Thursday, May 28, 2009


Well guys, I got dinged again, this time by a scary little DCMA e-mail from Blogger, which I'm sure y'all have had personal experience with. This time I knew that I was posting a recently released track etc, I was doing it because I was impressed with that particular track and wanted others to hear it. Frankly, I didn't think anyone would notice this corner of the internet; as I said earlier, apparently free publicity isn't good publicity. Anyhow, I've pulled the Rancid track, just in case, but I'm keeping the other Green Day track up because whoever was pawing through my posts didn't really care to be thorough.

So I just want to take a sec to reiterate that Rancid has their entire album up on their Myspace, which is a pretty cool thing to do. It's not Reznor-core, and I'm not expecting it, but the best thing is that it's a very generous fan-minded move.

The Pacific Miniseries

Well, I had no idea! As usual.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the guys who brought you everything ever including Band of Brothers, are teaming up again to produce HBO's The Pacific, which will do, the advertisements are suggesting, for the Pacific Theater and the island-hopping campaign what Band of Brothers did for Europe. Hans Zimmer will be doing the score, and ignoring the fact that means that it will be a rehash of the Pearl Harbor soundtrack mixed with Pirates (which isn't a problem as long as people figure it out; in defense of John Williams he comes up with new themes and leitmotifs, if not filler, unlike Mr Zimmer, who does a fine job each time regardless), this is looking like a massive production that is slated to air March 2010. More and up-to-date info can be found at
"We are able to visit the home front on this one and we're able to show the guys before the War and after" [Tom Hanks.]

So, cool. I'm stoked. With Ingloriuous Basterrrds coming out, or however you spell it, this should be a fun run in screen releases. And yet, embarrassingly enough, I still have to see Band of Brothers. There are a few reasons that I haven't. We didn't have HBO when it originally aired, and everything time they re-air it on the History Channel, I come in halfway through, or it is out of order. And even though Virgin is going out of business, I would still have to spend much more than is feasible to buy the thing, even thought I'm ready to make the dive from hype to purchase (just at a lower price.) And finally, I am for some reason terrified of bittorents. I don't know why. It might be for the same reason that my new bazillion terabyte harddrive scares me. Whatever that reason is. ANYWAY, any familiarity with the Pacific theater campaigns suggests that this will be a pretty harrowing television experience. And that I need to get on that whole watch Band of Brothers thing.

The trailer is up for you to watch, the series being pitched as depicting the "battle that saved Australia" which I guess is technically what that whole thing started as, though it ignores the rest-- the part where they advanced towards Japan and set up airbases and stuff and like yeah, I know you all saw Letters from Iwo Jima. Anyway, hopefully they'll get the marketing right, because about the only people that direction is going to attract is Australians.

Also, this is an interesting site; it's personally maintained and has tons of photos and information, including profiles of the real players, overviews of the books that the series will be based on (as Band of Brothers was), and a wealth of information including a cool side-by-side comparison of the actors and actual figures-- the casting people got some of those pretty close!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Let the Dominoes Fall Review

Rancid is previewing their upcoming album in its entirety on their Myspace! Go listen! The record doesn't drop til the beginning of June (when some pretty epic package deals will be available), so this is a great opportunity to get a taste of what the band has been working on for six years.

It's a typically track-heavy Rancid album (count comes in at 19), but in the grand tradition the songs hover around the two minute mark.

Let's get the bad out of the way first, because for the most part I'm starting to really dig this record. The few songs that don't work are messy and border on uninteresting ("Lulu" gets off to a great start. . .)-- which is the lamentable part, since Rancid is never boring. Single "Last One to Die" is still a weaker track, though it makes more sense in the context of the whole album, though "LA River," which was one of the first songs that was previewed live last year and which I want to like, either needs some work or just won't ever work-- I need to hear it a few more times-- though it has a fun psychobilly bass riff. "The Dominoes Fall," an almost celebratory "whatever" track, has a silly chorus ("No no no no no etc") but is otherwise enjoyable. What saves many of the weaker tracks is the interplay between the vocals ("Disconnected," which I think also deserves a few more listens before a decision is made) as well as classic Rancid imagery (in "Disconnected," nation as the prototypical Rancid lady) and the gracenotes of Tim's pronunciation, syncopation and energy ("Damnation" and "I Ain't Worried About a Thing") and Lars' ability to make any phrase anthemically melodic-- basically, Rancid doing what they've always been doing.

