Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quote of the Day

Kirk: "...then we'll have to take him with us."
Bones: "T-take him where?"
Kirk: "In search of his brain, doctor!"
Bones: "Jim, where are you going to look, in this whole galaxy... where are you going to look for Spock's brain!?!! How are you going to find it?"
Kirk: "I'll find it."

- Star Trek, Season 3, "Spock's Brain." They really should have made a Mystery Science Theater 3000 out of this one.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dance Jam!

I picked up and fell in love with the Disco Biscuts after hearing their killer single "2 On Time" on One Track Mind. (Free download and review here! And bonus points to the reviewer for use of the word "doucheburger.") Since I found it on heavy rotation at home and in the car, I created a Pandora station and was shocked to find out that they are a Philly-based jam band (they even host their own festival!) that incorporates dance rhythms and beats into the jam formula. It's a brilliant idea that injects an element of energy, danger and (dare I say it) modernity into the jam formula. In fact, it's so smart that despite the inevitable miscues and flaws that come out of constant improvisation their live tunes are remarkably engaging. What the Pandora station has presented so far is a far cry from the polished pop of "2 On Time," but you can see it's genesis in their jams, and I'm looking forward to listening to them more.

Is it Hot in Here or is it Just Me?

As you know, I have a weakness for both SciFi and pulp fiction. So I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Cowboys & Aliens. Today, I learned that the female lead is played by none other then the Tron: Legacy hottie Olivia Wilde, meaning that the movie just graduated from guilty pleasure to must-see. I'll let you know how it plays out on the big screen shortly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Math Based Artwork

I have a post in my head that i'll actually get online at some point about the connection between fractals and Sabra Field's artwork. Until then, you'll just have to enjoy some of the cool math-based art here and here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

First Line of "A Wrinkle in Time"

"It was a dark and stormy night"
- Madeleine L'Engle, first paragraph of A Wrinkle in Time.

Kelly picked this one up this weekend, having somehow escaped her childhood without reading it. It's a fantastic little book, one that I credit a lot for firing up my pre-teen imagination.

Nowadays, tho, the first line kills me, because whenever I read of it I think of Snoopy. However, Wikipedia tells me that there's a bit more history to the line.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Steve Kilbey's Remindlessness

SK’s 1990 would-be epic is a glorious mess. Kilbey aimed to produce a timeless classic, and viewed Remindlessness as "…the one that'll make them understand, right...?" Unfortunately, he allowed himself to become dominated by his new multi-track recorder and drum machines. Parts of the album are absolutely fascinating, but the sound is way too crowded and dense to achieve what it wants to. As SK puts it in the liner notes to monsters n mirages:
The atmosphere is oppressive and humid/ sounds crawl all over the place/It seems now that I left very few spaces … The drums pound like a migraine headache / the guitars howl like a tortured beasts / and the strings loom like executioners / It’s ambitions defiantly outweighed its abilities / but it failed gloriously and I was happy
Along those lines, parts of this album are absolutely unlistenable. Even good musical ideas have too many notes and instrumentation that’s annoying or just plain abrasive without adding anything to the song. I’ve got nothing against abrasive – I like Sonic Youth after all! – but here the loud sounds are simply exhausting. Part of that has to do with the static nature of the albums relentless iron drums. For example, take Goliath, a song built around a good drum riff – it might have worked with a live drummer, but with the drum machine pounding away, you just get a headache. All it all it’s not his best work.

I should also mention that my version is married by technical issues: two of the songs are mistakenly a combination of two different songs: "Music From Commercial for 'Eternity Inc' / No Such Thing" and "Soul Sample / Celebration of the Birthday of the Elephant God." This is particularly annoying because it means that whenever I want to listen to "...Elephant God" – my favorite track – I need to do some fast forwarding. Come on man, I want my instant gratification!

