Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The email I got (from three pretty disparate sources, remember) is a picture of a black guy -- presumable a victim of Hurricane Katrina -- looking anything but despondent as he walks through knee-deep water while carrying a tub full of Heineken (one bottle is tucked in his back pocket). The caption (which is written to look like a Heineken print ad) contains the punchline: "Heineken. Preferred By More New Orleans Looters."
Now I'm not one to shy away from race-based humor, which can be gut-bustingly funny when delivered appropriately. But my problem with this little joke isn't the race-based part, it's the humor part. It's just not a funny joke. Very mildly amusing, maybe (most of the amusement comes from the picture itself, which depicts the "looter" with a "lordy, I won the lottery" look on his face). But not particularly funny. And sort of forced.
So why did I get this same email from three different people (note that I am not saying it was either insulting or offensive, just not funny)? I'm worried it's because people think I am a racist. And I really don't think I am.
I have been known to use the "n-word" in casual conversation, especially since I moved to the south, where its impact is even more significant. But I defend my use of it for a couple of reasons: it's loaded with hypocrisy, and it's really funny to see people squirm when you drop it into conversation. I really try to know my audience well enough to understand who might be "offended" or "insulted" by it (I almost never -- hell, ditch the "almost," I never -- say it around black folks). Still, most non-black people are uncomfortable with it to some degree and I like to see how uncomfortable. I like to push buttons. It's just a word after all, and its a word the usage of which is acceptable for one group of people and not for others when referring to the same people.
But I am worried some folks might think that because I use "that word" or other epithets (which I also often think are pretty funny, especially the more clever ones), that I am a racist. And in the back of their mind, those folks think that I'll respond positively to a mildly amusing picture of a flood victim carrying a tub of beer.
(If you're tempted to lecture me about this admission of my occasionally freewheeling use of epithets, please understand my main points in using them. To me, they are words. Not hate words -- just words. I am not a racist. I just don't have the energy fot it. And I shouldn't have to go to great lengths to prove that to anyone. I am not always the nicest person but my negative reactions to people are never based on a person's race -- they are always based on their behavior. Big difference.)
Or, maybe it's just a coincidence. Katrina has been front and center in the public consciousness the past few weeks, and has been a topic of many conversations I've had with folks (many of which have to do with my feeling that the storm did more to expose America as a class-based society as anything I've ever heard on NPR). Maybe e-jokes like this are just a tacit admission that we are a class-based society, that much of the underclass is black, and that maybe it's their attitude that keeps them in the underclass.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Clever Title Here
Have you ever tried to use a Handicap urinal? Not as easy as it might sound - there is more aiming, the likelihood of getting backsplatter on you pantlegs is increased, and it just doesn’t feel right. It is just nice to stand there, whiz and not think about it. You have to think when using a Handicap urinal. When I’m whizzing I don’t want to have to think.
So, my proposal is to stick the Handicap urinal in the middle slot. It maintains the buffer zone and still complies the American’s With Disabilities Act. Furthermore, I have not once seen somebody in a wheelchair or otherwise handicapped use the Handicap urinal. It appears to be superfluous. The appendix of the bathroom, if you will.
All of this was going through my head moments ago when whizzing in the men’s room. I went to the far left Standard urinal when in walks another guy. He followed buffer zone protocol and used the Handicap urinal. I turned to him and said “Don’t you think it would make sense to put the Handicap urinal in the middle?” (Insert David Foster Wallace-esqe Footnote here – I work in the Intelligence Analysis branch. Presumably MOST of the people on my floor are Analysts. Their job is to look at information and analyze it. – End Footnote) He turns to me and says, “I dunno’." Whaddya' mean you DON’T KNOW!!!??? You are a frigging Analyst for God’s sake. You should be able to pick up what I’m laying down. The proper response should have been, “Well, that goes without saying, doesn’t it?” Damn Analysts!
Monday, September 19, 2005
What a Weekend!
KT and I headed out to North Carolina to visit Billy, Bethie & Logan this weekend. We came into a little extra cash (refund for medical bills actually) and my wife was amazing enough to take me to see some of the greatest people we know. Is she the greatest wife ever or what? Far and away the greatest wife I’ve ever had!
