30 April 2008
29 April 2008
Tuesday's Fortune: 29 April 2008
Fuck Belated Sideways Buttons Maneuver
Speaking Of The Octodog
RIP Albert Hofmann
Albert Hofmann, the Swiss scientist who first synthesized LSD in 1938, has died today at the age of 102.
"I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be." - Albert Hofmann
My own experiences with LSD weren't outstanding (they didn't outright suck either), but nonetheless, I am glad that I experimented with the drug a bit in my college years, and sometimes still wonder exactly how much residual effect the drug actually had on my subconscious in the intervening years.
Otherwise, all I can say is that I believe the world is a better place with hallucinogens than without, and Mr. Hofmann must be given props for his "accidental" discovery. The image above is in reference to Hoffman's infamous bike ride home on the day he ingested 250 micrograms of the substance, which kickstarted his self-experimentation with the drug.
Rest in peace, Albert Hofmann.
Has It Come To This?
There is a media firestorm of sorts right now regarding that picture up above, and considering all the pious handwringing going on right now about how the poor girl has been manipulated by Vanity Fair and Annie Leibovitz, well, I thought I'd throw my two cents into the meaningless fray.
The only people being manipulated by any of this are you and me.
In showbiz, a picture like that is not used/published without first being fully approved by Miley, her parents, her agent, publicist, and/or whomever else is responsible for vetting such things. If the Cyrus camp doesn't like and approve the image, it simply isn't used. But it obviously was used, so it was obviously approved. Furthermore, her entire family, as well as said publicist, was present at the photo shoot in question.
A day or two after the photos were released, Miley Cyrus herself expressed "embarrassment" in a press release. The key words here are "press release". It is a part of the entire publicity process surrounding the photos and the Vanity Fair article in which the photos ultimately were used, and based on the shitstorm that is now brewing in our culture, I would have to say that it has been an insanely effective PR campaign. Miley's supposed embarrassment was the match that ignited this entire shitstorm, and she and her people threw the match onto the fire themselves.
In essence, Miley Cyrus wants to have her cake and eat it too. She doesn't want to lose her pre-teen/tween/teen fanbase, but she's also now approaching the point in her career when she wants to crossover into mainstream pop culture and start attracting adult fans. Thus, in the coming months and years, we're going to see less of her flashing a peace sign, and more of this:
Because, you know, flashing the rocker's devil horns is a sure sign of adulthood. Plus, more and more pictures show her sticking out her tongue in a vaguely sexual/Gene Simmons manner. Miley can feign embarrassment all she wants, but we must remember that all of this has been carefully orchestrated, and like I said before, you and I, the pop culture consuming masses, are the one's being manipulated.
So, we end up with alot of parents supposedly upset by the suggestive nature of the photograph. There isn't much skin showing, sure, but the common complaint is that she has a come-hither look on her face, and the sheet suggests that she's naked in bed, which is not the kind of image and idea these parents want their children exposed to.
I would argue that these parents shouldn't be allowing their kids to be consuming Miley's shitty brand of "art" to begin with, but I'm not a parent, and I'm guessing it's near-impossible to keep one's kids away from this kind of thing to begin with because kids have absolutely no taste.
I don't know where to go with this blathering rant of mine, or how to end it. I'll just reiterate my only point that you and I are the only ones being manipulated and exploited by any of this. After all, I just spent about 20 minutes writing this useless post, and presumably you just read it.
28 April 2008
I'm Looking Through You
Is It Wrong?
Is it wrong to lust after a cartoon character? A female cartoon character with a deeper voice than myself, who may (or may not) be transsexual? Who dresses like Jackie Onassis and dates an inept villain who calls himself the Monarch and lives in a giant flying cocoon?
After all, according to the Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend is "the hottest piece of ass in supervillainy", and just about every male character on The Venture Bros. lusts after her as I do.
No, it can't be wrong.
25 April 2008
Something 4 The Weekend # 65
Record Day Reckoning
Last Saturday afternoon I took a drive down to the end of Willie Street to visit MadCity Music Exchange, which is a small independent record shop participating in Record Store Day, and the first person I run into when I enter the store is Sal, a middle-aged punk and classic rock dinosaur like myself, and a guy whom I used to work with in the shipping department back in the old Sonic Foundry days, circa 1998 to 2001...I think the last time I actually saw Sal, and had an actual conversation with him, was about 2003, so it was great to run into him like that.
After we wished each other a "Happy Record Store Day", Sal held up three Stiv Bators' solo records he had found with that giddy look on his face, like a kid in a toy store. And then he puffed out his chest to show me the Ace Frehley t-shirt he was sporting...
