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Archive for July, 2012

SOUNDTRACK: INFINITE JEST-“Determinism, But I Mean It When I Say It” and more (2012).

I admit I didn’t know this band existed until I Googled Infinite Jest music about five minutes ago, because, yes, I wanted to put a thematic song here.  Imagine my surprise that there’s a band called Infinite Jest (and that they are based in Boston).

Infinite Jest are an electronic duo (their site says they specialize in live shows with mind-bending visuals).  All of their songs are available for download on their site.  I picked this one because I liked the title (I was honestly hoping for a song title or two that referenced the book, but alas).

All of the music is electronic, but it’s not bass-heavy dance style–it’s more spacey electronic (the kind that I like).  I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the genre, but i like it from time to time and most of this stuff is pretty cool. I rather prefer the instrumentals, although some of the songs with processed and autotuned vocals are okay.  The track “Fuck” uses a sample of a scream which I would have guessed was Trent Reznor, but I assume anyone can scream like that.  They’ve even made a video for their song “Cuddling.”  Like Infinite Boston it shows scenes from around Boston, only set to music.  You can hear and see it all at their website .

[VIEWED: July 2012] Infinite Boston

For fans of Infinite Jest, William Beutler has created a very exciting project: Infinite Boston.

Infinite Jest is set in the Boston Area, specifically in Enfield, a fictional town that is located around Allston and Brighton, MA.  Many people have taken photos of interesting locations (fictional and otherwise) in the Brighton area, but none have approached this task with the steely-eyed determination of Beutler. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TALKING HEADS-“Life During Wartime” (1979).

I ain’t got time for that now.

Talking heads were many things, a weird band, a noisy band, a new wave band with poppy hits, and underneath it all, a punk band that rocked.  If you know Talking Heads from their great later songs, it might be hard to imagine how raw this song is. Byrnes’ voice is intense, the melody is staggered and frantic and the whole enterprise just feels like it could fall apart at any moment.

It’s a great rocking song, and if you haven’t heard it for a while it’s worth checking out again.

Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?

[READ: Week of July 23, 2012] JR Week 6

This week’s read was the first time so far that I found a section tedious.  True, it could have been the time of night that I read it, but the whole section with Gibbs and Tom (which I call the “God damn” section) while providing some recap–and some very useful stuff at one point), was also rather redundant, both internally and in the story as a whole.  It was also quite a downer.  (Infinite Zombies has a post about this book being a comedy or a drama, so I won’t get into that here–I will get into it there though).  Although as with most Gaddis, it was a very accurate portrait of two men wallowing (and would probably be funny to hear out loud), I was happy when Tom finally left the scene.

When we left off last week, Gibbs was coming into Bast’s room holding a bottle.  Bast was just finishing up his videophone conversation with JR (Bast says he was just talking to himself).  Gibbs says he is meeting a man named Beamish here in a little bit. But he interrupts himself “Listen!”  Bast explains that the tub is running non-stop as well.  And Gibbs launches into a poem:

Through caverns measureless to, where the hell…   Bosom where the bright waters meet, like living in Pittsburgh Bast  –confluence of the Mongahela [sic–should be Monongahela] and the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet to form the mighty Ohio (383).

I’m not entire surely where all of this comes from although As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet comes from a Thomas Moore song. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-Legend (1984).

I’m white, so that means I own a copy of this CD (according to the book below).  And I do, because it’s mandatory in college that you play “Jammin'” at every party.

Now, I like ska (yup, still).  I know that ska came from reggae, but to me reggae is just boring ska.  I couldn’t agree more with Barney on How I Met Your Mother:

Ted: Oh, get this, she plays bass in a reggae band. They’re having a show this Friday. How cool is that?

Barney: Oh, does she know that one song? Mm-hm chaka, mm-hm chaka. What’s that song called? Oh, right, it’s called every reggae song.

Although in fairness, listening to this again, it is a rather nice album (I guess I know every song).  I have a personal aversion to some of the really overplayed songs, like “One Love” (because if you go to any Caribbean location they all act like it’s the official slogan of hot weather.  We even have a Christmas ornament from St. John that says “One Love”  WTF?  And I don’t think anyone needs a 7 minute version of “No Woman No Cry.”

