Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Project For Z120

If the embedded video doesn't work, click HERE.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

From The Horse's Mouth

Just read a very enlightening interview with Simpsons creator Matt Groening over at The A.V. Club, whose weekly review of Fox's "animation domination" block of Simpsons, King Of The Hill, Family Guy, and American Dad frequently consists of anti-Simpsons dreck, stuff like "it's not been good since season ten!" or "this plot element was recycled from this, this, and this episode!" or "the episode was too much plot and character development, why can't it just be jokes?"

One of the great pieces of wisdom I've heard from an unnamed professor is that there are bands out there we just loved when we were, say, 16. But now, at, say, age 22 we hear it again and wonder aloud what the big deal was; it's our own personal nostalgia that we associate with it. One major act that has endured this re-evaluation was the Finnish group HIM. It's good...but nothing Earth-shattering. Same with all that 80's music I was digging when I spent my nights playing GTA: Vice City in 10th grade. It happens. You evolve, your tastes and expectations change - and whatever connection you have to it is more along the lines of where you are taken mentally when you re-visit it.

With that in mind, read this passage of the interview:
"MG: Let’s see, how do I want to put this… The criticism of the show, that it’s not as good as the show you remember when you were 9 years old, is probably true, but then no show is as good as the one you thought was probably the greatest when you were 9 years old. It’s the nature of comparing something to the thing you loved the most at the time. If the show had been cancelled after five seasons, it would be forgotten.

AVC: Really? The “cut down in its prime” legacy always builds things up—look at Futurama.

MG: Well, let me approach it from a different direction. Getting back to the idea about humor, I was generalizing about humor and anxiety and hostility, but the fact is, styles in humor do change. Humor does depend on surprise, and the things that people remember as the funniest things in the world, you look at later and you go, “What? What was that all about?” I mean, I love Laurel and Hardy, but I show Laurel and Hardy movies to people, to friends, and they think they’re too slow. The pacing is something they’re just not used to. They’ve had it drilled into their minds that everything has to be very cutty and quick and gross. So the relatively elegant and subtle Laurel and Hardy movies—which I can’t believe I’m even saying “elegant” in relation to them, but compared to crass comedy these days, they are—I think they’re great. The style has changed, and I certainly don’t think that people who can’t appreciate the brilliance of Laurel and Hardy are wrong. It’s just different style.

If The Simpsons came on now, having never been seen before, with those original episodes, I don’t think anyone would give them a second look, because they’re so crude and primitive in their execution. But like I said, styles change, and all I ask of critics—of online critics of the show that say “Oh, it hasn’t been good since season X”—is that, in the opinion of people who work on the show, that’s simply not true. I’m not saying that every episode is better than the previous, but I’m saying that to completely out-of-hand condemn a decade of the show is a very easy position to take, and the fact is, the show has done absolutely brilliant stuff consistently throughout its history. Like I said, I’m not defending every single joke in every single episode, but if we didn’t like what we were doing, we wouldn’t keep doing it."
[Italics mine]

So, to all the too-cool for new Simpsons episodes who can quote every episode that came out when they were in middle school, I give you this:

The creator of the show has said what I've been thinking since I first heard people bitching about the show's lack of relevance. I mainly heard this from Family Guy viewers. They're all about 16 years of age, or at least mentally.

To you, I say consider yourself righteously owned.

Those of you who still dig The Simpsons like Shelley and myself: you have every right to be smug about this one. Plus, Mr. Groening is a Beefheart fan. And you all know I love having any excuse to post Beefheart on here.

The frequency of these postings should indicate that my free time has, well, been freed up significantly since my project is 97% done and the grad school apps are all finito.

It's good to be back. Hope you agree. If not, it's a big Internet. You can leave. I'll be here.


The Neocons Want Another Terrorist Attack

I can't understand it. Obama has been in office for 65 days, and with the taste of sour grapes strong on their tongues - freshly removed from McCain's boots - the Neoconservatives, led by comedian Rush Limbaugh, are openly saying they hope Obama fails.

Our previous leader gets in due to one of the most egregious examples of nepotism in the history of American politics this side of the Kennedys, with the legitimacy of his first election still a hotly contested item among political scientists. Even his re-election is a topic of debate. But here it is, nine weeks into the Obama presidency, and people are hoping he falls flat on his face.