We headed out early Friday morning. Had to drop the puppy off at the kennel and then hightail it to the airport. KT was smart enough to print our boarding passes, and we only took carryon bags, so no waiting at the ticket counter – we headed straight to security.
Everything went smoothly in Denver, and we were even a bit early getting to Dallas for our connecting flight to Raleigh. Besides, we only had to walk 2 gates away to get to the next plane. However, the flight was overbooked and they were looking for volunteers to give up their seats. KT immediately went to the ticket counter, much to my dismay. I am just a very structured person and like to stick to schedules. However, when KT reiterated that we would only be delayed by 2 hours getting to our final destination, and the airline was giving us $600 in vouchers to take an extra plane and only be 2 hours behind schedule, I stopped complaining. That was more than the entire trip cost! Bill and Beth were very understanding, so it worked out really well.
We headed to Austin about 45 minutes later. Timing was still good! Heck, we even had time to eat a little something! Not bad, considering our arrival time was about 20 minutes before the next plane was scheduled to load!
Ah, the next plane! This thing was a bit creepy! It was small (only held 34 people) and rickety. It was also snowing inside. Some pieces of frozen condensation kept dropping on me and I had no idea what they were at first. The seats were nice, and the legroom was a bit better than the bigger planes, but it made a TON of noise and was a little shaky. I’m not a big fan of shaky planes!
Bill was waiting to pick us up and he shuttled us to his house. NC reminded me a little of Pennsylvania at first – many trees and very pretty. I understand now when people from the east coast say we have no trees in Colorado – it’s because we can literally see for miles here. In NC, there are trees everywhere (in my mind) blocking your view of the rest of the city. See what happens when you grow up here?
Their house is very pretty – classic southern architecture with a front porch and high-pitched roofs. Everyone has an attic, and there are no basements. Bill and Beth’s house is sensational with wooden floors, a screened in deck in the back, and instant access to the forest in the back yard.
I also have to say that finally meeting the young (10-month-old) Logan for the first time was a thrill. Sure the kid looks almost exactly like his old man back in the day, but he’s still a beautiful kid. I guess that’s what happens when you have great-looking parents!
After a quick tour of the house, Bill began working on dinner for us. He made pork loin, salad, veggies, homemade applesauce, and (forgive me for not knowing the proper name here) a rice dish with mushrooms. They even purchased Mike’s Hard Lime for us, as we’re kinda wimpy drinkers. And then it was revealed – the famous Bitter Buffalo Century Hot Sauce! This is Bill’s own homemade hot sauce and it is HHHAAAAATTTTTTT!!! Holy shamoley! It’s called “Century Sauce” because it’s made with 100 habaneros! It keeps your mouth ablaze for a good 45 minutes and really must be attempted in very small doses. And, as Bill warns, it will get you again later, if ya know what I mean…
Great dinner conversation slowly escalated to X-Box trash talk between Billy and myself. Soon the ladies went to bed and Bill and I went at it in NHL 2K6. Many battles went on until about 1:30 (Bill also shared some of his favorite other games with me, but it’s all about the hockey and has been since 1992) with some evenly played games and some ridiculous blowouts. The new shootout rule is F-U-N!!!
The next morning, Bill made some great eggs (over-easy) and they were willing to share bacon with us. The bacon in NC has the rind still attached and it gets really crunchy and crackly when it cooks. It’s almost like bacon pop rocks! But boy is it good – KT and I sure do love the piggy!
After breakfast, Bill and I discussed the CD in the new issue of CMJ that I was reading in the potty. For those of you who don’t know, CMJ New Music Monthly is a magazine that comes with a CD each month featuring cool bands. I used to subscribe, but I got frustrated with their inability to deliver it in a timely and consistent manner. The new magazine had some cool bands I wanted to hear, so we popped it in. I was really impressed by the new single by Gogol Bordello - enough so that I needed a trip to the record store, which is kind of a tradition when Bill and I see each other. After all, we met by working in a record store together.
