Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I’ve toiled for the past few days to update my grossly neglected photosite, which was months behind. Nothing too spectacular lately but it’s a load off my mind for now...


Thursday, December 14, 2006


I’ve been a bit behind in my hockey lately and I was sad to discover that my favorite hockey player Joe Nieuwendyk had recently retired because of back issues.

Nieuwendyk was part of the Dallas Stars roster that became perennial Stanley Cup contenders and finally won it all in '99, with Joe getting the Playoff MVP Award.

I was a rabid Stars fan around that time. There are still vivid recollections of staying up late in my dorm room in Lubbock trying to listen to games being streamed on the internets because there was no TV coverage (the bane of U.S. hockey fans). Even more conveniently, the Stars finally won the Championship in triple overtime at 2:00 in the morning. I was so bleary-eyed that my only reaction was a brief fist in the air and then clicking off the TV.

Nieuwendyk had come off serious injuries to both his knees the previous season, raising speculation that his ability to play the game was gone. It was a classic underdog story.

From the start of the playoff run, I could sense his focus and determination to win. That playoff season was a rollercoaster ride of triple overtime games and a memorable seven game clash against the Avalanche, with Nieuwendyk scoring game-winning goals in several.

Mike Modano will always be considered the superior talent and the face of the Stars, but Nieuwendyk to me was the heart. I was angry to hear that he was traded a few years later, but happy that he won another cup in New Jersey and a Gold Medal playing for Canada.

What a class act and a fearless player. He’ll be missed.

A better article on Joe’s impact in Dallas can be found here (but you need to sign-up though it’s free).

Aaaaaaaaaand we’re back

I don’t think anyone wants to gloss over what South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson and his family are going through with his apparent stroke and surgery, but the political implications must be what’s really on everyone’s minds on Capital Hill.

After the Senate race, all the Democrats celebrated a great (albeit narrow) victory to wrestle control back from the GOP. Even President Bush came out to admit that it was a message from the citizens that the Administration needed to listen and cooperate with the Democrats.

Now I’m imagining (somewhat sarcastically) that Bush is thinking that this is a message from God that the Administration doesn’t need to change and that the Democrats need to die.

Alright, that was pretty bleak.

I’m just very disappointed in how this will likely play out. If Johnson is unable to resume office, then the Governor (a Republican) appoints his replacement. If there are ties in the Senate then the decision is differed to VP Cheney, the idea of which makes me oh so cheerful.

I bet walking into a bar full of Democrats this weekend in D.C. would be a sad, depressing sight.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Light up some grass (and burn some fat too)

Ever on the lookout for alternative energy sources, I discovered that switchgrass is becoming an interesting solution.

Biofuels have been looked into but have been largely problematic due to the fact that they can't output a rate of energy higher than the energy it takes to process it. Plus the amount of carbon produced isn't a significant improvement over fossil fuels.

Switchgrass on the other hand is a hearty crop that grows relatively easily in less than ideal conditions and actually absorbs more carbon than it produces (when converted to ethanol).

ABC had previously reported that ethanol could eventually account for a significant (though not majority) of the nation’s energy needs and that the economic adjustments wouldn’t be very drastic.

Switchgrass is also an attractive solution because it’s resources wouldn’t have to be divided between fuel creation and food consumption, unlike other crops able to convert to ethanol (like corn).

Other resources can be Googled or found here.

Another, less orthodox energy source is in the form of Philadelphia’s Fry-o-Diesel, which somehow converts oils, grease and other waste.

I can’t imagine this being a pleasant endeavor, but hey, if it brings us closer to a Utopian dream of clean, renewable energy, I’ll scarf down a few more Phillies for the cause.

Solar power, using grass, converting fat... It amazes me the ingenuity of people sometimes.

Now if only we could allow this technology to flourish without being hindered by politics and corporate greed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reviews: Daredevil and Y: the Last Man

Two of the best stories I’ve read in a long while come out of the comic book industry. While I’ve resigned from collecting comics, these two books shouldn’t be dismissed just because they fall into a stereotyped genre.

After years of hearing how Daredevil was the best comic on the shelf, I became curious enough to check out what the hype was all about.

During the height of my comic collecting years, I never strayed too far out of the X-men circle so Daredevil was a character that I didn’t have much exposure to. I wasn’t the only one either. The blind lawyer with heightened abilities in a red suit was mainly regarded as a B-level character in the Marvel Universe.

But in 1979, Frank Miller created a run on the book is now a hallmark story because it took the medium to places it normally didn’t go. Good guys actually died, heroes actually killed and it wasn’t a happy ending. He did such a good job that no one could follow up his act for another 20 years.

Now, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev take over the title to combine a tense, compelling story and gritty yet sweeping visuals to create a great, cinematic noir style unlike anything I’d seen in comics before.

Bendis sculpts a 3-dimensional character that doesn’t speak or act in a clichéd comic book fashion. I discovered that Daredevil is infinitely more interesting than the likes of Superman. Daredevil is a hero but is also an arrogant asshole. He protects innocent civilians but also jeopardizes his friends and family. His actions are never purely black and white and his thoughts never fall into easily discernible emotions.

In contrast, Kevin Smith (of Clerks fame) wrote the preceding story, which relied on lots of dialogue and cheesy villains standing over our hero and explaining his evil plot like a 007 villain. Smith gets credit for revitalizing the interest in Daredevil, but I think pales in comparison to Bendis’ efforts.

In the storyline, Daredevil’s secret identity is revealed to the world and we observe the aftermath. Each time the character seems to find a way to snake out of his predicament, the writer throws another wrench into the gears and you wonder again how things will turn out. The focus away from costumed antics and deals more on how his “normal” life is affected. The plot is truly intense and engrossing.

Needless to say, I’ve become a fan of this comic. I just hope that Bendis’ contribution, like Miller’s work, doesn’t become such a juggernaut that no one can maintain the level of quality. I’ve read a few issues by the next writer, Ed Brubaker, and it seems like he’s doing just as great a job.

The other title that has me hooked is Y: The Last Man. Written by Brian K. Vaughn and penciled by Pia Guerra, there are no costumed heroes with super powers or evil villains. Like Bendis, Vaughn injects as much realism as possible into the book. The greatest strength of the book is Vaughn’s ability to write modern, realistic, natural dialogue. No cheesy super hero one-liners, except in self-aware sarcasm. The characters act and speak in a manner that can easily be scripted from my own circle of friends.

I don’t find anything spectacular about the art, but no crippling flaws either. Guerra’s visuals seem to merely support the story, which is fine since the story is amazing. But after seeing how Bendis and Maleev created such a perfect union of story and art, it’s hard not to wonder what other level this book could’ve been taken to.

Now, on to the actual plot...

Due to unknown circumstances, all of the world’s males (animals included) die in an instant, throwing the entire world society and infrastructure into chaos and panic. Yet we find out that one man, Yorick (and his pet monkey) somehow survived.

The book follows Yorick, a scientist and an agent of a shadow government operation race to find out the cause and the cure for the catastrophe.