"I was at the show at The Rave last month, and Ace was killin'!"
You see, Sal is a KISS fan, although it's largely a nostalgia thing these days, and it's not as serious as his Tommy Bolin fanaticism, and maybe not even as big as his Blue Oyster Cult love...He's also a junkie for American Hardcore in general, although one night he dropped by my place to spin a rare Billy Cobham record for me, cuz he wanted me to convert...Convert me to what, I dunno, cuz I never had any beef with Cobham...
Anyways, Sal and I spent some time catching up on things at Madcity, then I made my way over to the import CD case, and he rushed home with his Stiv Bators stash, and that's exactly the kind of encounter that we're missing in this digital world. Posting short reviews at eMusic in response to someone else's review just isn't the same, you know?
Madcity was the most crowded I have ever seen it in the 10 years I've been frequenting the place, which means there were about 15 people in the shop, at least half of them flipping through the vinyl, which is always a heartwarming sight...And while I did go hunting for some Kinks vinyl, I came up empty, and ended up buying some CDs...
As the album cover suggests, As Mercenarias were an all-female punk/post-punk band back in the 1980's who hailed from Brazil. This album caught my eye immediately, sitting there in the A section, a bright yellow light of marketing saavy with the Soul Jazz Records imprint right on the front. Soul Jazz Records is a wickedly cool label outta the UK who keeps on releasing amazing genre compilations and single-artists sets, and this As Mercenarias collection doesn't disappoint. They remind me of The Minutemen a bit, without the virtuosity, especially spastic guitar soloing all over the place like d. Boon...I guess the ladies in As Mercenarias actually heard mortar shells...It's spikey, and cracklin', and even though it's all sung in Portuguese, the songs are damn catchy, and I find myself shouting along with my best approximation of the actual words...It's kinda like singing along to old REM in that respect...
Fuck, that's such a dismissively simple way of describing the man's life and career...
Gary Lucas is one of America's finest guitar players and songwriters, who's career has now spanned close to 40 years, and includes collaborations with dozens of other gifted songwriters and musicians - Nick Cave, Lou Reed, John Cale, John Zorn, Damo Suzuki, John Williams, DJ Spooky...Based on those names, you might guess that Lucas' style lays somewhere in between trad blues based noodling, and supreme avant garde excursions...Excellent stuff, to be sure...
And finally, the new M83 album you see at the top of this post...To be honest, I haven't given the album more than a quick overview yet...
Anyways - my only point to this post is that I ran into an old friend/coworker who I haven't seen in awhile, and we talked for a bit about music, and we chewed the fat with Sophie behind the counter, and it was a damn good RECORD STORE DAY, the kind of thing that just doesn't happen at iTunes...
22 April 2008
It's A Dog's Life, It Really Is
Tuesday's Fortune: 22 April 2008
19 April 2008
HANK RANKS No. 16
The band I was in from 86-89, Mumniti, played an epic D&D campaign, with bassist Fred as the DM, once a week for a year or so...My character was an elven Thief/Assassin named Poto Sai...
That was the first time I ever did the whole role-playing thing...It was pretty cool...My character spent half the year under the spell of some magic mushrooms I had eaten...Lycanthropy was involved for awhile, and my character's dreams/hallucinations were most excellent...Along the way I stole and did contract hits in a middle-earth fantasy kinda universe with a band of other morally ambiguous adventurers...
(Later on the Thief video game franchise came along...one of my faves, natch, that made it's way to #3 on a previous HANK RANKS, dontcha know?)
The second and last time I role played was about two years ago, when a neighbor of my friend The Thump, put together an old, Wild West-themed campaign...It seemed like a fun way to kill 2-3 hours once a week, and so I put together a character, and a-role-playing I went, with Thump, and a Scottish dude named Shane...The neighbor who would be the DM was named Austin...
Four of us, who's personalities didn't quite mesh, and the story moved too slowly, I thought, and so we never got much traction...I think we played about a dozen times before it all fell apart...
Anyways, my character's name ended up being Asa Blackburn, which isn't actually on this list, and his backstory was that he was a farmer (tobacco, corn, assorted animals) who's house and barn and fields had been ransacked and burned to the ground by the Confederate Army during the Civil War...His wife had been killed in the fire, and for reasons unknown, he fled to the west, ending up in a small mining town called Dead Mule, out in "Injun country"...Looking for adventure, and to simply forget his tragic past...He drinks alot, and attempts to befriend a VERY LARGE FORMER CIRCUS BEAR...
