Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How far into this performance do you think most viewers made it before changing the channel?

Guys: there are many appropriate venues for your music. The Letterman show is not one of them.

I'm guessing fifty seconds.

Jesus. They sound like a marching band on acid trapped in a dumpster. And I like the song.

Now playing: The Mars Volta - Wax Simulacra
via FoxyTunes

Well, shit

Sources have learned that, unsurprisingly, John Edwards is dropping out of the Presidential race. So much for my preferred candidate.

This leaves us with Clinton and Obama, and if the Democrats think Clinton will get elected in the general, they're friggin' crazy. Certifiable.

Okay, John: if you're going out, you can at least endorse Obama for us. Give us one last shot. You're our only hope.

Now playing: The Shins - Spilt Needles
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This video's pretty self-explanatory

Ladies and gentlemen, "She Amazed Me."

Now playing: Aimee Mann - You're With Stupid Now
via FoxyTunes

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't even ask me how the dog managed to survive in the first place

Okay. Nobody who read this watches Lost. That hasn't stopped me from talking about it before, so I see no reason for it to stop me now. And, dammit, I have to tell someone.

So they've been doing their "mobisodes" for the past few months, running little two-minute mini-episodes online to hype the new season (which starts Thursday, aw yeah). Now, most of these have, shall we say, sucked the big one. They're trapped by their own edict: they want every peripheral part of Lost outside the show to be canonical and important, but they can't make it too important, because most of the viewers don't know any of that stuff. So we're stuck with filling in blanks (or the "Missing Pieces," the title of the series), like showing Juliet confessing her duplicity to Jack -- a scene we know occurred, because Jack told everyone she told him, but didn't see because, well, it was unnecessary. We've gone through twelve of these things, and they've pretty, and nice, and it's fun to see any Lost at all.

But the thirteenth and final mobisode was released today. And Jesus-Christ-on-a-fish-biscuit, look at this:

For the uninitiated: the dog is Vincent, who belongs to Walt, one of the survivors. The guy waking up in the jungle, of course, is Jack -- his part is actually just the beginning of the pilot (the first image on the show is that shot of his eye). And the guy talking to the dog? Jack's dad, Christian. Jack's dad was on the plane, too, but he wasn't with Jack. He was the luggage compartment. In a coffin. Because he was dead.

Jack later saw his father on the island, and those appearances were written off as either island-induced hallucinations or the Smoke Monster. But when Jack saw him, he was dressed exactly as he's dressed here. Could this be the Monster again? The only other time we think we've seen the Monster in human form was when it (maybe) took the shape of Eko's brother. The apparition taunted him, saying, "You speak to me as if I was your brother." Christian, though, refers to Jack personally, telling the dog to "wake up my son." And what is the "work" he has to do? Looking after the survivors? Leading them? Kick-starting the series?

And wait, he talks to the dog? And the dog understands?!


Now playing: Jim Rome - Mon, January 28th, 2008 Hour 1
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 1/27/08

1. "Weasel Stomping Day," "Weird Al" Yankovic
A goofy little track that pokes fun at arcane holidays and traditions -- in this one, everyone is advised to, of course, stomp weasels to death. "It's tradition, that makes it okay!" Of course, The Simpsons already did this gag, and did it better, with "Whacking Day." But the song's still kinda funny. (Rating: ****)

2. "Church on Sunday," Green Day
Green Day comes up a lot on these shuffles. It seems only songs from my least favorite Green Day album, Warning, make the cut. But whatever. This particular song happens to be a gem, and indicative of the new lyrical style Billie Joe tried for that record. It didn't work, but the man was trying, what do you want? (*****)

3. "The Boxer," Simon & Garfunkel
My favorite song of theirs. It's easily the best thing Paul Simon ever wrote, outside of "Graceland." And it's weird -- on the cover of The Essential Simon & Garfunkel, Paul looks creepily like Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. (*****)

4. "The Living Years," Mike + the Mechanics
Ah, the eighties. It amazed me back to find out that "Mike" was Mike Rutherford, the guitarist for Genesis. Sure, Phil Collins had a solo career, but how could someone be in two bands at once? I don't blink at it nowadays -- Maynard has Tool and A Perfect Circle, and Dave Grohl plays drums on everybody's records but his own. (****)

5. "Heart Cooks Brain," Modest Mouse
Pitchfork Media would come after us with, uh, pitchforks if they read this, but René and I recently agreed that Modest Mouse's early work is often downright unlistenable. This song, thankfully, is one of the standouts. It's a little too long, but, dude -- it's Modest Mouse. That's kinda their thing. (*****)

6. "Silver Rainbow," Genesis
Peter Gabriel quit the band several years before this song was written, but you've never know it -- the lyrics are typical of his early, sex-laden wordplay. In this case, the "silver rainbow" is the zipper in a girl's pants, and the "land that lies beyond" is wondrous and magical, and once you're in, you won't notice if "the sun should turn to blue": you'll just "keep on going, 'cause you're won't know if you're coming or going." Clever, those English lads. (****)

7. "Guru," Everlast
Everlast's solo breakthrough, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, has held up unbelievably well over the last ten years -- "What It's Like" and "Ends" are still standouts, and the record is filled with great songs. This isn't one of them, though -- this is a seventeen-second segue, consisting only of a message left on Everlast's answering machine. What it's doing on the album, I have no idea. (*)

