Monday, September 29, 2008

Books I Want to Read for $300, Alex

Neil Stephenson's going to be publishing a new book shortly called Anathem. Not sure when i'll actually be able to get around to reading almost 1000 pages, but his work is exciting, intelligent, and fun as hell.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quote of the Day

Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides raw material to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world. Best of all, mass death's a stimulus to just ordinary folks, little fellows, to try 'n' grab a piece of that Pie while they're still here to gobble it up. The true war is a celebration of markets.

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, page 105.

And now, leading your First Place Buffalo Bills...

An interesting writeup of Trent Edwards and how he came to be a starting Quarterback in the NFL. Interesting parts: He never played football before high school, and he lives with his sister in the suburbs south of Buffalo.

Happy Birthday!

Happy 2nd birthday, Hunter!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another Remembrance

Here's another good remembrance of DFW for you. I particularly like how this one places DFW and his work in context, that of a post-modernist, his place in adecemia, and also his attacks/analysis of popular culture ("It isn't worthy of satire, because it cannot use force to oppress").

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

$$$

I don't understand much of the problems behind the bailout proposals currently being debated - I imagine most of you are in the same boat. However, Paul Krugman - liberal columnist and economics professor at Princeton - is here to help by blogging about the current events.

First Place!

It was a game that they deserved to lose, but the Buffalo Bills came back to beat the Oakland Raiders and take over first place in the AFC East for the first time since (I believe) 1998, when Doug Flutie was the QB. It really looks like Trent Edwards is the real deal (it's so nice to see real QB play again), and coach Jauron is pushing all the right buttons. Here's hoping they keep it up!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Financial Malfeasance Explained

I found this article to be very informative as to the underlying reasons behind the recent financial meltdown.

Now all we need is someone to step in and prevent which, right now, looks like a bailout that is neither fair nor effective.

Hunter's Manners

Hunter's speech has been growing in leaps and bounds lately. This weekend we noticed him speaking in complete sentences for the first time: "Mommy close window"; "Daddy sit down here"; "Hunter give Bella snack". It shows that he's starting to really understand some of the words that he's learning rather then just parroting them back (although there's a certainly a lot of that as he increases his vocabulary).

Another neat thing is that he's starting to learn manners. Just Friday he started using "thank you" when he would get something that he wanted. Completely unprompted! It started out with Kelly "thank yee Mommy" and then he started thanking me too. It's not even something we've been practicing!

Another big step is that he's started showing concern for other people. Now, he's always been fascinated with other crying babies, and his teachers tell us that he'll go over to crying babies at daycare and try to give them their pacifiers. So this morning I tripped over this new wheeled bulldozer that we bought him for his second birthday (didn't fall, but did stumble) and Hunter walked over to me, stopped and said "Daddy OK?" When I assured him that I was alright, i just tripped, he repeated "trip" and then, relieved, said "oh, yes. Daddy Ok." I was thrilled, so praised him highly, but this had the side effect of encouraging him to repeatedly ask me if I was OK for our entire morning (about 15-20 minutes) which did get old after a while, but i'll take it if it means that he's starting to learn the proper way to behave around people.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bryan Ferry and Critics

So i've been doing a bunch of reading about Roxy Music online because, as I may have mentioned, I'm obsessed with them. Here's what I don't understand: people make merciless fun of Bryan Ferry, many of them by mocking his hair. (Exemplified in this pretentious knock of Avalon) And, admitably, some of this is deserved: I haven't (yet) listened to all of the stuff that he recorded - with Roxy or without - but it's clear that the late period Roxy abums are not nearly as groundbreaking or relevant as the early Roxy albums. And it does seem like some of his more recent solo albums tread water stylistically. The reviews for his most recent album – Dylanesque, a collection of Dylan covers – have been particularly brutal.

The problem I have is that if you listen to the music for what it is, you're still listening to pretty good stuff. Dylanesque may not be groundbreaking, but tell me you're not moved by his lilting tenor on Knockin' on Heaven's Door, or touched by the gentleness (!) of his take on Positively 4th Street. It’s only when you compare it to his classic Roxy toons (or even the irrepressibly joyful sacrilege of his A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall) that the songs fall short. But who cares about that! Musing about career paths and themes and betrayed promise is why so many people find criticism irrelevant: if a song speaks to you, then who cares if the guitar riff was lifted from an old Joe Walsh song or if the singer looks ridiculous in his cravat? (And make no mistake, the cover of Dylanesque makes Ferry look ridiculous.) Judging music by its look - regardless of how much Ferry influenced this trend himself in the 70s - is the cardinal mistake of the MTV era, and it's one of the major reasons why, in my opinion, why so little popular modern music really stands out as classics.