When the tracks really fall flat is when the lyrics drag them down, especially when vague political statements are dropped, though this doesn't happen often beyond the noisy "This Place." When Rancid sticks to the more pathos-alert storytelling (think "St Mary") that in turn are able, when designed, to convey political views, the lyrics really standout, as in the nicely produced, "Memphis"-like "New Orleans": "Yeah it rained all night in New Orleans."

As a note, I do like Indestructible so maybe you shouldn't be paying attention to me, but now I think I know how people feel about that album, in terms of my feelings about Dominoes. I like it, and the more I listen to it (second time as I write this) the more I'm digging certain tracks, but it will take some time.

Two sounds that really work: First, the bands' return to their trademark swaggering ska/reggae punk ("Up to No Good".) This time, they are treading heavily in the territory of Tim Armstrong's solo release ("Skull City" could have been a more rock n roll-oriented track-- by way of, say, "She's Automatic"--off of Poet's Life), and while I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, the results are fun. Second: slower, contemplative, almost alt-country/western-influenced (in theme and sound) tracks like "Civilian Ways" (reminiscent of Ryan Bingham) and closing track "The Highway," a pleasant acoustic ballad complete with harmonica and generous feelings, are ths most surprising and characterize, perhaps, a new direction that the band could explore more. While it is a surprise that Rancid decided to indulge in this experiment, the exploration itself itsn't really a great leap of logic or geneology. A major component of Rancid's thematic material involves the outrageous boasting of rap and outlaw country, exemplified by the Transplants' work and also Viking, and punk tends to head south at some point (or maybe north, from Jamaica.)

I've been putting the new Green Day and Rancid releases side-by-side, mostly because of the proximity of release date and the anticipation. My final verdict? Rancid. I gave Green Day an ambivalent review because while on one hand there was nothing new, it was still a fun album on the tracks that got off the ground. On the other hand, Rancid, even though there are duds on the record, doesn't stray into self-parody or oversentimentality which is endemic in 21st Century Breakdown; my criticism of Breakdown is more concerned with fundamentals. Rancid has always had an earnestness to their songs that let's them get away with murder ("Radio"), whereas Green Day relies too heavily on shock value (oh, they said sodomy!), which might work for its new target audience but won't work for anyone else. in the world. Even though I held Rancid up to a much higher standard than I did 21st Century Breakdown, the rundown is that my more generous expectations were confirmed with Green Day--digestible, predictable and fun album unfortunately weighed down, much like American Idiot and songs like "Macy's Day Parade," by pontificating-- and were exceeded with Rancid--who don't let the few duds to be duddy enough to outweigh the good tracks.

  • New Orleans
No longer available; sorry guys-- they killed my Green Day post (all that hard work put into the review! I guess free publicity isn't worth it anymore) because of the tracks posted, so it's better to be safe than sorry I guess; looks like another few weeks staying off the radar, but I'll do my best to find other stuff to write about ;) Don't forget, Rancid has been generous enough to make the album available on their Myspace!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LA Times Bitches About NPR's Sausage Party Book List

Carolyn Kellogg, who is obviously a smart lady or she wouldn't have this gig, recently posted on the LATimes Book blog about Dick Meyer's "100 Years, 100 Novels, One List" opinion piece on Beneath a truly tacky and reductive accompanying image (edited with just as juvenile a sensibility above) that makes Kellogg's piece seem more silly then it should be made to, her complaint is spelled out: there aren't enough women on the list. There's 7.