8. "Training ~ Credits," Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
Yes, this is an mp3 rip of music from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! Do you have a problem with that? I didn't think so. (*****)

9. "Ice," Beth Kinderman
Hey, you remember me shilling hardcore for Beth Kinderman before, right? Selling her music like I was getting paid for it? She's working on her first full-length album as we speak, recorded in an actual studio with a real band and everything. So get ready for more shilling. This song, meanwhile, is the haunting climax to Door, her Farscape record. I'm strongly tempted to watch that show, just to know what the hell she's talking about. Not that tempted, though. (*****)

10. "The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience But You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!'," Sufjan Stevens
The greatest song title ever. This instrumental is from his stunning 2005 album, Illinois. Stevens says he intends to make an album about each one of the fifty states; it's been four years since he announced the project, and he's made two albums. I don't think he's gonna make it. (****)

Friday, January 25, 2008

No, maybe it's the one where somebody gets possessed by an energy being, or gets trapped on the holodeck

So the next Bond film will be titled Quantum of Solace. Which is, probably, the worst movie title I've ever heard in my life. It sounds like a Voyager episode title.

"'Quantum of Solace'? Is that the one where some sort of temporal anomaly affects the ship, and everything goes all crazy and main characters start dying, and then they repair the anomaly and everything goes back to normal like nothing ever happened?"
"Well, I never saw it. But yes."

Now playing: The National - Green Gloves
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What the fuck?!

Uh, so Heath Ledger is dead. That I didn't see coming.

It's a gusher!

The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and don't look now, but Paul Thomas Anderson has been nominated for Best Director. Adapted Screenplay, too, and There Will Be Blood ended up with eight did my other favorite movie this year, No Country for Old Men. I still haven't gotten around to seeing either Atonement or Juno, and Michael Clayton won't be released on DVD for a few more weeks. But I might actually get to see all the Best Picture nominees before the awards are given out. This hasn't happened since...ever. It's never happened. I managed four out of five many times: 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2001. But when I loudly yell that There Will Be Blood is the deserving winner, it'd be nice to know what I'm talking about.

Also cool: Phillip Seymour Hoffman nominated for Charlie Wilson's War.

Not cool: Jonny Greenwood failing to get a nomination for his incredible There Will Be Blood score. I guess the Academy voters aren't big Radiohead fans.

Cloverfield (review...sorta)

JAN 22 1:32 PM

MY SISTER: By the way, Cloverfield is probably the worst movie ever made.
ME: Huh. That's weird, 'cause I saw it last night, and I really liked it.
MY SISTER: You're kidding.
ME: No.
MY SISTER: You're kidding!
ME: No. I thought it was quite good.
MY SISTER: It was awful! I threw up twice. Threw up. Twice.
ME: That's because you have a weak stomach.
MY SISTER: It was because of the [demonstrates shaky camera].
ME: Yeah, you have a weak stomach. I was fine.
MY SISTER: And it had no story!
ME: What are you talking about? FRINAN said that, too, that it had no story.
MY SISTER: It didn't have a story. At all. It was just..some guy....
ME: It was just some guy, racing through New York City in a desperate attempt to save the woman he loves as an inexplicable, unstoppable monster destroys the world around him.
ME: That...sounds like a story to me....
MY SISTER: And where did the monster come from?
ME: Who cares?
MY SISTER: Who cares? I do.
ME: I didn't.
MY SISTER: It never said.
ME: That wasn't really the point of the movie. But it actually kinda did. You weren't paying attention.
MY SISTER: What? When?
ME: [reveals subtle clue I won't reveal here to avoid spoiling anything]
MY SISTER: Oh. Oh. I didn't see that.
ME: Too busy puking?
MY SISTER: Well, you're the only one who liked it. Everyone else hates it.
ME: I saw it with several other people, and they all enjoyed it.
MY SISTER: But it was terrible!
ME: We didn't think so.
MY SISTER: Well, you're stupid.
ME: You're stupid.

Rating: **** (out of *****)

Now playing: Elvis Costello - Little Palaces
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 1/20/08

[A small note: I've set up an account at I can't think of any reason why you'd want to peruse my music collection, but it's there if you want it. In addition, it features several of my music-related lists, including my updated 100 favorite albums list. Though, again, I can't think of any reason why you'd care.]

1. "God Only Knows," The Beach Boys
In the Mage game I'm running, one of the NPCs -- Heather, the Fate/Time magic-user -- tells her boyfriend that this is the greatest love song ever written. And it's hard to disagree, even though it opens with the lyric "I may not always love you." Brian Wilson was a damn lunatic -- seriously -- but he could write songs like nobody else. "If you should ever leave me/Life would still go on, believe me/The world could show nothing to me/So what good would living do me?/God only knows what I'd be without you." (Rating: *****)

