Friday, June 29, 2007

Momma's Girls

You know those people who say things like, "my mom is so great, she is my best friend?"

Well, I hate those people. Are they really serious? Or too lame to have real friends?

That is why this NY Times article almost made me throw up. Am I sensitive or is there something really wrong with calling your mother 4 times a day. . . when you're 30 years old?

Yes, I'm sure there's something to be said for open communication, but do you get the feeling that our generation (those of us in our 20's and early 30's) refuse to grow up and there's someting inherently unhealthy about that? I mean, how many people do you know who've lived at their parents house (sometimes on numerous occasions) after their college years, or use their parent's credit card for groceries every once in a while? Okay, maybe that's just me. But do you think Mom and Dad were fucking around thinking about going to grad school on their parent's dime when they were 26? Hell no, they were taking care of their three kids and putting money into their 401K.

I think those of us who have a ton of support from the parents into our early adulthood are lucky, and I'm happy to have a lot more opportunities available to me than my mother had. But I can't escape the feeling that I'm getting away with something I shouldn't. And it certainly doesn't keep me from hating those losers that call up their mom every time they produce a successful bowel movement.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Spiders, Pumpkins, Whatever. Titles are Stupid.

On my way home from yesterday's shopping spree, I heard the new Smashing Pumpkins single, 'Tarantula' on the radio. Apparently the band's back together (no brooding James Iha, though), have a new album (Zeitgeist, out July 10), and are touring it this summer. Not just touring it, maybe beating a dead horse with it? Turns out the Smashing Pumpkins are playing eleven (sold out) shows at the Fillmore in July. Incredible.

I listened to the song ('Tarantula,' remember? We are talking about 'Tarantula') with no particular expectations; I've always been fairly indifferent to this band. Yeah, I'll admit they were pretty decent, good even, but I was never bowled over by them. Jake was, and perhaps he can explain why. I was pretty much too into Oasis in the 90's to notice anything that wasn't regularly covered in the British music magazines.

That might explain my first reaction to 'Tarantula,' which was, "It's like an Oasis song, but in 2007." Now, I know Oasis are still making music in 2007 (actually, I don't know that, but I assume they are), but does anyone care? I'm not going to say their stuff is bad, not at all, I still listen to "Definitely Maybe" every once in a while. But it's the 21st century now. Shouldn't things in the music world have progressed beyond a guy with a whiny voice (read: Billy and Liam) intoning lame lyrics (Billy: "I wanna be there when you're happy/ I wanna love you when you're sad;" Liam: "Maybe you're gonna be the one that saves me/ 'cos after all, you're my Wonderwall." Uhuh) with a really predictable music structure? Where's the music revolution I've been waiting for? Because this stuff is boring. Not necessarily bad, but boring to be sure.

Not only that, but guitar solos embarrass me if they aren't in heavy metal songs, and 'Tarantula' is rife with them.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Harry Potter Hype

I am thinking about going to see Harry and the Potters this weekend. Not just because they are cool, and brothers, and dress like Harry Potter and sing songs like Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock and This Book is so Awesome, and you get to see little kids rocking out. It's also because the final Harry Potter book comes out in a few weeks (July 21) and I don't want to waste it by not being appropriately hyped up. It helps that Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix comes out on the 11th, too.

Here's a question, though. Do you think there's something wrong with all these adults reading kid's books? Do they make us stupider? Are we burying our heads in childhood fantasy because we're no good at being grownups?

Personally I will defend the reading of Harry Potter books, though I was initially skeptical. I'm generally pretty picky about writing style and less interested in plot. I was pleasantly surprised that these books manage to balance the two well enough for me to enjoy them. So I'm not going to feel guilty for a little indulgence. Plus books that can freak kids out enough to get them standing in line to read are awesome.

Never Too Late

Just in time for the, er, week after Pride Week, this touching story about the world's oldest tenor celebrating his 105th birthday and getting hitched to a partner of two decades.

Lovely story, but can you believe a) the usually progressive Swiss just got around to legalizing civil unions or b) anyone could contemplate sending this sweet old guy to the devil?

"Most people were happy for us," he said, "though a few promised us 15,000 years in hell."

Thoughts, MCW?

Fear and Trembling

I've had a hell of a time trying to post these past few days, so thank you, Alice, for picking up the slack, and apologies to the rest of you for having to endure her. I'll try not to let it happen again.
I know this is meant to be a music blog, or at least I'm meant to be writing about music (Alice does as she likes), but I'd like to ask more broadly - does anyone else consume art with a sort of desperate, joyless fervor because you feel you can't produce something yourself?

If so, I feel your pain - and would love to hear how you've struggled to make the transition from consumer to producer. The intention here, with this short, lazy post is to make a start - usually the hardest part for me.

Here's hoping I'll be back soon with some thoughts on music. Meantime, thanks for your patience.

World's Scariest Man Snagged at Arby's After Shooting a CO

I only wanted to post this to show his photo. Is this guy nightmare-worthy or what? This article says Curtis Allgier was out of prison on a medical visit, stole the gun from a corrections officer and proceeded to fatally shoot him. He then stole a car and raced to Arby's (possibly the trashiest eatery ever) where he bailed out at the drive-thru and was finally subdued by a customer who "did not want to be identified." Next sentence says "KUTV says the customer was Eric Fullerton." Eric to the media: "Thanks, assholes." Okay, he didn't actually say that, but I would have.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Now that I broke down and started posting I figure I will write something banal since I can't sleep at all, despite taking a whole bunch of opiates for my migraine.