Before 9/11 and the subsequent revelation that we had a W.A.S.P. version of Fredo Corleone in the White House, the family idiot whose first decent gig was no less than the Presidency of the United States, Bush II sought policies that reeked of theocracy - the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, spearheaded by private focus groups; faith-based initiatives; and a strict policy on stem cell research, preventing any major breakthroughs from occurring since the line of stem cells scientists were permitted to work with were tainted.

Yes, Bush's agenda of compassionate conservatism made him seem like a sawed-off Reagan, as if this country hadn't had enough of his ideologies. Furthermore, Bush withdrew us from participating in the Kyoto Protocol, and more sinisterly the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Dubya wanted to protect this nation on a hill with an umbrella of weapons of mass death. As we have learned from history, brinksmanship is not the best way to manage foreign policy.

Then came 9/11. Everyone but the few who refused to sign the Patriot Act became ardent supporters of Bush. The only immediate reaction against our foreign policy came from the naysayer radicals, whose job is to constantly deride the actions of the US government, whoever is in charge. We rallied behind our President in the pursuit of evil, and so what if he gaffed and called it a "holy war?" Dammit, these colors don't run! There could be another attack - we have to stop them before they struck again. Our foreign policy became more like an action movie, where the bad guys with the nerve gas canisters had to be stopped - enter our charming lead actor - at all costs.

Wait, nerve gas? Who has nerve gas? Osama, right? No, no...but you know who does? That guy we gave nerve gas to in the 1980's when he was our puppet. What was his name, Saddam? Yeah, let's get him!

Summer of 2002 it started getting kicked around that the Iraqi government harbored terrorists, had something to do with 9/11, and was in possession of or seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction. Even then, I knew something smelled about this. Not to evoke imagery of a crackpot holding a "THE END IS NEAR SIGN," but dammit I was right! What followed was either the prime example of Reaganist foreign policy gone horribly, horribly wrong as we committed a colossal blunder, or one of the largest ruses committed in the free world this side of the electoral college.

The oppression would be televised, as we saw live images of Baghdad getting blasted to smithereens. It was called Operation Shock & Awe. Shocked? Somehow, in spite of my predictions coming true before my very eyes, the answer remained a resounding yes. Awe? No. Not in the least.

The man got away with murder until the midterm elections of 2006. Before that, the only sharp critics of the Bush Administration were members of what the media could dub "the liberal elite," the "leftist fringe." People like Cindy Sheehan, a sandal-wearing hippie who didn't stop her son from joining the Army but sure made a stink about it when he came back as freight draped in Old Glory. People like Michael Moore, a leading snake oil merchant of the bumper stickered station wagon set; he sharply criticized the war but owned stock in Halliburton, he couldn't stand to see his beloved hometown of Flint, Michigan fall into the trappings of the Rust Belt but lived in a mansion far away from the epicenter, oh yes - and he's fat. Even if you didn't see the exploitative speculative trash that was Fahrenheit 9/11, you could at least make a joke about Mr. Moore's girth.

Once the Republican majority in Congress disbanded after 12 long years of gridlock for Clinton and back-slapping approval for Bush Jr., it became fashionable to criticize the President. There were some folks who called for his impeachment - funny enough, none of them signed the Patriot Act. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was quick to say impeachment was NOT on the Democratic agenda. I guess if Congressman Kucinich had had his way and held everyone accountable, the halls of Congress would have gotten mighty quiet.

But now Obama has ascended to office - in the single greatest decision my generation has made that didn't involve signing an online petition or joining a Facebook group - the younger people of America who got him elected have turned off. We got him in, now let's allow him to fix everything. Bolstering David Letterman's query on whether Bush is the greatest political strategist in history or the buffoon's buffoon, the situation in Iraq is a volatile one, seemingly impossible to make a step in any direction. Obama could have opted to escalate the war - should we pursue "victory" (as defined by standards steeped in Cold War paranoia, wherein the spread of a contrary viewpoint is shut down and a McDonald's is built in their town square), the right step would be to send more troops and get the job done.

Not in a million years.

But with the pullout will come criticism from Republicans that we've gone soft - the fear that we'll look vulnerable in the international community (if there's one thing that will make the United States look stupid, it will be ending a war founded on what George Galloway called "a pack of lies" - yeah, we'll be the laughingstock at the United Nations...), thus prompting another terrorist attack. Hell, Obama's pullout was blasted by Reid and Pelosi - Devil's advocates, never to be satisfied so long as someone with a last name other than Clinton sits in the White House.

