Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"I'm a suitcase with the hinges bursting free"

I have discovered two new bands (well newly discovered to me anyway) that I am enjoying lately, so I thought I would share.

The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike

I really do not know how to describe The Go! Team, so I will quote from Rolling Stone's 4-star review of their album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike:
Jump-ropers of the world, unite and take over. The Go! Team create the long-awaited fusion of Sonic Youth and the Spice Girls, a six-person cartoon-crazy funky bunch from the English town of Brighton. On their debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, they blend guitar rock, bubblegum funk, Charlie Brown piano, harmonica, horns, loads of samples and Sugar Hill-style femme rapping from MC Ninja.

This is unlike anything else I own, but all I can say is that the music makes me very happy. It is mostly instrumental, with horns, banjoes, cheering, but some of the songs have some singing, too. I have found that it is excellent music to play while studying -- it is upbeat, fun, peppy, and strange, but not distracting. So I sit in the library and bop my head while reading about Oscar Micheaux, pioneering black film maker.

Highlights of the album include:
  • "Ladyflash" - a mixed-up drum & horn number, with an infectious chorus of cheering
  • "Get it Together" - another drum-heavy song with a lead flute -- if you don't smile when this plays, you may not have a soul
  • "We Just Won't Be Defeated" - with that title, a line of horns, and an opening line that says, "Ready! Ok! Let's rock!" how can you go wrong?
  • "Everyone's A VIP to Someone" -- This is the best theme song to a movie that has not yet been made.

Page France - Come, I'm a Lion!

This band is a wonderful new discovery for me. I learned about them in Entertainment Weekly's "Download This" section, and it mentioned their new song "Chariot" from their new album, which I do not have, nor have I downloaded yet. But it did lead me to download their first album,
Come, I'm a Lion!, which I have listened to twice a day for the last two weeks.

Anyone who likes both Death Cab and The Decemberists will like Page France, I think, though they don't sound like either band (more like Death Cab though). It is honest, pure, lovely, sublime acoustic pop. Again, this album makes me very happy, and I can't help but smile, but in that almost-want-to-cry way of smiling.

I love it.

I love every song on the album, but here are my favorites:
  • "Air Pollution" -- This one starts off as a basic, Nick Drake guitar-type song, and then starts with the lyric, "I once adored a chemical reaction . . ." And it goes from there.
  • "Love and Interruption" -- a pure and simple love & breakup song
  • "So Sweetly Around Me" -- accordian, banjo, glory
  • and my favorite: "Slippery" --because the years are getting slippery

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I have a conscience

I get a kick out of unintentionally ironic statements.

"I want to send the signal to our enemy that you have aroused a compassionate and decent and mighty nation, and we're going to hunt you down." - George W. Bush, Sept. 5, 2002


Monday, November 28, 2005

Red Letter Day

click picture for larger image

In other news, I am surprised that today is not a national holiday:

US to Hold 1,000th Execution this Week

We're #1!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lights and wires in a box

This weekend I saw Good Night, and Good Luck, which, if you don't know, chronicles CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow as he takes on Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch hunts against alleged communists. The story represents an important moment in journalism, when some news people decided that revealing the truth about the government was not necessarily a bad thing, and that revealing the truth does not equal editorializing.

George Clooney directed this movie and co-wrote the screenplay, and my respect for him has skyrocketed, though I have always been a fan. Not only has Clooney chosen an important and timely story to tell, but he tells it in a beautiful, poetic way. His choice of camera shots, his decision to use black and white, and his casting of David Strathairn (who will be nominated for an Oscar) all show that he is an artist and filmmaker of the first rate. His best directing choice is to use only actual archival footage of McCarthy rather than casting an actor to play him. This way, we can see the real flaws in a deeply flawed man.

The story reveals truths about our history and about the current state of television that are important and relevant. As Murrow says at the end of the movie, "the new medium of television had the potential to educate, illuminate and inspire." However, Murrow says, "it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely lights and wires in a box."

Here in late November, I am making an early prediction: George Clooney will win the Oscar for Best Direction.

And now I am even more excited for Syriana.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wax off

When I was in 6th grade, one movie stood out as the greatest movie I had ever seen in my life. I remember writing about it in my language arts class journal.

Rest in peace, Mr. Miyagi!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanks for heart break

Oh no.

Simpson, Lachey Officially Separate

Now how can I enjoy Thanksgiving, when there is nothing left to be thankful for?