We all hung out for most of the day, snacking on cheese, pickles, olives and sausage (KT’s version of the four food groups – do these two know us or what???), and then we headed down to Oysterfest in downtown Raleigh. After a nice scenic drive, we hit the block where Oysterfest was taking place. We thought we were an hour late, but actually nothing had started. This meant no cover for us (woo-hoo) so we slid over to a bar and grill called Ri-Ra’s. After a couple of drinks and appetizers on the porch, Beth’s parents and aunt showed up. We had some great conversation on top of the horrendous cover bands that butchered about every typical frat-party-bad-cover-band-song you could contemplate.
Bill then directed KT (she was driving since Bill and Beth were drinking and I forgot my wallet – but it was her twin Equinox so no biggie) to a frozen custard place near their home.
The boy (uh, Logan, not Bill – well, kinda Bill) was getting a little fussy (it was pretty late, but he somehow managed to nap during that horrible music) so we headed home to put him down. However, we did decide that Mexican food would be the best bet for the evening. So, after dropping the ladies and baby off at home and taking orders, Bill and I went to the local Mexican restaurant that the Purdy’s enjoy. Now, you may be wondering if you can get decent Mexican food in NC. The answer is a resounding “HELLS YEAH!” I know Colorado has great Mexican Food (even though I feel Hacienda Colorado is the equivalent to Casa Bonita – at least Casa Bonita has Mexican people working there – I will never understand the infatuation with Hacienda), but I have to say I was very impressed with the place we went to for Mexican take-out. I ordered chili rellanos (that came in an order of 3) smothered in green chili. These guys added spiced ground beef to the chili rellanos and did not batter the chili in anything. They were hot and spicy and incredible!
The night concluded in a very similar fashion as the night before – the ladies were smart enough to go to bed as the dumb men stayed up playing video games. It was pure bliss!
The next morning, Bill again threw together a great breakfast of French toast. Oh, and that bacon again! It was not a low-fat weekend, but why else do you go on vacation?
After breakfast and showers, the boys and girls split up to do separate shopping. The ladies hit the mall, and the men went to the record store! Like I said – it’s a tradition!
The independent record stores are what it’s all about. Best Buy will work for major label releases, but the good stuff can only be found at the mom-n-pops. As we entered, there were some crates full of “just-make-these-go-away” CDs. I started digging and found a few treasures. There was a Beatles tribute, a Kiss tribute (that I used to own but traded in a long time ago), a Dead 60’s EP, an odd Madness CD, and – the find of all finds – a promo of the new Gogol Bordello CD! So what if it had no booklet, the SOB was $1.99! Bill found it “on sale” for $10.99 in the regular bins. I also located a used copy of a tribute to Megadeth that I’ve always wanted. 7 CDs for about $21.00 totally made my day.
Bill then took me on a scenic route to a greasy burger joint that was incredible! As we scarfed, some hillbilly was trying to read the “Top 11 Things You Can Spell With The Letters in ‘Gerard Patrick Angello’” list on the back of Bill’s PAFC T-Shirt. It was truly comedic! We then headed home and watched a little football while we waited for the ladies to come back.
After the girls returned, KT and I made sure we were all packed and ready to head home. It was a great weekend, but I was pretty worn out from lack of sleep and incredible food kicking my literal ass! However, Billy was kind enough to give me a jar of the Sauce!
Bill took us to the airport and we headed straight to security – again with the boarding passes printed and ready to go. While I’m here, let me just commend the security staff at Concourse C of the Raleigh/Durham airport. Great senses of humor and having fun at their job – honestly!
We got to our gate and saw that the plane to Dallas was delayed about an hour due to mechanical issues. Um, that wasn’t going to work for us because we had a connecting flight that would have been gone before this plane landed. So, the very nice woman behind the counter scrounged up tickets for us on a different airline (America West). It didn’t leave until 9 PM (the original flight was scheduled to leave at 7 PM getting us back in Denver by 11:30 PM), and it went to Vegas first. That’s a 5-hour flight. We were now scheduled to be back in Denver by 2:30 AM! We had a puppy out of the kennel and waiting for us, so we decided this was the best choice for us. However, we needed to walk over to Concourse A for America West. Let me commend American Airlines right here for being so cooperative and helpful for us!