Who isn't there: no Flannery O'Connor, no A.S. Byatt, no Annie Dillard, no Margaret Mitchell, no Katherine Ann Porter, no Isak Dinesen, no Gertrude Stein, no Joyce Carol Oates, no Margaret Atwood, no Edith Wharton, no Zora Neale Hurston, no Eudora Welty, no Rebecca West, no Annie Proulx, no Nadine Gordimer, no Doris Lessing, no Simone de Beauvoir.

I could never lament the absence of Zora Neale Hurston on a list, the woman who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of the few books along with The Bean Trees- the most politically correct book you will ever read (Indians, adoption, ethnic people, women, there must have been domestic abuse- I can't remember)-- that makes me tear my hair out for having spent time reading. And writing five paragraph hamburger essays on.

Kellogg also points out that a lot of books on the list are "the kind that were assigned to be read in school, which indicates a kind of incurious reader to me." This is an unfair assumption. For the rest of us, say, those of us who attended LA-area public schools, only a handful of these were assigned for reading, and that's if they were taught at all. I was at least lucky enough to go through the joke that is the Honors/AP English track in high school, and only 9 of those were assigned, and only 1 on the Miss "missing" list (Hurston.) Kellogg has no way of knowing how a reader came to certain books. Frankly, you have to be a pretty curious reader to read most of the books assigned in school, especially in light of the mediocre quality of teacher-hires tend to be, along with lesson and classroom quality. Kellogg has no business making anyone ashamed for coming to a book through school. No matter how dismal the state of education is going to be, if she is going to disparage the quality of readers coming out of it, she should better spend her time trying to rectify the situation instead of harping on gender politics.

Meyer's list, which he states was formed around the concept of "how much the book hit me, moved me, made me see — and how it stuck with me" is fine because it is his list. A comment on Kellogg's piece makes a good point: "I'm afraid your article comes off like you're complaining that someone else's favorite color is green, when your favorite color is blue." Maybe Kellogg is trying to make her blog (or job) more relevant, but the fact that it is such a cop-out complaint (women! as Father Jack would say) makes it just more of the same. She should make her own list and give not just names but specific books. Not only will this make someone take her article more seriously, it will interest someone in actually reading the book. I agree that Katherine Anne Porter is a fine author, and Ship of Fools is a great book. In fact, I would put it on a "Best Of" list, but I have no way of knowing what Kellog thinks, or what book she is refering to. More importantly, what book am I missing out on? Right now, the reader just glosses over the usually gender bias complaint because it is the usual names. The inclusion of missing male authors, again as opposed to specific books, indicates that she is just picking a fight without providing specifics (again, which Henry James book would make the list?) If she makes a list, it will be just as fun to take a look at, and it will be just about as much as Meyer's- a list of his favorite books- means. Anyway, when did "Best of" lists actually mean anything? The fact that it is a group opinion compressed into one long list has always indicated that to take them seriously indicates you're taking yourself too seriously.

I just like finding out how dumb I am by seeing what 5 or 6 books I've actually read. That's the fun part. (I've read a lot of books. But remember, there are like 80 Hardy Boys books, and 15 Rogue Squadron books, and I totally count the Lord of the Rings as 3 separate books.)

The ones I've read: (You can see the complete list here. I've starred the ones I would add to my best of list.)

2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
4. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad*
8. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov*
10. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
11. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
12. U.S.A. Trilogy,John Dos Passos
14. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee*
16. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren*
43. A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin (I'm reading this one now.)
44. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler*
46. Charlotte's Web, E.B. White*
48. The Secret Sharer, Joseph Conrad*
55. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John LeCarre
72. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
75. A Confederacy of Dunces,John Kennedy Toole*
76. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,Ken Kesey
80. A Fan's Notes,Frederick Exley
84. The Maltese Falcon,Dashiell Hammett
88. Seize the Day, Saul Bellow
94. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,John le Carre*
99. The Godfather, Mario Puzo*

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ok Bub (with or without FX)

On the eve of its release, the new Wolverine movie had 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The reviews were mostly from online sites with a clear geek bias, and by the release date the percentage had dropped to a more sane 37%. The world once again made sense.