Well, Happy Thanksgiving anyway...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

At first I was an egg -- I was petrified

I had one class yesterday, and now I am off for a week. I am heading to my mom's for a few days, so I won't be posting much this week.

For a very enjoyable treat, check out this funny card. (Don't open it in a school library or anything -- it is full of music and fun.) It is very stupid, but I could not stop laughing. (Thanks to my friend Erin for sending it to me.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2005

What's your damage?

Quotations from the movie Heathers that show why every teenager--nay, every person--with a brain must see it:

  • "What's your damage, Heather?" - Veronica
  • "Dear Diary, I want to kill, and you have to believe, it's for more than just selfish reasons, more than just a spoke in my menstrual cycle." - Veronica
  • "I love my dead gay son." - Kurt's dad
  • "Grow up, Heather. Bulimia's so '87!" - Heather Chandler
  • "Veronica, why are you pulling my dick?" - Heather Duke
  • "This is Ohio. If you don't have a brewski in your hand you might as well be wearing a dress." - JD
  • "Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Theresa?" - Heather Chandler
  • "Do you think you're a rebel? Do you actually think you're a rebel? You're not a rebel -- you're fucking physcotic." - Veronica to JD. "You say tomato . . ." - JD, in response
  • "You were nothing before you met me. You were playing Barbies with Betty Finn. You were a Bluebird. You were a Brownie. You were a Girl Scout Cookie." - Heather Chandler
  • "Now I've seen a lot of bullshit--angel dust, switchblades, sexually perverse photography involving tennis rackets . . . " - the principal
  • "I've already started underlining meaningful passages in her copy of Moby Dick, if you know what I mean." - JD
  • "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?" - Heather Chandler
  • "We must revel in this revealing moment. Look, I suggest that we get everybody together, both students and teachers, in the cafeteria, and just.. talk, and.. feel, together." - Miss Fleming. "Thank you, Miss Fleming, you call me when the shuttle lands. Now, is this
  • Heather the cheerleader?" - the principal

  • "Football season is over, Veronica. Kurt and Ram had nothing left to offer the school except for date rapes and AIDS jokes." - JD

is an all-time classic. Please watch it, if you haven't already.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

That bright, tight forever-drum


Summary: At any given time, I might have a current favorite group. I might say, "Oh, Coldplay is my favorite" or "Sufjan? He's my favorite." That generally means that at that moment, what I am listening to most and with the most passion is that particular group. I tend to speak in superlatives. But if asked to name my all-time favorite, I would answer quickly and assuredly, "R.E.M."

A Brief History of the Band (from Yahoo! Music): R.E.M. mark the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock. When their first single, "Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981, it sparked a back-to-the-garage movement in the American underground. While there were a number of hardcore and punk bands in the U.S. during the early '80s, R.E.M. brought guitar pop back into the underground lexicon. Combining ringing guitar hooks with mumbled, cryptic lyrics and a D.I.Y. aesthetic borrowed from post-punk, the band simultaneously sounded traditional and modern. Though there were no overt innovations in their music, R.E.M. had an identity and sense of purpose that transformed the American underground. Throughout the '80s, they worked relentlessly, releasing records every year and touring constantly, playing both theaters and backwoods dives. Along the way, they inspired countless bands, from the legions of jangle pop groups in the mid-'80s to scores of alternative pop groups in the '90s, who admired their slow climb to stardom. It did take R.E.M. several years to break into the top of the charts, but they had a cult following from the release of their debut EP, Chronic Town, in 1982. Chronic Town established the haunting folk and garage rock that became the band's signature sound, and over the next five years, they continued to expand their music with a series of critically acclaimed albums. By the late '80s, the group's fan base had grown large enough to guarantee strong sales, but the Top Ten success in 1987 of Document and "The One I Love" was unexpected, especially since R.E.M. had only altered their sound slightly. Following Document, R.E.M. slowly became one of the world's most popular bands. After an exhaustive international tour supporting 1988's Green, the band retired from touring for six years and retreated into the studio to produce their most popular records, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992). By the time they returned to performing with the Monster tour in 1995, the band had been acknowledged by critics and musicians as one of the forefathers of the thriving alternative rock movement, and they were rewarded with the most lucrative tour of their career. Toward the late '90s, R.E.M. was an institution, as its influence was felt in new generations of bands. (read more . . .)