Vaughn expertly handles all of his characters, never relying on the obvious. You’d think that as the last man, Yorick would be in a Male Paradise and go screw as many women as he could. Yet Vaughn creates a man is actually a romantic and goes looking for his girlfriend (conveniently halfway across the world).

Vaughn treats the remaining women with dignity, not falling into a Helpless-Without-Men mentality. Not that a lot of crazy shit doesn’t happen. Think about half the world suddenly dying a horrible death, with planes falling from the sky because both the pilot and copilot were men, or how the government would cope with the Presidential line of succession landing on a low level Congresswoman.

The story is planned to last for 60 issues and while I’m only halfway through, I can sense that the story is dragging out a bit in order to cover the amount of pages. Probably reducing the number of issues to 40 would’ve helped keep a good pace. Still, it allows the book to create and fill out great characters.

Even with the lags, there are some great cliffhangers throughout the story. I don’t want to spoil any of them but will say that the writer has done a masterful job of crafting and executing a unique idea.

The first issue pacing is unparalleled and will have any person hooked into the story. The publishers are so confident of that fact that they have the entire first issue available to download in PDF format (which I’ve also provided a link to at the end of this post). Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Most people will scoff at the idea of reading comics, but these two books are examples of how far the medium has come. Yeah, originally it was to entertain kids with the visuals, but over the years the story has taken precedence and, like anime, has hooked in an older audience. I find myself not even looking at the art and jumping to the next line of dialogue because I’m completely invested in the story. Definitely worth checking out.

Y: the Last Man #1

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dual Screens, double the dorkiness

Last weekend I purchased the Nintendo DS, my first game system in 14 years. I popped in the game cartridge and had flashbacks of the days when I spent all my time with my equally nerdy friends playing video games and reading comic books.

And I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t more of a chick magnet.

While I unwrapped my DS, I was surrounded by a roomful of people watching a friend play the latest iteration of Grand Theft Auto on the PS2. While everyone else was shouting out advice on how to chase down a pimp or gun down passing whores, I played math and verbal games on Brain Age.

It occurred to me that I’m not the neo-punk cool nerd type that plays first-person shooters on the next-gen game consoles. No, I’m the non-threatening old-school nerd that no one would ever confuse as cool.

That’s okay. I’m not the only one. Nintendo is definitely seeking out a different audience for their game systems than Sony or Microsoft. A few nights ago I caught a commercial for an XBox 360 game, (I’m guessing) Gears of War, wherein a live-action actor in a futuristic Aliens-esque soldier outfit runs around in post-Apocalyptic ruins and shoots at a half-cyborg dog and its master, an alien soldier. Nice.

Then I saw a commercial for the Nintendo Wii, featuring a suburban living room with the parents and kids playing sports-themed games with the new interactive controller. The focus was definitely more on the family cheering each other on rather than how many pixels were on the textures of the video game characters.

I enjoyed the bloody games such as CounterStrike or Diablo but I know that I’d rather be leveling up in the rerelease of Final Fantasy III (or IV or V or VII which are all on my wish list).

So you won’t be seeing me sitting outside of a BestBuy for three days waiting for a $600 PS3. Though, in retrospect, those guys were pretty smart since they could turn around and sell it on eBay for a few grand. I heard the highest offer has been $20,000!

I’ll be enjoying my DS through the cold of winter and on those holiday travels, but I hope that it doesn’t keep me from enjoying the non-virtual things in life, like wandering around the city with my camera or swinging a golf club at Chelsea Piers or just having a few drinks over a pool game.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rage Against the Martini

Here’s your weekly What-The-Hell?! news: I just found out that Chris Cornell of the groups Soundgarden and Audioslave (formerly Rage Against the Machine) is the performer of the current Bond title song.

There was plenty of head scratching when Daniel Craig was cast as the next Bond and the producers have baffled everyone again with this selection (and personally more so). Ok, ok, so the reviews of Craig as Bond have been pretty good so I’m intrigued now.

I loved Soundgarden and RATM, but Audioslave has largely been a disappointment for me. So I guess I shouldn’t get too worked up, but it makes me wonder if I’m getting to the age when all the heroes of my youth are turning into corporate commodities. What’s next? Pearl Jam doing Gap commercials?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lily Allen (p)review

I’m loving the music from Lily Allen, who has yet to have her debut album, Alright, Still released here in the U.S. (looks like it’ll be in January).

Her style is poppier than I can usually handle but her sound is quirky enough to hook you in. Plus her surprisingly dark themes and wordplay are a great juxtaposition to the uber-upbeat compositions. And sometimes it’s just great to hear a distinct English accent.

LDN is a great example where you can visualize her buoyantly strolling through London singing “Why would I wanna be anywhere else?” All this among describing pimps, crack whores and purse-snatchers.

It’s something that I find much easier to relate to after living in Gotham. There are so many startlingly horrifying, saddening and maddening aspects of this city, but so many (myself included) have such a reverence and love for the place. LDN could easily have been name NYC.

Alfie is a tune that walks a fine line between whimsical genius and annoying circus music, but I seem to enjoy it much more than anything else. You may hate or love the sound, but it’s hard to ignore.

Not Big is pretty easy to decipher so I don’t think I need to go into it. It may make some guys cringe at such venomous lines coming out of a girl, but this song is a great example of Lily’s music.

Lily is drawing a lot of attention in the UK and judging from the million plus listens on her mySpace page, she’s going to do pretty well domestically as well.



Not Big

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My picks, your pans (or 3 reasons to keep me away from the jukebox)

Sometimes there’s no accounting for taste. Everybody has their tacky indulgences, whether it be celebrity trash magazines, Michael Bay movies or a big bucket of extra crispy KFC. You hate that you love it, but you love it nonetheless.

This thought was spurred one day by listening to my iPod on shuffle when a long forgotten song had popped up. Slightly embarrassed that I not only had the song in the first place but that I still had it, I started to reach down for the SKIP button.

All of a sudden, I began to feel bad for the song and band. I thought, Hey, I actually like this song. Why should I be ashamed to have it?

I figured it was time for a tribute to a few albums to say “I’m sorry everyone else hates you.”

This isn’t about albums I proudly love such as Blueberry Boat or La Revancha Del Tango. Or ones everyone’s supposed to love such as Rubber Soul or OK Computer. Or albums that everyone regretted having such as Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em (because I know EVERYONE owned this). Or even the ones I totally hate and can’t believe I was fooled into buying such as Make Believe.

No, this is about albums that other people would ridicule if they saw sitting on my coffee table so I squirrel them away in a bin because I still secretly enjoy them.

I’m going to go on record with these because I’m confident I can reveal these without completely losing music credibility. If anyone wants, I can display examples of my highly cultured, well rounded musical sensibilities. No, really. I swear.

So without further delay...

Frogstomp by Silverchair
This is the album that spawned this whole post. It started with Justin finding it on my iPod and then laughing while blasting Tomorrow. I don’t think it was even considered cool to own this album when it first came out. But dammit, this is actually a pretty great collection of songs. The second half falters a bit, but the first half is remarkably solid. Nothing mind-blowing, but a great variety of grunge/alt songs.