2. "The Great Gig in the Sky," Pink Floyd
Quite simply, one of the most evocative vocal performances ever recorded. Richard Wright wrote this little piano instrumental early in the sessions for Dark Side of the Moon, and the band encouraged him to finish it up -- Roger Waters was eager to make sure each member of the band would get some songwriting royalties. So Wright completed it, David Gilmour added some slide guitar on top of it, and that was that. Except the band felt something was missing. So they came up with the idea of bringing in a singer to record an overdub -- no lyrics, just improvised vocalization. They found Clare Torry, who had worked with the Doors, and shoved her into the studio with almost no preparation. She howled and screamed her way through a take, then humbly apologized to the rest of the band...who were, of course, staring at her in awe. It's amazing -- even without the short spoken word clips ("I'm not frightened of dying, any time will do"), you'd still know what the song is about, just listening to her voice. And if you've never tried the old trick of syncing Dark Side with The Wizard of Oz, it's worth it just for this scene. (*****)

3. "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," "Weird Al" Yankovic
Weird Al's best song, in terms of both music and humor. He not only skewers the stereotypical "family road trip" vacation, but the people who actually enjoy those pointless sightseeing adventures, and the people who put on such pointless displays. "This here's what America's all about," the song's narrator says to his kids. You got that right. (*****)

4. "Let's Spend the Night Together," The Rolling Stones
Upon its original release, Mick Jagger had to change the lyrics to perform it on television -- "Let's spend some time together," he mumbled, clearly disgusted with himself. It was too racy back then. Nowadays, this song is used, unaltered, in a cell phone commercial. Times have changed. (*****)

5. "Live Forever," Oasis
I read somewhere that magazine readers in Britain answered a poll to select the best album ever. What was their choice -- Revolver? Sgt. Pepper's? Pet Sounds? OK Computer, if they're a little more hip? No -- Definitely Maybe, by Oasis. The best album ever recorded. Ever. If you say so, Britain. Hey, it's not a bad record. But...come on. (****)

6. "Breakdown," Guns N' Roses
Your Chinese Democracy update: Axl hasn't updated the GN'R website since August. So your guess is as good as mine. This particular song is from the last GN'R record, Use Your Illusion II. Which was, of course, seventeen years ago. It's pretty good, too. (*****)

7. "Hola' Hovita," Jay-Z
From Jigga's masterpiece, The Blueprint. He allegedly recorded the album in less than two weeks -- he was awaiting a pair of criminal trials and possibly a jail sentence or two. The resulting album is not only an epiphany, but a swaggering blast of defiance. Some people do perform better under pressure. (*****)

8. "Mr. Moustache," Nirvana
Much of Nirvana's debut album, Bleach, is dedicated to Kurt Cobain's frustration with his surroundings in rural Washington state. Much of the album, unfortunately, is also dull and mired in a gunmetal-gray sound that turns the whole thing into a dirge. This song is both. (***)

9. "Hard to Explain," The Strokes
I remember when the Strokes were just breaking through -- the music press heralded them as the saviors of all music everywhere. When they turned out not to be, it was a disappointment. The hype managed to cover up the fact that, actually, they were really, really good. Not life-changing great, perhaps, but very, very good. (*****)

10. "4°," Tool
How to explain this one without including any words that might make Google think my site is about something it's not? Hmm. Maynard did some research, apparently, and found some interesting information about the female anatomy. It turns out that the interior of one, uh, opening is warmer -- by about four degrees -- than the other, uh, more standard opening. With such well-founded scientific evidence, he returns to his lady friend and makes his case: "You won't feel what you'd like to feel/Lay back and let me show you another way." Why he felt it necessary to write a song about it, I have no fucking clue. And if you think it's the last time he'd explore such subject matter in song, you're sadly mistaken. But there's your Way Too Much Insight Into Someone Else's Personal Life moment for today. You're welcome. (*****)

Friday, January 18, 2008

A brief announcement

After years of speculation, they have begun shooting a new X-Files film. And Gillian Anderson is still a goddess.

Meanwhile, the Prophets have given us a blessing: Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, which looked like it would live its theatrical life playing in a closet on the Upper East Side, is actually playing at my local multiplex. If you don't think I will be at a showing this very night, you've never heard me talk about Magnolia. Which I'm prone to do. At great length.

Now playing: Radiohead - A Punchup at a Wedding. (No No No No No No No No.)
via FoxyTunes

Monday, January 14, 2008

A hypocritical politician? A hypocritical Republican politician? No way!

I'm taking a short break from transcribing the handwritten work I did yesterday on Revolver (holy shit but my handwriting is terrible) to have some food and watch some Lost. Turns out Blu-ray video doesn't really look any different on a standard television, but the slick menus are nice.

In the meantime, here's a video on smarmy Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. He's the Mormon, in case you're having trouble telling them apart. (Mike Huckabee is preacher who's friends with Chuck Norris, and Rudy Guliani is the one with 9/11 Tourette's. "Hey, Rudy, you want a sandwich?" "9/11!" "...What?" "Oh, um...what did you say?")