Today I went shopping for my godson's (okay, is it creepy that I can find photos of him online? Technology. He is the one in the blue sweatshirt who keeps showing up in these photos, probably because he's the cutest) 6th birthday. The birthday shopping is fun for so many reasons. I can't really lose because everything that's made in America is really expensive in Australia (where he lives) and not only that, just the fact that some stupid toy is from America makes it cool (until the kid hits teenagehood and begins to despise everything that has to do with the U.S. because we are stupid and loud and are trying to take over their culture. As if we think about Australia enough to actually try to do something like that. As if lawn bowls and Vegemite would really be missed. As if that stuff didn't come from England in the first place). But anyway, whenever I go to buy kid's stuff I am incredibly impressed with how cheap it all is. I'm not sure if this is because $10 isn't like a whole year's allowance anymore or if things are cheaper now, or if my parents were total cheapskates and didn't buy us anything that didn't come from a garage sale. I mean, come on. Hungry Hungry Hippos? I spent years coveting that game. And you know how much it costs? $15. Fifteen bucks! Seriously, I would have gotten a lot more than $15 worth of enjoyment out of that beautiful plastic contraption, even though there's always one hippo that works best and it only takes about 5 minutes to figure out which one it is. You know those Nerf basketball hoops you hang on your door and the net disappears in a couple days but the orange hoop stays there for years? $3.90. Is anyone else impressed by this or was I just a deprived child? Should I be feeling sorry for myself right now? Because I kind of do.

With adulthood comes the knowledge that with $50 I can choose whatever I want in a toy store and get like 5 of them. It's awesome. If you know any kids and want to buy their love, head over to Target or something. It's fairly painless and you'll probably get like 2 friendship bracelets in return.


I had this snippy conversation with Jake yesterday saying that I refuse to post until he comes back, but I figured I would mention that it's National HIV Testing Day since that's sort of time-sensitive information. Not to be a nag or anything, but you might as well participate in this since there a plenty of places to do it for free and it only takes 10 or 20 minutes to get the results these days. Including Union Square in NYC between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Even if you're pretty much positive you don't have HIV (um. . . awkward clause), why not go anyway? It seems to me that the more people that get tested, the more commonplace the whole procedure will be. That can't be a bad thing, right? Or will that just waste resources?

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Could someone please explain this article to me? I am totally lost. How would Janet Reno go about creating a 50 track compilition album featuring Danielson and Andrew Bird? Who is the target audience for 50 songs about the history of America? So many questions.

Last time I heard the words Janet Reno and music uttered in the same breath it was in this bizarre song by (female rapper) Arquette.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I guess you shouldn't base your baby's name on how easy it will be to txt it.

Baby names that correspond to places, and their rank on a list of the top 1000 names given to kids born in the U.S. in 2006:

Savannah (30)
Sydney (34)
Brooklyn (67)
Jordan (97)
Cheyenne (171)
Dakota (191)
Paris (260)
Georgia (273)
Carolina (281)
Aurora (312)
Asia (332)
London (353)
America (458)
Phoenix (816)

Austin (41)
Jordan (46)
Dakota (172)
Trenton (192)
Zion (266)
Dallas (352)
Orlando (356)
Dayton (540)
Boston (626)
London (638)
Houston (837)
Memphis (923)

Why so many Texan ones, and why does this not surprise me at all? Also, there are more girl place names than boy and I don't really get how you determine the sex of a place name.

The Registry of Births in New Zealand denied the name "4real" recently because they don't accept names beginning with numbers. Do they accept names not beginning with numbers, but including them, I wonder?

What do you think the worst name to give a kid would be (besides Adolf Hitler or Saloth Sar, please)? Humbert Humbert? Poop? Boston??

By the way, Jacob was #1 on the boys list last year and Alice was #383 on the girls.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What We Are Putting in Our Mouths

Look, I know some people are too busy watching movies and having sex to actually post on here, but I think some content is probably overdue. Perhaps a bit of provoking?

No one likes to hear about vegetarianism or veganism or whatever. But if you saw Jake sometime between mid-January to, oh, April, or May, or June, you probably had to hear all about it, because he was so proud of giving up meat that he couldn't shut up about it. All the talk pretty much made me stricten (this is not a word, apparently. Why not? Tighten? Strengthen? What am I missing here? I am going to use it anyway) my own "no meat" stance and make sure I didn't eat fish or accidentally ingest some chicken broth. Not because I'm moral, more because I have to compete.

Anyway, I've witnessed many a dismissal from non-vegetarians, implying that people who don't eat meat for moral reasons are weird, crazy unamericans (also not a word. What the hell?) Why so defensive, meat-eaters? You don't seem to judge when people do all kinds of weird shit if the ethical code of their religion demands it. Even if that means knocking on your door in the morning or not drinking Coke.

The arguments for not eating meat are pretty obvious and straight-forward, even if you think animals are stupid and ugly. I'm not going to get into them because, as I mentioned before, no one wants to hear all that. But Jake might want to let you know. If he ever shows up. But it's not like I'm going to look at you funny when you're eating a hot dog. Depending on how you eat it.

Actually, Jake, maybe you can help explain things for the meat-eaters. Because, as I sit here enjoying my non-dairy frozen dessert (rocky road,) I can see you mocking me. So what if I don't eat/drink milk or if I like to get my protein via tasty soy products that pretend to be something they're not. Maybe, deep down, you wish you could join me.

Indiginous Australians Celebrate 40 Years as Human Beings

While I generally like nothing more than to make fun of Australia and its bigotry, I may be willing to admit this article is slightly less than 100% accurate. It claims that with the amendments to the Australian constitution in 1967 came the first time Aboriginal Australian's were considered anything other than part of the native flora and fauna. While I'm not even sure they are considered anything other than that by a majority of the Australian population today, Aborigines actually became citizens of the commonwealth in 1948. So, really, it only took them 49,948 years in Australia before they gained that prestigious title. Not 49,967 years. Jesus. Get your facts straight.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Jake and I need to get some stuff done today, that's why we have been so absent.