I still can’t believe these guys were 16 when they put Frogstomp out. I think I was the same age as them and was squeaking out major chords on my saxophone in a marching band.

Tomorrow and Pure Massacre are the two hits, but Israel’s Son, Faultline and Shade help show off their capabilities. Suicidal Dreams is a clear example of Daniel Johns doing his impersonation of Eddie Vedder performing a Kurt Cobain-esque tune. And doing a pretty good job of it.

Hey, it was the mid-nineties, I was deep into my Nirvana/Grunge phase and Silverchair had the sound down. Even revisiting these songs again, I think it stands up to classic STP or Soundgarden releases. Not really sure how the band evolved from here on but it seems as if they’re still popular enough to put out an album every few years.

When the Pawn... by Fiona Apple
I shouldn’t be all that ashamed about this since Fiona is actually pretty popular. Except I personally don’t know a single person who doesn’t absolutely hate her guts.

The angst-ridden acceptance speeches, the heroin-look and the overexposure of Criminal kept me away initially. I figured she’d have her one hit and fade away. Plus, I saw a poster of her album cover on the wall of some MTV teen show and that alone would normally ban her from any of my playlists.

But I caught the video for Fast as You Can and became intrigued enough to buy the album. And guess what? I discovered a lot of musicality and interesting lyrics in her music. Her lower than normal vocal delivery has completely grown on me and I now think she is a very underrated vocal talent.

Who can’t love the line You fondle my trigger then you blame my gun, especially when it comes from a chick?

Like Frogstomp, I feel that the first half of When the Pawn... is superior, but the entire album melds together as a whole very well. There are plenty of hooks and great diversity between the songs, more so than her prior or latter albums in my opinion.

Fast as You Can and Limp are the singles (and appropriately so) but it’s a shame that great songs like On the Bound and Get Gone wont get heard by more people. Paper Bag is a quirky, light tune that hinted what was to come on Extraordinary Machine.

Sure there’s plenty of that I-Hate-Men/Everything angst but it’s also nice to hear her revel in it and not have it dissolve over the years like Alanis or Avril. All those haters out there should take a good listen to her lyrics and see if it’s not anything you haven’t written in your own journals. Her musical style reminds me of Rufus Wainwright, except with more venom and masculinity (yeah).

Fiona’s such a great talent that I hate to think that people disregard her because she causes such polarity in opinions. Then again, that’s what some great artists do.

Shine: the Motion Picture Soundtrack
I’m not completely sure that this album qualifies to be on this list. But nothing shouts out “Casual Fan!” like a various artists soundtrack (except maybe owning a Greatest Hits album). I also believe that this album is an example of me not really knowing anything about the songs or composers, which I hate.

Being in band for seven years should have allowed me to develop a stronger repertoire of classical music but my collection has always been underdeveloped in the genre.

I absolutely love some of the songs, like La Campalesson and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, but for some reason have never been spurred on to explore similar material or other works by the composers.

Those who thought that punk rockers are the only ones to have a song performance dissolve into an instrument destroying frenzy need to check out 1st Movement Cadenza From The Rach. 3.

So there they are. There are plenty other examples I’m sure but I don’t want to look completely tasteless yet. For now, I’ll just curl up with a big bucket of fried chicken and watch Armageddon.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ghouls and Ghosts (or Tramps and Trannies?)

It’s almost that time. Halloween, or as I see it, the one night when guys get to dress up like girls and girls get to dress up like sluts. I don’t even want to begin trying to delve into the psyche for why that is.

It doesn’t seem like the Halloween entrepreneurs are discouraging the women from wearing their skimpy fantasies for all to see either. In Manhattan, you can walk past any number of costume stores and see posters showcasing how a girl can be a sexy nurse, or a sexy maid, or a sexy nun... Or a sexy mental patient.

Those that think I’m kidding can go to 23rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue to view the picture of a woman with her double-D breasts stuffed into her tightly cinched straight jacket. Cleavage is clearly visible of course.

I guess the thinking here was “Hey, if a chick wants to pretend to be locked in an insane asylum, she might as well look crazy AND slutty”.

As for myself, I might have to forego a costume for the second straight year. I really did have a great idea in mind but are a few more pressing matters these days (like finding a new job and a new apartment). But I know I’m in for another night full of disappointed looks at my jeans and tshirt. My Texas friends were a little more laid back about costuming, but with this crowd in New York...

Let’s just say you’ll be standing in a group with a garden gnome and an Asian Magnum P.I. and people will be looking at you like you’re the freak.

Halloween was never fully supported by my family. I don’t think dressing up like monsters and demons sat very well with my mom. As a result, I was the kid that every other kid snickered at for having the crappiest, cheapest costumes. You know, the plastic Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny masks strapped on by the thinnest, dirtiest rubber band that would snap off and whip you in the face. I can still recall the stings on my cheek.

My friend, Daniel’s mom would never hold back on costumes. He would have all the costumes that were popular during the time. Like a full Bart Simpson get-up. Imagine opening your front door to a kid in yellow makeup with the spikey hair, orange shirt, blue shorts and blue shoes... And next to him, a sad, little kid in a generic “robot” costume that his mom reluctantly bought in the “Seasonal” aisle of the grocery store. Next year, Daniel had an official Freddy Kruger mask with the official Freddy Kruger claws and a spot-on match of the red and black sweater. Me, I had a hockey mask and a pirate sword. You get the idea.

Back to the present, I figured I had outgrown those painful years of trying to think of a good costume. Then again, these guys all know how to have a good time, and if you can get away with dressing up like a fool and have a laugh, why not?

My buddy, Tony, takes the prize though. His friends have done some hysterical group costumes, such as Care Bears and Spiderman dressed up in another costume (say Spiderman in a Tennis outfit). Their philosophy is that one Care Bear looks like an ass, but a group of Care Bears is ingenious.

Check out this classic:

UPDATE: I guess I’m not the only one who notices the sexy girl costume trend. Check this out. The best is the girl in the sexy Lincoln outfit saying "Four score with me!" (Thanks to Courtney)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Where did all the good times go?

It seems like ages since I’ve checked back into my blog. Not that I’m abandoning it, unlike others (ahem... Matador, Best Ever and Monster), but other things have been requiring my focus.

It’s been pretty crazy for a while with the hunt for a new apartment, and working almost from scratch to redo my portfolio and website. And it doesn’t look to let up for a while, since the apartment is going to shift gears to apartment moving which may be as painfully time-consuming (if not more so) than the hunt.

Speaking of hunting, if anyone knows of a graphic designer position in the city I’d be happy to hear about them. I should stipulate that the new company shouldn’t be staffed with complete assholes because I already hit the mother-load on that one. It’s getting harder and harder to muster the energy in the morning to even get up to face an entire day in that dreaded place.

I’m also acutely aware that my photoblog site has similarly been woefully neglected. Hopefully things will settle down soon and I can get back to enjoying the pleasures of life again.