At the same time, I had hoped that the initial enthusiasm from reviewers who are clearly fans of the genre meant it would be at least be a fun watch for like-minded viewers. This is not the case. I watched it a few nights (ack! delay in posting: saw it about a week ago) ago online, and though the real movie had been out for about 5 days, it ended up being the infamous leak version. All said and done, I'm glad I didn't pay the $13 I don't have to see it bigger and with real airplanes. (How funny would it have been if not even Logan's snikt claws were in the leaked version?)

There was something incredibly bland about the whole movie, much like the other X-Men films, and too much drama rested on emotional relationships that were never established in anything but name. (The only time it was successful was with the old farmer couple, but there would have had to been serious problems with the film to not win sympathy in that situation. It'd be like watching Dumbo's mother get put in jail and be able to say, either thanks to your own blackened heart or a complete failure on the part of the film maker, "Well, it's just his moms. Whatevs.") Gambit, who I still think should be played by Ed Burns and definitely think should not be played by the heinously coiffed unknown they got, was awkward and uncompelling for the eight minutes he was on screen.
It's not unwatchable, just not engaging or compelling.

I still think Hugh Jackman makes a good Wolverine, if a little less feisty than the comic version, and he's clearly enthusiastic about the whole thing, but he is not being given (or will likely ever be given) the proper vehicle. And don't even ask about Deadpool or the completely unnecessary Blob-Logan faceoff, or the feeling that Will.I.Am was gonna bust out the Peas or his holographic communicator to save the day. Honestly, I don't regret watching it and as long as you're not going in with expectations there are no surprises. Phillip French of the UK Observer says, "It's dull, bone-crushing, special-effects stuff, of interest only to hardcore fans who've probably read it all in Marvel comics." I'm gonna call Phil out on that last point. I'm not even a hardcore fan and the unnecessary changes were just silly moves. I wasn't asking for because I wasn't expecting loyalty to the confused web of wackiness that is the X-verse; I doubt anybody was. But nobody could have "read it all," as in all the silliness that was in there, and French is just indulging in his genre prejudices.

But Gambit sucked. Hard. And he's so not supposed to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here's a good question:

NYMag's Vulture blog asks: "Does the world really need a No Doubt Comeback"?

Why go back? It's not like anyone is demanding that she write any more songs about her relationship with bassist Tony Kamal.

Which is a good point. From what I can tell, it's more a reunion tour than a comeback; efforts to record new material have failed, though according to publicist, it can't be a reunion tour if the band never broke up. But the nostalgia-fueled ticket sales smack of reunion tour, and the awkward imaging to introduce kids who came of age during the Gwen solo years makes it clear that the band might as well have disbanded. When No Doubt made it big, the band was never not about Gwen's headlining the group, but now anything No Doubt puts out will have to struggle not to be Gwen, and then the other guys, and the kids and the Bush guy, even music-wise, I think, if only to attend to a demand. Still, ticket sales are fantastic, and you could never fault them for bad taste: Janelle Monae will be opening for the group's NY shows.

Um. And I want her shirt. The pants can go away.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The American Presidency Project

I just came across this resource in what was ultimately a failed bid to compare Iqbal and LBJ. But now I know about this site! You can search presidential documents and speeches, like LBJ's "Remarks At a Dinner Meeting of the Texas Electric Cooperatives, Inc.":

So we must be ready to fight in Viet-Nam, but the ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and the minds of the people who actually live out there. By helping to bring them hope and electricity you are also striking a very important blow for the cause of freedom throughout the world.