My History with the Band: Like other bands I have posted about, such as The Smiths and New Order, R.E.M. formed part of who I was in high school. I first became familiar with R.E.M. when I heard their songs "The One I Love" and "It's The End of the World as We Know It" when I was in 7th grade. I liked what I heard, but I did not buy their album Document right away. At the beginning of high school, my brother and I started our subscription to Rolling Stone, which opened us up to a lot of new music. I remember reading what a big deal it was when R.E.M. signed with Warner Bros. after years of indie success on I.R.S. Records. So their first big-time release was their album Green, which featured the singles "Stand" and "Orange Crush." I was hooked. So as I did with previous bands that I had newly discovered, I rushed out to Musicland and bought their previous albums: Murmur, Fables of the Reconstruction, Reckoning, Life's Rich Pageant, and Document. My friends and I became huge fans (I have previously mentioned my gang of alternateens.) My favorite albums were Document and Life's Rich Pageant, and I listened to them more or less nonstop.
There are so many things that I loved about R.E.M.: Michael Stipe's fascinating voice, the cryptic and often political lyrics, the pure rock and roll of Peter Buck's guitar. The album Green came out at a time when the environmental movement was picking up steam, and R.E.M. was at the forefront of the movement. I also became heavily involved. My friend Lisa and I even started an environmental awareness group at our high school, which we called The Green Society.
I have many fond memories of hanging out with my friends and just singing along to R.E.M. songs, sometimes while we drove around the country roads.
One of the highlights of my high school life was when we got the chance to go see R.E.M. in concert. My friend Kelley got to borrow her dad's van, and about nine of us piled in and drove down to Indianapolis. And it was the most amazing concert -- they played all of our favorite songs, and we all felt very special.
When I was a senior, R.E.M. would have their biggest hit with Out of Time and the song "Losing My Religion," and like all music snobs in the world, my friends and I were all about "Well we have liked them for years, before they were famous." By "years" we meant 3 years.

Well, college came, and my love affair continued, but at a small, liberal, liberal arts school, I could share my love with many more people. Then, at the beginning of my sophomore year in college, the album that would become my favorite album was released: Automatic for the People. And I don't mean my favorite R.E.M. album; it is my favorite album of all time. Automatic is gorgeous, lush, orchestral, and heartbreaking, and it became the album of my dorm floor that year.
R.E.M. followed with their most rock album, Monster, which of course I loved. Best of all, I got to see R.E.M. in concert twice with my friend Kathy on their Monster tour, and both shows were amazing. (Radiohead opened for them on the first leg.)
Next came New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which delved into some religious imagery, and has one of the best love songs ever, "Be Mine." R.E.M. has continued to make great music, though it is a much different sound now. I saw them again in St. Paul at Midway Field with David Devine when they toured in support of their album Up, and then again at the Target Center on their Greatest Hits tour. That show, which I saw with Brakke, is the best concert I have ever been to.

R.E.M. is my go-to group. I know that if I play one of their cds, all will be well in the world. When I got my iPod last week, the first thing I did was load every R.E.M. album into it.

Favorite R.E.M. Album: Automatic for the People

Favorite R.E.M. Songs: "King of Birds"; "Nightswimming"; "You Are the Everything"; "Fall on Me"

Other Seminal R.E.M. Songs: "Radio Free Europe"; "Gardening at Night"; "Driver 8"; "Begin the Begin"; "The Finest Worksong"; "The One I Love"; "It's the End of the World as We Know It"; "Exhuming McCarthy"; "Stand"; "Pop Song '89"; "World Leader Pretend"; "Orange Crush"; "Radio Song"; "Half a World Away"; "Country Feedback"; "Losing My Religion"; "Drive"; "Everybody Hurts"; "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite"; "Find the River"; "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"; "Crush with Eyeliner; "Tongue"; "Star 69"; "Leave"; "Electrolite"; "New Test Leper"; "Be Mine"; "At My Most Beautiful"; "Hope"; "Walk Unafraid"; "Falls to Climb"; "Daysleeper" and many many more . . .

The stars are the greatest thing you've ever seen
and they're there for you . . .
for you alone.
You are are the everything.

Past Band Posts: New Order / The Smiths / Belle and Sebastian / Underworld

Friday, November 18, 2005

Step Off, Ansel Adams!

With red tape cleared up, my iPod has arrived safely, and I look forward to getting to know it better. My friend Jake tells me, "At the risk of hyperbolizing, it will change your life."
How hyperbolic of him!