I wish I had something to write about. I sort of hate blogs, because people tend to talk about what's on their mind, like you care. For instance, I can tell you how I stepped on a nail yesterday, and it produced more blood than I've ever seen outside of a vial. This totally has nothing to do with you, but it lets you think about blood. Luckily, this blog is all about me, and I like blood because it's a very nice color. I took a photo of all of it and I will totally post it to the blog once I get the pictures developed.

See? This is why blogs suck.

Jake (yeah, I like to say his name a lot) may have mentioned Tropicalia earlier, but I don't think he did other than show it on his playlist for a few days. I know nothing about it, so I hope he comes on here and tells us some interesting things about Brazilian psychedelica. I did download the first album by Os Mutantes the other day, and am enjoying it quite a bit. When I first heard the song "Trem Fantasma" I thought to myself, "this sounds like Dungen." Which is a stupid thing to say. It's like listening to The Velvet Underground and saying "this sounds like Sonic Youth." Or something stupid like that.

Are you following what I'm saying? No? Jake, please bail me out here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

As Jake Said in a Less Poetic Moment

"Fuck this long comment chain."

I bring you another addition to the (now) great file-sharing debate, in official post format.

Grandpa comments, "Ten dollars a month doesn't seem like much to me." Well, forgetting the fact that you used to buy coffee for a nickel, take a moment to think about that.

It is really hard to get concrete stats on music-swappers online, but the EFF claims as many as 60 million Americans use some sort of file-sharing software. Say 10% of those people paid the $10 file-swapping fee every month for a year. Unless I've got my decimal points out of whack, that would mean $7.2 billion dollars of pretty much pure profit going directly to the record companies per year (if record companies were still deemed necessary). No pressing or shipping of cds, no material to buy, and no promotion needed. Who's complaining now?

It's called progress, friend.

All this talk has reminded me of a classic article by Steve Albini that many of you have probably already read at some point. Revisit it here, as a reminder of how inefficient/unfair the music industry is.

I think all of us reading this blog are on the side of the music-makers. What's to debate, really?

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums. . .

No, wait! This is just to say we have a new, easy-to-remember web address:

The layout and writing are, unfortunately, exactly the same. Visit often.

Quick Recess From the File-Sharing Debate

Just thought I'd take a moment to do what I do best. Link you to cool stuff other people create.

Married to the Sea

Music Wants to Be Free

Reader Ben F. writes provokingly in response to Alice's post on file sharing:

Seems to me that a system where compensation is based on limiting supply
is not going to work anymore, given that files multiply far too easily and,
heck, music wants to be free. And that's what copyright is all about --
you can't copy unless you purchase the right to do so. But music wants to
be copied, shared, and experienced. It's the in the nature of sound,
and art, and the art of sound.

Really interesting point, but I wonder what it is about music - besides the ease with which it's copied - that we can say "wants to be free." Are the services of a musician of less monetary value than, say, those a baker, because the former's product happens to be easy to convert to 1's and 0's? Is there some inherent value to analogue stuff than doesn't adhere to digital-stuff? (To put it more concretely: does it make more sense to pay for a concert than for a recording of the concert?)

Or maybe art is somehow purer than other forms of production and only sullied by commerce? Do musicians fall into a separate category because they are in the business of self-expression and will likely produce whether we pay for their products or not?

I'm not sure - and honestly no more ethical than anyone else in this realm. But I must say, as I prepare to spend thousands of dollars on music school and stake my living on compositions and performance, I wonder why I should be paid less for my labors than anyone else.


Via Ross:

Music has spoken to Danish composer Carl Nielsen, and apparently freedom is not what it wants! Rather: "...I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If It Ain't Broke

Thank you, Alice, for derailing my post on the great, lamented Gerard Grisey, and dragging me into this uncomfortable file-sharing debate.
Thing is, I'm much more interested in music than business, and I'm wondering if anyone else reading that litany from Downhill Battle in Alice's post was thinking: "Is the music industry really in such bad shape?"

With all due respect to the shittiness of Avril Lavigne and Maroon 5, isn't this sort of a great time to be into music? I'll have to defer to the historians here, but has there ever been a time in, say, the last half-century, when so much good music has been so widely available? When so many good musicians have been recording for major labels (Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F)? Or so many good indie bands have captured so much popular attention, critical acclaim - or hell, even money?

In all fairness, I do not know how most Americans learn about or acquire music, and it may be that payola, draconian copyright laws, and, er, the 400 people targeted by RIAA is hindering what could be an even larger, cooler scene. But for now, I think I'll save my outrage for bigger fish.

(Also, for those of you who do take this stuff seriously, what does it mean to "boycott" the majors? Are you the badass who will turn down the new Radiohead when it arrives if it's got the Capitol imprimatur? Are you purchasing legally from indies? Are you getting involved politically? Or do you just feel a little more righteous, or a little less guilty as you do whatever the hell you want?)

Fathers, etc.

I thought I'd mention that it's Father's Day on Sunday so those of you who are obligated to put something in the mail will remember to do that today (you know who you are). At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful little brat, however, I think father's day is complete bullshit. I'd like to hear from an actual father on this one, but as far as I can tell these holidays (father's day, mother's day, valentine's day, etc.) just end up making people feel guilty for not appreciating these people everyday and then guilty again for giving some half-assed present (or card) that doesn't really help the situation. Then the father probably just ends up feeling like if he actually was appreciated, he wouldn't be getting such a stupid card.

Am I wrong? Please tell me, holiday-celebraters and fathers.

