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Archive for the ‘WMDs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Ten Rapid (1997).

The release of this disc hot on the heels of Young Team rather confused me, especially when trying to keep track of which discs were “real” and which ones were compilations.  This one is a compilation.  It’s subtitled: (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).  And the fact that it has ten songs on it tells you just how much they released in those two years.  (It appears that they released 4 or 5 singles, although all the songs don’t seem to appear on Ten Rapid, and there seems to be a song or two unaccounted for.  Wikipedia also suggests that some of the songs were re-recorded for Ten Rapid.  Gosh, what’s a completist to do?).  And given all that they released back then, it’s also a surprise at how short this collection is  (just over 30 minutes).

The amazing thing is how much the disc sounds like a complete recording and not a collection of singles.  It is mostly Mogwai’s slower, quieter pieces, and the overall tone is one of “mood” rather than “songs.”  And, for those of us who thin of Mogwai as a really loud band, the prominent use of glockenspiel comes as something of a surprise (as does the quiet singing on two of the tracks).

The opener “Summer” is not the same as “Summer [Priority Version]” on Young Team.  This one is a beautiful track with glockenspiel while the YT version is much heavier and darker. “Helicon 2” (also known as “New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 2”), is a wonderful track with an interesting riff and texture.  On a recent live disc, it was expanded greatly. “Angels vs Aliens” and “Tuner” are the two tracks with vocals.  They’re both rather quiet and kind of soothing.

“I am Not Batman” is mostly washes rather than a riff based song.  “Ithica 27ϕ9” is one of their best early songs. It’s also the one track here that really experiments with sound dynamics.   It opens with a beautiful melody that swirls around for a bit.  Then the loud guitars come screaming out until it returns to that melody (and all in under 3 minutes).

The final track “End” is an entirely backwards recordings.  Wikipedia says that it is “Helicon 2” backwards, and I’ll take their word for it.

Ten Rapid is a really solid collection of songs showing just how good Mogwai was from the start.

[READ: March 8, 2011] Donald

This book is a speculative piece of fiction that answers the question: what would happen if Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Guantanamo Prison.  Note also that the cover is a parody of the cover of Rumsfeld’s own memoir (released around the same time).

The main character is clearly Rumsfeld, although he is never mentioned by his full name, always “Donald.”  But his description and his biography make it obvious that it is him.  There is a Note at the end of the book which states that the information about Donald is as accurate as possible.

First we see Donald in a library, presumably working on his memoirs.  He is accosted by a young kid who asks him questions.  Donald is annoyed by the kid and more or less blows him off.  Donald then has a fancy dinner with his wife and “Ed and Peggy” (two people who I can’t place historically).

That evening, masked people break into Donald’s home and haul him off to a prison (he is bound and his head is covered so he doesn’t know where).  The rest of the book sees him taken from one prison to the next, tortured in various ways (nothing too graphic, most of the torture consists of thinks like disrupting sleep, keeping the temperature really hot or really cold, and asking him lots and lots of questions, sometimes for 20 hours at a time.  There is no physical torture (again, it’s not graphic). (more…)

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Howard Zinn [1922- 2010]

The death of J.D. Salinger totally overshdowed the death of Howard Zinn (which I just found out about today while reading a tribute to Salinger).

Howard Zinn was one of my favorite political writers, and I would have to say the one who has influenced me the most.  I first learned about him through You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, and have read most of his works since then.

His People’s History of the United States is an amazing read, and will make you rethink what you learned (or didn’t) about American history.    Zinn always spoke up for the underdog, and he tried to get people to see history (and current events) through the eyes of the average worker, not just the people who make and write history.

He was also a very outspoken anti-war activist.  He even spoke publicly against “popular” wars; railing against the military industrial complex and the inevitable injustices that war creates.

And in all of his writings and speeches, he was never stodgy or dull.

I’m not sure who will pick up the torch that he has now dropped.  But he will surely be missed.

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weekI’m not sure how I first learned about The Week. I think I received a trial issue in the mail. But after just one or two issues we were hooked.  The Week is a comprehensive newsweekly, although it offers virtually no original reporting.  It collates news stories and offers opinions from a variety of sources: newspapers, online magazines, political journals etc. And it provides opinions from across the political spectrum.

Each issue has the same set up (although they recently had an image makeover: a new cover design and some unexpected font changes in a few sections, which I suppose does lend to an easier read).

Each issue starts with The main stories… …and how they were covered. The first article is a look at whatever major story captivated the editorials that week.  (The growing gloom in Afghanistan).  And in a general sense of what you get for long articles (the long articles are about 3/4 of a page) You get WHAT HAPPENED, WHAT THE EDITORIALS SAID, and WHAT THE COLUMNISTS SAID.  The What Happened section is a paragraph or two summary of the story.  The editorials offer a one or two sentence summary from sources like USA Today, L.A. Times and The Financial Times, while The Columnists are from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Time.com, for example. (more…)

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blackSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (1999).

syr4This SYR recording consists of Sonic Youth’s interpretations of 20th century composers’ works.  Some of the composers are obscure, but a few are more or less household names: John Cage, Yoko Ono, maybe Steve Reich.  I knew a few of these composers from Kronos Quartet, but for the most part the pieces are all new to me.  Since I don’t know the original pieces I have no idea how faithful they are.

The most fascinating thing about the disc is the CD-ROM video of “Piano Piece #13 (Carpenter’s Piece)” which shows the band performing.  The “song” is literally the band nailing the keys of a piano down.