Just to indicate how busy (and monetarily strapped) I’ve been: Gomez is playing for three nights at the Bowery Ballroom and I passed on the chance. Shocking.

I even missed out on Neko Case and Beck, which disappoints me more than I can describe.

At least I’ve got Texas Tech football and Netflix to keep me going through these troubled times. (Don’t even talk to me about the TCU game.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006


The recent discovery of a new oil resource off the U.S. Coast may have initially sounded like a relief to the country’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels, but analysts are already saying that the find will do little to stave off the diminishing resources at hand. What’s more, the impact of this deposit will be years away and will do little to put a dent in consumer demand.

Really, all it did was buy a little time, further feed our addiction to a non-renewable resource and extend our political agenda in the Middle East. And it probably just fed the fire to encourage more digging and disruption into our ecosystem in a hope that there’s more down there. I’m having a mental image of a political cartoon depicting the U.S. as a crack whore.

On a brighter note, NPR reports on an emerging renewable resource called Solar Thermal, which is capable of generating much more power than the more conventional solar power cells at a cheaper price. While still not able to match the price and output of fossil fuels, it signals a step in the right direction for our energy needs.

Whatever the source (be it solar, combustion or nuclear) it’s still amazing to me that what it all comes down to is a way to boil water and have the steam turn turbines to generate electricity. You’d think we’d have found a better way by now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sound off

To my chagrin, there hasn’t been a whole lot out there in the music scene that’s really caught my attention lately. That may be partly due to the fact that lately, I haven’t been able to stop listening to Neko Case and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Neither are new but I keep discovering elements that make me love them more and more.

Thom Yorke’s Eraser has a few decent tracks but is widely considered a disappointing retread into Radiohead territory. Cool cover art though.

Zero 7 have historically treaded that fine line between moody trip hop and shopping mall muzak. I’ve always defended them but Pitchfork nailed my exact sentiments towards their latest and worst release, the Garden.

It’s nice to hear Ray LaMontagne getting more and more attention.

Morcheeba haven’t won me over yet with their decision to jettison their lead singer and signature sound in their latest release, the Antidote. Cool cover art though.

I’m withholding judgment on Psapp and Rachel Yamagata for now, but I like what I’ve been hearing so far.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Journals: the old schooler’s blog

I’ve discovered that the creators of the 1000 Journals Project have created a continuation project creatively called the 1001 Journals Project.

It was probably inevitable since all one thousand journals had been sent out and not much new was happening with the existing ones. Most of them had stalled at some point or another, and it’s been sad to see that only one journal has made it through all its participants and returned to be showcased.

I guess that’s why I’m still on the fence about whether or not to sign up for this new incarnation.

I was so excited about receiving one of the 1000 journals since the sign-up lists filled up insanely fast. I, along with a few my friends, poured quite a bit of time, energy, and honestly, a lot of heart into those pages. So it was painful to see it get lost along the way and never live up to its full potential. I’m not sure if it’s stuck in someone’s stack of books or buried in some landfill somewhere.

Plus, this new edition just seems so much more uninspired. There are a few new features and probably better tracking but it’s essentially the same thing.

A new feature that I’m not in love with is that the journals can be constructed and created by anyone. One of the greatest things about the original series was the consistent format with amazing art created for each edition of ten. The creator commissioned well-known and up-coming designers and artists for the covers, which made me so envious that I never got that chance.

I guess I could jump at this new opportunity but I’m so soured by the last go-around that I don’t think I’ll take the plunge this time around.

Luckily, I submitted scans of all the pages so far from the journal that was mailed to me so I can reminisce if I want to.

NOTE: Hey this was my 100th Post! Woohoo!

Monday, July 24, 2006

HOLY SHIT!!! (part 2)

[Steven’s inner monologue while sitting at his desk on Monday at work.]

Steven: i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job

[Checks his e-mail.]

Steven: HOLY SHIT!!!!!! Joy is pregnant... again!

[Closes his e-mail window.]

Steven: i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job i hate my job

NOTE: HOLY SHIT!!! (part 1)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Toy story

This weekend I got a large dose of life with kids. With family in the big city for the first time, I played the dutiful role of tour guide and babysitter. It’s amazing how completely exhausting it is to just be in the general proximity of toddlers. Even after avoiding any real physical exertion, I realized how drained I was at the end of the day just listening to them try to tell me every little thought that popped into their heads.

Conversing with a kid is the equivalent of seizure-inducing channel surfing. I learned that Wesley played baseball and that his only position was shortstop... no wait, also third base and pitcher and second base and left field and Warren is an Allosaur, not a Tyrannosaur and that when he hunts down a Brontosaurus, he eats like this (chomping noises) and Wesley has the Cybertron Megatron and Warren has three different Optimus Prime toys but doesn’t have the Energon Optimus Prime and the rings of Saturn are made of asteroids and a scientist that studies bones is a paleontologist and Warren’s friend Devon caught roly-polys and gave Warren nine because he already had one and now they both have ten and then they let them go because they’re living animals and that rattlesnakes have venom in their fangs that are curved and that they bite you and suck your blood and then you die from the poison.

I think this is when my head imploded.

So with four kids ranging from 4 and 7 years old, the Times Square Toys R Us store was a necessary destination. Not to reward the kids with toys but as a means to distract them enough for the adults to catch their breath.

It’s amazing how much that place has changed since my youth. Now there’s a full-sized Allosaur roaring in the corner (but it’s not real, it’s animatronic, according to Wesley), and a dizzying array of specialized Lego pieces.

Somewhere between touring the Barbie house, digging through Legos for square red pieces and checking out the latest Bionicles, I recalled how I promised myself that I would own a Toys R Us when I grew up because I never wanted to be away from toys. Toys were the sole focus in my life. Nothing was above having toys. Eating, sleeping, school, these were mere obstacles to my obtaining and playing with as many toys as possible.

Whenever I was in the car with my parents and a Toys R Us came into view, I would fix my gaze on it until it would disappear into the horizon. It was my secret hope that the sheer, desperate display of want on my face would convince my dad to turn the car around and offer to buy anything in the store. That never happened.

Even when I was lucky enough to get into a toy store or even the toy aisle in the grocery store, I would always pick out something and wait for my mom to come along to pick me up. I never gave up hope that if I shoved the package into my mom’s face, she would be forced to accept how cool and awesome it was and that my life would be meaningless if I didn’t have it right then and there. This never happened either.

I think this effect has stunted my emotional well-being to some extent. What’s the point in showing excitement or desire over anything if it gets you nowhere? I wonder if that’s why I’m so apathetic towards any display of interest. Even if I really wanted something, I would just shrug my shoulders and think “Well, if I get it, I get it.”

But maybe that’s just a part of growing up. Most adults don’t throw tantrums and pout when they don’t get their way.

There have also been a few revelations about myself through toys. I learned early on that I am way too trusting and gullible.