Anyways, I’m not going to detail the songs one by one like I did with his previous albums mainly because I don’t want to focus too much on the negative so I’ll just point out some of the standout tunes:
- The Neverness Hoax. This song is really good. A fade in sets the mood and then Kilbey adopts his lounge singer in space persona, singing:
Have I told you about the neverness hoax
A vile trick perpetrated on you innocent folks
Was it in the fall of '93
During the rise of the galaxy
A tiny shift in our trajectory
A little more substance to the unimaginary
-Music From Commercial for 'Eternity Inc' is a nice little pop song – driving and fun.
- Amphibian. If you can get past those drums, and the high-pitched Indian-style noise, there’s actually a pretty good white-boy groove going on.
- Random Pan. An acoustic song with some pretty slide guitar that’s a welcome change of pace from the relentless rawk of the rest of the album.
- Soul Sample – a nice driving rock n’ roll song.
- Celebration of the Birthday of the Elephant God. The epic of the album. This tune takes a while to grow on you, but it’s plodding bassline, Indian marching melodies, and dramatic lyrics really take you for a journey. Here, Kilbey’s at his most insinuating, singing of an unbeliever who has made it to the Elephant God’s throne room:
With the faint whir of leathery wings
Evoking all impossible things
Eternal twilight feels so cold
When the money's all gone your love's been sold
The elephant god sits impassive
His ivory tusks are black and massive
We sway and we curve and we splinter in fits
Drum 'round his throne where he patiently sits
This song effectively handles what SK describes as "...this records major obsession/the reconciliation of the gone mythic world / with the bright new miraculous future / which it seemed I was living in” As if to make that point, even the drums don’t sound as harsh in this one. In fact, the muted bass drums and strumming guitar of the "Servants" chorus contribute a nice respite to the dramatic journey.
Note: I’m planning on writing up my reaction to all of SK’s solo albums included in the Monsters n Mirages box set. Previous post: The Slow Crack. Next up: 1992’s Narcosis + More.

Impressionistic Shakespeare

This video of an impressionist performing Shakespeare - Clarence's speech from Act I, Scene 4 of Richard III - through the guise of a number of celebrities, is extremely entertaining. The switch from Woody Allen to Boris Karloff is particularly delicious.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yeah Basically Cibo Matto

So I randomly discovered last Monday that not only had Cibo Matto reunited, but that they were playing in Boston on Wednesday. Exciting! For those of you that don't know, Cibo Matto consists of Yuka Honda (multi-insturmentalist) and Miho Hatori (crazy vocalist) and together they play a suprisngly fun blend of Asian Pop and Hip-Hop, utilizing an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach (Mitchell Froom produced their first album). Apparently, after reuniting for the first time in 10 years for a benefit for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Honda and Hatori found that they still had their groove on - hence the tour and an expected album in early 2012.

Anyways, this prompted a quickly-planned trip to the Brighton Music Hall (nee Harpers Ferry) last night. It was a quick set - an hour and a half consisting of the highlights of their two albums (minus "Lint of Love") along with three new beat-heavy tunes. (For a hit of what their new music might sound like, watch their tour promo video.) However, it was highly enjoyable. They started out as a duo, Hatori singing over Honda's keyboards, for three songs before a very energetic drummer and a bassist (who fed his bass guitar through his own keyboard!) joined them onstage and kicked the concert into high gear. Together, the band captured the quirky, energetic, and funky groove from the past, and Hatori even had the crowd doing the white-girl hip-hop strut by the end.

If you haven't heard Cibo Matto before, I highly reccomend giving them a listen. While I can see why Viva La Woman isn't everyone's cup of tea (although I think it's brilliant), Stereotype A should appeal to everyone. After all, who can't groove to lines like "What's up B? Wa-sa-bi / I'm searchin' the city for sci-fi wasabi!"

Quote of the Day

"So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it."