But some of the lesser played its (“Could You Be Loved” and just about anything with The Wailers backing him are pretty great).  Although I’ve got to admit I can’t take more than a few songs.  I had to skip through some of the last songs (thank goodness I don’t have the 2 disc version).

[READ: July 26, 2012] Whiter Shades of Pale

Christian Lander created the blog Stuff White People Like.  It was very funny (it hasn’t been updated since Feb 2011, so let’s assume it has run its course).

Lander had released a first book of SWPL back in 2008.  I didn’t read it (blog to book deals were overwhelming in 2008), but I had seen enough of the site to assume it was funny.  One of the funnier jokes when the blog first came out was wondering if the creator was white or not.  (Well, the author photo gives that away, but I won’t).

We grabbed this book at a Borders going out of business sale (sorry Borders, you are missed).  This book continues where the first book left off (I gather).  I don’t know if every entry from the blog made it into the book (the thanks at the end of the book lead me to think not), but I have to assume most of them made it (and maybe there is new stuff in the book too?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TAIO CRUZ-“Dynamite” (2010).

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love music–all kinds of music.  So how did I wind up with a seven-year old who is indifferent to music.  It took going to Cub Scouts, gym class and a friend who is far more opinionated than he is to finally get a song that he liked.  Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite.”

I don’t know anything about Cruz.  I think I had vaguely heard the song at some point (parts sound familiar but it’s not a terribly original song so it could have been anything).  I also had no idea this song was two years old.  I assumed it was a 2012 hit.  Huh.

So, it may not be the greatest song in the world, but hearing my son sing first the melody to himself while he played and then singing the lyrics when he figured them out and then even dancing around a little bit to them (showing off a bit for our friends–a major breakthrough), it makes this song pretty important to me too.

I even noticed him expressing interest in thudding bass notes coming out of a passing car (god help me).  But hey, I throw my hands up in the air sometimes saying Ay oh, gotta let go.

I just hope he doesn’t see the video for a few more years.

[READ: mid-June 2012] The Secrets of Droon: 35, 36 & SE7

These are the final few books of the Droon Series (except for Special Edition 8 which actually ends the series).  Clark and I were pretty excited to get to these two final-numbered books.  And it was worth the build up.  And, of course, it was wonderful to see a whole book devoted to Neal.

Book #35 is The Lost Empire of Koomba.  The cover drawing is really quite beautiful.  I haven’t talked about the art much in the series. It’s kind of cartoony (which works for the tone), but this cover and the next are striking in their realism. It’s very cool.  At one point I think I noticed a change in style of the art within–I didn’t like it quite as much.  But the covers, wow.

At the End of SE#6, Eric told the kids that they had 5 Droon days before Gethwing would begin his all-out assault on Droon.  So, they have five days to get the elixir that will be the antidote to his poison, they need to find the Moon medallion.  Oh and they need to find Galen, and, geez, stop every outpost in Droon from being destroyed.

So who would have guessed that this book would be located primarily in a place we’ve never seen before—the lost Empire of Koomba.  Koomba was a beautiful city in the desert.  But over the years the city disappeared and all that is left is a star-shaped dune and a small trading post.  But it’s more like the Bermuda triangle with travelers getting lost and things going missing every time anyone approaches. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (2012).

Nada Surf continues to put out poppy guitar rock.  I tend to link them with Guster, in that they write really catchy pop songs about unexpected things.  The songs are usually fast, but they also writes some slower songs too.  They would make a good double bill.

This album with the wonderful title is 38 minutes long, a perfect light summer album.  If you don’t get “Waiting for Something” (which I agree is repeated waaay too often in the chorus) stuck in your head, then you haven’t been listening to this record.

All ten songs feature bouncy guitars (except “When I Was Young” which opens as a slow ballad), although even this song, after about 2 minutes, calls forth loud electric guitars.  There are some elements that show the band “maturing”–strings on “When I Was Young” horns on “Let the Fight Do the Fighting.”  But one of the songs references Gilligan’s Island, so they’re not maturing too much.

And some of the songs sound like throwbacks to other eras too, the 60s guitar intro of “Jules and Jim,” the R.E.M. ish intro of “Waiting for Something.”  It’s a great album, fun, catchy and perfect for driving.