In the first grade, I barely spoke english. I was pretty much ignored by my classmates except for intrusive questions about my ethnicity or someone being wowed over by my really good renderings of Transformers. Still, when one boy started wanting to play together, it was exciting. That Christmas, I got the ultimate gift: a complete set of Voltron. This wasn’t the dinky, stiff armed version that didn’t disassemble. This was the Voltron. It could bend it’s arms and legs. It could split apart into the five lions (with the removable pilots in the cockpits). And it was two feet high. I had hit the jackpot.

So naturally, I took it to Show and Tell. That day at recess, a boy from class asked to take it home to play with it. I was young, naïve and desperate for friendship so I let him take it. The next day, I asked for it back and he flat out refused. No excuses or lies. His reply was “It’s mine now.” I was too embarrassed and confused to even go tell my parents or the teacher. It was a big life lesson in not trusting people. To this day I still never confessed to my mom what happened to that toy and why she never saw it again.

One of the other moments in my life that I still clearly recall was my eighth birthday party at Chuck E Cheese (or Showbiz Pizza as it was called back in the day). I had invited half my class, including my best friend, Daniel and the girl I was in love with, Michelle. After the blur of eating pizza, the birthday song and ripping off wrapping paper, I remember standing in front of Michelle with Daniel, ridiculing her over her choice of gift for me.

“You got me Thunderclap?! He’s not even cool! He’s not even the leader of the jet Decepticons!”

“Yeah, Starscream is the leader,” Daniel chimed in. “He’s so much better! You should’ve gotten that one for Steven! You don’t understand because you’re a girl!”

I don’t even know why we were berating her. Normally, I’m so ecstatic to get not just a toy but a Transformer. Even the knock-off Transformer toys were good enough for me. Gobots, weird Japanese ones whose names I couldn’t read, or hell, even the robots that transformed into lumps of rocks. Rocks for chrissakes! Talk about lack of effort by the creators on that one.

And she just sat there tearfully and took the abuse without a word.

To this day, the recollection of this incident makes me cringe and feel like a worthless person. If I could, I’d go back in time, smack myself silly and apologize to that poor girl.

Another telling behavior was whenever I’d get a new toy that was one of the good guys (say an Autobot or a herbivore dinosaur), it wouldn’t get accepted immediately into my toy community. It would be ostracized by the others and treated like an outsider. That is until it performed a feat of selfless sacrifice to save one of the existing good guys from the bad guys. The good guys would mourn the death of the newcomer and lament the error of their ways. That is until the new toy was resurrected and accepted by everyone. This scenario I played out many, many times.

It makes me wonder how much of myself I was casting into that outsider toy and what that said of my own perception towards my peers. It makes me appreciate that there’s something more to the toys that my cousins are lusting over. And it makes me want to reach out to those cousins that are not as popular as their fellow cousins. I want to shower them with attention to show that they’re not alone or outsiders or freaks.

My parents and my uncles don’t understand it. All they see is their children’s singular obsession with obtaining toys. But while listening to Warren tell me that he’s the Blue Power Ranger and that Wesley’s the Red Power Ranger, it hit me. Adults don’t understand that the unending stream of conscious talking may actually mean something to these kids. It’s more than constant rambling. I may not get why Warren likes Batman but not Superman, or why Sarah likes Dora the Explorer but not Elmo. But what I do get is that it’s more than the material fix. These toys somehow will help define how each one of them will perceive others and themselves. That your friends are capable of being thieves. That you are capable of being an asshole. That we’re all heroes and martyrs and outsiders. That I get.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Crash course

I just want to take a second to say that the movie, Crash, is the fucking worst movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. Talk about over-dramatization and the largest ensemble of annoying characters ever.

I’m still engrossed in the TV show, Lost, though. I’m almost caught up on the second season. It’s impressive how the show can continue to be so tightly scripted and have such high production values. Although they just keep piling on the dangling plotlines and I’m getting annoyed at how so little gets resolved. I know that as an ongoing TV show they need to drag the storylines out, but come on, throw me a bone here!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Smooth operators

I finally got my hands on Gomez’s newest release, How We Operate which, upon first listen, impressed and surprised me. That’s hard to do since I’ve come to expect just about anything from this band and didn’t think they could still come up with new approaches.

This album finds Gomez at a crossroads. They seem to finally be on the cusp of broad appeal and at last have the backing of a label willing to promote them and let the band play to their strengths. Still, I’m worried that the boys may be too willing to embrace any possible popularity. Maybe I’m off, but I sense that they’re getting weary of constantly flying under the radar. I’m not going to start criticizing "They’ve sold out!" because who wouldn’t want to be successful at what they do? And these guys deserve it; they’ve paid their dues. I just hope I can still catch them in small, intimate venues when they come around.

So this record sounds more radio-friendly and glossed over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since they’ve never been a deep, pretentious musical act. They’ve always been about having a good time and making some catchy music. Maybe this album is really a reflection of the members growing up and settling down a bit. I found myself enjoying this release more immediately than all of their others, which took time and effort to really embed themselves in my brain. The prior release, Split the Difference was also a quicker "get" for me, but also faded from my interest the fastest. I’m worried this new album will have a similar fate. I hope Gomez haven’t discarded their unique sound to generate a larger fan base.

There are some definite gems in this playlist. Chasing Ghosts with Alcohol clearly depicts their love affair with country and blues. I always thought Ben would have been right at home singing with a slide guitar in some dive bar in West Texas and this song solidifies that idea. Hamoa Beach is classic Gomez: a catchy rythym, uplifting lyrics and infectious harmonies. Woman!Man! and Cry on Demand retain the singalong nature and quirkiness that make Gomez a joy to listen to.

Tom, always regarded as the third singer, finally starts to shine on this album. He’s shown the most growth and progression as a singer and a songwriter. There was evidence of this on their previous release, Split the Difference with the sad yet beautiful Sweet Virginia. Tom manages to top that effort with the newest album’s closer, Don’t Make Me Laugh. It’s sweet, catchy and heartbreaking. It’s rich and textured, and it makes me think that Gomez are still making the music that I respect and expect from them.

After all, how can you not love guys who have this much fun:

Monday, May 01, 2006

See the world through laoser’s eyes! (or how I learned to stop worrying and give Flickr the big "F-You")

A few months later than anticipated and after some tedious programming, I’m finally ready to unveal my very own photoblog site, Obscursion. Time will tell if I can keep this going, which will hopefully prompt me to dish out the cash for a unique URL, but for now, this is an experiment.

Actually I have nothing against Flickr, but when I decided to buy a digital camera and post photos on the web the designer in me wanted to actually have the site fit my aesthetic and work like I wanted it. Still, I will definitely miss some of the perks and features of Flickr. Since I’m no HTML wiz, I’m sure that some of my methods aren’t as streamlined as they could be, but maybe I’ll figure those things out as time passes.

I’m still learning how to get the best pictures out of my new camera, so the goal is to improve the quality of the photos as well as refine my viewfinder eye. All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The empires strike back

As an antithesis of my last post on Google’s attempt to equalize the flow of information through the internet, NPR reports on how internet service providers are musing over the idea of creating tiered access to the internet, effectively providing slower and faster lanes for webpages to get to one’s computer. Large companies that would be willing to shell out a premium expense would get a higher priority and quicker load times to their consumers. A non-audio version of this topic can be found on the New Yorker.