After a few questions for directions, we ended up on Concourse A and at the America West ticket counter. The woman printed our passes and directed us again to security. These guys were just as friendly! In fact, they were a little too friendly. We were randomly selected to go through additional screening, but they made it sound like we won some wonderful prize. “You have just been selected to go through additional security screening! YAY!” This just basically meant a search through our carryon bags and a little wand action, if ya know what I mean. For the record – the Bitter Buffalo Century Hot Sauce can legally be taken out of the state of North Carolina.
We finally got away from security and went to our gate. I paid close attention to the bottom line scroll during the Packers/Browns game to make sure my Broncos somehow pulled a victory out of their bums, and they did. We each had a personal Godfather’s Pizza (something you can no longer get in Colorado), and then waited to board the plane.
I have to say, 4:45 is a L O N G time to be on a plane. Guh!
Welcome to Vegas! I have just four semi-brief observations about our 90-minute stay in Vegas:
1) Can you no longer feed individual quarters into the slots? Am I just dumb? Maybe the quarters feed right next to the “25¢” sign and I just missed it. I dunno. Maybe I was just really damn tired!
2) Some dude in the men’s room was tossing cookies. We’re talking guttural heaving that could be heard a good 50 feet outside of the bathroom, and Vegas is a loud place. It was cool!
3) Weary travel affects everyone. We stood in line at Burger King and hit a delay. Some girl’s credit card would not swipe, and the Asian woman (who spoke stereotypical broken English) kept asking if the woman had another card to try. The woman did not and stormed off. The girl in line behind her tried to offer to help pay, and even chased the woman down. Now the woman was back in front of the cashier demanding to speak to a manager. (Meanwhile, there are about 50 people in line behind her wondering what the holdup is.) The manager approaches and the woman with the bad credit card suddenly turns into an audience member in the Rikki Lake show. Her hand is on her hip, she’s shaking and contorting at her neck, and she’s doing a horribly racist impression of the poor Asian cashier: “Dis car no work – do yu haf anotha?” Finally girl number 2 gets her to chill out and buys the food. I am in my typical grumpy sugar-crashing mode trying to stay calm.
4) How can only one hour in an airport make you stink like smoke? Seriously – I got on the plane and could smell it all over my hands. Nasty!
Alas, we finally got home and got to bed at 4 AM. I went to work on 3 hours of sleep, but lasted most of the day. VERY tired to say the least!
Our puppy was a little nervous and basically had a diarrhea accident in my brother-in-law’s car, as well as destroying his jacket. OK, she NEVER gets like that. We haven’t kenneled that dog in years, and this really surprises me. Now I feel awful, but I blame Mallory for being out of town and not taking the dog in like she sometimes does when we leave town. OK, I don’t really blame her. I just can’t wait to see what that interior detail bill will run me!
Pat and I did manage to continue our traditional record store incursion at Schoolkids. I picked up Nada Surf, Calexico/Iron & Wine, The New Pornographers, stellastarr*, Bloc Party Remixed, Dungen, Gogol Bordello, The Stooges' "Fun House," and the new Sigur Ros. Note the conspicuous absence of the new CD by one of my favorite bands, The Dandy Warhols. I have yet to read even a partially kind review of the new disc (including a perplexing 1.2 from Pitchfork, which begs the question "is there any difference between a 1.2 and a zero, and if not, why not?"), so unless it's on sale for a lot less than the $15.99 ($24.99 with a bonus DVD... please) they wanted at Schoolkids, I'm not gonna pick it up. But I still want to see them at Cat's Cradle (in case Zia decides to take her shirt off, I wanna be there).
Finally, a complaint and a plea for help. If anyone knows how to contact technical support over at ESPN, I'd certainly appreciate it if you'd share that information with me (there doesn't seem to be any utlity on the ESPN site for requesting technical help).