Now playing: James Brown - Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 1/13/08

1. "Lionized," The Tragically Hip
Gordie's lyrics are occasionally a little more offbeat than usual. Take this song's opening line: "Cold wind blowing over your private parts." I have no clue what this song is about. It's a good one, though. (Rating: ****)

2. "The Ascent of Stan," Ben Folds
Remember that Vampire game I ran for about three years? I named a whole host of NPCs after people in Ben Folds songs, including a guy named Stan. He was the guitar-playing husband of Benjamin's oldest granddaughter, Catherine (who I named after "Carrying Cathy," another Folds song from the same album). Initially, this was done without conscious effort -- it just happened coincidentally. By the time I got to Stan, it was deliberate. And of course, the only player left in the game, FRINAN, had no idea who Ben Folds was, so he didn't pick up on any of it. But I found it amusing. Inside jokes are fun! (Rating: ****)

3. "Look After You," The Fray
Good lord, the Fray have been overplayed to death. Maybe it's not as obvious to you, but at Job Number Two, the awful satellite radio stations we listen to are often packed with Fray singles (that is, when it isn't locked onto the '80s station). I still like this song, but I really don't ever want to hear it again. (Rating: ****)

4. "Counting Out Time," Genesis
So apparently, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway has a story. But I'll be damned if I can figure out what this song has to do with it, which describes Rael (the protagonist) buying a book that teaches him how to sexually please a woman, and then failing miserably. Peter Gabriel was fucking crazy back in the day. For real. (Rating: ****)

5. "Through the Wire," Kanye West
It's one thing to live through a devastating car crash while you're recording your long-awaited debut album. It's quite another thing to write a song about the triumph of your survival, and then record the vocal for said song while your jaw is still wired shut. Have I mentioned recently how much I like Kanye West? And a million bonus points for dropping a clever reference to Unbreakable. (Rating: *****)

6. "Lounge Act," Nirvana
You know those songs that resonate with you so much it feels like you wrote them yourself? Yeah, "Lounge Act" is like that. "Don't tell me what I want to hear/Afraid of never knowing fear/...I'll keep fighting jealousy until it's fucking gone/And I got this friend, you see, who makes me feel/And I wanted more than I could steal/I'll arrest myself and wear a shield/I'll go out of my way to prove I still smell her on you." That was me, last few years of high school. Maybe you had to be there. (Rating: *****)

7. "Maybe You're Right," Barenaked Ladies
The Ladies' last few studio albums haven't quite lived up to their earlier standards, but this is one of the gems. The final moments, with the out-of-nowhere horn section, are quite cool. (Rating: *****)

8. "Hunting Bears," Radiohead
This is a two-minute instrumental from Amnesiac. It sounds like nothing more than a guitar warmup, really, with Johnny playing a simple pattern along with a bass hum. And yet it's still cooler than what 95% of all the other bands out there can produce. That's Radiohead for you. (Rating: *****)

9. "Welcome to the Working Week," Elvis Costello
Here's a question: this song's opening line -- "Now that your picture's in the paper, being rhythmically admired" -- is Elvis talking about what I think he's talking about? (Rating: *****)

10. "When the Weight Comes Down," The Tragically Hip
See previous note regarding Gordie's lyrics. "In my dreams, a candy-coated train comes to my door/With a little girl I can't have anymore/You know a letter washes up to the shore/That I cannot read and I probably should ignore." (Rating: *****)

The triumph of Luigi

Hey, let's talk about football.


I'm normally more or less indifferent to football. It's there, and I glance at it from time to time. But it's not something I follow closely, nor is it a topic on which I can often speak intelligently.

But I've actually been paying attention this season. And while watching an actual game is hardly an enthralling experience -- "And the Texans fail to convert on third down...again" -- I've become wrapped up in some of the teams and their stories. And holy crap, they're actually sort of interesting.

Like Eli Manning, the NFL's answer to Luigi. He's good, he's nice, people like him, but no matter what he does, he can't seem to escape the expansive shadow of his older brother, Mario. Or, in this case, Peyton.

You may be familiar with Peyton Manning. If not, turn on your TV. That's him. If there's a guy on camera, there's an 60% chance that it's Peyton Manning. If not, wait for the next commercial. Ah, there he is!

Peyton is a superstar. Peyton won a Super Bowl. Peyton helps old ladies cross the street. Peyton always saves the Princess and collects all the Yoshi coins and never uses warp zones.

Eli, by comparison, has led the New York Giants to precisely fuckall during his tenure as their quarterback. He's lounged behind, watching from his couch as Peyton dominates in the playoffs and defeats all the Koopa kids. (Let me know if I take this metaphor too far.) He seemed doomed to suffer a lifetime of comparisons to his brother, always to be found wanting.

Until today, that is. Today, Peyton fell short. Peyton got beat on his own turf and cashiered from the playoffs. And Eli -- immediately afterward -- lead his Giants to an upset victory over the vaunted Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas, to sent the Giants to the NFC title game.

"How you like me now, Peyton?"

As a longtime supporter of Luigi -- the video game one this time -- I wholeheartedly support Eli and the Giants, and wish them well against the Packers.

Of course, it doesn't matter who wins that game, because this season has been -- and will continue to be -- about one team: the Patriots.

So the Patriots were caught cheating earlier this year. They got busted illegally videotaping signals from the Jets' defensive coordinators, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell brought the hammer down. The coach was fined, the team was fined, and they had to surrender draft picks. Sure taught them a lesson, huh?

Except a strange thing happened. The Patriots -- already a phenomenal team -- turned savage. Tom Brady read defenses like he was telepathic. The defensive line was replaced by the armies of the Uruk'Hai. Randy Moss played like...Randy Moss. The entire squad become a merciless squadron, a venomous swarm of hornets, fighting to defend the honor of their maligned head coach, Bill Belichick, himself a rather savage competitor.

