it used to. It wasn't really something I could explain in the first place, but the tune was so pleasing, and there was something about how the song became a little more alive in the bridge that gave me shivers. Now it's gone. That's what I love about music. There's that level of unexplainable magic that you don't find in any other art form.

"Pretty Vacant" is OK, but a little dull in my opinion. Clearly, I'm the minority, as this song actually seems to get used as background music in movies and commercials sometimes. And like I said, "New York" is pretty lousy (feel free to leave pro-"New York" arguments in the comments). But that just makes "EMI" sound so much better when it explodes out. It's got that pogo bounce you find in the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated." I'm guessing due to circumstances alluded to in the lyrics that this must be the last song written for the album, which shows they were maybe getting better as they went along, which is a little sad.

We were pretty psyched when Zane got ahold of a copy of the Sex Pistols' documentary The Great Rock n Roll Swindle, which had been commissioned by their weasley manager Malcolm McLaren. Even in my gullable teens I could tell that McLaren was full of shit in the extent to which he took credit for "creating" the Sex Pistols, but the reality is that I bought into the part of them that he did create, the idea of the Sex Pistols as not a band, but a controversy machine. I--and, I think, a lot of people--thought that one of the greatest things about the Pistols was that they were together for two years, put out one great album, and self-destructed before getting old and putting out a bunch of lousy albums so that every time you listed your favorite bands you'd have to say "early Sex Pistols." They were always perfect.

When I watched the newer documentary, The Filth and the Fury, which Julian Temple put together using much of the same footage he'd shot for Swindle two decades earlier, I realized just how wrong I was. It was an opinion that only an adolescent could have. The line that drove it all home for me was something Steve Jones said. The title of Swindle refers to the fact that the Pistols signed contracts first with A&M, then with EMI, and were dropped from each label before they'd recorded anything, just for being "controversial." But, of course, they had to get payed a shitload of money by each label. And of course McLaren makes it out like that was a great victory, "we swindled the record companies!" In Filth, Jones says, "we didn't form a band to swindle record companies--we formed a band to play music." You look at the decisions McLaren made for the band--recruiting Sid Vicious to replace Glen Matlock (certainly the worst thing that ever happened to the Sex Pistols, and likely the worst thing that ever happened to Sid), booking the U.S. tour through the South, egging the band on to more outrageous behavior--all those things that were part of the Sex Pistols legend, the things that I loved about them as a teenager, now seem so sad. They never had the chance to grow, in the way that The Beatles, the Velvet Underground, The Clash, The Replacements and so many other great bands did. What if they had replaced Glen with the guy Johnny got for PiL? What if they had gone on to release a second album, one that would have the harsh experimentalism of PiL but retain the rock n roll spirit and accessibility of the Pistols? Maybe it would have sucked, but they deserved the chance!

I remember one day, I came home from work, and Bobbie asked me "What's Johnny Rotten's real name?" I told her "Lydon," and she said "I knew it!" Turned out Johnny had been on Judge Judy with some small claims suit, and had been acting exactly like 18-yr-old Johnny Rotten, making faces when Judge Judy turned her back and being snotty and obnoxious and rebellious. Only this was a guy in his 40's! I couldn't believe how pathetic he sounded, but when I watched Filth, I kind of understood. It's like he's stuck in that moment, because he could never complete it the way he wanted to. Then again, maybe he's just an asshole.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ann Coulter, Ron Paul, and General Babbling

In discussing the latest in the unending buffet of nonsense that issues from Ann Coulter's mouth, most people have focused on her saying (more or less) that all Jews should convert to Christianity. But I found the exchange leading up to it interesting, when she's asked what the perfect world would look like:

COULTER: Well, everyone would root for America, the Democratic Party would look like [Sen.] Joe Lieberman [I-CT], the Republican Party would look like [Rep.] Duncan Hunter [R-CA] --

What would the American political scene look like in my ideal world? Well, I wouldn't say that I want the Republican party to look like Ron Paul or Andrew Sullivan (although either one is much more conservative than Lieberman is liberal). And although I would want to country to move to the left, I wouldn't want liberals to take over the world--God knows what kind of idiotic things they'd try to do without the Republicans checking them! I like having a balance of power and an open political debate. That's what democracy means. I guess if I were to reduce it to something pithy, I'd say that the Democrats would realize that there's a lot of support for liberalism, would grow some backbone, and would actually voice and explain liberal viewpoints, while the Republicans would treat the religious right as a nutty fringe group. And people would understand that arguments questioning the patriotism or other Americans, or accusing them of not "supporting the troops," are bullshit.