I made my Pigskin Pick 'Em picks on Tuesday of last week. On Wednesday, I logged into Pat's Pick 'Em to make my picks there. I called up my picks at the ESPN site to reconcile them with the ones I was submitting to Pat's group. Everything looked good. I made no changes at the ESPN site, I simply logged out. When I logged in yesterday to see how I did (I hit 10 in Pat's non-spread group, using the same logic, with two games to go tonight, so I was feeling pretty good), every single one of my picks said "NP," "no play." All of my picks had disappeared.
Usually, people who elect not to submit picks are not included in the overall group scoresheet. I was included, with a big "NP" by my total score. Weird.
I'd love to get this fixed, because I was headed for a hell of a week. Not that I think I can't win the whole thing anyway (they drop the lowest scoring week), but I hate throwing away what might turn out to be my best week of the season. That seems plain wasteful.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The Bitter Buffalo Radio Mix, Volume One (Director's Cut Expanded Edition)
Modest Mouse - Heart Cooks Brain
Still the best thing Modest Mouse has ever recorded, and (of course) the inspiration for the Bitter Buffalo theme, outlook, etc. It also employs turntable scratching as well as any non-hip hop song I can think of. Lyrically, it’s enigmatic yet evocative: “My brain’s a cliff and my heart’s a bitter buffalo.” I don’t have the slightest what the hell that means, but it’s fucking poetic.
The Flaming Lips - This Here Giraffe
Catches The Flaming Lips in their mid-90’s transitional stage, between the psychedelic freak-out rock band they started out as to the more wistful psychedelic freak-out soft rock band they are today. “Giraffe” is here because I bought Void (the recently released Flaming Lips DVD video collection, remixed in 5.1 surround sound – highly recommended) and was charmed to discover it’s the only clip not directed by longtime Lips collaborator Bradley Beasley. In fact, it’s directed by the young ingénue and occasional object of my, ahem, godfatherly affections, Sofia Coppola. Sweet.
The Magnetic Fields - Long Vermont Roads
Yeah, yeah, I know: music doesn’t get a whole lot gayer than The Magnetic Fields. But, dude, listen to this fucking song! “Your eyes are the Mesa Verde, big and brown and far away… and your eyes are Kansas City, in Kansas and in misery” is an incredibly thoughtful and wonderfully inspired lyric (even if it was written by a guy, about another guy). Add those cheesy ‘80’s synths and you have a pop gem that’s better than anything Bronski Beat ever wrote (yeah, “Smalltown Boy” comes close, but this is still better).
Manitoba - Jacknuggeted
It knocked me off my feet when I first heard it, and it still sends chills up my spine. It’s structured a bit like a Chemical Brothers tune: building up on repetitive loops (“Under. Over. Again.”), then suddenly kicking into a completely different sonic space. I have a soft spot for the well-employed handclap (see also, and especially, Broken Social Scene’s “Stars and Sons”), and this cut employs handclaps like Wal-Mart employs old people and retards. Too bad Snaith can’t call himself Manitoba anymore, but if that asshole Handsome Dick wants to call himself Manitoba, let him. Caribou works fine for me.
Saint Etienne - Like A Motorway
Saint Etienne is a guilty pleasure. But what’s the point of assembling a mix like this one if you can’t indulge in a little self-love now and again (heh, I wrote “point”)? I like Saint Etienne. Is that so wrong? In the right environment (“Motorway’s” the perfect example of the right environment, with its propulsively dorky early-90’s beat), Sarah Cracknell’s voice coos and purrs and invites me over to her pad so she can feed me grapes and barleywine through a twisty straw. What? You don’t hear that? You must be deaf.
Constantines - Young Lions
This one’s here because I’m betting most of you have never heard it (I said most of you!), and because your life will be marginally better now that you’ve been exposed to yet another truly great rock song.
Clearlake - Can't Feel A Thing
Ditto for Clearlake. Except in their case, “truly great British rock song.”
The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society
“Picture Book’s” been done to death in the brilliant, Gondry-esque HP color printer ads – so I couldn’t in good conscience include it here. “Village Green” is lyrically superior anyway, full of juicy fodder for appreciative English majors and casual linguists alike. And it's catchy. Bonus!