I got a letter from my own father yesterday. He lives in North Kern State Prison and likes to tell me what it's like. Most of these letters seem to be taken up by numbers. For instance, what time the mail gets picked up (8pm), between which hours is it dropped off (4 - 10pm), how many letters he has gotten in the last certain number of days (13 in 3), how many times he's gotten to shower that week (3), what number he is on the haircut list (12), which letters of mine (specifically) he has received in case some didn't get through, etc.

He's a mathematical guy and likes to make lists of things. Here is one:

"When I woke up this Monday morning I was actually looking forward to the week for the following reasons:

1) We mite get off lockdown
2) I may get mail
3) We may get to trim our fingernails
4) I mite get to go to the store
5) We mite go outside"

All "may's or "mite's." Unclear if that's how he thinks "might" is spelled or if he thinks it's worth leaving off the "gh" to save pencil lead. He tends to write "u" for "you," "ur" for "your," etc. and in tiny block letters (two rows per line) for that reason, but it makes me sort of feel like I'm reading some kid's text messages.

This is my favorite part, though:

"I have a 66 year old white cellmate (since May 9). I hope I keep him as long as possible. We get along very well and have a lot in common. He is a fundamental Christian and has strong ideas about who is going to Hell: gays, everyone with a tattoo, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, Catholics, etc. Pretty much everyone but him. But we get along fine."

A lot in common?! Plus, imagine being in prison and hating people with tattoos! How does that guy know he's not in hell right now?

Anyway, I've totally lost track as to what this post was supposed to be about.

Appreciate your parents every day even if you don't like them very much because at least you can make fun of them on the internet?
If you insist upon cutting your nails with a nailclipper be happy you don't have to share it with 100 other people?
Mail your father's day cards today?
You decide.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Ethical Question Regarding File Sharing

Full Disclosure: I may be trying to justify all the stolen music I've downloaded over the past two years.

The argument for file sharing is something I've been looking into today. The idea is major record labels end up hurting musicians more than helping them. Here are the top 6 reasons to boycott them (which generally involves downloading music for free if you want to hear music put out by major labels) according to Downhill Battle, "a non-profit organization working to support participatory culture and build a fairer music industry:"

1) Music diversity will grow. The major labels' business model requires them to have a steady stream of consistent products. The very nature of their operation produces homogenized music designed for specific radio formats and scientifically honed to hit-making models. Artists are signed and promoted based on the opinions of individual A&R executives, not the popularity of the music.

When the major labels crumble, the diversity of mainstream music will blossom. It will be a revolution in pop culture. People will decide what's popular, not marketing.

2) Pay-for-play radio will end. For decades, the major labels have controlled what's on the radio by paying radio stations to play their songs. Pay-for-play radio (aka "payola") means that independent labels can't get their music on mainstream radio and mediocre major label music gets on the radio just because somebody's paying.

Legislative efforts to end the practice have failed consistently. Payola is illegal, but labels simply skirt the law by paying third-party "independent promoters" to pay radio stations. As long as the major labels continue to have huge amounts of money to throw into radio promotion, we'll always have pay-for-play. But we can take the money out of the system. If we stop paying for major label music, we can stop payola.

3) Independent music won't be marginalized. The major labels use their monopoly of distribution and their control of radio to prevent independent music from competing in the mainstream. Pay-for-play happens in print media too: if a record label places ads, they'll get reviews. Many in indie music circles have grown so used to being marginalized by the majors that they just accept it. Some even become proud of their own obscurity--after all, in this system obscurity is where you get when you stay true to principles. But it doesn't need to be that way. With the record industry in disarray, the media and the public are trying to understand what's happening. If independent labels and musicians speak out against the majors' unfair business practices, they can shift the debate and change the system.

4) The lawsuits will stop. The major labels hit a new low when they started suing fans this fall. But the million-dollar filesharing lawsuits are hurting hundreds of families, many of whom have young children. We've spoken with dozens of the people who've been targeted, and these lawsuits are literally driving families into bankruptcy. The risk and expense of fighting the suits rather than settling means that of the over 400 people targetted by the RIAA, there may not be a single case that gets decided in court. The only way to stop these suits is to stop buying the CDs that fund the lawsuits.

5) Artistic freedom will expand. For artists on major labels, label bureaucrats hijack the sound and control the final product. The label picks the producer of the album and they can always refuse to release it; sometimes labels even trash entire albums. And at the end of the day the label--not the musician--owns the copyright to each song.

The major labels have also made it illegal or prohibitively expensive to make sample-based music. They own all the copyrights and, unless musicians pay to 'clear' each sample, the musical equivalent of a collage becomes illegal art. Hip-hop and electronic music suffer the most from this restrictive, legalistic atmosphere. But if we take down the copyright cartel, the problem is solved.

6) Musicians will make a better living. The major label system is the biggest barrier to musicians making money off CDs. Major label artists only start getting their tiny share of royalties (5-10%) once they've sold over 500,000 units. Independent musicians can get a bigger cut, but thanks to major label payola they can't get on the radio and won't reach a large audience.

All the things the majors do to manipulate the music business cost money. Millions of dollars in payola, 8 figure executive salaries, poor choices of new artists, overpriced studios--this money comes from musicians and fans, but benefits neither. If we cut out the waste, fans will be able to support more musicians while spending less.

If you buy all that, the RIAA Radar might be a good way of finding out if all that music you are going to buy is released by a Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) member.

I have a few problems with these reasons, though.

Firstly, musicians still deserve compensation for all their work, and there needs to be a good system in place to make sure that happens.