Here are some fine works of art, which you can bid on at the upcoming art auction:

Still Life with iPod and Plant

Still Life with iPod and Red Potatoes

Still Life with Duck, Pinecone, and iPod

Eight museums have already contacted me.

So I have spent quite a bit of time loading my cds onto the iPod. Obviously, since it just arrived yesterday, I have not had time to load too many cds yet, but as of right now I have 644 songs loaded. I have tried to load a mix of old cds and new cds on the iPod to begin with, but as most of you know, the loading is a tedious process.

Anyway, here are the first 30 songs that came up on shuffle:

  • "Love Less" - New Order
  • "Selective Memory" Eels
  • "The Last of the Laughter" - Travis
  • "Wrapped Up in Books" - Belle and Sebastian
  • "Wish I Was Skinny" - The Boo Radleys
  • "Go West" - Pet Shop Boys
  • "We Just Won't Be Defeated" - The Go! Team
  • "Breathe In" - Frou Frou
  • "Oh, Detroit, Lift up Your Weary Head(Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" - Sufjan Stevens
  • ""Fun Fair" - Tahiti 80
  • "Dirty " - Underworld
  • "Fireplace" - R.E.M.
  • "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own" - U2
  • "Galaxy of Emptiness" - Beth Orton
  • "Toxic Girl" - Kings of Convenience
  • "The Good Old Days" - Eels
  • "I'm a Cuckoo" - Belle and Sebastian
  • "Golden Lights" - The Smiths
  • "I've Lost the Reason" - The Boo Radleys
  • "Speed of Sound" - Coldplay
  • "Finest Worksong" - R.E.M.
  • "How Can I Apply?" - The Trash Can Sinatras
  • "Air Pollution" - Page France
  • "Roy Walker" - Belle and Sebastian
  • "Sing" - Travis
  • "Yesterday When I Was Mad" - Pet Shop Boys
  • "Walk On" - U2
  • "I Told You So" - New Order
  • "The Engine Driver" - The Decemberists
  • "Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie" - Sufjan Stevens

You're right, Jake. My life is changing as we speak.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cornhuskers for Sensible Government


It is nice to see high-powered Republicans making sense once in a while:

from the Washington Post:

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) strongly criticized yesterday the White House's new line of attack against critics of its Iraq policy, saying that "the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them."

. . . Bush has suggested that critics are hurting the war effort, telling U.S. troops in Alaska on Monday that critics "are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible."

Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and a potential presidential candidate in 2008, countered in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam War "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."

Now if only a powerful Democrat could say something worthwhile . . . Sigh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

iPod Flu

I have made the plunge.

I ordered an iPod. 30 gb. Black.

I never really needed one before, since back in Brainerd, I was always either at home, in my car, or at work, and in all of those places, I could always listen to music. But now that I am a student, with time spent on buses, in libraries, etc., the iPod will prove quite useful.

It should arrive this week, so I am looking forward to that.

However, here is the tracking info from FedEx:

Left Shanghai -- November 11

Arrived at Anchorage, AK -- November 11

Arrived at Indianapolis -- November 12, and then every day since then, there has been what they call a "regulatory agency clearance delay."

My iPod is stuck in Indianapolis due to a clearance delay. If I had known it were coming from Asia, I would not have had it preloaded with The Byrds, The Eagles, and six versions of "Rockin' Robin."

Holy shit I'm funny!!!!!!!!


Here are some songs I currently like a lot:

"7/4 (Shoreline)" by Broken Social Scene
"Only This Moment" by Royksopp
"Spine" by Page France
"Milk Bottle Symphony" by Saint Etienne
"Baby I've Changed" by Fountains of Wayne (I copied you, Vinnie)
"O, Sailor" by Fiona Apple
"Clear the Area" by Imogen Heap
"The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts" by Sufjan Stevens
"Halloween" by Matt Pond PA
"Precious" by Depeche Mode
"Sky Starts Falling" by Doves
"Hung Up" by Madonna (I'm not afraid.)

They can never take our freedom!

Why everyone in college should study abroad for at least a semester.
Part One.

Today, I was thinking fondly upon my days spent at the University of Stirling in Scotland.