You would think the Republicans wouldn't want a terrorist attack, as it would theoretically mean the nation will rally behind Obama as being the kind of leader who looks good behind a podium in front of a pile of rubble and dead Americans. But the media is ready - and so are the politicians - to call a domestic attack an extension of Obama's lack of experience. This would be their chance, and they wouldn't dare pass on it. They'll call for another election - not unlike the California elections for governor with the recall of votes and such - and token Governor Bobby Jindal, a trained seal of a politician, selling his soul in exchange for ascending the ranks of a white man's political organization, would become our next President.

After all, it is the Faustian governor who is quick to defend Limbaugh's open prayer that Obama bites the curb: "Make no mistake: Anything other than an immediate and compliant, 'Why no sir, I don't want the president to fail,' is treated as some sort of act of treason, civil disobedience or political obstructionism." Great. I had predicted this sort of thing would happen - the crooks who put this nation where it is today, the faded decadence of yore now a cracked facade as America's many wounds ooze out blood the color of money, these bastards are now playing the cornered minority card.

And who better to voice such sentiments than a man of Punjabi Indian descent? If Gov. Jindal retains any fragment of the spiritual self which he sold to the Republican National Committee once Sarah Palin became passe to become the GOP's darling, he needs to wise up to the fact that he is a pawn in an almighty game of race-baiting.

Another Jindal quote: "This is political correctness run amok." Oh, yes? And what was people yelling "KILL OBAMA!" at McCain's rallies late in the election? Or the cracks made on Fox News about lynching Michelle Obama? Or Hillary's attempt to win the primaries by assassination? I suppose that rationalizations exist for all of these instances - such is the nature of situational ethics.

Other than tendering his resignation, the only thing that will prove Obama's worth as a leader to the Republicans is the baptism of fire (pun fully intended) that would come with a terrorist attack. I'm not encouraging it to happen. God, no. What I saw that warm Tuesday morning was horrifying. This is one of those things my grandkids will ask me about - and I will not forget what I saw, because whether I was politically aloof, conservative, liberal, socialist, whatever. We were presented with images of our fellow man, dead, dying, or suffering.

Anyone who wants to play the blame game of whose fault it was can shove it up their ass. It is a senseless debate, one that will not be answered until documents become declassified. And even then, what satisfaction will that bring? It won't resurrect the 2,700 who died that day. The dead in our military won't rise from their graves in time for Wheel Of Fortune. All the murdered Iraqi citizens, who died simply because they were Iraqis (to crib once again from MP George Galloway), won't come back to see another morning.

We've grown so cynical since the Contra scandal, "read my lips: no new taxes," the Lewinsky affair, Columbine, 9/11, and Iraqi "Freedom" (right!) that we can't help but see Obama as a potentially corrupt politician; others wish to judge him simply because of what his name rhymes with - or his middle name. Should another terrorist attack occur, we must convince ourselves that Obama would not sell himself to the military-industrial complex that has been running this country since 1945.

At least we'll finally be able to prove to even the most bigoted of Americans that Obama truly has no terrorist connections.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Been A While, Blah, Blah, Blah...

I had a great Spring Break. Wrote my final essay for my Kinks project. Had a bicycle accident that involved me not seeing a barricade. I flew - as did the bike. I'm pretty sure I'm ok.

On Wednesday, I got a call from Gill. He's grown up a lot and getting his priorities in order. It was great. Thank God.

Visited Nick in Muncie. We had a really fun time. I'm worried he's a bit lonely up there, but if he says he is happy then I believe him.

I spent most of the past day watching a shit-ton of Monty Python's Flying Circus, specifically season three and season four. I have officially decided that seasons one and two are the best.

This week I've had a lot of time to myself. Shelley won't be back until tomorrow, and even then I won't see her until after class. Anyway, between marathon writing sessions at the library and indulging in British surrealist comedy, I've done lots of pondering regarding my future. It didn't hurt that on the 13th (the day Shelley left; my first day of Break) I watched 'The Graduate' and wrote a paper on it.

William & Mary emailed me - they're not letting anyone in this time around, citing "financial restructuring." My registration fee will be refunded to me. I wonder if they'd be so kind as to pay back what I shilled out for postage. Anyway, it's now down to four schools. I've learned acceptance letters are mailed out before rejections - too much time has passed for me to remain hopeful about Case Western.

We'll see about the final three, which are the ones I've been rooting for all along: Bowling Green State University, Brooklyn College, and University of Massachusetts Boston.