Some may argue that offering newer, better features is a part of capitalism. If a company makes a better car, they should have the right to charge a higher price, and I agree with that. But abolishing the current "network neutrality" just doesn’t seem to fit in the same category as luxury cars. The proposed system would most likely give large corporations more power and allow the ISPs to exert too much influence. Libraries don’t offer better library cards that let you get more access to books than regular library card holders.

The revolutionary aspect of the internet is that is an open field. Anyone with a computer and internet access can (in most cases outside of China) get the same information as anyone else in the world. But broadband companies want to change that because they want more money. They try to justify it through other reasons, but their lust for more is so apparent that there’s no way to hide it. If they weren’t making any money then I could see the rationale that they need to be compensated for laying the pipelines and maintaining the servers, but everyone pays for the service already, and at monthly intervals. They’re creating a need solely so that they can provide the solution, which is despicable.

Monday, April 24, 2006

This is not a music blog

I loved hearing that several cities such as Philadelphia are taking on the ambitious and philanthropist goal of providing city-wide wi-fi in order to bridge the "gap on internet inequality". Imagine wanting to surf the internets on your laptop and not be constrained to your home or coffeeshops. I really enjoyed how Austin was virtually wi-fi everywhere and am a bit surprised at the lack of access in New York.

Now, true to its namesake, Google ups the ante exponentially by announcing Glo-fi which would provide free internet access all over the globe. Details are sketchy and scarce so I’m not sure how extensive or reliable their network would be. A lot of people are questioning how they plan to do this, but Google has pulled off some amazing feats before.

Aside from the logistical hurdles, I wonder how Google will pull this off politically. Opening the gates to free information is very utopian, but I see major resistance to come from established internet providers and countries like China, well known for its censorship of what its citizens can access.

Google is starting to look like a commercial juggernaut (hello, Microsoft?) but its programs have always been pretty top notch and its goals beneficial. I’ll cheer Glo-fi on for now, but I’ve got my eye on you, Google.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Better Tea

This week the Fiery Furnaces released their latest album, Bitter Tea and played at the Bowery Ballroom.

Much like how Radiohead’s Amnesiac related to its sibling, Kid A, Bitter Tea is mined from the same collection of songs as its predecessor Rehearsing My Choir but attempts to be more user friendly. I wasn’t sure what to expect since "user friendly" isn’t exactly in this group’s repertoire. The result turns out to be somewhere in between Rehearsing My Choir and their masterful Blueberry Boat. Even songs that are pretty straightforward for the band, such as Police Sweater Blood Vow would be pretty outrageous for most other groups. The duo never clings to standard time signatures and the songs seem to wobble and teeter on the edge of collapse, but that’s also what makes them sound so vibrant.

What’s curious about the album is that toned down versions of two songs are tacked on to the end of the record. I suspect this may have been the result of concessions with nervous record label execs, but who knows. While others may find relief in being able to hear more traditional, less crazy music, I didn’t find either track to be of anything worthwhile. After experiencing the entire album of their unbridled exploration, these versions sounded so meek and flat. It was almost a premonition of what the Fiery Furnaces would sound like if some major record label tied them down and cut their balls off.

Yeah, I was sort of hoping for a bit more of that Blueberry Boat magic but that’s probably not realistic or fair. It’s good that the band so fearlessly treads into strange, new lands. Listening to them takes work, but part of the appreciation for them comes out of that effort.

Now, on to the live show...

I saw the Fiery Furnaces at the last Austin City Limits Festival but it’s always hard to judge a band at a venue like ACL. It’s hot, the sound quality is totally different and they only get about 45 minutes to show off to tons more people. So this time around I didn’t know what to expect.

The result was a bit surprising. I had imagined the duo to be moody, shoe-gazing and shy. But they ended up being quite the opposite. Eleanor has to be the most polite rock chick ever and Matt seemed to be having a blast on stage. As if like just another fan (on stage), he would watch Eleanor sing and a huge grin would spread across his face.

The band powered through over fifteen songs in just over an hour but they weren’t speeding through the tunes because of apathy. I think the frantic pace is consistent with their nature. The song arrangements sounded closer to the album versions than when I heard them at ACL. The contributing factor was probably due to the fact that Matt chose not to bring his keyboard to the concert. Listening to the songs performed with a more traditional instrument arrangement (guitars, bass and drums) gave a glimpse of what the Fiery Furnaces would be like if they weren’t such mad scientists in the studio. Their songs translate pretty well into the format but I think I missed hearing the other elements.

Like the Beta Band, the Friedbergers create their sound with patterns and textures, whether it’s alliterated word-play or repetitive riffs. The problem is that that technique didn’t come off as well through the fuzz and distortion of amps and speakers on stage. So they relied on rocking it out on guitars, which wasn’t a bad thing.

I was impressed with Matt’s guitar skills but the band wasn’t exactly the tightest sounding live act I’ve ever heard. Yet unlike the Stills, the looseness seemed to play as a strength. Their albums are quite elaborate and crazy and I think meticulously trying to recreate them live just wouldn't fit with the spirit of this group.

One interesting incident tonight was when the two people next to me reached onto the stage and snatched a setlist out from under Matt’s feet before the concert was even over! I could easily read the astonishment and annoyance on his face. I wonder how disillusioning it would be to find out that your fans are thoughtless, rude assholes. Some of them anyway.

This looks to be an active year for the Friedbergers so here’s hoping for a few more New York shows and maybe an album or two!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Stop and Gotan

Four down, one to go! Gotan Project catches me by surprise by releasing their new album, Lunatico, next week on April 11!

You can check out samples of each track on their website, but I’m resisting the temptation. I want to savor the sonic splendor next Tuesday.

This discovery just made my day.

Changes are no good

Last night I attended the second of two shows by the Stills at the Mercury Lounge. There is a lot of apprehension in the fanbase because of the shake-ups in the band roster. I have to say that after seeing the show, that apprehension is justified.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by seeing other bands put on amazing shows such as Radiohead, Gomez or Thievery Corporation. These bands put out very polished albums but their live acts take them into a whole new spectrum of energy and sound. After these shows, bands like Weezer and Franz Ferdinand sort of bored me, not because they couldn't play live, but the songs sounded like carbon copies of the album. They still sound decent but not to the echelon that I’m used to.

So when I get to see the Stills, I’m disappointed at the muddy, loose sounds they make. The qualms over Dave Hamelin (former drummer, now co-lead vocalist) are valid. He just doesn’t have the vocal range or strength to carry most of the songs. I don’t think he was as bad as portrayed by the Crackers, but he wasn’t that good either.

That said, I’m not going to completely condemn this new strategy. Tom of Gomez has always contributed a few lead vocals on their albums, but early shows revealed an almost painfully off-key voice. Over the years, with either training or practice from constant touring, I’ve noticed that Tom has become a much improved, if not great singer. I was very moved by his solo waltz-version of Sweet Virginia at the Hiro Ballroom.