Go! Team - This Power Is On
Just to show you how thoroughly my grand ambitions fell apart for this project… after rejecting so many wonderful BBCDC theme ideas for any number of reasons, I wound up on a Saturday morning (last Saturday, specifically) standing in front of my CD collection, staring. Then I started a mad grabbing frenzy, pulling down about 60 CDs to whittle songs for inclusion on this CD. I piled the discs in front of my CD player downstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee. Moments later, I found a compilation CD that was a throw-in bonus from my last order at Insound sitting on a shelf, out of Logan’s reach. I hadn’t listened to it yet, and in fact forgot I even had it. As I wasn’t yet quite caffeinated enough to tackle the task of culling songs for this set, I threw it in the CD player. This Go! Team track was the first track on the disc. That was the first time I had ever heard it. Two hours later, it was on this mix.
Lyrics Born & The Poets of Rhythm - I Changed My Mind
I had this CD for four years before I figured out Quannum is the name of a label, and not the name of some hip hop collective. The confusion started with M2, which attributed the artist for the animated clip of this song as “Quannum, ft. Lyrics Born” back in the days when they actually played videos (but that’s another rant). The producers of Entourage used it in a recent episode, so I made a mental note to include it here. And I’m glad I did.
Broken Social Scene - Stars and Sons
I just love this song. Maybe it’s the handclaps. Maybe it’s the New Order-like bassline. Proabably it’s both. You Forgot It In People was my favorite CD of 2003, and it’s held up exceptionally well – I still listen to it about once a week. And when I listen to “Stars And Sons” while driving, I risk both life and limb by taking my hands off the steering wheel and clapping along. God, I am a dork.
Earlimart - The Hidden Track
Earlier this year (using a pseudonym here, for privacy reasons) “Guillaume Delacroix” (he who still refuses to post even the slightest comment to this blog but who is a confirmed serial lurker here nonetheless) visited Raleigh from Chicago -- which naturally meant we had to go on a CD shopping spree. Concentrating very carefully on the task at hand, we separated once inside the store and spent about an hour by ourselves picking out CDs. I had Logan with me, so I had to check out a few minutes early and change a diaper or something. By the time we had a chance to compare our shopping bags, we were well on our way home. In our bags were all the things we had been discussing with each other for months – and each of us had purchased a copy of this Earlimart CD. Which is funny because for all the time we spend jawing back and forth about music we love, neither of us had ever mentioned to the other anything about Earlimart. Great minds, great minds…
Built To Spill - The Plan
“The Plan” always turns me into an air guitarist. Like many other songs that do that to me, “The Plan” has a distinctive stuttering guitar sound that makes me believe I can accurately and dramatically mimic the way the instrument is played. What’s pathetic is I have no idea how to even hold a guitar properly, let alone play one convincingly. Like I said: I am such a dork.
Black Mountain - Druganaut
In reviewing my favorite CDs of 2005, this Black Mountain CD already winds up securely in the Top 5. Which is surprising, because I had never heard even a note of it when I picked up the CD last time I was in Denver (in early July), and because they opened for Coldplay (whom I saw last weekend, but that’s another story altogether) on the first leg of their North American tour. Five seconds with this song will explain why Black Mountain / Coldplay is one of the oddest tour pairings since Hendrix / The Monkees. Special note to Patrick: if you dig the Black Sabbath “influence” (others might call it “homage,” still others “outright mimicry”) here enough to consider buying the CD (and that’s probably the biggest reason I put it here), I suggest you listen to a few other tracks before you make up your mind.
Dressy Bessy - I Saw Cinnamon
I like the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Avalanche, even (in theory, anyway) the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Rockies. I like Fat Tire (even though it doesn’t taste quite the same as it did ten years ago) and “the Yellow Hammer:” Coors Original (even though the cans I get here in NC are brewed in, I think, Virginia). I'm pretty sure Connie Willis is a genius, and Dan Simmons showed me he could be one, too (Hyperion rocked, but the horror stuff doesn’t quite do it for me). I may live in NC, but my heart will always be in CO. Accordingly, I like 16 Horsepower, Matson Jones, The Apples In Stereo, and Dressy Bessy. Hell, I think I’d like Dressy Bessy if they were from fucking Fayetteville. That’s how good they are.
