Friday, July 31, 2009

Spacesick makes stupid cute art that makes me giggle and want to hug things.

Click to check out the cutest organs ever and what really happened to the Venus de Milo. . .Continue reading!

Spacesick's blog features his design work, retro flavored illustrations, animation, and miscellany (including some potential mash-ups.) All of it is great, colorful stuff with sugar-high commentary from the artist, but the two things that have really stuck with me are how fantastically cute the graphics (a lot for t-shirts) are and the sweet "I Can Read Movies" series of book covers.

The book cover designs, taking advantage of old 70s formats of classic Penguin books and the like feature such films as "Dawn of the Dead," "Highlander," and "Sixteen Candles." The designs are precise and simple and oftentimes very funny. A few of my favorites can be found in the post above (up there!)

Spacesick's designs are, again, simple and colorful and cheeky and cheerful; they're hipster tees but they are free from tired irony.

"Organ Rejection," avail. as a t-shirt.

"Infamous mishaps throughout history" collab with artist Aled Lewis, also a t-shirt, also an action figure!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

C'est quelqu'un qui m'a dit que tu m'aimais encore

So it seems like Carla Bruni is practically perfect in every way, goddamit, having achieved the equivalent of the princess girls now want to be when they grow up-- a model, musician, political figure of sorts. Of course she is married to a DIRTY OLD MAN (ha! it wasn't the black man) who looks like an evil parrot, but I mean, I guess he's the king of France of something.

Bruni is a mature, classic beauty who makes the pedestrian Megan Foxes of the world look hilariously incompetent, and has an intriguing range of appeals from Audrey Hepburn-esque charm to a Yé-yé girl to what could have been the most gorgeous Bond girl, and she also has a good First Wife face-- approachable, the access point of the public and the media to the halls of power.

About a year or so ago we were favored with current it girl I made up my name by adding extra y's-Agyness Deyn's milquetoast foray into the musical world, and while that was like, uh huh, ok, don't quit your incredibly lucrative day job, Carla Bruni apparently writes her songs and has a wonderful voice. Her albums get lukewarm to positive reviews, and while they are your typical acoustic Chanteuse fare, there's not a lot to criticize because she gets it right and the result is an enjoyable and relaxing listen.

Musically, the tunes range from folk Français to echoes of le jazz hot to bluesy torch numbers. The spare, mostly acoustic instrumentation is unfussy and atmospheric, while the I-couldn't-care-less ambience is occasionally punctuated by chimes, insouciant whistling or an impudent, sly giggle [amazon].

Check out the dulcet "Quelqu'un ma dit (Someone told me)," track 1 off her 2005 debut album of the same name and the cheekier "Le plus beau du quartier." It's almost springtime music, or some mild summer night listening, so it might help you cool down in this nasty heat we've got going.

Carla Bruni - Quelqu'un ma dit

Found at

Carla Bruni - Le Plus Beau du Quartier

Found at

I was really excited about Public Enemies.

I even used my giftcard to see it on opening night.

The short of it is. . . Public Enemies is not worth the price of the movie ticket; it would be the same experience if you streamed it online or bought it from some old Chinese woman on the corner of Canal. As for the long of it. . .

1. The costuming.
2. Jason Clarke as Red was a pleasant surprise. He needs to be in more stuff.
3. Well, Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, and William Powell are sort of in it.


What's dismaying about Public Enemies, over and beyond the unintelligibility of much of the dialogue and the sliminess of its digital sheen, is that it has no sense of why it's been made [Sukhdev Sandhu of the Telegraph].

1. Shaky cam. There is no reason to imply a "we were there" feel if there was obviously nobody there. This isn't a horror movie. And the HD. I couldn't tell if if was the theater or the quality of the film, but it seems like it actually is a result of the HD.

2. Johnny Depp starring as Johnny Depp made for an uninspiring, uncharismatic Dillinger who walked around and smirked at things a lot la that pirate guy. Christian Bale was likewise blah, though billy Crudup put in an interesting performance as J Edgar Hoover.