From that moment on, it wasn't enough for the Pats to win -- they had to leave their opponents bloodied and destroyed. Let no one ever again question the ability of the Patriots. Let no one ever again question the talents of their coach, the Hoodie. (Jim Rome often refers to Belichick by this nickname, citing the man's preference for hooded sweatshirts during games.)

Bill Belichick

So the Patriots crushed everybody. And it wasn't long before people started talking about them running the table -- actually finishing the season undefeated. And it was then that I started rooting for the Patriots. Passionately.

Why? Because the only other team to run the table was the 1972 Dolphins, who finished 14-0 in the regular season and went on to win the Super Bowl. How proud are they of this accomplishment? Each year since, the members of that team get together and have a party once the last undefeated team is brought aground. Yes, a bunch of old guys have a party to celebrate someone else's failure. Clearly, this vile bunch of douchebags needs to be ripped of their reason to live. Enter my new favorite team, the New England Patriots, who can not only pull off what the Dolphins did, but do it better -- they play sixteen games these days.

So yeah -- it turns out football is actually pretty compelling. At least, as long as you can avoid sitting down and watching the games.

Hey, with baseball in the offseason and mired in a steroids scandal, I have to have something. I'll take the Patriots breaking the hearts of a bunch of soulless old men.

Next up: basketball!

(Er...actually, not.)

Now playing: Genesis - Dance on a Volcano
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Time-filling nonsense post -- go!

Last week, I learned that the drive from my house to Job Number Two is exactly the length of The Decemberists' "The Tain." Today, I found out that the drive from my house to Pizza Place is exactly the length of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends."

I bought a six-pack of toilet paper last week. The packaging lists the usual pertinent information -- length of each roll, number of sheets, etc. -- and then lists...the total area of all the paper. Something like 180 square feet. This may be the most useless piece of information ever printed. Unless someone is going to use the stuff as wallpaper, I don't really see the need.

And Revolver is coming along. Regina is definitely working her Russian folk magic over there -- my efforts have been steady. This is actually the biggest problem for me: getting myself to work on it every day until it's done. And since enlisting the aid of a Regina Spektor JPEG, I have indeed written at least one word every single day. (On Friday, I in fact did write one word. The word was "fucking." Seriously.)

And in closing, here is some Mystery Science Theater 3000. Have a nice day.

Now playing: LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

List of the week: My 25 favorite albums, as selected by iTunes

When I'm stuck in writer's block -- as I happen to be at this very moment -- I often find it helpful to indulge in boring organizational tasks involving my music or movies. You know -- creating databases, spreadsheets, favorites lists, that kinda thing. Gives my brain something to do while the subconscious writing part works out its problems.

In this case, I chose music, and made a big spreadsheet for the albums I have ripped into iTunes. You can rate every song between one and five stars; iTunes automatically assigns each album a rating based on the average of those scores. I decided to find out which albums had the highest average score, and were thus -- according to the ratings I've given the songs -- my favorite albums. (And yes, this actually does help me write Revolver. I swear.)

So, here are the twenty-five albums with the highest average score. (The top six received perfect scores, since I'd given the full five starts to each song.)
  1. Metallica, Metallica (5.00)
  2. Radiohead, OK Computer (5.00)
  3. Dave Matthews Band, Before These Crowded Streets (5.00)
  4. Counting Crows, August and Everything After (5.00)
  5. Radiohead, Kid A (5.00)
  6. Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel 4 (Security) (5.00)
  7. The Tragically Hip, Road Apples (4.92)
  8. The Decemberists, Picaresque (4.91)
  9. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (4.91)
  10. Harvey Danger, Little by Little... (4.90)
  11. Weezer, Pinkerton (4.89)
  12. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks (4.88)
  13. The Who, Who's Next (4.88)
  14. The Beatles, Revolver (4.85)
  15. Nirvana, Nevermind (4.83)
  16. Regina Spektor, Songs (4.83)
  17. The Verve Pipe, The Verve Pipe (4.83)
  18. Our Lady Peace, Happiness...Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch (4.82)
  19. R.E.M., Automatic for the People (4.82)
  20. Soundgarden, Superunknown (4.80)
  21. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (4.80)
  22. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (4.80)
  23. Weezer, Weezer (Blue) (4.80)
  24. Peter Gabriel, Up (4.78)
  25. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (4.78)
That's...actually not too far off. Hmm. Perhaps iTunes knows what it's doing.

But it's missing The Wall, The Marshall Mathers LP, The Blueprint, and American Idiot. So, clearly, it doesn't. And I didn't realize I was that big a Weezer fan.

But hey -- I just realized the answer to my problem. Writer's block solved!

...For now.

Now playing: Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Regina Spektor motivational public word counter

Goddammit, I need to finish Revolver.

The most effective method of motivation I ever used was a public word counter: I was a writing a short story with a planned length of six thousand words. So every day, I would write my current word count on the dry erase board on our refrigerator (this is when I was living with Tommy). So every day, everyone could see whether or not I'd done any work on it.

The thing was finished in eight days, with a word count somewhere north of eight thousand words. Success!