Long blathering story short, yesterday I found an old index card with these names written down on it...My list of potential names for my character...Feel free to use any of these names for any of yr role-playing needs, or if you possibly need an alias in Wyoming...
Honorable Mention: Uriah Creep
16 = Lucian Smith
15 = Red Foote
14 = Commodore Coombs
13 = Buford Newton
12 = Luther Colt
11 = Mordecai Booker
10 = Calvin Wiley
09 = Rufus Dixon
08 = Hiram Hitchcock
07 = Oscar Freeman
06 = Ezra Sexsmith
05 = Asa Whitcomb
04 = Levi Brewster
03 = Dutch Hamilton
02 = Silas Langhorn
01 = Horace Pepper
18 April 2008
Something 4 The Weekend # 64
Labels: a critical analysis of album cover art in a post-album culture, album covers, B-Side Records, Fuck Buttons, Madcity Music Exchange, mp3, music, oblique Ghost World riff, Something 4 The Weekend
Waaaay South Of Heaven
17 April 2008
Record Store Day!
16 April 2008
Dig!!! Sideways Maneuver Dig!!!
Probably only Nick Cave would take the name Lazarus and flip it to Larry. Would have Larry returned from the dead by God/Jesus only to slowly spiral back downward into poverty, addiction and despair. Would have Larry desperate to dig himself back into his grave, and death...Would still suggest like a true believer that there really is an afterlife "up there", and it must be amazing beyond comprehension, to drive a poor soul like Larry so crazy, to make him wish so bad to die again...
Dig, babycakes! Dig!
Fuck Lloyd Dobler!
First of all, this cheap and easy creation of mine was inspired by a website called RAINBOW PUKE (A Happy Place For Sad Rainbows) , which apparently stopped being updated about a year ago, but is still worth a few good chuckles nonetheless. I dunno, I guess I find puking rainbows rather hilarious.
Second of all, the final nudge that got me to whip this image together was the fact that the film SAY ANYTHING was shown on one of our local UHF channels this past weekend (does the term "UHF" even apply in today's modern world?), and while I was nursing a migraine, I laid there on the couch and subjected myself to one of my favorite movies to hate.
Yes, I hate Say Anything. I hate the movie because so many other people loved it, thinking it was a "real" reflection of teenaged life circa 1989. I found it trite, cliched, maudlin, boring, unrealistic, marginally acted, lamely written, poorly directed...But then, I think that about every last film Cameron Crowe has ever written and/or directed, with the possible exception of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and even Fast Times pisses me off because the Spicoli character ended up being the template for just about ever stoner character that has abused our sensibilities since.
(Believe me, someday I'm going to write an insanely long and blathering post about all the ways I hate the way pot smokers are portrayed in Hollywood)
But if I am being honest, I hate Say Anything most of all because of that famous Peter Gabriel boombox scene. You see, 2-3 years prior to this film, I dated a girl who might still rank as the coolest girl I ever dated, and "In Your Eyes" was our song. This scene, in a movie I loathed pretty thoroughly, ruined that song for me, not to mention plenty of the good memories I had of my relationship with that girl.
Anyways, all this blathering is pointless. I just felt like posting the pic.
15 April 2008
Tuesday's Fortune: 15 April 2008
Covering Covers # 4
- The divorce rate hovers around 50%.
- We gamble like crazy. Often in church basements. BINGO!
- We consume pornography with an almost insatiable passion.
- We often take the goddamn Lord's name in vain.
- About half of all married adults will commit adultery at some point in their marriage.
- America's murder rate is among the highest in the civilized world.
- Excessive alcohol and drug consumption is fairly widespread.
- As a nation, we lie, cheat and steal with the best of them.
My point is - most of us break multiple commandments on any given day, to say nothing of the 7 deadly sins, and then we go to church on Sunday, believing our Christian God will absolve us of all our transgressions from the previous week. Hell, plenty of us believe we only need faith in God to get to heaven - that we don't even have to go to Church, or lead moral lives - to find redemption. I mean, some of the most wicked, vile human beings I know are self-professed "devout Christians".
So, what does this rambling preamble of mine have to do with The Black Crowes' amorica. album cover? I think it should be fairly obvious.
Here we have a bikini bottom with an American flag design. The American flag, a rich symbol of this nation and what it purportedly stands for. A representation of all that is good and holy and righteous here in the USA. God bless the USA!!!!!