What really surprised me about the Stills concert was how shaky Tim Fletcher’s vocals were. I actually thought that he was off-key more often than Dave was. The addition of keyboards and horns seem like an attempt to mask these deficiencies. The Stills are looking more and more like a studio band.

So I’ll check out their new album when it comes out, but hearing some of the songs last night, I didn’t notice any evidence of progression from their phenomenal debut album. Logic Will Break Your Heart was one of the best albums to come out in the past few years. It has mature themes and sounds that seem to be completely lacking in their new work.

I’m wondering how much that has to do with the departure of their lead guitarist, Greg Paquet. Sure the face and voice of the band is still there but think how different Radiohead would be without Jonny Greenwood. Thom Yorke will always be the heart of Radiohead but much of the sound is created by Jonny, and I’m thinking this was the case with the Stills.

So have the Stills have lost that mature, dark sound only to replaced it with more pop and probably generic music? I’ll wait for the new album before I make a final verdict, but it’s not shaping up too well.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gotham finally thaws

The weather is gorgeous in the city today. The sense of spring awakening is tangible and very very welcome.

This city still amazes me. During lunch, in a five minute span I witnessed:

1.) A man yelling into his cell phone: "Tell me, are all of you fucking retards or is it just you?! Fucker!" And then hanging up.

2.) An elderly woman walking down the street bawling uncontrollably.

3.) A toddler reaching into a sewer drain while his mother stands over him waiting for him to look up so she can shove a banana into his mouth.

4.) A homeless man in a wheelchair untangling his iPod headphone cord.

UPDATE (4/5/06): I may have been a little hasty with this post seeing as how IT’S FUCKING SNOWING!!!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

One last time

In an effort to keep this blog from becoming completely pro-Gomez agenda pushing, I wont say anything about last night’s show at the Housing Works Cafe.

Instead I’ll showcase some of my own photography. Featuring Gomez.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Good ol’ Gomez

The three singers of Gomez played at the beautiful Hiro Ballroom last night. It was, as usual, a stunning concert that reminds me that I would’ve made a deal with the devil to have Ben’s voice.

The night started off with a pleasant discovery of David Ford, who’s style evokes the dark, dreamy landscapes (and arpeggios) of early Radiohead and the almost too weighty songwriting of Damien Rice. His vocals were impressive, but at times sounded a little too much like the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls. I was a bit annoyed that the guy looked like a Justin Timberlake clone with stage theatrics that would’ve rivaled that Coldplay guy. Nonetheless, the guy’s voice and talent are hard to ignore.

Back to the main event, I still have an intense love for this band that baffles and scares some onlookers. I completely relate to the band’s mentality. They tour constantly, love their fans, have no ego and enjoy each other’s antics. Imagine your college buddies getting their asses off the couch and playing music. Except that their music turned out to be really fucking great.

Plus there’s an appreciation for having three singers that share vocals and harmonize, probably rooted in my growing up listening to the Beatles and Beach Boys. You just don’t hear that nowadays. It helps to have three singers that can sing really well. Not just a frontman with another band member that thinks he can sing (the Stills, I’m looking in your direction here until you prove me wrong).

Here’s a sampling of one song that each of the Gomez vocalists took a stab at:

Silence: Ian solo

Silence: Ben live

Silence: Tom, album version

I also love these guys because they never stop evolving their songs. The live versions are always ten times better than the studio releases, but I’m amazed that they’re open to playing a bluesy version or a Caribbean version or a waltzy version. They find new sounds for old songs that they could just as easily and lazily horde for new tracks for albums. But instead they keep their fans excited and their old tunes fresh.

Yeah, I’m one of the crazy fans that stockpiles bootlegs but the reward is hearing new songs evolve and take shape. Here’s an early version and a live pre-release version of a song that’s on their upcoming album:

Working Title: Failure

Hamoa Beach

One of my favorite Radiohead songs, Follow Me Around, will probably never get released and there aren’t any good recordings of it anywhere. Yeah, that sucks but it’s also somehow still fulfilling to have discovered it.

Hopefully I’ve devoted enough of this post to ranting on Gomez that I wont have to do it ever again. But maybe not since I’m reliving the adventure tonight at the Housing Works Bookstore. If anyone can find bootlegs of these concerts let me know!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Out with the old, in with the news

I haven’t really had a chance to ponder much of what’s going on in the world lately, but here’s a stab:

Why is Bush so relentless in turning over several port operations to a Dubai company? Eyebrows are raising, especially when Republicans are starting to stand up in opposition to the proposal.

Meanwhile the talks to balk a nuclear capable Iran is not going well. The idea of a possibly antagonist nation aquiring nuclear power if definitely scary for the U.S. but it’s hard not to judge the U.S. critically as well. Like a bully who has a shiny toy but won’t let anyone else play with it, holding out on the rest of the world seems a bit selfish. But I guess it’s also a responsible approach. How could anyone realistically expect that everyone would not abuse this power? And if we’re so against the proliferation of nuclear technology then why openly assist another country in the matter? Eyebrows are raising a little more. I guess I don’t know enough of the details to completely condemn Bush for this matter but his track record hasn’t exactly been aligning in my favor.

Elsewhere, it didn’t take long for the issue of abortion to pop up after the realignment of the Supreme Court. South Dakota steps up to the plate to take the first swing at abolishing abortion. It’s a very obvious attempt at pushing the issue into the forefront of the Judiciary. I, for one, am very surprised at the blatant and bold maneuver of the South Dakota lawmakers. They’re definitely not fucking around. But if anyone thinks this is going to be swift and clean is delusional. I can see this as the first step in a long and painful journey for the whole country.

What scary and interesting times in which we live.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

There’s a ringing in my ears and it’s not tinnitus

Three down and and two to go! The Stills are releasing a new album on May 9th, and I already have tickets to their NYC show in April. Add that to the Gomez trio show at the Hiro Ballroom that I got tickets for yesterday, and it makes for a good couple of months coming up.

Sounds like Radiohead is slaving away as well, so if Gotan gets their act together I’ll have a grand slam for my anticipated bands with a few concerts sprinkled in. Rock on!

UPDATE: Also, not on my list, but Zero 7 is coming out with their latest, The Garden on May 15th in UK. Not sure yet when it’ll be out here in the US.

Monday, February 06, 2006

2006 music reprise reprise

Two down, three to go! Not to be outdone by Gomez, I’ve learned that my favorite wacky duo, the Fiery Furnaces are coming back with a new album, Bitter Tea later this year. AND Matt, the apparent mad scientist in the group, is releasing two solo albums. Whew! Going to be good year!

UPDATE: Bitter Tea will be out April 18.

Friday, February 03, 2006

2006 music reprise

One down, four to go! It seems like Gomez has heard my request and answered for my birthday. A new album is set to be released in May.

The best part is that the three singers with do a small acoustic tour and New York will be one of the stops. I [heart] NY.

UPDATE: Wow, looks like I was pretty close to the mark with the birthday comment. The new album comes out May 2.