You can't argue with success, so I bring back that same idea. I still have the dry erase board, but the pen has been lost and some idiot (*cough* FRINAN *cough*) wrote a quote from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it in permanent marker, so it's unusable. Plus, I live alone.

So, instead, I use the dry erase board that is the internet and display my word count on this here blog. Of course, a big reason it worked before was that I could sense the disappointment in those around me when I didn't accomplish anything; I can't see your faces over the internet.

With that in mind, I found someone who, frankly, has a nicer-looking face than you anyway.

With Regina Spektor in tow, I am now prepared to make a serious run at this thing. I mean, who would want to disappoint Regina? Not me.

The goal for this episode -- which is now on its sixth title, "A Long December" -- is 8000 words. How long will it take? You and Regina are going to find out. But if this doesn't work, I am officially out of ideas.

Last year, I made a New Year's resolution to write six episodes; I wrote one. The taste of failure is bitter, friends. I shall not partake of it again.

To victory!

(God, I should get more sleep.)

Now playing: Regina Spektor - Reading Time With Pickle
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Monday, January 07, 2008

Best Wikipedia category ever

Spotted this on the article for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan...

Now playing: Counting Crows - Four White Stallions
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A hundred and three is forever when you're just a little kid

Willie Nelson has recorded a cover version of Dave Matthews's "Gravedigger."

Truth be told, it's not too bad

Now playing: Oingo Boingo - Weird Science
via FoxyTunes

He'd love to stay and chat longer, but the horses got out last night and he desperately needs to lock the barn doors

Of course, immediately after I finish excoriating Roger Clemens for being a flabby, whiny douchebag who won't sue his accuser because it's -- guffaw -- too expensive, he announces that yes, he will sue the guy after all.

Great, Roger. I hope the truth comes out. I hope I was wrong.

But where were you a fucking month ago? Why did you wait this long?

And most importantly: take that arrogance and put it away. You have no right to get mad at me because I don't just blindly accept your divinity. Be angry with McNamee, he's the guy allegedly lying about you.

God, I wish you would just go away. And never come back.

Take Bonds with you.

Now playing: The Rolling Stones - Wild Horses
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 1/6/08

Hey, the shuffles are back. I'd explain why they're back, but I can't remember why I stopped writing them in the first place. So let's just get on with it.

1. "Mama Said," Metallica
Yee-haw: we're back into the swing of things here with an obscure Metallica track. It's an important one, though -- of everything they've recorded in their twenty-five years, this is the most experimental. Of course, it's Metallica, so "experimental" means "country." Hetfield has always been an admirer of Lynyrd Skynyrd and other southern rock bands, but make no mistake -- this is a country song, as strange as that may sound. Suffice to say, this is from Load, their most experimental album. I'm working on a longer piece for next week that will delve deeper into the arc of Metallica's career, and why Load and Reload are good albums but ultimately forgettable ones; in the meantime, you should know that this track is...weird. Good -- but weird. (Rating: ****)

2. "Never Let Me Down," Kanye West (w/ Jay-Z & J-Ivy)
I really, really like Kanye West -- have you noticed? The only thing better is when Kanye produces a track for Jay-Z, and here they are together. Naturally, Hova blows Kanye off his own record, which is what always happens (he did again on Late Registration). West is all spiritual here, pondering his past as he recovers from the car accident that almost killed him. And that's why I really love his music: unlike most rap, it's so friggin' celebratory. Unlike Jay-Z's dominant businessman groaning under the weight of his empire, or Eminem's psychotic madman who just really loves his daughter, honest, Kanye seems to be completely in love with the world. And himself, of course. (Rating: *****)

3. "Subterranean Homesick Alien," Radiohead
Not to be confused with "Subterranean Homesick Blues," the classic Bob Dylan song Thom Yorke cribbed for his title here. In 1997, I held a little mini-Grammys among everyone I knew, writing up nominations myself and getting all my friends to vote. One category was Best Album Track, an award for the best song that wasn't getting played on the radio. "Subterranean Homesick Alien" won in a landslide. Not because my friends liked it -- I doubt any had heard it. But I was unable to restrain myself from lobbying for it, hard. So they voted it for it. Fixed elections, yay! Of course, looking back on it, "Alien" isn't the Best Album Track off of that album -- "Let Down" is. But this is OK Computer we're talking about, the greatest album of the last forty years; being the seventh best song on the record still isn't too shabby. (Rating: *****)

4. "Still Remains," Stone Temple Pilots
The first concert I ever saw? Stone Temple Pilots, at the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater. I don't remember a thing about it now, other than watching my sister headbang to "Plush." Did they play this song? Your guess is as good as mine. It's a good song, though -- one of the few to age well as STP has sort of faded away with my adolescence. (Rating: *****)

5. "Going Under," Evanescence
Ahhh -- Amy Lee. Apparently, there are other people in the band -- guys, I think -- but I've never noticed. Have you? (Rating: *****)

6. "Now That It's Over," Everclear
All Everclear songs are created equal, but some are more equal than others. This track drags in strings and a metric fuckton of overdubs to try to hide the fact that it's really just the same Everclear song you've heard a billion times. Thankfully, Art's scathing lyrics are good enough to make the track stand out: "Nightmares just don't seem the same, baby, without you/I wish that I could find the words to tell you to politely go fuck yourself/Now that it's over." A great breakup song. (Rating: *****)