But what's that? A tuft of pubic hair sticking out from behind the stars and stripes? Oh my! What's that all about?
Simply put, that underneath the righteousness and purity of America, there exists a darker reality. A wild and wooly America that likes fucking and sucking as much as possible. And not just our spouses, but our neighbor's spouse, our teenaged babysitter, the cashier at the local supermarket, our favorite young celebrities, etc. And not just straight up missionary position coitus either - how about some deep-throated oral action? How about some good ol' anal? How about some dynamite group sex at a swinger party at a non-descript ranch-style house in a quiet suburban neighborhood?
Who hasn't fucked a stranger up against a dumpster behind the local dive bar at 2 am? Who hasn't masturbated up on their garage roof in the middle of the night, trying to re-create scenes from The Basketball Diaries? Who hasn't banged their 50 year old, recently divorced American Lit. teacher in the back of her Crown Vic?
Yeah, we've convinced ourselves (if not the rest of the world), that we're an honest, God-fearing nation, but the reality, of course, is that we're merely human, and while this sounds trite, humans are still animals when all is said and done, and animals loooooove to fuck.
Amore. America. Amorality.
11 April 2008
Something 4 The Weekend # 63
Man, I love Nick Cave. I mean, it's basically nothing less that a total mancrush at this point in my life. It basically boils down to the idea that Mr. Cave is one of those people I wish I could be, but never will be.
He's a total inspiration to me because he's one of those rare artists who simply improves with age, whereas so many artists, even the best of the best, typically go through a significant creative slump in their middle years, only to emerge on the other side with the experience and wisdom to once again elevate their artistry. Bob Dylan is the example I always cite regarding this phenomenon - an artist of the absolute highest caliber who went through a severe artistic drought for a good 15 years before emerging in his 50's again as a force of creative nature.
But Nick Cave...He's been a songwriter/singer/musician for nearly 30 years now, and as far as I can tell, has never gone through any sort of creative slump whatsoever. Oh sure, sometimes his albums aren't as good as his best, but he has NEVER disappointed, and as I'm arguing here, has actually improved with age. Even if you disagree with this idea, we must agree that he's been evolving his craft all along. It may be a slow evolution, but an evolution nonetheless, and not only has his music continued to impress and entertain, but he's branched off (rather successfully, I might add) into novel writing, screenwriting, and film-scoring over the past decade or so.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!: "We Call Upon The Author" [192k mp3]
So here we are, with another Bad Seeds record, and it's easily among the very best of Cave's career. Again, the record isn't a radical departure from his past, but again, there are slight evolutions in sound and lyrics that keep the whole damn thing fresh and exciting.
I've only had the new album since Tuesday, but I've been spinning it endlessly at work, and I gotta believe that when the dust settles on 2008, it's gonna be near the top of my fave list for the year.
Do yourself, and Nick and the band, a huge favor, and buy the damn thing right now.
I Bet They're Dutch
*Insert Clever Remark About Porking*
08 April 2008
Supernatural Supersideways Maneuver
Give Peace A Rest
Tuesday's Fortune: 08 April 2008
04 April 2008
Something 4 The Weekend # 62
From about 1983 to 1994 R.E.M. were absolutely my favorite band, and to this day I always say that they will always remain my all-time sentimental favorite. But I don't really have a favorite band anymore. The idea seems kinda silly nowadays, and I don't think I could narrow it down to just one band anyways...The Kinks? Minutemen? Pere Ubu? Super Furry Animals? Zappa? Nah, fuck that...
REM remains my sentimental favorite simply because I have sooooo many memories, really great memories, attached to the band and their songs...In particular, I listened to tons of REM on cassette while travelling pretty extensively around the States in the late '80's and early '90's...All the classic IRS Records stuff as the soundtrack of my misadventures, and most of my really good romances had plenty of REM in the air as well...
So here we are in 2008 and REM released their 14th studio album, Accelerate, this Tuesday, and yes, I went to Best Buy at my lunch break and picked up my copy because they still mean that much to me...
And yeah, I've been listening to the album, and trying to wrap my mind around it...I mean, I can't decide if they're brilliantly referencing their own music and imagery, or merely ripping themselves off...Nearly every song on this album contains at least one "riff" or melody that already exists somewhere in their musty catalog...Alot of critics and fans are calling Accelerate a "return to form", but isn't that just saying the same thing - the band isn't breaking any new ground?