But People have researched that too. The proposed solution is called Voluntary Collective Licensing. This means people would pay a small fee (something like $5 a month) in order to legitimize all the file sharing they are already doing. This idea has actually worked before via societies like ASCAP, who got the radio to pay fees in order to be able to play whatever copyrighted material they wanted. From my understanding, these fees go to the person that owns the copyright to the music (generally the musician's themselves). The EFF proposes ways to collect this money, which could involve listeners paying the websites they are downloading from or the file sharing software they use. It's also suggested that the listener's ISP could be in charge of collecting the money.

I guess the question is, do you think it's alright to force the issue by downloading music before something like that is set up?

Also not to be overlooked is the fact that all my favorite record stores would go out of business.

I am pretty torn on this issue. This would be really sad to me, but to be honest, I am generally on the side of change and technology and everything else. I might be convinced this is just the wave of the future.

What do you think, Jake?

Key Words

Here is Amazon's list of Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIP's) for the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace:

annular fusion
medical attaché
entertainment cartridge
improbably deformed
howling fantods
feral hamsters
dawn drills
tough nun
prochain train
professional conversationalist
new bong
ceiling bulged
metro boston
tennis academy
red leather coat
soupe aux pois
red beanie
addicted man
magnetic video
littler kids
little rotter
technical interview
police lock
oral narcotics
sober time

These are all phrases that come up many times within the text so, as you can see, it's a really fun book to read. I look back on those 2 or 3 months with much more nostalgia than they deserve just because I enjoyed reading it so much (working a temp job at an accounting firm in downtown San Jose couldn't have been that great).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Manitoba - Handsome Dick = Dan Snaith

I have been taking Jake's last post to heart today, and decided to mostly listen to the same album instead of being so spastic about things. I chose something I know I like, but haven't had much of a chance to sit down and listen to a lot because something went wrong with my computer when I ripped the CD, causing extremely loud bursts of white noise to interject themselves at random points during songs. Extremely unpleasant when you have the volume turned up loud on your ipod to fight off subway noises. So first, I had to download a new copy.

So today is all about The Milk of Human Kindness by Caribou. Caribou is mostly a one-man band in recordings, but he has people help him out on tour. That way there can be two drummers, because things tend to be better when there are more and louder drums (unless you are called Modest Mouse and you have two drummers at your live show for seemingly no reason and you sort of waste all that coolness because maybe you've gone in over your head because you already have the coolness of Johnny Marr. Not to bash Modest Mouse, because I think they're great).

It would be nice if I could tell you why to like this band, but I'm not particularly good at that. Plus, you can trust your own judgment so if you have a few minutes please check out their videos (below). In order to describe them I might have to resort to lazy tactics, like comparing them (um, I mean, "him") to other musicians. No one likes that. People also don't like math. This is how I'm going to describe them though, because Dan Snaith aka Caribou probably does like math, as he has a PhD in it. Neutral Milk Hotel + Olivia Tremor Control + Boards of Canada - Apples in Stereo + more drums - Georgia + Ontario = Caribou.


Here is another one that has words and things:


Bringing Back the Middleman

Yesterday, Jake told me to check out the new Liars song posted on Pitchfork. I said, "Okay." What I should have told him was "tell it to the blog." Then we would have had something posted yesterday. So I am telling you now, Jake. If you want to talk to me about non-embarrassing, music-related stuff, can you just do it here? Because then I won't have to go on gTalk so often.

Now you only have 24 (or fewer) hours to listen to this track, which I suggest you do. It's good, and is making me excited for their new album (called just, "Liars," which I don't really appreciate because that gets confusing, and if you came up with titles for all the rest, why not title this one, or do you think this one will suddenly define you as a band, because if you do, it probably won't).

Here is the tracklisting for Liars, out August 28th:

1) Plaster Casts of Everything
2) Houseclouds
3) Leather Prowler
4) Sailing to Byzantium
5) What Would They Know
6) Cycle Time
7) Freak Out
8) Pure Unevil
9) Clear Island
10) The Dumb in the Rain
11) Protection

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Embarrassment of Riches

Back from the library with a big stack of CDs - an anthology of Brazilian folk music from the amazing French label Ocora, noise rock from Lightning Bolt, duets by Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, Zorn's Masada live in Jerusalem and a few others. Blown away, as always, by the breadth and volume of the collection, but oddly, a little ambivalent, too.

Anyone else coming to the conclusion that variety of choice does not make you happy? Or that you don't give yourself a chance to enjoy music you already have because you're constantly, compulsively on the search for something new? Or that you shouldn't acquire anything further until you bring up pathetically low scores on Music Quiz?

One of the arguments I like to use with people who put down difficult modern classical music is that they simply haven't heard it enough. What I mean is that to take pleasure from music - or even just to fairly assess it - we usually need to get to the point where the ear can predict what comes next. (Enjoyment of improvised music would be an obvious exception, though with recordings even improvisation is infinitely repeatable.)

It's only with repetition that we can sing along, or whistle a tune when it's over, or, in the case of much modern music, make sense of structures so complex that they initially sound chaotic. (I once asked my mom to listen to a movement of a dense string quartet by Webern over the course of a week. As expected, the more she heard, the more she liked. In the beginning it was chaos, by the end, "moving.")

The point here is simple, and of course, not new: acquisition can distance us from that which we find highest. I will say, however, that if it's burdensome to sit on cash, I will take your sins upon myself.