In short, sure it would be nice if Ferry could gear it up again and produce some of those weirdly energetic classics from his heyday. (I'd kill for another song on the par of Prairie Rose, myself.) The big problem I think most critics have with Ferry’s latter work is that he just doesn’t take the singing risks that he used to (just listen to what he does in Strictly Confidential). But in the meantime, listen to what we've got now and don't judge it based on your expectations, just what's in front of you, right here and now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obscure 70s rock

I'll be writing more about Roxy soon - did I mention that i'm obsessed? - but for now let me observe that the creativity of some of the more obscure '70s bands has really been entertaining me recently.

Other then the first five Roxy albums, another example is the drumming by Jaki Liebezeit on "Halleluhwah" from Tago Mago - Can's 1970 acid-drenched masterpiece: the guy plays the shit out of this recurring riff for all of the song's 17+ minutes. It if you didn't know better, you would think that it was the world's most soulful drum machine. It's easily the most stunning drumming i've ever heard in Rock music, rivaling even Keith Moon's pounding.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Roxy Music

So you may already know that i've become completely obsessed with Roxy Music lately. For those of you that don't know, Roxy is a UK band, led by Bryan Ferry, that was around from 1972-1983. Known mainly in the US for their 1975 disco hit "Love is the Drug" off of Siren and
their synth-pop masterpiece "More then This" from Avalon (sung by Bill Murray in Lost in Translation), Roxy Music's earlier music is much more energetic and creative then I ever could have imagined.

Probably the most impressive things about their early albums is how prescient they are. For example, I just picked up their eponymous debut album and the track "2 H.B." contains, at times, a drum stutter phrase that could be (and probably is) sampled in any number of trip-hop trax. Combine this with Brian Eno's keyboards and the song sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.

Yuka Honda's Eucademix

Kelly tasked me with finding her some new music and, since she's a big fan of Cibo Matto (Stereo Type A in particular), I went looking for some Yuka Honda music. Luckily, Eucademix was what I found.

Wikipedia tells me that it's an album of Shibuya-kei, a mix between jazz, pop, and electropop, which is a pretty good description of the eclectic music on the album. I also sense elements of downtempo, hip-hop, and dance. It's a hip, heady brew of influences that made me feel 10 times cooler then I actually am after my first listen. For example, "Twirling Batons in My Head" could be an intense trance track as recorded by DJ Shadow, while the guitar in "How Many Times Can We Burn This?" uses the exact same tone as Wes Montgomery.

These mostly instrumental tracks are a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it.

(Not to say it's perfect. There are a few "experimental" tracks on here which are basically stylized noise, which doesn't do anything for me. The harley-engine revs and random keyboard blips and bloops of "Why Are You Lying To Your Therapist?" is indulgence at its worst. And "Spooning with Jackknife" combines an intermittent jungle-beat with bubbling-bass and random Hendrix-style guitar, a recipe which sounds like a promising update to Bitches Brew but here only closes the album on an unsatisfying note.)

Financial Turmoil leads to thoughts of Revolution

The news today about the meltdown in the financial giants (no one could have anticipated that people wouldn't be able to pay back balloon loans with no money down!) makes me think that all of these bums just need to be thrown out.

Whenever I get in one of these moods, sickened by society's invertebrate greed and warlust, I'm reminded of this powerful poem by Rimbaud:

What’s it to us, my heart, the folds of blood
And the coals, and a thousand murders, and long wailings
Of rage, cries from every inferno upturning
Every order; and the north wind gusts over the wreckage

And all vengeance? Nothing!…—But still, just the same,
We want it! Industrialists, princes, courts:
Perish! Down with power, justice, history!
This is our reward! The blood! The blood! The golden flame!

All to war, to vengeance, to terror,
My spirit! We turn in this vise: oh, be gone
Republics of the world! We’ve had enough of
Emperors, regiments, empires and peoples!

Who would whip up the whirlwind of furious fire,
But we ourselves and those we imagine to be our brothers?
For us, romantic friends, it will give us pleasure,
We never shall work, o waves of fire!

Europe, Asia, America, disappear!
Our avenging march has occupied all,
City and country!—We shall be crushed!
Volcanoes shall erupt! And the ocean struck. . .

Oh, my friends!—My heart is confident they are our brothers:
The dark unknowns, if we were to go! Let’s go!
Woe to us! I sense the shudders, the old soil,
Upon me, yours more and more! The soil melts.

But it’s nothing; I am here; I am still here.

–Arthur Rimbaud, Qu’est-ce pour nous, mon cœur (1872)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

RIP, David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace hung himself Friday night. He was only 46 years old.

I've always wanted to read Infinite Jest, but just don't have as much time these days for 1000 page novels. His short stories are always interesting - especially Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - but to me his masterpieces are his non-fiction journalistic pieces. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is a smart, insightful, and extremely fun book to read.

DFW was one of the few authors who always commanded my attention whenever I ran across one of his writings. He'll be missed.

