Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Awesome Videos

There are two really cool videos on the internet right now.

The first is the new trailer for Watchmen, which comes out 03.06.09 and is probably gonna be awesome. The book is great, and the original trailer is badass too. Here's the original (which doesn't give you much idea of what the movie is about, but is very atmospheric and moody):

The new trailer actually gives you an idea what the movie is about, although if it's anything like the book, any expectation the beginning of the movie gives will be shattered by the credits. The movie is being directed by Zack Snyder, who directed 300, a movie that I expected to hate and dismiss as an all-flash-no-substance visual extravaganza. Needless to say, 300 is one of the most badass movies ever made. Anyway, here's the new trailer:

The second is a bunch of "sport-stackers" (also known as "cup stackers") who take a bunch of plastic cups and then stack them and unstack them. Doesn't sound that complicated until you see these kids do it. Behold...

Apparently this has been around since the early 1980s, but is taking on a life of its own. I only found out about it a few weeks ago, but man is it cool. I wonder how someone could get involved in something like that.

Okay bye.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Musical Week

Some odd music-related stuff from this week...


Last night I went to see Iron & Wine in Buffalo, NY at a place that is now a concert venue but was an old church, and is apparently owned by Ani DiFranco. It was a very cool venue, and we sat in the upper balcony area on the stage right side.

Iron & Wine's first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, might be my #1 favorite album of all time. It's one of the few albums I own where EVERY song is good or great. In fact it might be the only such album in my catalogue. What's striking about the album is its simplicity; it was recorded on an amateur basis on a 4-track for Sam Beam's own personal use, and it was given (without his knowledge) to a record company -- Sub Pop, which some of you hipsters might recognize -- and it became and underground sensation.

When people say about an album, "it changed my life," I know what that means because of this album. It's not that it made me a better person or that I suddenly could shoot webs from my wrists, but it opened me up to a musical world I never would have thought to explore. Sam Beam's lyrics are some of the greatest ever written, and he is one of the only songwriters in the world whose lyrics could be printed out and be considered a stand-alone poem. Well anyway, I introduced my buddy Bruce to I&W about four years ago, and we both just fell in love withe the guy, his style, his voice, his beard. Everything.

Last night's concert was really strange, though, because that first album grabbed me so much with its lo-fi, DIY approach that I had been lamenting his later albums which were much more highly produced and had lost some of the intimacy of the first album. So when Sam came on stage alone, I knew he was going to have a band, although he did the first couple songs all by himself -- including "Upward Over the Mountain," my favorite song from Sam and one of the few songs that almost makes me cry every time I listen to it.

Weird thing was, his concert, usually so low-key and subdued, turned into an all-out jam, with 6 total instrumentalists all rocking hard and doing extended versions of old hits. His overproduction, about which I had complained so many times, breathed new life into some of his all-too-familiar songs. Awesome guy.


I played the game "Rock Band" this week, and to say that it's an obsession might be pushing it, but goddamn is it fun. I have been playing the bass mostly, but every once in a while I'll grab the mic and belt one out. (My favorites are "Nine in the Afternoon" by Panic! At the Disco and "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull. And though I'm not a fan of Bon Jovi, per se, "Wanted Dead or Alive" is a great goddamn song to belt out.)

My friend Christian and I were going through some of the songs available for download on the Xbox, and there were some really great ones on there. It was very cool to go down a list of songs and listen to 30 second clips and take a flyer on some crap you don't know if you'll even like in a four-minute version. It must have taken developers forever to create that game, not to mention all the royalties.


I have long been a proponent of satellite radio, but now that XM and Sirius have merged, I am a little pissed. Yes, it's cool that I can now get Howard Stern (although Opie and Anthony are still funnier, if much dumber) and all the NFL games in the country. But one thing that has made me super pissed off is that they eliminated The Rhyme, the old-school rap channel. It was #65 on the XM dial, but now there is no #65. Sirius had Backspin, which basically served the same function, but instead of merging the two channels into one, they eliminated the format altogether. The rap that they play on the two remaining stations (Hip Hop Nation and Shade 45, a channel run by Eminem) are all playing shit like T-Pain, Paul Wall, etc. The Rhyme was never a great channel (it always played way too much "old school" stuff from Newcleus and Kurtis Blow, as well as too many "pop-rap" songs from Biggie and Salt-N-Pepa, as well as their strange Tupac obsession), but it was the best that was available, and they did have some great shows like Subsoniq Classix. I will really miss that channel, and if they don't bring it back, I'm going to write them once a week -- Andy Dufresne style -- until they bring it back.


I made myself a mix-cd for my trip to Buffalo, and I really like it. The last one I had made wasn't all that great in my estimation. (I did give it another listen on the way home and it was actually pretty good after all. Amazing how distance can do that.)