Favorite monument dedicated to William Wallace that I could see from my dorm everyday:

Favorite castle that I saw everytime I took the bus to the grocery store or anywhere else:

Dorm I lived in that sat below the aforementioned Wallace Monument:

*Note: My experience with Stirling and the Wallace Monument, which I climbed on several occasions, was all pre-Braveheart. Now apparently it is even more of a tourist spot.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rewriting history

Bush said this the other day:

"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decisions or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," the president said in a Veterans Day speech in Pennsylvania.

It is nice that he is coming around on the whole right-to-protest idea. It was not too long ago that he was all about "you're either with us or against us" and "criticizing the war hurts the troops."

I guess this makes him a flip-flopper.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Peanut butter and centipedes

For some reason, today I was thinking about phobias. A phobia is defined as an irrational fear, causing severe anxiety or panic. I don't think I have any phobias. There are some things that I don't like, but I would not say my fear of them reaches irrational levels.

According to, these are the most common phobias:
  • Achluophobia - fear of being in darkness
  • Acrophobia - fear of heights
  • Agoraphobia - fear of open spaces or fear of leaving home
  • Claustrophobia - fear of being in closed spaces
  • Demophobia - fear of being in crowded places
  • Mysophobia - fear of germs or dirt
  • Social phobia - fear of being around unfamiliar people in social situations
  • Xenophobia - fear of strangers
I have absolutely no fear of any of these things. I don't really like crowds very much, and I guess I am sort of scared of mobs or mob mentality (enochlophobia), but I don't feel consumed by it.

Other common fears, according to some other site include:

Fear of vomit.

Fear of cancer.

Fear of thunderstorms.

Fear of death or or dead things

I love thuderstorms. Why would you be scared of thunderstorms, unless your house was once destroyed or you are a lhasa apso?

Here are some of my favorite phobias, which are all actual medical terms (from

I can understand some phobias, like heights or spiders, but I just don't fear them. The closest thing I have to a phobia, I think, is my fear of these:

(the house centipede)

And about once a week I see one of these crawling up my wall in my new apartment*. I hate them so much. They make my hair stand on end, and if I wanted to, I think I could use the house centipede to prove that God does not exist, or at least that he hates us.

But it is not a phobia.

* and my apartment is not a sty or a dump either. It is a nice, newer building, but somehow, these disgusting abominations of nature find their way in . . .

Friday, November 11, 2005

"It's not the money's fault it was stolen."

I am watching the news right now, and they are covering a Chicago Veterans' Day event. Some woman being interviewed said this:
"If our soldiers were not over in Iraq, then the Iraqis would be here."
You all know how I feel about the war, and I respect other opinions about it (well, some anyway), but even the biggest supporters of the war have to admit that this lady's statement is just goofy.

Anyway, here is a movie recommendation: I watched the movie Millions yesterday, which is available on DVD now. Millions (official site) is directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later) but you would never know it. All of those movies are very dark, but Millions is an uplifting, beautiful story of hope and love. The plot centers around a little 7 year old kid living in suburban Liverpool whose mother has recently died. He is obsessed with the saints and can name all the saints and their birth and death dates, and he frequently has conversations with them in his imagination. Anyway, one day a giant bag of money falls on him, and he thinks it is from God, but it is really from a train robbery. The rest of the movie deals with the little boy's attempts to give the money away to the poor, while his brother just wants to spend it. They have to get rid of it because the movie is set one week before Britain switched over to the Euro, so in a week the money will be worth nothing.

Anyway, the direction by Boyle is absolutely gorgeous, and the little kid is amazing. It is heartwarming, funny, sad, beautiful, and a testament to one person's ability to change the world.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Devoid of Mirrors

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite sites is McSweeney's. Today's McSweeney's contribution is too great not to share, so here is an excerpt:


by Jason Kellett
- - - -

Mr. President, we have all heard the reports that you are extremely health-conscious—exercising daily, eating right, and making sure you get to bed at a decent hour. But with all the stress that comes along with being the leader of the free world, I imagine there must be days when you find yourself hard-pressed to find time to run. And as for healthy sleep patterns, I know when I'm under a great deal of stress I sometimes lie in bed tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning. I've tried Ambien, warm milk, sheep-counting. Nothing seems to help. So tell me, Mr. President, how do you sleep at night?

- - - -

On my tour of the White House, I noticed that the hall leading from the Oval Office to the press room is devoid of mirrors or reflective surfaces of any kind. Now, surely you sometimes want to make sure your tie is straight or your hair is fixed before a press conference. How do you even look at yourself in the mirror?

