Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Know, I Know

Haven't posted anything in a while, so join me in spending way too much time browsing through the Growing Up Star Wars Flickr Group. Is it the nostalgia for a simpler, more childlike time? Or just the yearning for a world where Star Wars was something more than a bad joke? I also got really into this story about playing in suburban storm drains.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oral Shibboleths

TNC linked to this funny New York Times piece about grammar.

Language pedants hew to an oral tradition of shibboleths that have no basis in logic or style, that have been defied by great writers for centuries, and that have been disavowed by every thoughtful usage manual. Nonetheless, they refuse to go away, perpetuated by the Gotcha! Gang and meekly obeyed by insecure writers.

Among these fetishes is the prohibition against “split verbs,” in which an adverb comes between an infinitive marker like “to,” or an auxiliary like “will,” and the main verb of the sentence. According to this superstition, Captain Kirk made a grammatical error when he declared that the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”; it should have been “to go boldly.” Likewise, Dolly Parton should not have declared that “I will always love you” but “I always will love you” or “I will love you always.”

Any speaker who has not been brainwashed by the split-verb myth can sense that these corrections go against the rhythm and logic of English phrasing. The myth originated centuries ago in a thick-witted analogy to Latin, in which it is impossible to split an infinitive because it consists of a single word, like dicere, “to say.” But in English, infinitives like “to go” and future-tense forms like “will go” are two words, not one, and there is not the slightest reason to interdict adverbs from the position between them.

Hey, I'm an English Major, and I do try to stick to the basic rules of grammar, but at some point, you have to ask why it's so terrible to fucking split an infinitive. Or, I guess I should say, to split an infinitive fuckingly.

Songs of the Season, Part 1

I know some people who like cold weather, and maybe it's different for them. For me, this is the worst time of year. During the first half of winter (I guess that would actually be fall), you have the structure of the holidays driving you on, Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to the New Year. But after the first week of January, you are left with nothing but the long slog, cold weather and uneventful calendars as far as you can see. I look out the window at the uniformly grey sky, and it seems an outward expression of my headspace. It's not really depression or sadness, but a sort of numb flatline colored in grey melancholy. It's difficult to move. You just want to sit on your couch and watch the hands proceed on their slow, lonely journey around the clock. Four long months til summer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Images of a Black President

Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915)

(Well, black congress anyway, starting about 5 minutes in)

Rufus Jones for President (1933, starring a very young Sammy Davis Jr.)

(Part 1 of 3)
Thr Richard Pryor Show (1977)

Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983)

Chris Rock (audio from Bring the Pain, 1997)

Black Bush (Chappelle's Show, 2004)

I wanted to write something about what this evolution means, but my brain is mush right now. Did I forget any good ones?

Songs I Used To Think Were Awesome, Part 4

Krokus were from Sweden (or was it Switzerland? I'm gonna say Sweden, because it's a little funnier), and as you can hear from this recording, they were the most shameless rip-off of AC/DC ever heard. This song cracks me up, though, because it's pretty much what you'd expect of a band who learned English by listening to AC/DC records. I'm sure they thought "Long Stick Goes Boom" was the sort of double entendre that Bon Scott was so good at, but to a native English speaker, it comes off as a really clumsy phrase. This album also contained a song called "Bad Boys' Rag Dolls". To be fair, on their next album they got a slightly more distinctive sound. I mean, they were still ripping off AC/DC, but they didn't sound like an exact clone.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. xXx

Friday, January 09, 2009

Psychedelicatessen: The Best of 2008

Here's a list of some of my favorite stuff to appear on this blog in 2008, in case you missed any of it.

I scanned in some early 90's letters-to-the-editor of the Athens Daily News. This is one of my all-time greatest hits.

I started this "Punk Single of the Week" series (which soon became just "Single of the Week"), with stuff by The Zany Guys, Peace Corpse, Dogbowl, the We Can't Help It If We're From Florida compilation, Raymond McCollister, The Residents, Hose, Jerry Reed (RIP), Victor Lundberg, Curtis Mayfield, Queen, The Beastie Boys, PeeWee Herman, The Circle Jerks and Morbid Opera.

I also posted the Temptation LP by Florida punk band The Voodoo Idols. (If you want to go further back into the archives, you can find Hillbilly Frankenstein's Hypnotica (I linked to some video of the band here) and Cyril Jackson's Afro Drums, which I meant to eventually follow up with this Guy Warren album, but somebody beat me to it. It's a shame you can't find any information on guys like Warren until they die.)

Some videos I posted on YouTube: great footage from the films Get Yourself a College Girl, Hootenany Hoot and Cha Cha Boom!, and the first half hour of The Happening (not the M. Night flop), filmed on location in 1967 Miami. Plus a clip from White Cargo.