Smoking Popes - I Need You Around
A crazy song that arrived on a CMJ back in July of 1995, “I Need You Around” still ranks as my favorite CMJ song from an artist whose CD I never wound up purchasing. Classic.
Blondie - I'm Gonna Love You Too
Blondie is currently undervalued. If their music were stocks, and if I were a financial advisor, I’d recommend you “Buy.” It’s only a matter of time before the newest crop of indie scenesters rediscovers the Blondie oeuvre and incorporates the band’s knack for writing great hooks and Debbie Harry’s sleazy disco coke-dusted sexiness into one package. You can say the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s have tried, but Karen O’s image is too calculated, and their songs too avant-garde to pull it off convincingly. The real test will be whether the band can rip off a 50’s-style throwback like this one without sounding the least bit cheesy. That’s the mark of genius.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away
I love this record, I really do. This cut reminds me of Radiohead’s “Stop Whispering,” but I am not the least bit annoyed that it sounds maybe a bit too much like Radiohead’s “Stop Whispering.” Because, now that I think about it, “Stop Whispering” could just as easily have found itself on this mix. I just love that song.
James - Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
This studio version of the song was originally included on a CD that was never even released in the US. That’s a shame, because it’s as good a song as James ever released. And I’m betting you never heard it. Then again, I’m betting you didn’t buy the James stuff that was available in the US, and you probably wouldn’t have bought this either. At least imports don’t find their way into the indignity of used CD bins as readily as domestic releases do.
Laurie Anderson - Let X = X
I have been meaning to put this cut on a mix CD for years, but always forget for some reason. Not this time. I love the melody at the end (and was thrilled to hear it aped on a Spiritualized CD a few years back). But my favorite part is when she deadpans, ”oh boy… right again” after correctly guessing what some random guy does for a living. Some people derive great pleasure out of life’s littlest victories. I derive sarcasm. And for me, I guess, sarcasm is pleasure.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The Bitter Buffalo Radio Mix, Volume One
Oh, and we have a new member! Solid! I'll get you his information soon.
Basically, I considered and rejected about 15 "themes" for my CD (many of which I may explore later) before deciding I just wanted to put together a mix CD of songs I like -- kind of what 74 minutes of my radio show might sound like (if I had a radio show). Here's what's included:
- 4:02 Modest Mouse - Heart Cooks Brain
- 3:46 The Flaming Lips - This Here Giraffe
- 3:27 The Magnetic Fields - Long Vermont Roads
- 3:18 Manitoba - Jacknuggeted
- 5:50 St. Etienne - Like A Motorway
- 3:50 Constantines - Young Lions
- 2:37 Clearlake - Can't Feel A Thing
- 2:45 The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society
- 3:12 Go! Team - This Power Is On
- 4:39 Lyrics Born - I Changed My Mind
- 5:08 Broken Social - Scene Stars and Sons
- 4:09 Earlimart - The Hidden Track
- 3:29 Built To Spill - The Plan
- 3:47 Black Mountain - Druganaut
- 2:10 Dressy Bessy - I Saw Cinnamon
- 3:42 Smoking Popes - I Need You Around
- 2:05 Blondie - I'm Gonna Love You Too
- 3:25 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away
- 4:29 James - Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
- 3:54 Laurie Anderson - Let X = X
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Live: Sigur Rós
This is a tough one. Unfortunately, in this case, hearing is understanding. If you’ve heard Sigur Rós, you know what I mean. For the benefit of those who have not heard them, I’ll do my best to describe it (knowing full well I’ll come up short).
Sigur Rós is a quartet of (very, obviously, surprisingly, especially considering the sophistication of their sound) young men from Iceland who make their own unique brand of post-rock, mixing classical, (I assume) Icelandic folk, and indie rock into an atmospheric swirl of music. At times, it sounds like something that might be used as a soundtrack to a Kieslowski film about forlorn Eastern European sinners. Other times, it sounds like Mogwai fronting Dead Can Dance. While I have always liked their records, this is one example of how a live performance really changed my opinion of a band for the better. No doubt about it, Sigur Rós is a very good band.