- T.S. Eliot, from East Coker

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fun Moments in Stereotypes

Sunday, I was driving home from the hardware store with Trey, stopped at a light, when a hippie came walking down the road. This guy looked like he was in a movie: long stringy hair held out of his head with a beaded headband, beard, big ol' potbelly sticking out of his fringed vest (no shirt of course), ripped jeans and Birkenstocks. But I didn't start laughing at him until he turned to me, pointed, and said "Ha! Hope you like being stuck in traffic, man!" before turning around and slouching into a convenience store for more smokes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm Shocked - Shocked! - that the Military Can't Track its Money

The U.S. Department of Defense was unable to account properly for $8.7 billion of Iraqi oil and gas money meant for humanitarian needs and reconstruction after the 2003 invasion... . The figure is nearly 96 percent of the $9.1 billion funneled to the Pentagon from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), said the audit report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). The report described lax management of some of the billions of dollars designated for rebuilding war-shattered Iraq, where residents routinely complain about lack of electricity and other basic services more than seven years after the invasion.

(h/t The Dish)

How True

TNC writes that "Having a child is like watching your arm split off from you, grow its own brain and then do whatever it feels like. On some level, it's still yours, but you can't control it, you can't save it, and you can only, within reason, really protect it." This is more accurate than I can explain, and my oldest is not yet even five.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Learning to Write Cursive

Both of my sons are in a Montessori school, which means that they are being taught cursive as their first way of writing. There's a whole theory behind it which makes sense when you read it (the main benefit is that the kid doesn't have to lift their pencil from the page), but I've always been concerned that cursive a bit of a waste of time; after all, who writes in cursive these days. Even for those that know cursive, reading it can be a bit of a chore: I know my Mother's and my Grandmother's handwriting very well, but even so it can take a bit to decypher their cursive.

So it was with interest that I read this article by Danielle Magnuson. Among other things, she writes that:
...handwriting is not an antediluvian method of communication to be tossed aside in favor of e-learning, reports the Los Angeles Times (June 15, 2011). The motion of writing out letters and words and sentences by hand stimulates the brain in a way that keyboarding does not. Perhaps it is not so different than the way reading a book activates the brain differently than hearing the same information or watching it on a television screen. None of this is to say that computers and TV can’t be educational, but the tactile, memory-creating relationship between you and your language lessens once the re-creation of the letters by your own hand is taken out of the equation.
That's all well and good, but I just can't shake the feeling that both print and cursive are just as good for recognizing the benefits that Magnuson writes about. I have nothing to back this up, just my gut.

Quote of the Day

"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Deep Thought

Is it better to know a lot about a little (specialization) or a little about a lot (generalization)? I've always thought the latter, but i'm starting to question that assumption a bit. It's good to know a lot, but I also feel like I sound like Cliff Clavin at times ("It's a little known fact that...").

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Deep Thought

Honestly, does anything beat live music on the beach?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

The night before, working at great speed, Washington's men had moved the guns from Ticonderoga to commanding positions on the high ground of the Dorchester Peninsula, south of Boston, looking over Boston Harbor and the British fleet. With hundreds of ox teams and more than a thousand American troops at work, breastworks had been set up and cannon hauled into place, all in a night and to the complete surprise of the British. Abigail [Adams] was told that the British commander, on seeing what they had accomplished, remarked, "My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months."

- from page 76 of John Adams, proving that whoever wants it more usually wins the fight.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Lines of John Adams

In the cold, nearly colorless light of a New England winter, two men on horseback traveled the coast road below Boston, heading north. A foot or more of snow covered the landscape, the remnants of a Christmas storm that had blanketed Massachusetts from one end of the province to the other. Beneath the snow, after weeks of severe cold, the ground was iron, made the going hazardous, and the riders, mindful of the horses, kept at a walk.
- First lines of John Adams, by David McCullough

One of the things I love most about vacation is discovering new books by browsing the books that live in the cottage in which I'm staying. This year I'm reading about American history and am enthralled. Time to go lay down on the porch couch with a frosty beer and read about the Revolution.

Note: Updated to correct the name of the post. Blogging while sipping on Sammies does not an accurate writer make.

Deep Thought

There is nothing like beach light. You have the regular sun, and then the light bouncing off of the sand and water. It permeates everything, and is a wonderful experience.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Picture of the Day

You have to check out this self-portrait of a crested black macaque.