Bill Maher brought Ron Paul's opposition to the war up last week, and Tucker Carlson (apparantly a big Ron Paul fan) said something like "If all these liberals who are in love with Ron Paul for his position on Iraq knew what else he stood for, they'd be horrified." A pretty condescending view--I don't think there's a lot of liberals who are "in love with" Ron Paul, but we do wish that HE was the guy we were arguing with, because at least his positions make sense. I want to have arguments about how active a role the government should play in the economy, through taxes, regulations and social programs. I want to have arguments about how hawkish, dovish or isolationist our foreign policy should be. I have my opinions, conservatives have theirs, and we can argue our respective philosophies out rationally. Instead, I feel like we spend all our time having these stupid arguments about things that shouldn't even be up for debate. Questions like:

Should people be denied basic rights based on their sexuality?
Should science be taught in science classes?
Is it a good idea to give teenagers information about birth control?
Should the government be allowed to wiretap citizens without a warrant?
Is torture an acceptable practice for a democracy to engage in?
Is that whole habeus corpus thing really that important?
Is the invasion of Iraq turning out well?
Is pointing out that the invasion of Iraq didn't turn out well the same thing as insulting the troops?

That's what's so frustrating. Why are we even having these arguments? This is stuff that's not even up for debate. And this atmosphere, with so many people pretending that these are real arguments, has changed my political outlook, and not, I fear, for the better. I've always been liberal, but I've also always been one for civilized discourse. I used to be the one that would play devil's advocate with my fellow liberals, just to give some balance to a conversation. I try to see things from all sides. I dislike it when liberals try to characterize conservatives as being motivated by greed or racism, or as being dishonest in their arguments. We all see the same problems, but we have different philosophies about how they can best be solved. At least, that's how I used to feel.

Now, I really do feel like all Republicans are racist, misogynist, greedy, dishonest and insecure about their dicksize. I don't like feeling this way, but I don't have any patience for listening to their arguments. And it's because they've been arguing all these things that have no basis whatsoever in logic, and compounding my frustration by basing most of their arguments on smearing their opponents. It's like living in topsy-turvy land. Can we please just get back to taking politics seriously?

Monday, October 15, 2007


Earlier, I asserted that this was the coolest photo of Clint Eastwood in existence. Clearly, this was incorrect. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cyril Jackson - Afro Drums

Cyril Jackson - Afro Drums

This is one of my favorite records. I bought a cassette of it from the local record guy in Stuart back when I was in college, and listened to it for years. I was never really sure how "authentic" it was. Were these genuine field recordings of African tribes? Was it an "exotica" album recorded in Hollywood by studio musicians based on what they thought African music might sound like from seeing Tarzan movies? Or somewhere in between? It doesn't really matter, because the music is what I would HOPE African tribal percussion would sound like. It's primal, ecstatic and rhythmically complex. It's impossible to listen to this stuff passively--it's just too intense, to energetic. And, needless to say, if you're looking for percussion beats to sample, this is a great source record.

I finally bought it on LP. In fact, it was one of the first things I purchased off of ebay. Now I could finally read the liner notes, which indicate that these were studio recordings, but based pretty accurately on The Real Thing. I also learned that I was correct in my suspicion that most of these musical styles are not directly from Africa, but from the Caribean and Latin America--all except the first track, in fact:

Didrenouo (Ivory Coast)
Shango (Trinidad)
Banda (Haiti)
Guacuango (Cuba)
Tempena De Mim (Brazil)
Mambo Ricci (Puerto Rico)
Road March (Trinidad)
Rumba Abierta (Cuba)
Merengue (Dominica)
Conga (Afro-Cuban)
Jungla (Cuba)

My favorites: "Didrenouo" is an intense opener. You probably can't make out the liner notes from the photo above, but it refers to this song as a war chant, and goes on to say the rhythms and chants build until "you are there" as two tribes prepare for war! "Shango" is one of my favorite tracks, with a chant over the pounding drums that gets stuck in my head. "Tempena De Mim" is more of a "song," with a great female vocal.

When I was a kid--a baby, really--my Grampa worked in the Bahamas, building radar stations for Pan Am, so we went to stay in The Bahamas sometimes. I don't really have any memory of these trips (I do remember spending a lot of time in the Miami and Palm Beach airports, and I did go back a couple times when I was older), but I think the music (the ever-present steel drum bands and calypso singers) I heard down there may have made a lasting impression on me, and whenever I hear Caribean music, it feels a little familiar. "Road March" especially makes me think of the Bahamas. For that matter, it makes me think of hot afternoons in Florida, when the humidity is overwhelming. Great, catchy tune.

The centerpiece of the album would have to be Rumba Abierta, the most intensely polyrhythmic piece here. There's just an amazingly complex interaction going on on this one. Your ears can really get lost in it.

Amo La Comedia

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chuck: Actually Good

I've been watching Heroes. It's not very good, but it's entertaining. And when I watched the season premeire last week, I caught the last 5 minutes of the new show Chuck, which was actually quite hilarious. I caught the pilot in a rerun over the weekend, and the new episode Monday, and I have to say, this show is really good. Very funny stuff, possibly the best genre show on TV since the first season of Veronica Mars, and a really good lead-in to Heroes (which is to say, it's good enough that I'll keep watching Heroes because it's on after Chuck).