3. Poor attempts at emotional grounding. When the screenplay writer is using some half-ethnic tragedy (Marion Cotillard's character, as I recall, is half-Indian or something), you know they're half-assing it. What was most peculiar was the screenplay's attempts at establishing the relation dynamic between Billie (Cotillard) and Dillinger. Dillinger on several occasions demands that or forces Billie to repeat phrases after him ("I will return, baby," or something.) I got the impression that the writer thought this would indicate how committed Dillinger is. Instead, it comes across as the first step in a controlling relationship that dives into abuse.

This spilled into the dialogue, which was packed with platitudes. Exchanges went somewhere along the lines of "I like whiskey and women"-- "I'm a woman"-- "You're not whiskey." Thanks, guys.

4. The Great What? In order to demythicize someone, it is essential to explain the social and economic conditions that gave rise to such a public's creation and embracing of the myth. This movie failed to bring forth the man that was Dillinger and the world that he operated in. If you are going to make it a romance, go ahead, but the vague and silly attempts to emotionally develop Dillinger (see above) only highlighted the movie's awkward handling of the entire history of the figures and events. About twenty minutes into the movie, I felt like I would have gotten more out of watching a documentary instead, no matter what kind of promise of humanization the advertisements made.

5. No shades of gray. The story was told entirely in black and white morals. The excuse could be that this was done because Dillinger is a folk hero, but the movie fails to acknowledge the economic and social environment that would give rise to such a figure that could be so easily cast in a black and white world. The reference to Manhattan Melodrama is almost embarassing for the film especially because Melodrama, for all its of-the-times, well, melodrama, actually ends up being more compliated than Public Enemies, with its straightfoward and predictable love-story and clear cut bad and good guys.

In particular, the writers felt the need to come up with a bumbling woman-beating cowardly federal agent in order to further (fail to) dramatize Dillinger's death. A second outcome is the uninteresting closing death scene. If the movie was trying to make any commentary, or even to inject any sort of complication into the myth of Dillinger and the environment he operated within, would not have whitewashed the moments after Dillinger's death. While the camera zoom up into a bird's eye view, it would have been fascinating to see precisely how the people in the street reacted to the death-- especially the souvenir collectors who supposedly began to essentially loot the body. That would have added some grit, realism, or flavor to what is essentially a flat movie. We all are still waiting for a Dillinger movie, a film that should be easy to make because of its fascinating source material, but which apparently isn't. You'd be better off watching Manhattan Melodrama, which I highly recommend. The actors are more charismatic, the relationships more complicated, and the everything just more better.

Public Enemy - Don't Believe the Hype

Found at

Richard Avedon Set

Speaking of models and sweet photography, Flickr user Confetta has, among a host of other great sets that are worth your time, a great Richard Avedon photostream, with pictures of everyone from Marilyn to that crazy Bjork broad to Carson McCullers to Avedon himself. Pictured above is a detail from one of my favorites ("Egypt") and there are plenty more where that came from.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to do it right because the New York Times couldn't figure it out.

We all got to make fun of the New York Time's magazine's hilarious presentation titled "latter-day Rude boy fashion with puffy sleeves and dresses that would scare Sid straight and last seen on Shane MacGowan while sober." Or something. But the point of laughing and pointing should be constructive, to point out flaws and to find alternatives or examples of the right way.

Luckily, Clayton James Cubitt has an awesome photoshoot "Lagos Calling: A fantasy anthropological study of African skinhead fashion from the early seventies." Check it out, below are my two favorites. And now. . . I want more Fred Perry products. Hrrmph. Make sure to take a look at his other stuff, especially the Katrina series.

via StayRudee blog.

"Post-racial" and the "unfathomable" arrest and Star Fucking Hipsters.

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who is old and cute) has been getting a lot of media coverage that I just caught up on yesterday while eating a massively delicious egg and croissant sandwich at the diner up the street (where there was the cutest old man in the world at the table next to us.) I just read CNN's article on it and I haven't changed any of my opinions on the incident. If anything, a lot of what has been said has reaffirmed it.

1. Don't argue with police officers. Raising a stink, no matter what color you are, is what gets you in trouble. So what I should say is don't argue with police officers unless you know what you're doing/what is going to happen. It's not like arguing with the DMV people.