Hiking in the White Mountains

I'm feeling a bit under the weather; Hunter brought home some stomach bug that's laid us out this weekend. I'm used some of this enforced downtime to clean up a rough draft of a trip report I typed up about a hike up Mts. Jefferson, Adams, and Madison this June with Chad and Eric.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Road Rage

So as I was wandering around the greater Boston area this morning looking for a parking space, I was reminded again why I normally take the train into town. Boston driving is an infuriating process on the best of days, and today there was an inordinate amount of construction, meaning that I couldn't park in either of the two places I was planning on parking. It took me two hours to get into work. If I had taken the train, I could have been into work in a cool 1:15, and have been much less stressed out.

The only reason i'm not on the train tonight is that i'm going to a Red Sox game and was driven away from the train by the MBTA's incompetence. Their schedule says that the train back to Ashland leaves Yawkey station at 10:30 PM. However, on nights with Sox games, this time is extremely malleable. The last time I was at a Sox game, I left at the end of the eighth inning so that I would be sure to be at the train station on time. Hundreds of other Sox fans and I got onto the train right on time. However, the conductor announced that the train would be delayed 15 minutes to account for the end of the game.

Keep in mind that there was no announcement in the schedule that this might happen. No announcement at the game that the delay was a possibility. The end result is that everyone that needed to be on the train was already on the train: absolutely nobody else boarded the train that night in the 15 minute delay period (I took a close look). So all the Sox fans got to miss a Paplebon save, and arrived home 15 minutes, all for absoutely no reason at all.

Note to the MBTA. One way to improve your already incredibly shitty approvial rating with your riders is to keep them informed. Strike a deal with the Sox to announce when the trains are going to be held up so that people can plan for it. (After all, we know you know who the Sox are: we're innondated multiple times a day with announcements from Mike Lowell and Alex Cora to take the T to the game.) All you accomplished was uslessly annoying your customers for no benefit. This is not rocket science.

The sad thing is that this horrible customer service will not cost them any riders; the train (or walking, or biking) is infinitely better then driving in the Gordian's Knot that passes for Boston roads. Think of this the next time someone asks you why you walk/take the train.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin: You've just Won American Idol!

I don't want to turn this into an all-politics blog, but this Salon article, about Sarah Palin being a dominatrix, was too disturbing to pass up.

From the article:

"Iraq may be a quagmire, a new cold war may be looming, the economy may be tanking and the world may be heading toward environmental doom, but the presidential race may be decided by the perceived doability of the governor of Alaska."

While she's easy on the eyes (until you comprehend what she's actually saying), I don't happen to find her that attractive, so i'm not buying what she's selling. However, I seem to be in the minority. Actual people I know have talked about how hot she is, while Matt Yglesias sez that Palin controls our dreams.

Is the typical American voter so shallow that they'll vote for someone just because they find them sexy? Or is this a subconscious thing? Regardless, I find this trend disturbing. I didn't want to have a beer with Bush, and I don't want to do Palin. I just want them (or, more realistically, their Democratic counterparts) to take care of my country for me.

I'll have some more later about what some have termed the American Idol-ization of the American political scene.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

John McCain's Moral Corruption

One of the things that has absolutely amazed me this election cycle is how John McCain, someone who used to be honorable and who appeared to have an independent mind (for a politican), completely sold his soul to the right-wing of the Republican Party in order to capture the nomination. Despite my hopes that he would then tack back to the center in the general election, he has continued to dive deep down into the murky Rovian waters of personal destruction.

Andrew Sullivan paints this picture extremely well, and it's hard not to argue with his conclusion: "McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States." It's a good read.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Equatorial Stars

My first impression of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno's The Equatorial Stars was disappointing. It's a static album, with some "frippertronics" (where Fripp solos over taped guitar loops) but overall it's lacking in the energy and dynamicism of the fantastic first four tracks of their 1975 album Evening Star.

One notable exception is the song "Altair" in which Fripp plays a surprisingly funky rhythm guitar over spooky keyboards reminiscent of an eerie David Lynch scene.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Let's Go Buffalo!

The NFL season gets underway today, and the Buffalo Bills might actually have a chance at a good season. Despite their all-start left tackle holding out for the entire pre-season, despite their starting strong-side linebacker being placed on season-ending IR, they have a chance to be a decent team this year, even - dare I say it - contend for the playoffs.

It's tough to follow the team from long distance. They rarely get on national TV, and most of their games are on at the same time as the evil New England Patriots which blackout all other games. I'm "watching" through Yahoo Gametracker now: the score is 7-0 Buffalo over the Seahawks, and it looks like the Buffalo defense is keeping them in the game.

Keep the hopes alive by following along at Buffalo Rumblings.

Global Warming & Hurricanes

So last night the remnents of Hurricane Hanna dropped 2-3 inches of rain on the ground, reminding me that one of the worst effects of global warming is that hurricanes will be getting much stronger the warmer the earth gets. Climate Progress has the details here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Howdy

Hi there! I'm finally onboard the blogging bandwagon. Look for this place to be nothing more then the random thoughts that work their way through my mind... stuff that's just not complete or polished enough for my website (gibsonmeigs.net).
I've got nothing for you right now, but look for something more substantial shortly.