[READ: July 24, 2012] Emmaus

I had no idea who Alessandro Baricco was when I got this book as part of my Book of the Month deal with McSweeney’s.  But I’ve never been disappointed by one of their new books before, so it was worth checking out.

The book is short–134 pages–and is novella length, which is the perfect length for this story.  [I had just read about Jim Harrison and his novellas, and I believe that there needs to be more novellas published].  This book was originally written in Italian and was translated by Ann Goldstein.

There is a prologue which is completely exciting and absolutely wonderful.  It’s only a page and a half, but it is intriguing, funny, deep and, most of all, really surprising.

The opening of the book doesn’t quite match the excitement of the prologue, but that’s because this novella has two aspects–deep, thoughtful introspection and base, animal instinct.  And Baricco/Goldstein does an excellent job keeping the flow and continuity going between these two very different writing extremes.

The book reminds me of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides for two reasons.  One: it is written about a group of boys and is written in the second person plural (at least the beginning is) and two: they are all watching a girl who is beyond their ken–someone of their world but not, someone who is en route to hurt herself.  And there’s nothing they can do about it.

But this book is entirely its own.  There are four boys who make up the initial “we” (and when it diverges from plural to singular, you really feel the loss of the other boys).  And so the book starts: “We’re all sixteen or seventeen years old, but we aren’t really aware of it.”  The four boys are good boys–Catholic (and believers, at that), who play in the church band, who volunteer removing catheters at the poor person’s hospital and who plan to not have sex before marriage (heavy petting is okay but it never goes too far).  The four boys are: the narrator, whose name is never given I don’t think; Luca, whose father is rumored to be suicidal; Bobby, the most outgoing of the bunch and The Saint, a very pious young man who has designed for the priesthood and who is not afraid to be seen as more pious than you. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ST. VINCENT-Actor (2009).

I had seen St Vincent on Austin City Limits, and her juxtaposition of waif-singer with noise mongering guitar player blew me away.  So I was a little disappointed when this album opened up with this gentle, practically 1950s sounding vocal and string line in “The Strangers.”  It takes two and a half minutes, but the noise eventually comes and it totally changes the texture of the song.  Of course now, “make the black hole blacker” is a fun thing to sing along with (and the lyrics in general are pretty great).  “Save Me from What I Want” is another quiet song with a catchy chorus.  “The Neighbors” has a great melody with interesting strings over the top of it.  “Actor Out of Work” brings in some stranger sounds to the album.

There’s something interesting about the songs on this album, like the way “Black Rainbow” has these sweet string sections but for the end half builds a crescendo of tension. I also love that a seemingly delicate song can be called “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood.”  Perhaps the strangest song on the disc is “Marrow” which has a strange horn section and the chorus: “H.  E.  L.  P.  Help Me Help Me.”  “The Bed,” “The Party” and “Just the Same But Brand New” continue in this vein–like a Disney princess song with a horrible threat underneath: “Don’t Mooooove, Don’t Screeeam.”  But that sense of princess who are slightly askew really resonates on this record.  It’s not as willfully dissonant as her first record, but lyrically it’s a knife covered in cotton candy, it’s still a gem.

[READ: March 20, 2012] McSweeney’s #39

One of the bad things about having a job with actual work is not being able to write complex posts about compilation books.  It’s hard to have your book open while bosses walk by.  So, its been a while since I read this and I’ll do my best to remember it all.  Incidentally, if you’re keeping track I skipped 38, but I’ll get to it.

Issue #39 is a hardcover and a pretty one at that. It has a front cover photo (as well as many interior photos) taken by Tabitha Soren.  Yes, forty-somethings, THAT Tabitha Soren, from MTV who has a new career as a photographer.

This issue continues with the recent return of the Letters column (as the magazine and front matter become more serious the return of the Letters adds an air of silliness). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait-An Original Soundtrack by Mogwai (2006).

It’s no secret that I love Mogwai.  I like them so much that I even track down soundtracks to obscure films that I’ll never watch.  (Of course, since Mogwai play mostly instrumentals, soundtrack work suits them quite well).

