April 2007

The greatest thing about loving three minute pop songs is that you’re constantly discovering (or re-discovering) the best three minute pop song in the world… and these things only last for days/weeks.

My current favorite is “Tiny Spark” by Brendan Benson. If you follow muzak, you may recognize his name from the coverage of The Raconteurs. He and Jack White are apparently buddies, and co-wrote the “Broken Boy Soldiers” CD. (While I didn’t totally dig that record, a few of the songs are fab.) By himself, Benson is a total pop classicist, kind of a Matthew Sweet type without the guitar wonkiness. If I had anything but rudimentary guitar skills, I’d probably create songs that sounded kind of like this.

And here’s a video for “Tiny Spark,” which is from 2002 or so.

When blathering on about my last entry, I stumbled on the video to Elastica’s “Connection,” which also led to me to its video for “Stutter.” And I’m struck at just how freakin’ great this song still sounds. Male impotence never sounded so sexy. It’s two minutes of pure manic pop pleasure.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about connections, the ones you make and have with friends and lovers. Those people who finish your sentences, the ones who bring a bit of calm to the chaos. Ones that you’re there for, and are there for you. Those things Justine Frischmann was singing about in 1994.

I’ve always been a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist. That is, I think tomorrow will probably suck but things will be better in the future. Despite this gloomily sunny outlook, I’ve reached the point where I’m afraid I’m unable to make long-term connections with anyone anymore. I have friends and acquaintances. Some people who might read this fall into one of those categories. And I love my friends, I really do. But I’m not sure I have a real connection with any of them. We all share some interests, and we might like hanging out, but something is missing. (more…)

In today’s edition of “Phiction Phriday,” we have a piece that doesn’t really work, “Wired.” I’ve futzed with it a lot, but I’ve never been happy with it. Warning: Contains lots of whining and bad language. Reader discretion is advised. (more…)

Over the years, I’ve managed to accumulate an ungodly amount of excess hardware. After rummaging through various boxes, I’ve made a list of some of the pieces I have. If any of the five people that probably view this blog from time-to-time are interested in some random hardware, drop me an e-mail. Prices are negotiable, blah blah blah.

A sampling of what’s available behind the “more.” (more…)

Hot Fuzz is a goofy send-up of action movies from the folks responsible for the equally goofy—and possibly better—Shaun of the Dead. It’s an over-the-top action movie in the Michael Bay mold, full of useless fast cuts, incomprehensible fight scenes, and as much homoeroticism as the truly horrific Bad Boys II. (It even has a bunch of inexplicable homages to the legendary Point Break with Keanu Reeves and an equally “whoa”-tastic Patrick Swayze.) It’s also laugh-out-loud funny.

Shaun of the Dead star (and co-writer) Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, who’s such a great London cop that he makes everyone else look so bad and is sent back to a picturesque small town with no crime. It helps for the audience to be a bit of an Anglophile, as the small-town London setting is full of the usual eccentrics, gardeners, a bizarre version of Romeo & Juliet that somehow involves The Cardigan’s “Love Fool,” and a renegade swan that Pegg and Frost are unable to bring to justice. Oh, and a lot of incredibly graphic deaths.

The first half of the movie is Pegg and co-star Nick Frost running around town, with the possibly retarded Frost character constantly talking about all of this favorite action scenes. It’s inevitable that things will go all to hell in the second half of the movie, as they get to act out many of those very scenes, usually with painfully funny conclusions.

If there’s a flaw with Hot Fuzz it’s that most action movies have already become so self-aware and silly that a lot of the gags in Hot Fuzz will probably be in the next Die Hard. Though maybe not the priest packing some serious heat and the old lady that Pegg gives a flying kick to the face; that might be too much for even Bruce Willis.

Cannibal SeaI missed this CD when it was released last year, but I’ve been really digging “Cannibal Sea” by The Essex Green. They actually have origins here in lovely and scenic Burlington, VT (though they currently operate out of Brooklyn), so they’re sorta local. And they don’t sound anything like Phish, so that’s a plus.

They’re actually part of the Elephant 6 collective, if you’re familiar with this; think of a serious debt to guitar pop, folk, and 1960s psychadelia. Some of the E6 bands include Apples in Stereo and Elf Power. (I saw Elf Power open for Elliott Smith a few years ago here in BTV and wasn’t all that impressed.)

The first half of “Cannibal Sea” is better than the second half. The opener, “This Isn’t Farm Life,” is particularly strong. It starts bouncing merrily along, kind of fades out in the middle, and then returns with full strings and a Spector-esque wall of sound.

Marry Me SashaLike The New Pornographers, the best songs are those where the pretty girl takes center stage. Though Sasha Bell isn’t the singer that Neko Case is—but seriously, who is?—it’s impossible for any indie boy not to fall madly in love with her as she belts out the chorus on “Snakes in the Grass.” (Click for a sample.) And “Cardinal Points” sounds like some weird mash-up between Stereolab and Wilco’s first CD, all primitive blips and bloops and background vocals that suddenly morphs into a guitar rave-up by the end.

But the best song, by far, is “Don’t Know Why (You Stay),” (Click me.) in which Christopher Ziter takes the lead vocals and Bell offers up some beautiful harmonizing on the chorus. It’s a glorious pop song, the kind that in some alternative universe would be blaring from every car that drives down the road on a beautiful summer day.

In today’s edition of “Phiction Phriday,” we have “Bittersweet.” Warning: Contains attempts to be like Raymond Carver. Reader discretion is advised. (more…)

Based on a strong recommendation from fellow baseball obsessive Bill Roper of Flagship Studios, I read the book Fantasyland by Sam Walker a couple of a weeks ago on a single cross-country plane ride.

Not that I’ve sampled everything, but this is the Moneyball of fantasy baseball. Which is to say, it’s a fantastic story that’s ostensibly about baseball but reveals many truths about other things.

(Like Moneyball isn’t about building a team on the cheap using slow white guys with high OBPs; it’s about assessing your limitations and exploiting market deficiencies. It’s also about using data in more meaningful and useful ways, even if they challenge the conventional wisdom. This is useful advice for any business or personal endeavor.) (more…)

When I wrote about “Grindhouse,” I commented that it was pretty silly to spend a ton of money to make something look like crap. This terrific article at the Entertainment Weekly website does a terrific job of summarizing some of the points I was making.

It also discusses something I’ve been noticing for years, that we’ve become a nation of collectors. “Well duh,” you’re saying. The existence of eBay makes that obvious. But we’re not just collecting things, we’re collecting minutia in our brains. The Internet has made it ridiculously easy—thanks to Wikis, blogs, etc.—to catalog and inventory everything in excruciating detail. (more…)

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