- - - -

A while back, a wire story on the contents of your personal iPod reported that you were listening to the Knack, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Van Morrison. Noticeably absent from the reported playlist at that time were any classic '70s soul-music artists such as Al Green or James Brown. Perhaps you have added some Marvin Gaye to the rotation since that story. I wonder if you'd like to update us on your current iPod selections. Have you no soul, Mr. President?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Your daughter's advances

I registered for second semester classes today. I cannot believe the semester is flying by so quickly. I have the world's longest semester break--I am done with finals on December 7, and next semester starts on January 16. What the hell?

Anyway, another treat from Found Magazine:

I especially like the dichotomy of the message and the stationery.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pure aural delight

Pre-post: Most of you know that I have an affinity for electronic dance music. I try to avoid using the word techno, except that is a word people seem to know. But it is often misused. Electronica is a broad category of electronic dance music, that includes techno, house (which has many subgenres), trance, progressive, IDM, big beat, and many others. Techno is a very specific type of dance music, but it has become the catch-all phrase to encompass all electronic music. I am not going to get into a big discussion of the differences between these styles (Google it if you want) but it mostly has to do with beats-per-minute, beat style, and a few other things. Now many people who don't regularly listen to electronic music will say that it all sounds the same and there is no difference between groups, much less between genres. That would be like saying since Blink-182, Aerosmith, and Metallica are all rock bands, then they all sound the same. Anyway, my point is this: when you are calling something techno, you probably are not really talking about techno.

That said, on with the post . . .


Summary: Underworld is hands-down my favorite electronic group, and their music defies categorization. But their music is intelligent and melodic, with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, all with mad beats. Whenever I listen to them, I am awe-struck that such glorious, emotionally-charged music can come from computers and synthesizers. Underworld's music is what Picasso would create if he were making music today. And most importantly, the music makes me very happy.

A Brief Description of the Group (from Rolling Stone):
With a groundbreaking sound that obliterates the dividing lines between Techno, Trance and Breakbeat stylings, Underworld bury a subtle Indie Rock attitude slightly beneath the textural surface of their blissful synthetic insanity. With the drop of each new release, this U.K. sensation proves their worthiness as one of the most innovative and important dance fusion acts of the 1990s. Accredited as heavy hitters in the struggle to bring dance music to the attention of the mainstream, electronica darlings Underworld continue to draw an impressive fanbase on both the international club scene and the airwaves with their widely influential style that blends electronic intricacy with king-size, floor-friendly grooves.

My History with the Group: Throughout college, I started really liking techno (actual techno) music, especially when I would dj college parties. These were sort of the beginning years of techno, and it was all pretty soulless, but dancey. When I moved to Chicago, I listened to a lot of dance music, since that was what was being played at the dance clubs. Around 1996-97, we were supposedly going to have a dance music revolution in the United States, and it was going to take over the world. A few groups had some hits (Prodigy, especially) but the revolution never really happened. But one benefit of all the hype was the movie soundtracks started incorporating electronica. And 1996 was the year of the amazing movie Trainspotting. I'll talk more about this movie in a movie post someday, but the importance of the Trainspotting soundtrack was that it introduced me to Underworld, and in particular their classic song "Born Slippy."

"Born Slippy" is amazing. It starts out with Karl Hyde's stylized voice, with no beat, singing:

drive boy
dog boy
dirty numb angel boy
In the doorway boy
she was a lipstick boy
she was a beautiful boy
and tears boy
and all in your innerspace boy
you had chemicals boy
and steel boy
I've grown so close to you
boy and you just groan boy
she said comeover comeover
she smiled at you boy
And continues with him chanting:

I just come out of the ship
talking to the most blonde I ever met
lager lager lager lager
lager lager lager lager
lager lager lager lager
lager lager lager
mega mega white thing
mega mega white thing
mega mega white thing
mega mega
lager lager lager lager
mega mega white thing
mega mega white thing

Anyway, thus began my love of Underworld. They had two albums out at this point: Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Second Toughest in the Infants. I'll deal with these in order of release date.

Dubnobasswithmyheadman is considered Underworld's classic, and with good reason. Underworld has always been good at changing up the tempos on their albums, and it all started with this one. They mix hard-pumping beats ("Dark and Long") with slower grooves ("River of Bass"). But always present are the beautiful melodies and strange but grand lyrics. In my favorite song on the album, "Mmmm Sksyscraper I love You," Hyde sings:

and I see Elvis
and I hear god on the phone
mmm skyscraper I love you
I see porn dogs sniffing the wind
sniffing the wind for something new

Plus the album has a wonderful song all about sex called "Dirty Epic."