In contrast, I also watched the Bionic Woman pilot, which looked kinda promising in the promos, but man, that stunk. And last night, I came home and Bobbie was watching a marathon of Eureka on the SciFi channel, and while that's not really bad, it's amazingly boring. Or I thought so anyway, Bobbie was into it. But Chuck, which looked pretty lousy in the promos, hits the marks just right.

This weekend, I went to the used record store across the street (which I don't do nearly enough--it's like a teenage fantasy come true to live across the street from a cool record store!) and went through their $3 bin. I got this Boris Karloff album (starting off the Halloween season), a Firesign Theater album and Van Halen II (the only VH album I didn't have--I've been on a bit of a VH kick lately). And I digitized all my Redd Kross records, and put together an awesome Redd Kross mix in iTunes, which I'm rockin' right now! Hooray for being able to listen to old vinyl on iPods!


Bobbie is featured on Famous Indie Minute.

Internet petitions are generally bullshit, but this one might be worth the time. Sign it to convince China to put pressure on Burma.

The Bangles' first 7", one of my holy grail records. I found the link to that here, along with some Black Panther funk records and other stuff.

Glen Greenwald continues to nail the bizarre mix of puffed-up masculinity and insane fear in the right wing.

REJOICE! Guillermo Del Toro seems to have at least a tentative greenlight to make At The Mountains of Madness! I'm doing the happy dance!

This is the coolest photo of Clint Eastwood I've ever seen.

The new They Might Be Giants album is OK, but there's one song on it that I really love. And now it has a cool animated video.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Fade-Out

"...I used to dislike any song that didn't end--you know, end with a chord, but simply faded out."

"But then you met this guy," he said.

"Exactly!" she said. "All of the songs he liked faded out, or most of them did. And so I became a connoisseur of fade-outs. I bought cassettes. I used to turn them up very loud--with headphones on--and listen very closely, trying to catch that precise moment when the person in the recording studio had begun to turn the volume dial down, or whatever he did. Sometimes I'd turn the volume dial up at just the speed I thought he--I mean the ghostly hand of the record producer--was turning it down, so that the sound stayed on an even plane. I'd get in this sort of trance, where I thought if I kept turning it up--and this is a very powerful amplifier, mind you--the song would not stop, it would just continue indefinitely. And so what I had thought of before as just a kind of artistic sloppiness, this attempt to imply that oh yeah, we're a bunch of endlessly creative folks who jam all night, and the bad old record producer finally has to turn down the volume on us just so we don't fill the whole album with one monster song, became for me instead this kind of, this kind of summation of hopefulness. I first felt it in a song called 'Ain't Nobody,' which was a song that this man I had the crush on was particularly keen on. 'Ain't nobody, loves me better.' You know that one?"

"You sing well!" he said.

"I do not. But that's the song, and as you get toward the end of it, a change takes place in the way you hear it, which is that the knowledge that the song is going to end starts to be more important than the specific ups and downs of the melody, and even though the singer is singing just as loud as ever, in fact she's really pouring it on now, she's fighting to be heard, it's as if you are hearing the inevitable waning of popularity of that hit, its slippage down the charts, and the twilight of the career of the singer, despite all of the beautiful subtle things she's able to do with a plain old dumb old bunch of notes, and even as she goes for one last high note, full of daring and hope and passionateness and everything worthwhile, she's lost, she's sinking down."

-from Vox, by Nicholson Baker

Does this passage ring any bells with anyone? I know I went through a period when I was first getting into music--this is when I was maybe 10--where I really got fascinated with the fade-outs. I remember trying to figure out what the idea behind the fade-out was. Maybe they couldn't figure out how to end the song? Maybe, like it says up there, the song ended in a long jam, and if you saw them live you'd get to here the whole thing? Or maybe it was meant to imply that the song went on forever. That especially seemed to be the case on the version of "Black Diamond" on Double Platinum (KISS's "greatest hits" collection). On the original album, "Black Diamond" has this big, protracted ending, but I guess for the single, they chopped that part off, and instead played the beginning of the song again and faded it out, which made it seem like the song was playing in an endless loop to infinity.

I also remember doing that thing she's talking about up there, of trying to turn the volume up as the song fades out. Specifically, I remember doing this on Foreigner's "Hot Blooded." As it fades out, they repeat the chorus with different words: "Hot Blooded-Every night/Hot Blooded-You're lookin' so tight/Hot Blooded-You're drivin' me wild/Hot Blooded-I'm so hot for you, child!" Then, just as it's fading out of hearing (overtaken by the white noise of the tape), they repeat the chorus again, but without the chorus singing "Hot Blooded," just the guitar going "Mahnt Mahnah." I can't remember what he says in the "Check it and see" part, but it was such a cool discovery, like I had discovered this hidden corner of the song that noone else had been in.

Monday, October 01, 2007


A few of Bobbie's students (Yak Manrique, Tom Vrab and Jovonnie Mabrie) made this. Check out these rising stars!