Sasha Gets Specific

A beautiful paragraph from Sasha Frere-Jones on the Austin band Spoon in last week's New Yorker. This is the sort of concrete, non-technical music criticism I mentioned in my first post, and hope to eventually get up here myself. Read the whole thing here, or just try this:
The first great Spoon song, “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out,” was released in 1997, when Daniel was twenty-five. The strategies that made it work are central to Spoon’s most successful tracks: reduction, precision, and confusion. The song starts with two guitar chords and sticks with them. Daniel plays only the chords’ bottom notes and doesn’t hit the strings very hard, providing enough notes to make the harmony clear, but no more. He begins the verse in a relaxed, conversational voice that is both clotted and grainy. “This is the electric lounge; no one’s afraid to laugh,” he mumbles, eliding the first “e” of “electric.” “They say, ‘C’mon, man, just let me break your back.’ ” The vowels in “laugh” and “back” are soft and long. (In an interview, Daniel attributed his vocal style to his experience in an elementary-school choir: “The way they taught us to sing was to sing like you’re British. Instead of ‘ar’ you say ‘ah.’ You don’t sing ‘car,’ you sing ‘cahhh.’ ”) Then the rest of the band—a bass player and a drummer—joins in; the drummer, Jim Eno, plays a two-bar solo that might be called a roll, if the word didn’t seem too extravagant for a maneuver consisting of so few hits. (It’s as if Eno were merely testing each drum in his kit.) The chorus introduces two new guitar chords, and Daniel shifts from talking to a more open-throated sound, though he doesn’t produce much in the way of melody until the end, when he sings the words “Let it bleed,” the title of a famous Rolling Stones album. The album has no obvious relevance to the song, which seems to describe a drug deal, except that Spoon shares the Stones’ affinity for both skeletal guitar rock and classic soul music.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Stuff to do in San Francisco

Mostly I just wanted to post a picture of people running in gorilla suits, but if you feel like checking it out there is a gorilla run going on in San Francisco tomorrow to raise money for and awareness of gorilla endangerment. Specifically for Mountain Gorillas, of which some say there are only 380 left in the world. $100 gets people a free gorilla suit (though the stink will probably never come out) and a chance to run (or walk, more likely) 7km through Golden Gate Park, a nice place. My first thought was, "why are they doing this in the middle of June?" But then I remembered, "oh yeah, San Francisco."

Maybe not as fun as last week's Zombie Walk, which happened a few days before the Cardboard Robot Rumble. Have San Franciscan's run out of real causes to march for?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Just a Quick Note

If you're looking for something to do, I suggest checking out the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. Snarky.

Regarding this photo, the submitter says, "this cake was made for our friend Rina's baby shower. Notice I didn't say "Rina" 's baby shower, I said Rina. Rina is her name."

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Earlier today, Jake asks the question, "can anyone think of any good music that isn't on some level going for a head-fuck," and it's worth responding to, I think.

It seems to me that if you're going to bother writing music, one of your goals could likely be to mess with people's heads. Because if you have some power over people's ears, you may as well try to affect their minds as well. It's just more fun like that. And don't you think it would be crazy to assume those guys (and by "those guys" I guess I mean those classical music composers I know pretty much nothing about. Jake will have to fill you in on all that) wouldn't be trying for a "head-fuck" as well? I mean, there's nothing particularly mind-fuckable about the 21st century unless you tie that term to specific hallucinogenic drugs, right?

All that said, I would like to point out there's lots of music I like enough to call "good," that I highly doubt is going for any sort of head-fuck. Should I be using a thesaurus for that term, or just repeating it over and over? Oh well.

Some songs are just enjoyable for their directness and relatively simple melodies. And do smart lyrics and political messages count? They do make you think, so I guess that's up for grabs unless we get into an in depth definition of "head-fuck," which, to be honest, is a term I am sick of looking at just now.

I am thinking of a straight-up pop song, as in Belle and Sebastian's "Funny Little Frog" or something obvious and punky, like "Orgasm Addict" by the Buzzocks. And what about Jay-Z's "Dirt off Your Shoulder?" I have an inexplicable fondness for that track, and I don't see anything particularly complex about it (though I may be wrong, there).

I can contest that while strange and interesting music that confuses my brain is often really good, it doesn't mean other stuff isn't worthwhile as well.

Unzipping the Famous Blue Raincoat

After two enjoyable, but hopeless attempts to decipher the cryptic "Famous Blue Raincoat" (see Karen's comment), I turn to Google.

Wiki great as always.

See also the extremely thorough Christoph Hereld who expounds on lyrics and music!

God bless the Internet and the good souls who know so very much more than I.

What are we putting in our mouths?

Sometimes I like to visit this site. Call me morbid, but this is informative stuff*:

You probably only have a one in 5,005,564 chance of dying due to exposure to hot tap water this year. However, you are ten times less likely to die from a spider bite. So could you please quit killing spiders and start checking your water gauge?

You are almost five times as likely to die choking on a random non-food object than you are to choke on actual food.

You are twice as likely to kill yourself as you are to die in some sort of assault.

The average American has a one in 331 chance of shooting themselves to death at some point in his/her life, compared to a one in 15,565 chance of being shot by someone else. Maybe we should put a few more resources towards mental health care.

*These statistics are specific to U.S. residents. Sorry if they don't apply to you, but that may be a good thing.

Grieving Cowboys

Condolences to our friend and fellow blogger K.T., headed to Grapevine, TX this morning to attend the funeral of a loved one.
You'll be missed, Bo.

Pictured: Dallas Cowboy's lineman Jethro Pugh in the locker-room following defeat by the Pittsburgh Stealers in Superbowl X.

Trippy, Ludwig

"I've always liked really psychedelic music to some idea, when it's trying to achieve some head-fuck sort of thing in it. Where ever it's through a really subtle, melodic means or more of a rhythmic assault. But it's always attempting the same sort of feeling."

- Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, interviewed 1999

So, yeah, Tom is a musician, not a rhetorician, but does anyone else get excited by the idea that psychedelic music can point to something broader than the druggie, effects-laden swirl it connotes today?

Was Beethoven aiming for a "head-fuck sort of thing in it" when he wrote the famously complicated Grosse Fugue? Schoenberg in the "Farben" movement of his Five Pieces for Orchestra? Ligeti in Lontano?