On Underworld's next album, Second Toughest in the Infants, they refine their sound a bit, and provide a bit more variety. This album always reminds me of my friend Jake because before I bought it, he recorded it for me on tape. However, due to technical difficulties, the tape ended up being blank, and he was very embarrassed. I bring this up not to embarrass Jake but to mention that he is the only other person I know who truly understands the all-pervasive joy that is Underworld. Once when Jake visited me in Chicago, we went dancing at Berlin, and the dj played "Rowla," which is a majestic masterpiece, and Jake and I more or less went crazy on the dancefloor.

Their next album, Beaucoup Fish, is highly underrated. For some reason, some critics did not like it, but I thinik it is brilliant. The first four songs combine to make Underworld's best uninterrupted set of masterpieces, and the album closes with their most hardcore techno song, "Moaner."

Their most recent studio album (they released a live album as well) is Hundred Days Off, and continues their journey. It is a very emotional album, and contains some fine examples of electronic love songs, which sounds like a oxymoron a bit, but once you've heard "Two Months Off," you'll know what I mean:
you bring light in...

to a dark place
walking in light
glowing walking in light
gold ring around you
the hues of you
the golden sunlight of you

you bring light in...

Underworld has a greatest hits album called Underworld: 1992-2002 that I would recommend for the beginner. And I am very much looking forward to what happens with their next project, which is the score for Anthony Minghella's next movie.

Favorite Underworld Album:
This is a very tough choice, but I am going with Second Toughest in the Infants.

Favorite Underworld Song: "Born Slippy"; "Rowla"; "Jumbo" -- tie

Other Seminal Underworld Songs: "Mmm Skyscraper I Love You"; "Spoonman"; "Dirty Epic"; "Cowgirl"; "Juanita/Kiteless"; "Confusion the Waitress"; "Pearl's Girl"; "Stagger"; "Push Upstairs"; "King of Snake"; "Bruce Lee"; "Two Months Off"; "Dinosaur Adventure 3D"

with its glass eyes a blue formica halo
stainless steel between the fingers
pissed and leaning
colonel sanders fingers
the naming of killer boy
everything's going west nothing's going east
theres no need to be so uptight
make up for all their messes
I could listen to you all day
what a laugh
cut me I bleed like you
ha ha

Past Band Posts: New Order / The Smiths / Belle and Sebastian /

Monday, November 07, 2005

So that's what a mandate looks like!

Sometimes, I love to roll around in the sorrow of others:

Other Fun Poll Results:
Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58 percent -- said they have doubts about Bush's honesty, the first time in his presidency that more than half the country has questioned his personal integrity.

Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58 percent -- doubt Bush shares their values, while 40 percent say he does, another new low for this president. For the first time since he took office, fewer than half -- 47 percent -- said Bush is a strong leader, and Americans divided equally over whether Bush can be trusted in a crisis.

Shocking news.

"Wow, Brazil is big."
-- G.W.B., Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 6, 2005

Anyway, this has been circulating around email, so some of you may have seen it already, but here is some fun with Google:
  1. Go to Google.
  2. Type in: Failure
  3. Instead of clicking on the Search button, click the "I'm feeling Lucky" button.

I'm sure this will stop working eventually, but for now, you've got to love that crazy Google.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

"I got lost on my way to college"

I saw Jarhead tonight.

I loved it. It was unlike any other war movie, since it is about a war unlike any other war. The acting was great, and the first half of the movie was very, very funny. I did not know it was going to be a half-comedy. And the second half was quite emotional.

The director, Sam Mendes, has managed to make sand and oil wells beautiful, and he throws in some excellent allusions to Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter.

I think that someone looking for We Were Soldiers might be disappointed. But as most of you know, I am a big fan of the shattering of literary expectations.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Assistant to the Sensai? That's pretty cool."

I have a theory about the state of tv sitcoms. We all know that the two funniest comedies on network tv are The Office and Arrested Development. (This is really just a fact, not an opinion, so there is no need to argue.) Both shows, however, fail to draw big audiences. Anytime I read anything about Arrested Development, it says "the funniest show that no one watches."