7. "In Bloom," Nirvana
My band, the Disposable Heroes, only managed to play three songs to completion at any of our aborted practices. This...was not one of them. We tried, though. How we tried. (Rating: *****)

8 . "Rock Lobster," The B-52's
Henry Rollins once told a story about finding himself stuck in a train station with his song playing in his headphones. In that tried, crazed moment, he realized...this was rock and roll in its purest form. Surf guitars, organs, and a guy shrieking about marine life in falsetto. Damn straight. (Rating: *****)

9. "Leslie Anne Levine," The Decemberists
One of my favorite songs by the Decemberists. With their songs, you're usually dealing with ghosts or pirates; this is the former. "Fifteen years gone now, I still wander this parapet and shake my rattle bone/Fifteen years gone now, I still cling to the petticoat of the girl who died with me." Seek out every single thing they've ever released. You'll thank me. (Rating: *****)

10. "'Til I Collapse," Eminem
Hey, there's Mr. Mathers. One of his heaviest tracks, and features one of my favorite Eminem moments -- while groaning about his unfair treatment in the media, he proclaims himself the ninth greatest rapper ever. An absolutely galactic statement of humility for a rapper, trust me. (Rating: *****)

Now playing: Eminem - 'Til I Collapse
via FoxyTunes

Bottle rocket

So Rawga Clemens showed up on 60 Minutes tonight. It's his first interview since the Mitchell Report and blah blah blah -- you know the story.

A month ago, a Senator stood up and called one of the greatest pitchers to ever walk the face of the earth a cheater. His response?


In the report, Rawga's former trainer describes personally injecting Clemens with testosterone while he played for Toronto. In a season the Rocket started 6-6, and then -- miraculously! -- turned into the second coming of Bob Gibson and went 14-0 down the stretch and picked up another Cy Young. How does Rawga respond? What does he fire back with?


Oh, he let a few nuggets slip out. "My family is taking it worse than I am." (That's Barry Bonds 101: throw your kids between you and the press.) "I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not afforded me the benefit of the doubt." (25 years in public life in which you started fistfights and threw bats at people during the World Series and were well known as the most fanatically competitive human alive -- why are we not supposed to believe you cheated?) "I plan to publicly answer all of those questions in the appropriate time in the appropriate way." (A prerecorded interview over a month later with a self-described "friend" of yours. Riiiight.)

And now: the interview, finally. What does he say? Not much of anything. "I didn't do it, no, really, you gotta believe me" is what it boils down to. It wasn't steroids -- it was B-12. Barry Bonds 201: it wasn't steroids that bad, bad man gave me, it was [innocuous substance].

Of course, that same bad, bad man accused Andy Pettitte -- Rawga's BFF -- of cheating, and the Beak copped to a squirrelly, quarter-assed kind of way. But he did admit that the Bad Man was telling the truth. So...he lied about Clemens, but told the truth about Pettitte? Why?

Clemens: The cases are "totally separate." Which is...actually not an answer.

He is, however, outraged that people would "assume" the report is true. "It's hogwash for people even to assume this," he bleated. "Twenty-four, twenty-five years, Mike. You'd think I'd get an inch of respect. An inch."

Ah, there's the Barry Bonds AP course: "I'm telling you the truth. And you know it's the truth because I said it's the truth and I'm very famous. What's your fucking problem?"

But hey -- maybe it is unfair to Clemens. He does deserve a chance to defend himself. I mean, we can't just take the word of a steroid dealer over the word of someone who isn't a proven steroid dealer. He should take that douchebag to court! Sue his ass! Then the truth will come out.

Oh, wait -- I detect the lamest excuse in the history of lame excuses on deck...

"Should I sue? Well, yeah, let me exhaust -- let me, let me just spend... [gestures, as though peeling off dollar bills]."

Yes, that's right: he would sue, but it's just too darn expensive. Those lawyers don't grow on trees.

Go. Fuck. Yourself.

Am I hallucinating, or did you get paid something in the region of $80 million in salary...for just the last four seasons? Good lord, how expensive is litigation? Fuck, just take him on one of those stupid courtroom shows they show between Maury Povich and Montell Williams, they'll pay your litigation costs!

And maybe it's costly, but come on, man -- we're talking about protecting the good name of a legacy you built for a quarter of a century. That's not worth spending some of that ungodly fortune?

"I don't know if I can defend myself," he whined. "I think people -- a lot of people have already made their decisions."

Yeah, dipshit. When you offer up nothing in your defense, hide behind your family, issue blank statements via your agents and lawyers, drop out of sight and don't even talk to anyone for a month, people have lots and lots of time to make up their minds. And then you have the nerve to get angry when people just don't assume that you're telling the truth.

Die in a fire, Clemens.

You cheater.

Now playing: Elliott Smith - Junk Bond Trader
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Internet Self-Releases, Indie Rock, Hip Hop, and a Canadian Bootleg: The Ten Best Albums of 2007

I didn't see many movies this year, and I played only a few new video games, so I can't help much with awarding honors to those artforms. But music -- I listened to quite a bit of music this year. So let's get 2007 over with: here are the ten best albums.