Hell, can anyone think of any good music that isn't on some level going for a head-fuck?


See, this is an interactive post. I ask you a question, and you respond in the comments section. Otherwise you can call me and give me your answer. Those are the only two options. This is what I'm wondering:

Off the top of your head (or you can cheat and use the internet, see if I care) what is the funniest lyric you can think of?

I probably should have thought of an answer to this question before posting it. Ok. . . so maybe I'll go the Stephen Malkmus route. I was listening to his self-titled solo album the other day, and this line from "Jo Jo's Jacket" always amuses me:

“Perhaps you saw me in Westworld, I acted like a robotic cowboy”

Yeah, so, I guess that song is from the perspective of Yul Brynner. I have just looked up the video clip on YouTube. I suggest you see it, because it is entirely ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Aliens on Earth

I have seen these photos floating around the internet lately. I like them. They're from a book by Claire Nouvian about the deep sea. I never think about the fact that there's anything underneath that straight line of blue stuff called the ocean. But there is, of course, as it makes up the 99% of space that is actual habitable on our planet. These things look like total aliens. Maybe they will take over the world sometime (instead of the cane toads).

Loopy in midtown

Just back from the amazing NYPL with Steve Reich's 1985 Sextet. Can't say I'm expert on minimalist music, but still - surprised I haven't heard much about this one.

It's a beauty - Reich's usual coolly pulsing vibraphones and pianos wedded with (weirdly appealing) dated synths and ghostly bowed percussion that must look beautiful in performance. Not sure what it sounds like on good speakers, but here on cheap JBLs in my little white-walled office, it has a special poignancy.

I don't have the time or language to get too in depth on what's making this so good, but there's definitely something special about the use of dissonance (albeit mild), which is, I think, somewhat rare in this sort of music.

What I want to know is: Why?

I understand minimalism developed partly in reaction to the ultra-dissonant, rhythmically spastic pieces coming out of Europe mid-century, but still: I figure if you're gonna repeat phrases endlessly as the minimalists do, harmonic complexity might actually be unusually welcome.

Anyone know any good examples of music that done this? Andriessen? The Bang on a Can folks? If no info is forthcoming, I'll, erm, gather evidence and get back to you.

Commence breath holding.


But not with the critical survey of polyrhythms in late-period Stereolab I know you’ve all been waiting for. More on that later.

For now, I’d like mention that if you can’t get to the Mae Shi, the album to hear is 2004’s Terrorbird. Hard to describe the music…spaz rock ? ADD-core? The songs are short & frenetic, constantly shifting meters, keys, styles, and played with a sort of athletic fervor that makes one feel slightly unhealthy at home in headphones. The only thing I can think to compare is Zorn's Naked City.

Pitchfork accuses the boys of posturing; I’m with Alice – I couldn’t imagine them doing anything else.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

back to the music

This is Gruff (you say it like "griff"). He's in the band Super Furry Animals. You may have heard of them. They've released 7 proper albums, 2 compilations, and one remix album. Also several DVDs. They have a new CD coming out on August 27th called "Hey Venus." Gruff has released two solo albums. Cian is in Acid Casuals. Daf is in The Peth. Guto is just Guto. And Bunf I almost forgot about.

I'm pretty sure I know everyone who comes to this blog, which also makes me pretty sure that no one's listened to the Super Furry Animals unless forced to do so by me. This is a serious shame, but I quit trying to convert people to them probably about seven or eight years ago. At least aggressively. I'm ashamed to say that maybe I started to doubt my own judgment. But, I mean, I was seriously excited by this band, and no one else I knew was.

Super Furry Animals still seem sort of perfect in a lot of ways. Clever lyricists, willing to experiment, not tied to any particular genre. All around nice, smart, and funny people. They write infectious melodies -- strange ones you don't get sick of. They use whatever instruments they like the sound of. Like celery. They sing in Welsh when they feel like it (this is very entertaining to me. It's a funny-sounding language, admit it), and in English when they don't. They have special glowing suits made for them to play in, and they have a resident artist.

Anyway, the point was to inform you that Gruff will be coming to North America (or perhaps just the U.S.) after spending all summer touring with SFA in the UK. Should be good (as it was last year). The only confirmed dates so far are September 29th and 30th (ahem) at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle.

Jakes asks for some advice as to where to start listening. I don't really know. Here is a link to one of their singles, called 'Ysbeidiau Heulog.' It's sort of a middle career thing (2000), and a fairly random one, but they have it on their site so I figure it's fair game. Gruff has this to say regarding this song: "It is about a relationship but from the narrative of a weather man. So it is mostly cloud and rain and some frost with some sunny intervals."

If you want a more recent one, here: 'Lazer Beam'

Republic of Vermont: "The Switzerland of North America"

In high school, Ben (my brother, as you all probably know), Ryan (his current boss, as it turns out) and I had grand ideas about California seceding from the nation. We finally decided this state is actually too good for the government to let us go peacefully. Maybe not too good, but at least too important to the U.S. economy.

Vermont, on the other hand, not so. Enough people there want to declare independence to have caught the attention of the media (especially today, for some reason). I don't exactly see why this is big news all of a sudden, because the article seems to be referencing town meetings that will take place in March. Do they mean March of next year?

In any case, I'd like to see more states secede. Traveling would be more fun.

Come to Papa

If there's one thing Australians hate more than women or immigrants, it's probably cane toads. They are constantly complaining about how the cane toads are going to destroy the country (unless the immigrants do it first).