Now my theory is that Americans don't "get it" with these shows because neither show has a laugh track. The most popular comedies are all filmed in front of a studio audience. Two and Half Men is the most popular sitcom on tv. The #1 sitcom, and yet I know no one who watches it. But with the live audience laughing, the television audience gets a clue about when to laugh. They are being told what is funny.

With The Office and Arrested Development (and even with Scrubs), however, the audience has to think. We have to decide for ourselves what is funny. And we aren't ready to do that much work for a half-hour comedy.

Americans are too stupid to know when to laugh, and the good shows are suffering.

Several years back, before he created West Wing, Aaron Sorkin had an excellent show called Sports Night. In the first season, the show had no laugh track, though it was incredibly funny. But it also had serious moments, so people couldn't figure out if it was a drama or a comedy. So in the second season, the network made Sorkin add a laugh track. Here's how Sorkin described it: "It feels like I've put on an Armani tuxedo, tied my tie, snapped on my cuff links, and the last thing I do before I leave the house is spray Cheez Whiz all over myself."


Y'all ain't ready

UPDATE: Hear the snippet here!

Great Music News
NEW YORK - The dawn of Kevin Federline's hip-hop career has begun, though it remains to be seen if it will last past breakfast. A track by Federline was posted on the Internet by Disco D, the producer of his upcoming album, "The Truth," to be released next year.

While the song has since been taken off Disco D's Web site, it has popped up elsewhere, giving a glimpse of Mr. Spears rhyming abilities:

"Back then, they called me K-Fed
But you can call me Daddy instead"

Over an industrial beat reminiscent of Kelis' "Milkshake," Federline represents himself as a brash, newsworthy figure ahead of his time.

People always asking me when's the release date
Well, baby you can wait and see
until then all these Pavarottis followin' me

he raps, nicknaming paparazzi after the Italian opera singer.

Already garnering comparisons to Vanilla Ice, Federline's album appears destined for late-night punch lines. But the 27-year-old does anticipate some backlash from his musical pursuits:

My prediction is that y'all gonna hate
on the style we create,
straight 2008.

Pure poetry, I tell you. I believe that last set of rhymes is adapted from a John Donne sonnet.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gorillas and rib kicking

Lately I have been reading an interesting book all about pop culture called Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low-Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman. Some of you have probably read it or heard Kali talking about it. Klosterman is a writer for Spin and Esquire, and he writes about everything to do with post-modern America, from Pam Anderson to Saved by the Bell to The Real World.

Anyway, I am about half way through the book, and came upon a fascinating chapter. Klosterman writes 23 questions that he says he asks everyone he meets "in order to decide if [he] can really love them."

Here, I will offer up a few:

Genetic engineers at John Hopkins University announce that they have developed a so-called "super gorilla." Though the animal cannot speak. It has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words, and an I.Q. of almost 85, and - most notably - a vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds) becomes facinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at it's highest level and quickley develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be "borderline unblockable" and would likely average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent.
You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the Oakland Raiders?

You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The wizard says, “I will now make them a dollar more attractive.” He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different. But—somehow—this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but you can’t deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This wizard has a weird rule, though—you can only pay him once. You can’t keep giving him money until you’re satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front. How much cash do you give the wizard?

Your best friend is taking on a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don’t kick them while they slumber, they will never wake up. However you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can’t tell them why. Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?

Klosterman, Chuck. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low-Culture Manifesto. New York: Scribner, 2003.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Movies by Genre, Rough Draft

I came across a survey online of favorite movies by genre, so I thought I'd fill out my own. I can't really pick just one in some of the categories, though. And not all of my favorite movies are on the list because I don't normally sort by genre. And some of these categories seem flexible; for example, Fargo could easily go under "Dark Comedy" as well as "Crime." But here is a preliminary shot:
  • Drama: Magnolia, American Beauty
  • Romantic Comedy: Love Actually, L.A. Story
  • Slapstick Comedy: The Man with Two Brains, The Naked Gun
  • Dark Comedy: Heathers
  • Sci-Fi: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Thriller: The Silence of the Lambs
  • Musical: Moulin Rouge
  • Western: Unforgiven
  • War: Saving Private Ryan
  • Crime: Fargo, Pulp Fiction
  • Horror: The Shining
  • Action: The Rock, The Bourne Supremacy
  • Fantasy: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • Animated: Shrek

I would love to see other people's lists, so feel free to comment profusely.