Here is the track list:

On this disc is my current obsession on track #16 -- "Hail, Mary" by Shearwater.

I have a weird, obscure taste in music, some say, where I basically shun almost any songs that are played on the radio (in the playlist above, you will notice Boz Skaggs and AIC noticeably excepted). I actually threw one of my own creations and one of my buddy Bruce's songs on there too, just for the hell of it. But every six months or so, I will get obsessed with a song to the point where I will listen to it over and over again. I rarely listen to an album more than once in a given week, but some songs just grab me by the cojones and get inside my head so that I have to listen to them over and over. Some past examples of these songs include:
  • "Ghostwriter" by RJD2, which was my ringtone for about a year
  • "Fireman So Cold (A-Trak Blend)" by Li'l Wayne
  • "Jacksonville" by Sufjan Stevens
  • "Dirtywhirl" by TV on the Radio
  • "Big Bang" by Aesop Rock
  • "My Heart" by The Blow
  • "Can't Face Up" by Sloan
  • "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" by Steely Dan
  • "Way Down in the Hole" by Tom Waits (probably because it reminds me of The Wire)
  • "Avril 14" by Aphex Twin
I now have a feeling that this damn song is going to be added to the list. It's very folky and atmospheric, before building into a crescendo that comes crashing down. I'm not sure what it's about, but to say it is dark is a classic understatement. I don't mean to build it up, because it might not "wow" anybody else, but it just hit me the right way at the right time. If you want to see a video of it, click here.


So yeah, I know it's not interesting, but it's weird how music kinda ruled my life this week. Hopefully next week my life will be ruled by something more cool. Doubtful.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election '08 Aftermath

One negative side effect of the Obama win I never anticipated...

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

I'm Proud of Ya, Onondaga!

Here is how the votes shook out by county in New York state. The size of each circle is the relative size of the county by population. (As you can see, the state had a 1.1% "protest vote" as well.) Click the picture for a larger view.

People tend to think of Upstate NY as conservative country, but it looks like he took the three big cities along I-90 by a comfortable margin. Nicely done!

By the way, if you are either still looking for that last fix of Election season, or if you just love Behind-the-Scenes dirt, make sure you read Newsweek's scintillating seven-part Secrets of the Campaign, starting at Chapter 1. It is a narrative of reports that were forbidden to be published until after election day. It is mesmerizing, no matter who you were for. The more I read it, the more I respect McCain, admire Obama, and feel sorry for Hillary for relying on incompetents.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Joe the Plumber

I know a lot of guys like Joe the Plumber. Where I live, guys like Joe the Plumber are a dime a dozen. Let's check the profile:

White, check.

Blue-collar, check.

Works with his hands, check.

Opinionated, check.

Joe the Plumber, in his circle of friends, is the one that probably goes down to the local townie bar in Toledo, starts knocking 'em back, talking about how this country is going down the tubes because of affirmative action, Mexicans, and a departure from "American values" (whatever the hell those actually are). He probably advocates turning Iraq "into a parking lot!" right before he goes to the jukebox to play that Toby Keith "Put a Boot Up Your Ass" song. When he's done speaking his mind, one of his buddies jumps in and says, "Tell us how you really feel!" as the table erupts into back-slapping and uproarious laughter.

Joe probably watches NASCAR, thinks that "Here's Your Sign" guy is a real cut-up, and gets most of his information from Fox News. He's probably used the term "hell in a handbasket" more than once when referring to the country's future. And because he's a white, blue-collar midwesterner, you better not EVER question HIS patriotism!

Of course, he has no problems questioning anyone else's, especially some BLACK from Hawaii...

Am I calling Joe the Plumber a racist? Of course not, I have no idea if he is or not. But while John McCain seems fascinated that there is a man out there who is so brazen -- so BRAVE -- as to question Barack Obama and call him out on his dastardly "wealth-spreading" (and thereby giving McCain a message that he himself couldn't establish in months of campaigning), I see guys like this all the time. They are in my IT department, at the tire store, on their cell-phones while walking through Wal-Marts. If you are talking about politics at a party, they will jump in with, "No, I'll tell you what, HERE's how it is..." right before telling you how the world REALLY works.

Joe the Plumber is nothing special. Since John McCain pals around with a group of Senators and millionaires, he couldn't see that the handyman with which he became so smitten is about as ordinary a human being as you can get. And since when did it become okay for ordinary people to become famous at such a rapid rate?

If you are impressed by Joe the Plumber, you are probably someone who doesn't know very many interesting people. And the fact that the so-called "liberal media" is constantly trying to get his views on the world, we just might not have that many interesting people in the world at all.


Please watch this if you need any more proof that this fucktard knows nothing. Atta boy, Rick Sanchez!