Three days ago, coming back from the bodega, we saw an Italian/LI type run and get the cops and sic him on a black guy around the corner (apparently they had gotten in a fight.) He ran to a van full of cops who were sitting around outside the pizza place, and they all hustled over to investigate. One of the cops patted the black guy down, and the black guy, instead of pulling a Gates, let them do it, then talked to them reasonably, if loudly. Yeah, I'm sure he was upset, but he knew what to do in the situation. By that point, the accuser had of course disappeared and while it's ridiculous that six bored cops had to take care of the situation, the situation was actually taken care of by everyone's keeping their cool. We saw all this because they were right outside our building and we didn't want to go back in since we're not supposed to be living there. Experience with other incidents and the way things have been taken care of has made it clear that not raising a stink, no matter how humiliating, frustrating, or unfair things seem to be or are, leaves everyone not happy but at least kind of mildly satisfied with NOT BEING IN JAIL. (I'm really not into the romanticism/bragging rights of being in jail/your man being in jail, whatever.)

I'm not defending cops. Cops, for all the good they do or could do, cause just as many problems and have the capacity to cause a lot more. But right now, there's a system.

2. Who's racist? Gates brought up the subject of race.

The officer asked Gates to "step out onto the porch and speak with me," the report says. "[Gates] replied, 'No, I will not.' He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was 'Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police' and that I was 'investigating a report of a break in progress' at the residence.

"While I was making this statement [that he was investigating a phoned-in break-in], Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, 'Why, because I'm a black man in America?' "

According to the report, Gates initially refused to show the officer his identification, instead asking for the officer's ID. But Gates eventually did show the officer his identification that included his home address.

"The police report says I was engaged in loud and tumultuous behavior. That's a joke," Gates told The Root. "It escalated as follows: I kept saying to him, 'What is your name, and what is your badge number?' and he refused to respond. I asked him three times, and he refused to respond. And then I said, 'You're not responding because I'm a black man, and you're a white officer.'"

Wrong. Sgt Crowley was "not responding" because Gates was a non-cop and the sgt. was a cop. You can call police neo-SS-blah-blah-whatevers but you could be a walking Skrewdriver song and the police will get you for talking back.

Gates was the one doing the racial profiling when he said, "You're not responding because I'm a black man, and you're a white officer." He chose to be immediately indignant, which is understandable, but aggressively so and with regards to race. He had the higher ground because it was his house and he has proper ID. He lost it as soon as he started making the same assumptions that he accused the cop of making-- impressions based on race as well as assumptions about professionalism-- he assumed the cop couldn't see a black man as a wealthy professor, he assumed the cop as a white cop couldn't make a decision without regards to race. He has now also lost the right to accuse anyone else of racism without first acknowledging his own towards both whites (as anti-blacks) and towards blacks (as victims of anti-black whites.)

A neighbor phoned in the "break-in." All the coverage is likewise racial profiling by reminding everyone she is white. The "crime" she committed is not knowing who her neighbor was. On the other hand, she was trying to help out her neighbor. Gates and his driver were trying to force the door open because the lock was jammed. He had been on a trip. Of course someone is going to call the cops if the neighbor has obviously been out of town and two guys are huddled over a doorknob. It was all very innocent. Perhaps Gates' blackness contributed to her suspicion. Gates has said that he doesn't blame the neighbor but rather the policeman. Gates is clearly trying to find a way to bring up racism. His own admission that it was a "trumped-up charge" is correct-- but arrests usually are.

3. People need to stop saying "post-racial." In the article, it is used to describe a society free of racism. First-- it heavily implies (not explicitly) that the only racism existing and that needs to be fixed is that of white people. Second, pipe-dream. Third, Gates is quoted as saying, "There's been a very important symbolic change and that is the election of Barack Obama. . . But the only black people who truly live in a post-racial world in America all live in a very nice house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

The Obamas do not live in a post-racial anything. The fact that he is celebrated as the first black president of the United States means that there is still recognition of race. And frankly, that label is incorrect. He is the first biracial president of the United States. Racial groups will always claim or reject based on their own makeup. Virulent white racists will see Obama as black, virulent black racists will see him as half-white, and the list goes on. As a biracial American, I'll obviously see him as biracial. None of these are steps towards a post-racial society. Gates labeling the Obamas and himself as "blacks" is the first clue that we aren't in a post-racial anything, without efforts towards such a state coming even from its self-proclaimed proponents.

