Thursday, August 31, 2006

Long article on Season 4 of The Wire, which starts Sunday, you feel me?

This show says more about American culture than any number of documentaries, newsmagazine thought-pieces, or op-eds - it's more real than real - and it's crazy entertaining, too. When TV wants to give you this much love, you gotta give some back, y'know. So watch it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hey, this is that place where I post random songs from my iPod! What a world!

Recent viewings:

The Corner - This is the mini-series that made The Wire possible, based on a true story of a family torn apart by drugs. The book was written by David Simon and Ed Burns, the creators of The Wire, and produced by Robert Colesberry (who produced The Wire and played Ray Cole until his untimely death shortly before S3). Many of the actors later turned up in roles both small and large on The Wire. Anyway, the mini-series (6 1-hr episodes) is profoundly affecting, especially when the real people portrayed in the story appear at the end (and, watching the end credits, you realize how many people whose lives are being dramatized in this thing have appeared in little roles). Given The Wire's inherent pessimism, don't be surprised to find that the moments of uplift and grace are few and far between, but that makes them so much sweeter.

I've started the BBC's Bleak House, which has been wonderful so far (although the transitions are extremely odd and jumpy, as if they brought in Renny Harlin to help change scenes), but Netflix, for some reason, refuses to send me the 2nd disc. I conjecture that they have only one, and it's been taken out by someone who keeps discs for 6 months or more.

The first season of the U.S. version of The Office was the slightly-more shallow little sister of the absolutely brilliant British version. Highly recommended. It lacks the solid gut-punch of the original, but that, to me, makes it slightly more easy on the eyes and noggin. Speaking of self-important bozos, I also highly recommend the smart and funny Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story, about the egos involved in filming an unfilmable novel.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I keep meaning to update this, but it's hard to find the time.

Anyway, here's a big-ass interview with David Simon, the creator of The Wire. Link courtesy of Scott Von Doviak.

Itty-bitty iPod Random Rules:

  1. Gene Clark - "Here Tonight" (Roadmaster). Lovely song from the progenitor of alt-country/folk-rock that is also power pop.
  2. Olivia Tremor Control - "Marking Time" (Live in Toronto 11/5/99, from the Elephant 6 site). Unusually quiet version of this song with unusually dissonant harmonies.
  3. Love - "She Comes In Colors" (Da Capo). Rocks the flute so hard that you can hardly believe it. Unfortunate side-effect: Jethro Tull.
  4. The Feelies - "On The Roof" (The Good Earth). I described this album as "Hoboken pastorale" in Lost in the Grooves, and stand by that description, lo these many moons later.
  5. Andrew Bird - "Tables and Chairs" (The Mysterious Production of Eggs). Quirky but somehow deeply affecting.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

For some unspeakable reason, I've never added a link to über-mensch Joe Gross's blog. Until now. You can even see his smiling visage there!

Here's what my iPod has to say about this, in five songs:

  1. Manduka - "Entra Y Sale" (Manduka). The title means "it enters and it leaves" in Spanish. Why the title is in Spanish and not Portuguese (given that the artist known as "Manduka" is Brazilian) is anyone's guess. Presumably my iPod is telling me that all life is transitory and my shame over adding a link to my friend's page only now - yes, this, too - shall pass.
  2. Curtis Mayfield - "Get Down" (People Get Ready: The Curtis Mayfield Story). Orgasmic panting, conga beats, fuzz bass: aw, yeah! "We're all children of the world/a hungry man in search of a hungry girl": these are profound truths, but they unfortunately have little bearing on the situation at hand. Joe's cool, but he gets no special love privileges (well, from me, at least) for this. As with all attempts to decodify the iPod's mysterious pronouncements, again I fail to be an adequate emissary of the oracle.
  3. Os Mutantes - "Magica" (Mutantes). More Brazilian psychedelia! You'd think I had half the damn thing filled up with this, but I swear that it's no more than 48%. This song has trippy tempo changes, odd and heavily reverbed percussive noises, wah guitar, descending motifs that are probably played on a harp, and a very abstract bridge that suddenly shifts to double-time before turning into the riff from "Satisfaction". Dude! Maybe the iPod is telling me that only time, love, and drugs can heal this rift. Which doesn't exist anywhere but in my head. Whoa!
  4. Doctor Mix and The Remix - "Out of the Question" (Acute eMusic Sampler). These guys (plural? I'm not sure) are a Metal Urbain side-project, I think. The sound is a wall of keyboards-meets-an infinite number of monkeys playing heavily distorted guitars in the bottom of a well. A very funky well with black lights and a disco ball. And a very hot French chick looking bored by all this over by the bar. Which is manned by a robot. A monkey robot in short pants and a black turtleneck. Sorta like that, y'know.
  5. Tortoise and Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "That's Pep!" (The Brave and the Bold). Devo cover played by the original abstract post-rockers and indie/faux-countryboy Will Oldham. Yeah, it's alright, really.