The evening started well. We arrived at the Carolina Theater (a rather upscale joint usually used mostly for plays and musicals and whatnot) and were shown to our seats, which were in the front row, stage right. Normally, these would be very good seats for a show like this – comfy, close, etc. Unfortunately, Sigur Rós brought with them all the way from Iceland an especially large amp stack that they erected right in front of my seat, obscuring my view of about a third of the stage. Our friend, Craig, decided to have a discussion with management about the obscured view and – get this – they actually offered to do something about it! Seems the Carolina Theater never had a band perform there that brought with them so much equipment – our seats weren’t obstructed for most performances. So, they stuck some extra seats in the orchestra pit right in front of the stage for us. How’s that for service?
The opening act, Amina, consisted of four painfully young looking Icelandic women all dressed in odd dresses that looked like ill-fitting faerie costumes from an early-80s high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – festooned with strips of teals and purples and browns, wearing sheer blue-green stockings. For 30 minutes or so, they mostly stood around on stage and very determinedly played a vibraphone, cello, some wine glasses, something on an iMac, and even a carpenter’s saw. It was an ambient and slightly sleepy mix that recalled Four Tet as much as anything else. Strangely, by the time the set ended, they had won me over. I went out to the lobby and bought a copy of their palindromic 4-song EP, AminaminA (the contents of which, it turns out, made up their entire set).
A muslin screen dropped in front of the stage during the intermission, and roadies could be seen (sort of) scurrying about prepping the stage for Sigur Rós. The lights dimmed after 15 minutes or so, and the band began to play. But the curtain didn’t go up, at least not initially. The drummer and the bassist were backlit, so you could see their silhouettes projected on the muslin. Singer Jónsi’s eerie wail built in intensity along with the song, which began to sound more like Slint (which I saw in Chicago this spring) than Sigur Rós, but the lighting arrangement and the screen prevented the audience from seeing him. Eventually, the intensity of the sound cascaded and the backlighting increased in intensity. The song ended and the curtain was raised. It was a dramatic and fitting way to kick start the 90-minute performance that ensued.
Now that I have seen Sigur Rós live, I finally understand the critics who compare them to Radiohead. Like Radiohead, the songs are built on strong bass lines and occasionally discomforting atmospherics. And Jónsi performs with much of the same kind of intensity that Thom Yorke does (but without the physical flailing, save for some rather intense-looking hand wrenching when he tries to hit a particularly difficult note). He even has a funny-looking eye, just like Yorke (though Jónsi is actually blind in that eye). Radiohead have a stronger affinity for pop hooks, though, and Sigur Rós leans more heavily on ambience for its sound (is it any wonder, then, that Amina got its start as the string quartet backing Sigur Rós? Their dreamy string arrangements mesh perfectly with Jónsi’s ethereal voice).
My concerns that Jónsi couldn’t possibly hit those notes consistently in a live performance were allayed. He sounded amazing throughout, although it was terribly obvious he was getting a little help from some rather elaborate processors at the soundboard.
The show ended as it began – with the band playing behind a muslin screen, an out-of-focus, slow motion monochromatic film of birds on a telephone line projected upon it. The curtain was raised one last time to accommodate a group bow to the audience, the beaming musicians clapping gratefully back at the appreciative audience. It was the first tacit acknowledgement of the audience the entire evening, but it seemed like it came at the perfect time: at the end of a terrific performance for an adoring crowd.
Friday, September 02, 2005
The Cruelest Intentions
I gave it some thought. I won't be saying anything about Katrina right now, at least not here in this blog. What I have to say isn't very nice and basically ignores the immense human suffering that is happening in New Orleans right now. Maybe later, when the city has been evacuated, when the sick and injured have been attended to, and some semblance of order has been restored to their lives, I can be critical of a situation that should not have happened in the first place. But right now the time is just not right for that sort of discussion.
Maybe you think it is. If so, please share.