I see nothing "unfathomable" about the arrest, and I definitely see racist tendencies from both sides. Anyone who has dealt with a cop knows that raising a stink will be the determining factor in how far the law is applied. Gates is pushing the onus of his decision to argue with a cop on the easiest way out-- calling "ism."

Gates said, "There are 1 million black men in the prison system, and on Thursday I became one of them." Obviously a dramatic personality. Because he was probably kept over night and ACD the next day. And there is no reason to presume all 1 million of those innocent of a crime. Gates should not cast his lot so casually.

Gates is obviously a smart guy (Hahvahd) and knows it, which is probably one of the reasons why he chose to object to the cop's presence-- not as a black but as a self-aware well-off intellectual. He has said

"I can't believe that an individual policeman on the Cambridge police force would treat any African-American male this way, and I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I'm astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race," Gates said. "And I'm deeply resolved to do and say the right things so that this cannot happen again."

The focus should be on his words "to any citizen of the United States." Hopefully, as a media figure, if he tries to use this as a teaching tool, he will see it not as a racial issue but as a problem that needs to be fixed with the way police operate, especially the amount of power that they have. Because the cop was doing what he probably would have done no matter what.

There's a difference between having a valid complaint and doing the wrong thing-- the equivalent of doing nothing--to try to fix it. Take what Scott Sturgeon did, for example. Also a smart and friendly guy, and he did something dumb-- threw donuts at cops. Haha, funny. He did it to get arrested. He knew what a cop would react to and Gates didn't. Sturgeon sees his action as helping to raise awareness of what he sees as a violation of free speech (I'm still iffy on the whole thing but SFH has a valid point.)

This is not simply an issue about an arguably politically juvenile punk band & their lyrics or their sound decibel debate -- this stretches past all that now. [. . . read more here. . .] On top of that - during the incident last May - they flat out refused to give their badge numbers & took down the information of every kid that walked up to the venue. No matter what inane ramblings the man says - its punk to challenge authority (at least - the last time I checked) & its now an issue about the violations of free speech. Quoting an officer from the 9th precinct on the behavior of these Brooklyn Cops : " these people are no longer cops, they are criminals. "

("an arguably politically juvenile punk band & their lyrics or their sound decibel debate"-- hee hee.) Anyway, hopefully Gates will see that what's "punk" or "anti-racist" or whatever you want to say should be secondary to fixing a problematic system. The more you work on that system of authority and governance, the less problems, ie racism, there will be to contend with as that system is perfected by its citizens.

Mick has some good advice (cos this is supposed to be a music blog.) And PS- I'm really sick of hearing this album even though I love it-- I got mad into it last fall and then it tapered off from over-exposure, and now the boyfriend is getting re-back into it and monopolizing the living room speakers--but here's the video for "Two Cups of Tea," from Star Fucking Hipsters.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Florence and the Machine - Lungs Review

I don't know what it is that is stopping me from being crazy about this release-- many of the sweeping orchestra arrangements recall Patrick Wolf, but there's something missing. Florence Welch's voice is similar to Meredith DiMenna's (Saint Bernadette)-- sultry and flexible and capable of a lot-- but lacks the strength of Saint Bernadette.

This might be a result of the music itself. The album seems confused. Sometimes the epic musical grounding works-- particularly on "Dog Days Are Over"-- but at other times, like on "Hurricane Drunk," it just sounds like Joss Stone getting overexcited.

There is a strange contrived feeling, as though somebody pointed out that the album needed to be BIGGER and that's what they went for. While this works on the very Patrick Wolf-esque "Cosmic Love," which is saved from being a disposable by its use of a plethora of strings and backing vocals as well as well-placed drums, on most of the tracks, this unfortunately makes the lyrics-- and thus the vocalist-- seem disconnected. The music doesn't bother to become delicate in order to highlight certain lines or Welch's delivery. Welch mentions that she likes choir music, and while this is done well in the recording, there is a strange lack of natural melding between the lyrics, the voice, and the action of the song unless it is in that the music tends to absorb or even drown Welch's voice.