So, what does this tell us? Nothing! My iPod is not really omniscient. It only pretends to be, especially when I keep telling it that I want to hear the Stooges and it gives me experimental psychedelic foreigners, funk, and a Devo cover, as if to say, "I know what you really want, chump." Perhaps this is a dysfunctional relationship I have with this iPod. Wait, it's playing The Fall now! It's like it's reading my mind.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My brain's been working overtime on a) the book, b) my contributions to the next High Hat, and c) my job (where they pay me to think about things! and write about them, too).

With all that ruminating and cogitating and such, I haven't had much time for y'all, my beloved blog readers. I've been toying a bit with the idea of adding mp3s for download if and when time exists for that. Until then, though, here's today's iPod Random Rules Palm Reading.

  1. Jad Fair & Yo La Tengo - "Dedicated Thespian Has Teeth Pulled to Play Newborn Baby In High School Play" (Strange But True). YLT sounding like Mission of Burma, Jad Fair sounding like Jad Fair, this is a great tune, one of the best from their tabloid-inspired collaboration Strange But True.
  2. Pão com Manteiga - "Virgem de Andrômeda" (Pão com Manteiga). One of many downloads from the wonderful Brazilian Nuggets site. This is a trippy instrumental, nothing too special as far as psychedelia goes, but pleasant, anyway.
  3. Hüsker Dü - "Terms of Psychic Warfare" (New Day Rising). One of my favorite Grant Hart tunes, full of pure pop, crazy loud distorted guitars, and one of Greg Norton's best basslines. If you haven't heard this, well, you're probably not a Hüsker Dü fan.
  4. Young People - "El Paso" (War Prayers). More distorto-rock! The guitar tones are droning and loud, the drumbeat simple and direct, and the vocalist seems to think she's singing a country song (it doesn't hurt that her voice is lovely and tinged with a Southern accent).
  5. The Hang-Ups - "Waltz" (He's After Me). I always think songs by these guys are Go-Betweens b-sides until the vocalist comes in. Sometimes the illusion continues until the chorus. Gorgeous power-pop, perhaps not as complex as the Go-Betweens, but great stuff, anyway.
  6. Camper Van Beethoven - "All Her Favorite Fruit" (Key Lime Pie). This song makes me so emotional. It sounds like 1990, graduating high school and heading off to college, falling in love, drinking cheap beer, and hanging out with your friends for what may be the last time. "We dream our dreams and sing our songs of the fecundity of life and love." Can you feel your heart break?
  7. Piri - "As Incriveis Peripécias de Danilo" (Vocês Querem Mate?). Another Brazilian Nugget. The percussion is mighty, but the flute solo grates.
  8. Richard & Linda Thompson - "The Gas Almost Works" (Strange Affair). A Celtic-style instrumental dominated by accordion and soprano sax. 'Sokay.
  9. Yo La Tengo - "Tears Are In Your Eyes" (...and then nothing turned itself inside-out). Beautiful and melancholy. I don't think Ira and Georgia have ever harmonized better.
  10. Mike Watt and the Black Gang Crew - "No One Says Old Man (To The Old Man)" (December 9, 1997, from Another beautiful, sad song. Joe Baiza's guitar is touching and semi-abstract throughout, more tender than you'd expect from the guy who drove Saccharine Trust and Universal Congress Of.

Friday, August 04, 2006

From Pitchfork:

Arthur Lee of Love Dead at 61

Arthur Lee, legendary frontman for the influential psych-rock band Love, has died. He was 61 years old.

As previously reported, Lee was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Several recent benefit concerts, including one at New York City's Beacon Theater featuring Robert Plant, Yo La Tengo, and Ryan Adams, among others, raised money to help pay Lee's medical expenses. Lee's manager, Mark Linn, sent out the following email just minutes ago:

"Arthur Lee died peacefully at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, a little after four in the afternoon Aug 3, 2006 with his wife Diane by his side. His death comes as a shock to me because Arthur had the uncanny ability to bounce back from everything, and leukemia was no exception. He was confident that he would be back on stage by the fall.

"When I visited with him recently, he was visibly moved by the stories and pictures from the NYC benefit concert. He was truly grateful for the outpouring of love from friends and fans all over the world since news of his illness became public. We watched the DVD of the great House of Blues concert from '03, and he told me how much he appreciated [backing band] Baby Lemonade's dedication to his music.

"Arthur always lived in the moment, and said what he thought when he thought it. I'll miss his phone calls, and his long voice messages, but most of all I'll miss Arthur playing Arthur's music."

So will we.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Leonard Pierce's 99-pt rant is the best thing since sliced bread. Heck, it's better than Hitler's nutsack.

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