There are a number of guests on the CD, including the first (I think) performance by Coco Haley Gordon Moore (on the 17 second “Voice Piece for Soprano”).  And, the liner notes are all in English.

This is the longest SYR disc (at over an hour and a half) and it is a fascinating mix of noises and sounds and screams and spoken bits (okay okay okay okay okay okay okay).

This is not for everyone, not even the average Sonic Youth fan.  There’s absolutely nothing in the way of “songs” here.  The abstractness of the disc is palpable.  And, clearly, just knowing that one of the pieces is a bunch of people nailing keys of a piano, you get a fair idea of the breadth of “music” that the disc covers.

[RE-READ August 19th] J.O.I. Filmography

Before reading this week’s section, I had noticed that many people on Infinite Summer (and elsewhere) have discussed James’ films and how they relate to incidents in the overall story.  So, I decided to go back and re-read his filmography Endnote, just to see what else I could learn.

In general, with more background, the Endnote is much more interesting. The first batch of films are more amusing to read about just to see the emphasis on pain and disfigurement.  We also see that he had been using students and teachers from E.T.A. in his films for a while.

We have had an in-depth look at some of these earlier films: The Medusa v. The Odalisque; Homo Duplex, The Joke, The ONANtiad (which the endnote describes as unfunny).  But the ones we haven’t seen show distinct commentary about the state of the country since the Reconfiguration (it’s clear that J.O.I. was against it).  The American Century As Seen Through a Brick deals with anti-O.N.A.N. riots; The Universe Lashes Out is about the evacuation of New Hampshire during the Reconfiguration; Poultry in Motion concerns the toxification of Thanksgiving Turkeys; and No Troy is about miscalibrated Waste Displacement Units that crashed into Troy, NY (which was mentioned in the scene about people looking for entertainment outside of their living rooms).

[Unrelated to the story, on page 990 of my paperback IJ (with forward by Dave Eggers) every italicized word contains a superscript 1 after it (indicating, what? more footnotes?) It is an astonishingly weird glitch/typo and I can’t believe that it wasn’t spotted before going to print as it makes the titles actually harder to read.] (more…)

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ny1It took me going to Seattle to learn about The New Yorker magazine.  I was visiting my friend Rob and he was really surprised that I didn’t read the magazine all the time (my reading always seems to surprise people, see The Believer.)

Upon my first read of the magazine, I was surprised to see that the first twenty pages or so are taken up with upcoming shows: films, concerts, sports, everything.  I actually wondered how much content would be left after all that small print.

Since then I have learned that Sasha Frere-Jones writes columns in here quite ofuiten.  For reasons known only to my head, I was convinced that Sasha was a black woman.  Little did I realize that he is not.  And that he was in a band that I have a CD of called Ui.  He is an excellent resource for all things music, whether I like the artist he’s talking about or not.  Some entries are here.  This audio entry about Auto-Tune is simply fantastic.

But of course, there’s a lot of content.  And the first thing you get are letters.  I don’t think I have EVER looked at the letters section. (more…)

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powwer[WATCHED: June 2009] The Power of Nightmares

This is a film, not a book.  But I found it so fascinating that I had to say something about it.  I have to say it again, this series was truly amazing, and I encourage everyone to watch it.

The Power of Nightmares is a 3 part documentary, totaling about 3 hours.  It was created by the BBC in 2004.  The underlying theme of the film is that politicians have begun to resort to fear in order to achieve their desired aims.  Where in the distant past, politicians offered hope and future fulfillment, nearly all campaigns now try to scare you into voting for them.  (This was before Obama, and may explain the popularity of Obama’s campaign).

The premise of the series is that the rise of the radical Islamist movement (including al Qaeda) and the rise of the American Neo-Conservatives not only parallels each other but actually supports each other.

This documentary is well researched and, obviously, controversial.  It has, to the best of my knowledge, never aired in the U.S. (more…)

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mojoBack oh, fifteen years ago, I subscribed to Mother Jones.  I also subscribed to an unvaried assortment of political mags: The Nation, The Progressive, and In These Times.  But as I grew less politically motivated, I slacked off on the subscriptions.  I just didn’t have time to read all of that.

Recently, I added Mother Jones to my Google Home page.  I started seeing some good headlines, so I thought I’d look into resubscribing.  And for $10, I got a year.

At first I was a bit disappointed in it.  The first issue I received had the cover story: Who Ran Away With Your 401K?  And frankly, it’s gone, I don’t really need to see the trail of footprints leading to a culprit that will never be punished.  And that is the general focus of MoJo: Follow stories that no one is covering; muckrake, if you will.  And they’re very good at it.  And yet, most of the time I feel like nothing really comes of it.  Knowing that someone is at fault doesn’t make them pay for it (most of the time).

The other problem I had was with what we can call liberal guilt.  I’ve got better things to worry about, frankly.  So, when I get an article like this in the current issue: What’s Your Water Footprint? And the subtitle is If you thought calculating your carbon impact made you feel guilty, just wait….  Well, I’m not going to read that.

So the magazine starts like most magazines: the Out Front section is full of short articles that are usually depressing.

I do enjoy Conspiracy Watch, a small box that delves into a current conspiracy (by any side of the political spectrum) and sees if there’s any merit to it (with a rating in tinfoil hats).

There’s usually a look at someone in the administration and then some heavy-hitting articles.  This particular issue is all about the Drug War.  So there’s an article about drug violence in Mexico.  But then a more light-hearted, I suppose, article about drugs in the U.S., including a timeline for drug issues, was more interesting.  This particular one was a first-person account of the war on drugs.

The muckraking article was about the car dealers who steal from military families. (more…)

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