I think the problem is that the first version of "My Boy Builds Coffins" that I heard was an acoustic track that I heard on Youtube (skip the intro- it's tedious and will make you not really want to get to know Florence, who comes off as that boring girl who is spacey for the sake of being 'interesting" because she can't figure out what else to do.) This version showcases the words as well as Welch's voice and results in a product much more emotional and interesting than all the crazy film score like music that makes the final version almost maudlin. Even the demo version, which is a more jazz-oriented track that recalls Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" is more effective and affecting than the record cut, which I'd go so far as to say that they ruined it.

Perhaps that is it. Listening to the record, it seems like you should either be hearing a big lush album that could double as an avant-garde soundtrack or a sparse if not acoustic album. The problem comes with the feeling that the latter would have resulted in a better, more interesting product. Instead, they chose big and made an album that wavers between boring and messy except for a few standout tracks. Actually, the NME guy puts it well: "as it is, it may be breathtaking in places, but Flossie’s ‘Lungs’ are just a bit too full of bluster."

JLA to team up with Muslim Counterpart, the 99

This is cool-- the New York Times reports that the JLA (DC) will team up with The 99 (Teshkeel Media Group) a group of Islamic superheroes imbued with powers from gemstones containing the light of reason which, in classic superhero style, were scattered across the world. You can read the first issue of the comic at Fabian Nicieza, who has written Azrael and for The 99, will be writing-- no word on the artist yet.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Swimming Pools

In the same vein, indie rock came be just as big of a guilty pleasure as pop. So here we have--

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down-- let us ignore for a sec the insufferable indie rock band name here + (while I can't speak for the personality of Thao, who is a fine vocalist) an ethnic name to remind us that Asians can be insufferable indie rockers too-- make pretty typical indie rock, fronted by a pretty typical female vocal style that is just as dependent on the actual voice as it seems to be on the singer's attempt to swallow her tongue before she gets too excited and starts making the occasional stab at subdued yelps-- a suppressed Karen O.

But they do, I just found out, have a pretty interesting song called "Swimming Pools." Ignoring the pretty typical indie rock lyrics (stuff about "we" and "us" and "little girls"), it's a fun bouncy song with a banjo and an infectious beat reminiscent of Pascal. You can check out an interview with the lead singer (below); not terribly essential reading but the host site has quite a bit to offer.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Am I allowed to like that Lady Gaga song?

Another one of these-- coming to terms with guilty pleasures.

"Poker Face" is a great pop song, with good hooks and effects, where the lyrics don't even matter right off the bat. One youtuber seems to have thought it was "fucker face," which it might as well have been for all anybody cares. The actual lines aren't much more inspiring than that. And I thought it was "he'll reply" rather than "Can't read my--," though in my defense, my guess made sense-- I thought it was about texting, and "the poker face" meant she was not responding, or maybe he wasn't. Who knows.

Basically, "Poker Face" is fun, as agreed, but uninspiring. I heard it at the supermarket today (why do these places not carry sesame oil?), and all my exposure to the song has been in similar locations, but even though you can kinda groove to the song while you're poking the suspicious 99-cent peaches, and even if you go look up the music video when you get home, there's nothing there that makes me want to go look at her other songs, or even sit through the video. It's the case of bringing it up in one tab and looking at Smoking Gun mugshots in another tab.

The video, as far as I can tell, has some really sweet Great Danes and a strip poker game, though for allergic-to-pants Lady Gaga, the rules are different. Instead of losing an item of clothing, she has to change into an even uglier outfit, leaving her at the end with a stupid big bow in her hair and the guy next to her in his boxers. This is actually important because Lady Gaga as a media figure is irritating; she is doing nothing good for fashion and the extremities of her style makes her persona more attention-whoring than innovative. So when you don't need to watch the video, you don't have to worry about whether or not you like the singer.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


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