Friday, January 27, 2006

1000 lectures in your pocket

Apple ups the ante in the Information Age by providing free podcasts of lectures from Stanford University, and apparently with more content from other universities to come.

What’s amazing is that there was little to no fanfare for this occasion. The most recent MacWorld Conference was buzzing about the release of the Intel-powered Macs, but this new iTunes U seems to have the potential to affect a larger audience. After all, their great iTunes program is free and can be used on PCs and Macs.

The internet is an amazing resource so I guess this can be viewed as just another drop in the bucket. But something about this strikes me as much more special. After all, this is a highly regarded university providing it’s resources out to everyone for free. Much more respectable than those bloggers out there...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Crusading against the brown-eyed girl

The Strip in Lubbock, for the uninformed, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the dusty town. No, not that kind of strip, but a stretch of land just outside of the county line that attracts people of all kind. Well, all kinds that drink anyway. You see, I decided to spend my college years in a town that decided to remain devoid of selling alcohol. Afterwards, I would literally stand in the beer section of grocery stores in Austin staring in disbelief. “You mean you can BUY beer right here?! No being ostracized to the outskirts of the community?”

Since there’s just about nothing to see in Lubbock, most people take their visitors to the Strip to see the glimmering lights and neon signs of liquor stores and lines of cars. I loved my time in Lubbock, but even the most devoted citizens of the town should be able to admit that the fact that a cluster of beer toting shacks constitutes a tourist attraction is pretty sad.

But God bless it anyway. I would’ve never survived Lubbock or college without the Strip and its social lubricant (still talking about alcohol).

On one of the many trips to the Strip with Chad in his Chevy pickup truck, he digs through his CD collection and asks if I’m a Van Morrison fan. I think to myself, “Sure, I’ve heard that catchy Brown-Eyed Girl song. He’s pretty good.”

Before I can say those now obviously foolish words, Chad mutters, “Man, I hate that Brown-Eyed Girl song. Worst song of his career. Makes me sick that that’s all people know of his.”

I give a small laugh and slink down in my seat a bit.

Over time, thanks to Chad, I’ve come to be amazed at Van Morrison and the music that no one ever hears. Sure Brown-Eyed Girl is a good song; even today I can admit that. But should one song cast a shadow over an entire body of work? Wouldn’t it be a crime if people only hear Love Me Do and never bothered to listen to Strawberry Fields or Dear Prudence?

I’m big on hunting for good music that you never hear, and one of my methods is to find artists that aren’t necessarily that obscure and hear tracks that no one ever hears on the radio. I always say that I like to “spread the gospel of Gomez” because I think they’re a fucking great band. People will recognize the voice on the Getting Better cover on the Panasonic commercial, but my god, so many of their songs are beautiful.

Fiona Apple will forever be tied to that Criminal song, but look past the angst, heroin-look and there is genius in the album, When the Pawn. Yeah, it’s still full of the girl angst but it’s hard to deny that there’s plenty of musical talent behind it all.

Then there’s Radiohead. One of the few bands to climb out of the 99 cent One-Hit-Wonder bin and be widely recognized as “freaking amazing”. Radiohead certainly deserved another chance after Creep (still a great song, but again it doesn’t deserve to steal the spotlight from the rest of their work).

So in the spirit of getting people off their musical asses to rediscover and redefine what they think they know of an artist, here’s a sampling of Van Morrison songs (better than Brown-Eyed Girl) that more accurately defines his body of work. I’ll admit that I’m not as thoroughly familiar with his entire music collection so I’ll direct any further exploration to the Matador.

Everyone – Bless Wes Anderson for placing it in the Royal Tenenbaums. He’s known for great musical selection in his movies and this is a shining example.

Into the Mystic – The song in Chad’s truck that truly won me over to the greatness of Van Morrison.

I’ll Be Your Lover, Too – The most beautiful song ever.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Get inna studio and whip me up some music already

I could’ve done a Top Ten Albums of 2005 List but it was a pretty lean year in my opinion, plus I had less time to explore, what with the move and job hunt. Besides I’d rather forge ahead into the future!

I’m hoping a new, exciting environment and a more stable year ahead financially will allow me to discover something great out there. But I will also be anticipating some new stuff from old favorites. So here’s a Top Five Anticipated Albums for ‘06:

I still love these guys who are the workhorses of music, constantly touring and recording in the studio. Things have been quiet lately but they should have something out in the first half of this year and we’ll see what sounds they come up with this time. This is a great band live and I’m wondering why they never made it big. It’s like getting seeds for a gift instead of actual flowers. The flowers are an instant gratification, while the seeds, which require some time and effort, are ultimately more satisfying and surprising. That to me is Gomez. Each album has taken some time for me to accept and enjoy but once it sinks in, it’s hard to get it out of your head. These guys are more versatile and talented than given credit for.

The opposite of Gomez, in that you couldn’t freaking drag these guys into the studio and make music and even when you do, they fuck around for forever. They tried the philosophy of releasing albums quickly in succession (Kid A and then Amnesiac) but that didn’t last too long. It’s hard to believe that the Beatles could consistently release two or three albums a year! As for Thom Yorke and Co., I haven’t been as excited about them lately but my sheer love for OK Computer will keep me in good faith for a long time to come. I still maintain that Radiohead is a great rock band (recorded and live) but just don’t have the desire or attention span to do what they do best. On second thought, while I wasn’t gushing over Hail to the Thief, I think, like each of their releases, there is some great music on it. I think the bar is so high with them that it’s hard to surprise people anymore. If any other band had released that album, the music world would be in a frenzy. But now it’s just regular, old, amazing Radiohead at it again.

Gotan Project
Talk about another group that’s slacking off. They’re initial release was in 2001 and I’ve been waiting patiently ever since. Sure there was a DJ mix in ‘04, but I want some original material. But they seem pretty content on living off what they’ve got for the time being so who knows if they’ll whip out another album anytime soon. Here’s hoping they won’t completely vanish like Portishead did.

The Fiery Furnaces
Okay, okay so they released two albums in ‘05 so is it too much for me to ask for one this year? Well, EP was actually a collection of b-sides so it shouldn’t really count right? It’s interesting that the two releases last year were so polar; EP was their most accessible album while Rehearsing My Choir was their most abstract. I’m a huge fan but I’ll admit that RMC is a hard listen. I’m very curious to hear what they come up with next and in the meantime I’ll rock out to Single Again.

The Stills
They’re due for a release soon and there’s been some word on the internets so it’s a pretty good bet we’ll be hearing from these guys this year. I hope they don’t go through a sophomore slump and some of the lineup changes are worrisome but I’ll definitely be anticipating a new release nonetheless.

In Addition:
I’m going to say in writing that Weezer’s last album was so horrendous that I’ve lost all interest in any future releases. I loved the Blue Album and Pinkerton, and like the Green Album and Maladroit although something didn’t quite sit well with those two. But like a loyal fan, I went out and bought Make Believe without previewing it. Big mistake. Was this really Weezer?? Please tell me it’s a bad cover band. Make Believe This Isn’t Really Happening should be the complete title.