You didn't ask for any history, but you are going to get a little bit anyway. Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 to kill some beetles that were harming sugar cane crops. Brilliant idea, I know. This reminds me of a classic Simpsons quote:

"Isn't this a little short sighted? Won't the lizards become an even bigger problem?"
"Then we'll just release wave after wave of Chinese Needle Snakes."
"Aren't the snakes even worse!"
"That's why we've prepared a special gorrilla that feeds on nothing but needle snakes."
"Then we'll be overrun by gorrillas!!!!"
"No Lisa, that's the beauty of it. Come winter, they'll all freeze to death."

Anyway, turns out the toads might have actually found a way to control their population by themselves. It's called cannibalizing their offspring. They are very tricky about it too. Apparently, they wiggle their toes to attract the naive cane toad babies who come close and are quickly snatched and eaten by their backstabbing parents. Harsh.

Money and Crime

I just stumbled upon this article:
Man Who Faked Retardation Is Going To Prison.

He got caught when he contested a parking ticket in court. He's been doing it since he was 8 to get disability, and so has his sister. The weird thing is, he doesn't know how to read and write.

I know it's tacky to jump on the Paris-going-to-prison bandwagon, and Jake may not be impressed, but she's apparently got all these plans to sell her prison diary. What I'm wondering is, why do people like that even bother to make money?

Did anyone listen to Talk of the Nation today? Robert Frank, the author of 'Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich' mentioned that the very wealthy always claim that in order to feel secure about their future, they would prefer to have twice as much money as they actually do (regardless of how much that happens to be). If you're never content with what you have, why bother working so hard to get rich?

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Bottom Line

I am bored and thinking about clichés. I asked Google what the bottom line is, and here are the top ten results:

I don't trust this president and his advisors
Where you draw it
You have to run fast
It's cute
Sabres should reward loyal fans
U.S. needs a 650000 troop army
All that matters

Just FYI. Totally not newsworthy.

In answer to your questions, Jacob

Yes, and Yes.

Even my mom seemed to notice an incongruity here. Tuts (sometimes called "Tits" by wandering drunk fratboys and 2am. So clever!) is the butt of most jokes at the Orchard St. apartment. Apparently we aren't that creative and think we're cooler than we are, because after all, who lives across the street from that classy joint? Not to mention next door to the Thompson hotel monstrosity.

But I'm a Californian and don't really care if the Lower East Side isn't cool and secret and special anymore. There are plenty of worthwhile things walking distance from Tuts, more than any other city I know of, so I have better things to complain about.


But hold-up. Alice, you lived across from this place: Is there not something bizarre about the Times picturing Tuts as the face of the trendy "new" L.E.S.?

Also, should this story not have been printed about three years ago?

we love the mae shi

We do. Jake and I. Both of us. For good reason(s). That's one of the topics I can post about.

But first, in response to Jake's first post, I don't have anything "planned" and he knows it. This is technically
his blog, not mine, and he just told me to post alongside him so his grammar looks better, his thoughts look more profound, and people think he's more popular than he is.

I will not write about music all the time. If you know us at all (and, as he mentioned, you do) you can rest assured such popular topics as pedophilia, suicide, my dog, and gay porn will all come up at some point too.

Back to The Mae Shi, I went to see them Sat. (6/2) at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco upon Jake's suggestion (as you'll see, all this gets pretty self-referential. I don't have that many friends. Not like Jake. Did you catch his use of the word "variedly"?).
They played before The Mall who went on before Matt and Kim. The Matt and Kim part seemed totally incongruous, but I can't comment on that because I left before they went on. More on being old and jaded in future entries. I mention the order because there were a ton of people there anyway. That sort of thing just reinforces my preference for San Francisco audiences over New York ones.

I will not spend too much time talking about how great the Mae Shi were, but they did a lot of things right. They just sort of emerged out of the audience for the first song, which they all sang while walking around us without mics or anything. I am a huge sucker for bands in which everyone sings (see Jake's upcoming post on Grizzly Bear), as well as for bands who appear to be having an incredible time when they're playing, like they couldn't possibly be doing anything else because it just wouldn't make sense. It was loud, and that felt good. People clapped during the songs without encouragement, and sometimes made weird loud noises (also a good sign). The transition to the new singer (who is called Jonathan) was fairly seamless as far as I could tell, being just a random audience member who never saw them with the old singer (who is called Ezra), but who has two of their records and was fairly curious to see how that would turn out.

Also of possible note: at some point Jonathan got to mess around with that synth they made that responds to bright lights. Cool. Plus, they changed into (and out of) all white outfits at some point during the set, making this the second time this weekend I've seen band members change on stage. What's the deal with that?
One concern though, are they making a lot of religious references? This makes me uncomfortable.

Thanks to Leslie Hampton for the photo. More can be found at her Flickr site

Sunday, June 3, 2007

. . . a one, two, three, four

Welcome to Gathering Evidence. If you’re reading this, you probably already know me and Alice. If not, quickly: I’m Jake, she’s Alice, I live in New York City, she in Los Gatos, California, together we’re 45, 263 lbs, 11′6″, reddish blond with dark brown roots and of better-than-average intelligence.

Not sure what Alice has planned, but I hope to write mainly about music. As the playlist demonstrates, my tastes are not especially unique or up-to-date, but I listen constantly, variedly, and will hopefully have something useful to say.

At a friend’s suggestion, I titled the blog Gathering Evidence to remind myself that good listening and criticism is something like detective work - addressing concretely those things one admires or dislikes, and avoiding such red-herrings as hype, fashion, and the other fun stuff I tend to fall for on blogs like these.

We’ll see how I do. Meantime, welcome again, and stayed tuned. . .

Playlist (after Steve Smith):

Stereolab - Oscillons from the Anti-Sun (Too Pure)

Stereolab - Margerine Eclipse (Elektra)

Various - American Primitive Vol. 1: Raw Pre-War Gospel (Revenant)

Various - Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (Soul Jazz)