Take this song, for example...That very first riff you hear on guitar/mandolin is pretty much "King Of Birds" from 1987's Document LP (not to mention shades of "Try Not To Breathe" as well)...It's close enough to be a distraction for me, and that's a problem I've encountered with pretty much every song on this album...I keep hearing riffs and arpeggios and chord progressions and melodies and sometimes even lyrics, that I've heard before, and it makes me wonder if it's all quite calculated, or if it's simply true that most artists have a limited palette...
Yeah, REM are playing to their "classic" strengths on this album, but they're still doing it without Bill Berry, and if you don't believe that makes a difference, you're probably not a big fan to begin with...He locked in brilliantly with bassist Mike Mills - two guys who hated each other at first and for awhile, until they realized just exactly how great they played together...Yeah, Bill Berry's loss is pretty much the real reason why REM went from being my absolute favorite band to merely my sentimental favorite...
Of course, none of this matters...I guess a world with one more REM album is better than one without...And as always, Mike Mills remains perhaps the single most underrated/unregarded talent in the whole of the rock world...
03 April 2008
02 April 2008
Covering Covers # 3
Energy equals Mariah Carey²!!!!!
Mariah Carey is a singles artist, an artist for whom the ALBUM as a cohesive conceptual object doesn't apply, but instead the ALBUM is merely a physical object (CD) which exists solely to collect a group of random songs in one convenient and marketable package.
Speaking of physical objects, Island Records relies solely on Mariah Carey to market and sell these collections of random songs. Every last piece of lumpen related to Mariah Carey, whether they be CDs, 12" vinyl EPs, or DVDs, has a picture of the singer herself on the cover. Half the time they are glamour headshots, and half the time they are full body shots, usually showing Mariah dancing, which in her case is nothing more than some slight shuffling and subdued hip-swaying. I have never heard an entire Mariah Carey album, so somebody else will have to verify or refute my theory that the albums with headshots contain mostly ballads and pop songs, while the albums with full body-shot covers are weighted towards dance music and Hip Hop.
And so we have Mariah's newest album, E=MC². Judging by this album cover, I strongly suspect it's got plenty of uptempo dance and Hip Hop on it, and judging by her recent appearance on SNL, my suspicions are correct. One song was pure dance pop, and the other featured rapper T-Pain. HOLLA!
So, what else can be said about this album cover?
It's a high-contrast black'n'white photograph in which the white feather boa obscuring Mariah's naked body pops the most. The boa, and Mariah's nudity, suggests old school burlesque and stripping of the variety Dita Von Teese has brought back into vogue these past few years.
It's a continuation of the sexualization (however mild) that Island Records marketing department and Mariah herself have been fashioning during the past decade, since her divorce from record mogul Tommy Mottola. It began with 1997's Butterfly album, a none-too-subtle allusion to her newfound liberation, through 2005's Emancipation Of Mimi album, and as you can see, the evolution has been slow...It began with butterfly imagery, for crissakes - that's the kind of megaplatinum crossover pop queen she was in the first decade of her career...
"Touch My Body" is the first single off the new album, but of course, we don't see much of Mariah in this photo - a modest bit of her left leg, her right arm reaching behind her head to touch her own neck, as if in some sort of mild ecstasy (Khia's "my neck, my back" flutters through my mind), and Mariah's face, half-hidden in shadow and framed by her long, flowing hair. Sex sells, but so does tease, and Mariah might be inviting us (somebody) to touch her body in her song, but this album cover seems to be saying something else.
"Look, but don't touch my body."
Anyways, mostly I'm intrigued by the title of this album, fodder for this particular blather because hey, there it is, printed prominently right next to Mariah's hip.
Quite frankly, I'm not gonna pretend to understand Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, and all I can say is Einstein's famous equation, E=MC², supposes that energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable - that all energy has mass, and all mass has energy. The speed of light in a vacuum figures into it (C²), but don't ask me how.
Obviously, in regards to this Mariah Carey Album, the title suggests that Energy is Mariah Carey, and Mariah Carey is Energy, or if we follow the equation literally
Energy equals Mariah Carey²!
It's all meaningless nonsense of course.
It's nothing more than somebody in Island Records marketing department realizing while tripping on Vitamin Water one lazy Tuesday afternoon that Mariah Carey's initials are a part of that famous science equation that Einstein came up with...
"Karen, you're a genius!" exclaims Doug in sales.
Like I said, it's meaningless nonsense, although it serves as a good example of this "post-album culture" in which I believe we now find ourselves. A culture in which 99 cent downloads from iTunes has rendered the album as a cohesive, conceptual object nearly obsolete.
I have no fetish for mp3's.
They're a tease, just like Mariah.