The post that consistently gives me the most hits is the "Wyatt Tape," a permanent home for Bob Suren's primer on hardcore punk. It attracts a lot of Google hits due to all the bands mentioned in Bob's very, very, very extensive liner notes. (I also get a lot of hits from a short post I wrote on Juno and Persepolis. It's the top result on Google for people who misspell "Perseoplis," which is more common than you would think.)

Over the summer, I was posting and writing about a lot of music (the files are all still there), including The Dictators, the Nigeria 70 compilation, Let's Active, Mungo Jerry, The Fugs, King Khan, and Dale Warren's track "Salvation Symphony" from the Wattstax soundtrack. This all culminated in me posting a Muxtape of The Fiery Furnaces. Of course, a few days later, Muxtape went down, so most people never heard it. I keep meaning to re-do it as a podcast, but I still like the lengthy overview/defense of their career that I wrote. Then I read Nick Tosches' Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock-n-Roll, which led to this lengthy post, and this eventual follow-up (which was also sort of a follow-up to posting this song), both of which I like quite a bit.

I got some comments about this post in which I countered the straw-man argument that I felt Brad Bird was making with the character of Anton Ego in Ratatouille. Here's my review of Blast of Silence, the best film I saw last year. I'm quite proud of my review of the Stones' concert film Shine a Light (I was as surprised as anyone by how much I liked it). Might as well throw my brief reviews of Killer of Sheep and Girl 27 in there. And here's my obituary for Rudy Ray Moore.

I also wrote about the Proustian effects of martinis, the weirdness of turning 40, and seeing Hollywood Boulevard at the New Beverly. People seemed to dig these Thai movie posters I posted, although I can't take much credit (I just copied the images from eBay). I did buy that Flash Gordon poster, and it is framed above my couch right now.

What a year. Here are my lists of favorite DVD's, albums and songs (with one late addition) of 2008.

Songs I Used To Think Were Awesome, Part 2

Actually, I guess this should be part 3, if the Riot song was part 1.

Talk about a bombastic ending. (SPOILER ALERT!) And after all that, he doesn't even break the guitar! My brother busted me air-guitaring to this one once. So embarrassing.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Good News

The 2008 additions to the National Film Registry are out, including The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. God, I love that movie. Also interesting, this home movie of a midwestern family's trip to Disneyland in the 50's is being preserved as an archeological artifact.

The Bad News: Ron Asheton, 1954-2009

Ron Asheton, original guitarist for The Stooges, is dead. Where to even start? What can you say about him? It's all right there in that nasty opening riff to "1969", or the harsh, violent stabs of "Not Right". Iggy deserves all the credit he gets, but Ron really needs to be recognized as one of the great punk-ass guitarists of all time. Plus, if you read Please Kill Me, Ron is one of the few people who doesn't come off as a total asshole (certainly you can't say that about Iggy).

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Too Hip For The Room

This is gonna be a great show. Come out and support, we could use some bodies.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Punk Single of the Week - Morbid Opera

Morbid Opera - Jesus Love You So Give Us Your Money 7" (.rar file, includes artwork)

Already covered this Florida band a little on the We Can't Help It If We're From Florida comp. Their stuff here is less hardcore, more garage rock stuff, but still has that punkish feel. The tracks are:

Side 1:
Private Prostitute
Deep End
Side 2:

For a sample, I stuck the best song, "Madness," in the embedded player. This will probably be the last single for a while. I've got a few more cool ones I could put up, but I don't see myself having time over the next couple months.

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 DVD's

I don't really have any favorite movies list yet, since I haven't seen any of these end-of-the-year films. Seems like a weak year compared to 06 and 07. But I can at least list my favorite DVD releases.

Blast of Silence - the best film I saw this year. I reviewed it here.

Spaced: The Complete Series - Fucking finally! I had seen the first season when it ran on BBC America a while back, and I had liked it, but watching it again without any incorrect expectations, I see what a fucking brilliant show this is. Spaced is to twentysomething slackers what Freaks and Geeks is to teenage misfits.

Trafic - Criterion comes through again, with a late-period Tati film centered around car culture. So many great gags and awesome cars in this film! I also got to see The Big Day for the first time this year, which is maybe even funnier than the Hulot films.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains - Admittedly, I haven't watched this DVD yet, but the fact that it exists is awesome. This movie was a white whale for me for so long. They used to show it on NightFlight, but somehow I always missed it. Finally found a VHS of it a couple years ago. The cautionary tale of trying to keep your integrity in the high-stakes world of rock n roll, starring Diane Lane and Laura Dern, is essential.