The Zidane of the film is Zinedine Zidane, a French footballer whom many consider to be the greatest ever (don’t yell at me for that, I don’t have an opinion of the man).  I had to look up exactly what the film is about and I have to say I’m intrigued: The film is a documentary focused on Zidane during the Spanish Liga Real Madrid vs. Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and was filmed in real time using 17 synchronized cameras.  I watched a couple minutes on YouTube, and indeed it is a football match.   How on earth did they decide on that game (in which Zidane is ejected for fighting as the match nears its end).

The music is designed primarily for background and pacing, although there are certainly moments of great melody as well.  There are three songs that are more or less played twice (with different variations): “Terrific Speech 2″ and Terrific Speech” “Half Time and “Time and a Half” are similar piano melodies, and the opener and closer “Black Spider” and “Black Spider 2.”  “Black Spider 2” opens with the same melody as 1, but this song is thirty minutes long.  After a few moments of silence, it tuns into 17 minutes of quiet noise.  The remaining five experiment with distant feedback squalls.  Not loud and crazy, but something that creates a lot of tension, which goes with the end of the film.

Despite the titles, “Wake Up and Go Berserk” and “I Do Have Weapons” are a mellow songs.  They’re very pretty tracks.  Indeed, there’s nothing too wild at all here.  Fans of Mogwai’s wilder music will be a little disappointed.   And indeed, the overall feel is almost kind of sleepy, but it really captures another side of Mogwai, and the music is quite good.

[READ: June 20, 2012] “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”

Not bad… Junot Díaz had a story in the New Yorker just a few weeks ago, and now he’s got another one.

The familiar criticism of Díaz is that he writes the same story over and over (well, the other criticism is that he always writes in Spanish and English, but I think that’s a stupid complaint).  So here’s another story about Yunior and how he cheats on women and is basically a shit-heel.

While there is some validity to criticizing an author for retelling the same basic story, it is not unheard of in art.  Monet, for instance painted over 30 paintings of Rouen Cathedral.  And while they are all the same composition, individually they are very different.  Here’s four paintings (not prints a la Andy Warhol):

While I’m not suggesting that Díaz is on par with Monet, I am trying to say that you can work with a similar subject and create very different pieces of art.

So, yes it’s another Yunior story and yes, Yunior has cheated on his girlfriend again.  But this story is constructed differently.  And at this point I’m starting to wonder if maybe there aren’t multiple Yuniors–I’ll even think of them as in alternate realities.  Because Yunior sure has cheated on a lot of women by this time.

It makes him the perfect writer for “The Cheater’s Guide to Love.”

Unlike in the other stories, this one takes place over five years!  In Year 0 you are caught cheating by your girl (the story is set in second person).  She sticks it out with you for a time and then dumps your ass.  I liked how it was revealed just how many women he had cheated in her with over the years that they were together–he really is a shit.

In Year 1, you act like it doesn’t matter, but it does.  And you are crushed.  Your friends try to help out, but how much can they really do?  You think suicidal thoughts and imagine that that will make her forgive you.  It doesn’t.  By year 2, you have met someone.  But you find some bullshit reason (she hasn’t put out yet) and you break it off and go into another spiral.

Year 3 sees you looking after yourself–running and fitness.  In what I think of as a wholly accurate happening, you injure yourself running and are knocked back on your ass for months–momentum and caring are gone.  You look for substitutes but nothing feels as good as running.  So you stop.  And you let yourself go.

What I also liked about this story is that despite this background of the break up, there are other interesting things spiraling around Yunior.   There’s a fascinating look at racism in Boston (perceived or real?); there’s the woman who claims to be the mother of his child, the woman back in the DR who claims to be the mother of his friend Elvis’s son.  Both men act very differently to the news.  Elvis is thrilled to have a son, Yunior is freaked by this woman.  This is probably the first time that I’ve seen Díaz have a woman do behave the way they do in this story.  It’s also interesting to compare Yunior and Elvis by the end of the story.

I also got a kick out of all the women he used to cheat on his girlfriend with star getting married and they all start sending him invitations: “Revenge is living well, without you.”  Year 5 sees a completion of the spiral for all parties.  And a cool resolution to this story.

Much like with the Monet paintings, if  Díaz can keep his Yunior stories interesting (and varied enough), I will keep reading them.

For ease of searching I include: Junot Diaz, Bernabeu

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