It's easy to be dismissive of the policy and situation in Vietnam, and of LBJ-- whose one wish was to be remembered for his Great Society program-- but it's another thing to take a good long look at the history, as well as the history being written, and to have the opportunity to be able to read the documents and understand the context of the times, which is why this archive is such a great resource.

You can look at Executive Orders from as far back as John Quincy Adams, read party platforms dating back to the 1840s, watch and listen to the presidents including FDR's Fireside Chats, and look at charts of speech lengths; check out the Inaugural Speech Length chart, and be sure to squint and see where the chart peaks in 1841. Yup, the longest speech, clocking in at two hours to read on a very rainy wet day in March, was given by poor "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" William Henry Harrison, who died after one month in office. You can read about what Harrison covered in his speech here.

The only downfall is that it is fairly hard to search documents, or at least not self-evident. The search function is the ity-bity magnifying glass in the upper left, and the text of the documents do not appear to be easily searchable themselves (or at least I had to find the LBJ speech by the title, rather than through the text.) But browsing through the site is a lot of fun, and as there is so much information (86129 documents) including up-to-date numbers all the way through Obama, I suspect it will take them a little bit of time to streamline the functions. Hopefully that will mean being able to easily click on a President's name and view all his data, documents, etc.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Lights Out Green Day + Foxboro Hot Tubs + the Network

Well color me sheepish. (Sorry, that is such a douchey thing to say.) Turns out Green Day is coming out with their 8th album in the next few weeks and I had no idea they were doing anything besides sorta pretending to be another band and making a musical-- they are, in the words of Billie Joe, "a bit more fruity than the Clash."

You probably all know this already, but here's the rundown. It will be another big ole concept rock opera album, following the story of a couple, Christian and Gloria, while they cope with a post-Bush America. Reviews so far are positive, and Rolling Stone says that it "makes [American] Idiot seem like a warmup."

I'm actually listening to some of their older stuff right now, and while I do miss that old sound, I'm glad we're able to say that Green Day is still good. While the stuff has been of a different breed, they have maintained their energy and musicianship, and those combine to make even familiar riffs and sentiments feel fresh and fun. Like everyone in the world except teeny-boppers, I got sick of hearing the American Idiot singles over and over again, but enough time has passed that I have started listening to that album again with fresh ears and the ability to really sit down and digest what's going on- not just the politics, which are predictable and will likely be again on this new release, but the pathos of the story and music. So the few years that have passed in between album releases was a smart move. If Green Day had just thrown this album out two years after Idiot, I really wouldn't have paid any attention to it. At this point, I'm excited to see what they have to offer.

I've heard two songs at this point from the new release, which will drop in mid-May. "Know Your Enemy", the first single, is catchy and anthemic, but it sounds more like one of the filler songs of that rock opera. I won't say it's boring, but it's nothing new. I will say that the video is boring; usually Green Day's vids are a lot of fun, quirky, and a pleasure to watch. This video is just Green Day playing the song. Somewhere. And then they catch on fire. But that's about it.

On the other hand, "Lights Out," also on the single release, starts with relentless drumming reminiscent of the opening of "California Uber Alles"-- and thus begs to be played quite loudly--then progresses into a song that references earlier Green Day within the framework of the big lush punk pop sensibility that now defines their sound. I'll admit that this sample has me more fired up for this release than the Rancid release. While my criticism for "Know Your Enemy" and "Last One to Die" is along the same lines-- nothing new-- Green Day at least makes sure it doesn't allow "nothing new" (for the band) to also be "nothing special" (in general), whereas "Last One to Die" is Rancid at their blandest. (I still have hope, though.)

Also, the new album will include 4 bonus covers of Social D, the Who, Bob Dylan, and Elvis. Awesome.

Here, is "Lights Out" off the "Know Your Enemy" single. Also, the Blanche-esque "Red Tide" from the Foxboro Hot Tubs release. And how about a Network track? (Because I love how he says "La Jolla?") [You can also preview the tracks on Divshare.]


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