This American Life, Season 1 - I didn't think this could be as good as the radio show. I was wrong. So many great stories, from the 14-year-old who says he won't fall in love (more painfully embarassing than anything in My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks), to the comedian trying to tell jokes about her husband dying in 9/11 (Ira Glass seems to have a fascination with comedians bombing), to the unfortunate guy whose mom married the bassist from OXO, this is like the cool version of Real People. I guess the storytelling pieces don't translate as well as the journalistic pieces, so none of the rock stars of the show like David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell make appearances, but they do have footage of the girl reading from her teenage diary onstage (a great piece carried over from the radio show). I should also mention--you know how sometimes you see your local radio dj, and they don't look anything like what you thought they would? Ira Glass looks FUCKING EXACTLY LIKE you'd think he would.

John Adams - I don't know that everyone would dig this HBO miniseries, but I have fond memories of that year-and-a-half around the Bicentennial when there were educational specials about the American Revolution everywhere. This series has the most amazing cast of character actors I've ever seen assembled (how awesome is Tom Wilkinson? In one year, he plays Ben Franklin, James Baker and a Nazi general!). Plus, you get all the grizzly details of colonial life. I love seeing how they went about vaccinating for smallpox or performing masectomies. Or tarring and feathering British officers. Episode 2 would make a great 4th of July double feature with 1776.

30 Rock: Season 2 - This is so the funniest show on TV, even putting it up against punk sitcoms like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman. The Carrie Fisher episode was one of my favorite episodes of any sitcom, between Liz's encounter with her idol (that must have been based on real experience, right?), the in-jokes about the different generations of SNL alumna, and Baldwin and Morgan's therapy session. And God, the recent episode about Liz's high school reunion really felt painfully true to my life. That one's not on the DVD, I just wanted to mention it.

Iron Man - I don't think this is as good a superhero movie as the first couple Spider-Man flicks, but I can see why people like it. It's because Tony Stark, as played by Robert Donwey, Jr., is a character that you would watch a movie about even if he never got superpowers. And after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac and Tropic Thunder, I'm just very happy to finally have Downey on the A-list.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Albums of 2008

Guess it's that time of year again. This is more of a list of everything I've listened to (at least the stuff that made a big enough impression on me to be listworthy)--I'm not really following new music close enough to have to narrow the list down. But hey, I'm 40, I should get credit for listening to this much stuff, when I could just spend the rest of my life looking for obscure blues, punk and hip hop records.

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Somehow, the album I keep coming back to this year is this art-rock concept album that invokes the day-glo hysteria of gay disco filtered through a thousand hooks. Skeletal Lamping is a hillarious collection of sex songs (I can't remember another album with this many quotable one-liners), but it's not quite the horny silliness of Beck's Midnight Vultures. The characters that inhabit these songs all have unique neurotic hang-ups. It's as if Shortbus had been made into a musical. The fragmented song-structures could have resulted in an annoying prog rock opera, but by attaching them to a great beat (the disco thump is not really constant, but you get the impression that it is), it ends up feeling more like a long DJ mix (one that includes bits of Prince, Bowie, Queen, The Beach Boys and Duran Duran). Much more satisfying than Girl Talk.

The Matthew Herbert Big Band - There's Me and There's You

This album has a great sound that at first reminded me of Dean Elliot's Zounds, What Sounds! After doing a little research, I found out that Herbert is actually some big deal guy in electronic music, and the hron arrangements are built around his industrial samples rather than the other way around, which actually makes it even more interesting (this negative review from Pitchfork fills you in on some of the signifigances of the samples, which I suppose is information I could have gotten from the liner notes if I had bought the CD instead of downloading from eMusic--more on this in a minute). Lyrically, it's one of the few contemporary albums to really engage with our political landscape, from the criticism of the media in the opening track, "The Story" ("Read nothing about it") to the finale of "Just Swing," a chipper tune that gives voice to Bush-era fundamentalism: "Forget those silly facts and things." Eska Mtungwazi's Ella-esque vocals give the whole thing a classic feeling. Perfect sounds for a New Year's Eve party.

The Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark

This album feels like a move into the next phase of their career, a bit more mellow, but also more confident. Compared to the fiery performances on, say, The Dirty South, the Truckers here sound like a band with nothing to prove, and that confidence allows them to pull off an album that should, by all rights, be just too damn long. It's not that every song is a winner, but the album is paced so well that you never feel it's length (saving the masterpiece "A Ghost to Most" for the end is a particularly smart move). Mike Cooley writes great songs so routinely that it's hard to see them as remarkable, but he outdoes himself not only with "Ghost", but with "Lisa's Birthday" (a perfect Nashvile country song, right down to John Neff's low-register steel guitar solo), "Three Dimes Down" ("while chicken wing puke eats the candy apple read off your Corvette"--that line alone should qualify this album for my top 10) and "Sunrise in Las Vegas". Meanwhile, Patterson Hood has perfected his own storytelling song style, particularly on "The Opening Act," probably Hood's best song outside of the rowdy southern rock style he most excels at. It's the kind of song you'd want to hear on a Waffle House jukebox at four in the morning. And then there's Shonna, stepping into the third singer-songwriter spot vacated by her own ex Jason Isbell. Shonna's got a beautiful singing voice, and it's that voice rather than her songwriting skills that makes "I'm Sorry Houston" good and "Purgatory Line" great (sorry, I just can't get with "Homefield Advantage," which sounds like some bad Melissa Ethridge shit), but there's definitely potential there.

Various Artists - Como Now

I'm hesitant to write about this, because if I start talking about how this is "the real, deep shit" I'll end up coming off as the classic White Guy Fetishizing Black Culture, but man, this collection of a capella gospel newly recorded in Pinellas County, Mississippi is incredibly powerful stuff. When I listen to "Move Upstairs," I can totally hear how it would sound with drums and bass, and it would really rock, but it wouldn't rock as much as it does a capella.

Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

Deerhoof don't have the kind of easily traceable career arc that, say, Sonic Youth had in their first decade, but there's definitely a consistent move toward being more ear-friendly. Their song structures are still confounding, but there are little bits you can hold onto now, like the massive riff in "The Sound and Music of Love," the Jimmy Page/Fairport Convention 12-string in "Offend Maggie", or the funky beat in "Fresh Born." "Snoopy Waves" has what sounds like a harmonica but could just be a distorted guitar. Either way, although the song is as far from blues pop music can get, you get the feeling of "blues" from that sound, and it makes the weirdness go down easier.

Erykah Badu - Amerykahn Promise Part 1 - World War Four

I'm so happy that Eykah didn't lose her edge and become a "normal" R&B singer. This album is as weird and eclectic as anything out there, and even near the end where she throws a few slow jams in (I'll amdit that I just don't like this kind of song), I'm willing to stick with it because "The Healer" and "The Cell" are so freakin' cool. (I tried uploading "The Cell," but since I got it from iTunes, I guess it's got that DMR shit on it, so I posted a video of "The Healer" instead. Here's the closest thing I could find to a video of "The Cell.")

V/A - Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump
V/A - Calypsoul 70

I wrote about Nigeria 70 earlier this year. Calypsoul is a similar collection covering 70's funk from the Carribean and Bahamas. Funky steel drums, carnivale rave-ups, a little bit of reggae and a lot of drum breaks. These comps are really revealing to me the limits of having an eMusic account, because here I have these two great comps with no liner notes, so I know nothing about any of the bands included within (including, in the case of Calypsoul, the island of origin for each tune). The wacked-out song I posted above is "Guanavaco" by Marius Cutler.

The Heliocentrics - Out There

Psychedelic space rock, funky beats, Man...Or Astroman?-ish samples. This is good, funky stuff. Check out those tight horn parts on "Sirius B"!

Beck - Modern Guilt

What can I say? It's Beck. I love everything Beck does. My favorite Beck is the funky Beck of Odelay, Midnight Vultures and Guero. I thought this would be more funky Beck, because it was produced by Danger Mouse. It's not, but it's a great collection of vaguely 60's-ish pop tunes with a nice, warm feeling. The Information was a much more interesting album, but it was such a mess that I couldn't really grab onto anything, so the clean lines and distinct songs on this album are a welcome change-up.

DJ/rupture - Uproot
I had this placed much higher on my list at first, but after repeated listens, there are some really boring stretches in there. I like the swampy feel of this dub mix, reminds me of the symphony of frogs and crickets you could hear at night at my relatives houses in Okechobee. A good chill-out mix to accompany MIA's Kaya. Sticking "Brooklyn Anthem" near the end to liven things up was an excellent choice.

Mitch Hedberg - Do You Believe in Gosh?
This posthumous set is actually my favorite Mitch release. He seems both looser and tighter. I suspect this was not recorded with the intention of being the next Mitch Hedberg album (again, I'm lost without liner notes), so he treats it more like a regular night of road comedy, and fucks around just enough to make it interesting. Mitch dealing with a heckler in the above clip is the funniest part of the record.

Q-Tip - The Rennaisance
God, that bass on "ManWomanBoogie" is like a wet dream. So nice. I'm not even sure what I like about this album. It's not like Tip is breaking any new ground here, or outdoing himself in any way, but it just hits the ears very nicely. I should also mention that I love maybe half of that Nas album.