But before we get started:

Special Mention: The Tragically Hip, World Container; Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
Both of these great records arrived in America in 2007, but were released in the artists' native countries in 2006. Being the fussy nitpicker I am, I cannot in good conscience include them in this list. But you should find them anyway -- especially World Container.

Now then.

10. Sky Blue Sky, Wilco
Embracing the situation is our only chance to be free
Jeff Tweedy lets his country influences spread out, and the result is the most relaxed, straightforward album Wilco's ever released. The best of it sounds like a long-lost album by the Band, and features some of the best guitar work of the year (particularly on "Side with the Seeds").

9. BLAM Canada Tour 2007, Victoria 1-31-07, Barenaked Ladies
Throw your sticks and stones, throw your mobile phones
An offhand between-songs comment about the mascot for a long-closed chain of grocery stores leads to a joke about breakfast being the most important meal of the day ("That's why I had three this morning," Ed says), which leads to an improvised rap about eating Egg McMuffins on the beach with one's date, which somehow leads to a brief mash-up of "Shout" by Tears for Fears and "Victoria" by the Kinks. If you ever needed proof that the Ladies were insane, here you go; if you needed proof they were still a spectacular live act and musical force, you can find that here, too. They combine the strongest of their new material with a smart mix of classic tracks -- I wish I'd been there.

8. In Rainbows, Radiohead
Don't get big ideas -- they're not gonna happen
By this point, a Radiohead album that's merely "good" would seem like an enormous disappointment. Thankfully, In Rainbows is much better than that. Most of the press surrounding its release focused on its internet self-distribution and the way it would change the music business -- the great music kinda got lost in the noise. But a few spins of "Bodysnatchers" or "Jigsaw Falling into Place" is all you need to remind yourself why Radiohead is -- still -- the best band in the world.

7. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse
I laugh all the way to hell, saying "Yes, this is a fine promotion"
It's overlong, lyrically obtuse, and has the greatest album title I've ever heard -- in other words, it's just like every other Modest Mouse record. But this one stands above almost all of them: smart, catchy, and funny in all the right places, it's their best since The Moon & Antarctica. A three-song cameo by the Shins' James Mercer doesn't hurt, either.

6. Icky Thump, The White Stripes
Now my mind is filled with rubber tires and forest fires
I've mentioned many, many times how little sense it makes, but the White Stripes just can't stop making breathtaking music. After all these years, their sound seems different -- it feels thicker and denser -- but the instrumentation remains the same: Jack's screaming guitar and wailing vocals, plus Meg's simple and overloud drums. Those bluesy guitars make a comeback after sitting out for most of Get Behind Me Satan, and Jack makes it count with some top-notch riffing (check out "Little Cream Soda"). And when you hear the character sketch crammed in between verses on "Rag and Bone," you realize that there's never been a band that has as much fun making music as the White Stripes. They're just as much fun to listen to.

5. Wincing the Night Away, The Shins
So give me your hand, and we'll jump out the window
We can give James Mercer some kind of MVP award for his appearance on two of the albums on this list. But Wincing is a monumental work -- it's an indie pop record of surprising complexity, with even a few attempts to rock out. And "Phantom Limb" is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

4. The Fragile Army, The Polyphonic Spree
Everybody shines
The Spree take some getting used to, but not much -- the massive choir turns every song into an irresistible sing along, and the music is so bright and charming that it practically glows. Done badly, and every track could be a cheesy "We Are the World" chant; done well, and it's the Polyphonic Spree.

3. Graduation, Kanye West
My head's so big you can't sit behind me
Mr. West's infamous ego is getting harder and harder to complain about. Graduation is his most confident album yet, and finds him branching out even further to find his samples -- Michael Jackson, sure, but Steely Dan? Elton John? Mountain? Daft Punk?! And his rhymes continue to grow in sophistication and cleverness, even as they start to sound more and more like Versace and Louis Vuitton commercials (seriously, dude -- you like fancy clothes, we fucking get it). And boy, that feud 50 Cent decided to have didn't turn out too well for him, did it? Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Curtis.

2. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon
You got no fear of the underdog -- that's why you will not survive
Another band that just gets better and better with every album. Gimme Fiction was a huge step forward in both artistic and commercial terms, but Ga Ga equals it and then improves, dropping horn sections and driving piano rhythms like they'd been doing it all their lives. If the mainstream ever turned away from American Idol and paid attention, Spoon could take over the world. If only, huh?

The Best Album of 2007: Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
The lions and the lambs ain't sleeping yet
In a Questionable Content strip, one of the characters jokes that Arcade Fire is so passionate about their music that they could very well spontaneously combust on stage. That was evident on 2004's Funeral, which turned grief into an explosive cathartic release. Neon Bible turns that fire outward instead, and they once again find magic. Political without being preachy, melancholy without being maudlin -- this group of crazy Canadian bastards seemingly can't do any wrong. Their massive sound can occasionally sound claustrophobic, which is probably the point -- but a rousing celebration like "No Cars Go" feels like a window opening. Two albums in, and they've been hailed as the patron saints of the indie rock scene and then proved they deserved the title -- where the hell do they go from here?

Now playing: Arcade Fire - No Cars Go
via FoxyTunes