Gone Fishin'

In a few short hours, i'm packing the fam into an overstuffed car and heading to Block Island for a week's vacation. While i'm hoping to check in now and again, I anticipate blogging to be light until my return.
If anyone is familiar with the small island and has any recommendations for things to do or good running trails let me know in the comments.

Poem for the Weekend

Malcolm was fed 16 bullets because of his. A slug kissed
the jaw of King Jr. and silenced him forever. Gandhi shriveled
like snakeskin. Joan of Arc became Joan of Ash -
So you can understand why Melle Mel was jittery scribbling it
all down, on a napkin, at Lucky's Noodle Shop in Harlem.
Sweat pearled into his green tea. He thought of Jesus
hanging from the dull wood. Heard about the poet Lorca
under an olive tree, shot in the back. Everyone has felt this way though,
when he pressed his thumbprint into vinyl. Hip-hop was still
a tadpole. the DJ had just learned to scratch a record and make sounds
no ear had ever conjugated. How was he to know Tupac & Biggie
would follow his lead and get plugged with lead? So he wrote it down,
in big curling letters, emphatic: don't push me.

- "The Message" by Michael Cirelli

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Well, it's tough to be somebody
And it's hard to keep from fallin' apart
Up here on Rehab Mountain
We gonna learn these things by heart"
- Warren Zevon, from "Detox Mansion" off of Sentimental Hygiene

You really need to hear this song to understand it's power. Zevon plays a hellofa guitar on this one, and his singing is truly passionate. After reading his wife's biography of this "moralist in cynic's clothing" (I'll Sleep When I'm Dead), I've come to know just how much of this song came straight from his soul.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Fragment

An older man with droopy shoulders walked through the parking lot. He wore a faded LL Bean cap, a white collared T-shirt, and rumpled jeans. His eyes were hidden behind thick square shades and mouth was filtered though grey stubble. Taking deliberate steps with his hands clasped carefully behind his back, he measured his way up the right side of one row of cars, slowly turned around, and returned on the other side of the row. He walked this way for the better part of an hour, never talking to anyone or making any sounds, the inscrutable sentinel of the parking lot.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Moving Stars

Randy Halverson's timelapse photography videos of the Milky Way, shot from South Dakota. Simply stunning.
I really miss being able to see stars like this at night.

Quote of the Day

"It's quite true what philosophy says, that life must be understood backwards. But one then forgets the other principle, that it must be lived forwards. A principle which, the more one thinks it through, precisely leads to the conclusion that life in time can never be properly understood, just because no moment can acquire the complete stillness needed to orient oneself backward."
- Soren Kierkegaard

Monday, July 4, 2011

What Will Yours Be?

Bronnie Ware, a woman who worked in palliative care, shares the top five death bed regrets of those of whom she took care of. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's the cliff notes version:

...People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Thinking About Literary Irony

Charlie Alderman has a fascinating piece up on HuffPo that analyzes Jonathan Franzen and what critic James Woods labels "hysterical realism." I've always disliked that term, more for the negative connotations that have become associated with it over the years than with the term itself; its what led me to my overcommittment to Tree of Smoke. I also have not read enough Franzen to make an accurate judgement, but am very much looking forward to cracking open Freedom. Anyways, Alterman makes an interesting connection between Franzen and DFW:
...Franzen would need the help of a contemporary in tackling the Black Satirist legacy. While Franzen is the great dramatist of the age of conspicuous consumption and our country's ironic distance towards its effects, his close friend David Foster Wallace is the age's great theorist. In Wallace's non-fiction, [he] contends that, with Watergate as a watershed, post-industrial American youth cannot take politics or their parents' values seriously. They end up mocking everything, including earnestness in relationships, and devolve into self-absorption.
He goes on to make the point that Franzen is more establishment-defending than folks think, which I'm looking forward to finding out for myself when Freedom comes out in paperback.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

They do not know that the ideas come slowly, and that the more clear, tranquil and unstimulated you are, the slower the ideas come, but the better they are.
- Brenda Ueland