Anyway, I've decided whatever comes my way will be for the best. If I don't get in - then I don't get in. It won't be the end of the world, I can always reapply again and again to the above mentioned schools and others.

I can't remember, did I mention our fallback plan? It involves relocating to a sunnier clime down in Austin, Texas and my pursuit of my stupid little pipe dreams of music/movies.

Though I've not been listening to music in the car lately - in fact, that car hasn't been doing much all around - I still decided to assemble a Spring Break 2009 mix.


01. "Mr. Soul" - Buffalo Springfield (Neil Young on vocals, pre-Crazy Horse.)
The band on some silly live variety program. Awful visual quality. Neil admits he cribbed that riff from The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

02. "Green Onions" - Booker T. & The MG's (Such a hot groove...and yet so simple.)
The house band from Memphis' Stax Records kicking ass on this number live, doing it faster than the original studio version. On a note of IU pride, Booker T. Jones attended Indiana University. Drummer Al Jackson is a perfect example of a feel-oriented. The guy's pocket reaches down to the floor.

03. "The Girl I Knew From Somewhere" - The Monkees (Been on a real Monkees kick lately; beautiful harpsichord solo)
Mind your ears - the volume on this one is a bit high.

04. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" - Bob Dylan (I'm still trying to memorize all 4,000 lines of lyrics to this one. Fantastic.)
That would be none other than Allen Ginsburg on the left side of the screen, looking like a priest. Shot by D.A. Pennebaker for the Don't Look Back documentary. Pennebaker would go on to direct the Monterey Pop doc on the legendary 1967 festival as well as David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust concert film.

05. "Dead End Street" - The Kinks (The topic of my final entry on The Kinks for the IMP. Beautiful song, hilarious promo film - see below.)
For some reason this was banned by the BBC...

06. "Don't Let It Go To Your Head" - Black Harmony (I thought this was a Blondie song when I first heard it. Great love song, to be played at our wedding.)

07. "Clowns & Jugglers" - Syd Barrett (I've discussed him before. Genius turned madman, and a testament to the dangers of drugs. This song was later reworked and titled "Octopus." It appeared on his debut solo record, The Madcap Laughs - the title being a lyric from both versions of this song.)

08. "Fool's Gold" - The Stone Roses (Another song that's cool and driven by a groove, though it's a rock band. They were touted to be the next big thing, but it didn't pan out. I'm really interested in hearing their first album. British critics still fawn over it - which I always take to be a good sign.)
This video screams early 90's, with all the saturated colors and such.

09. "World On A String" - Neil Young (From his super-depressing Tonight's The Night record. Something beautiful and macabre about this tune.)
Since Warner Music Group decided to clamp down on YouTube, preventing the exposure of potential customers to music they could enjoy online and then purchase at their friendly neighborhood record shop - but could download - I have had no luck finding Neil's version of this tune. Lots of covers, most of them awful.
Forrest - find this song. I think you'd like it.

10. "Circle Sky" - The Monkees (Written, along with track 3, by Michael Nesmith, whose talents as a musician/songwriter and role in the development of MTV is woefully overlooked. As for the song, two words: bad. ass.)
Compare this clip to that for "The Girl I Knew From Somewhere," which was taken from their TV show. This is from their 1968 film Head, written by a young Jack Nicholson. The band was obviously sick of being this sugar-coated hula hoop for twelve year old boys and girls, so they did this. As you'll see in this clip (especially at 1:37), the end result was a little off-putting to their original demographic. I think it's a great movie. On an unrelated note, Frank Zappa called them the most honest band in LA.
On another note, observe: THEY ARE PLAYING THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS. I can't believe in this day and age of Pro Tools and pop singers this is still kicked around - no one complained about The Beach Boys not playing their instruments on Pet Sounds, they just sang.
I digress. Rock on.

11. "(I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind" - Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul (1970's funk before it morphed into disco. Fuckin' Philly soul...anyway, yet another bumpin' groove. Lots of brass, some great guitar work - the solo at 3:27, GREAT production, more in line with hip hop than disco.)

12. "I Need Love" - Cheap Trick (One of their rarities, featured on their Sex, America boxed set. Rick Nielsen said he'd like to do this song one day with an orchestra. I see exactly what he means.)
The drone of this song predicted the rise of grunge in the 1990's. And check out that guitar solo for an example of how minimalist aesthetics can say so much more than virtuosic playing.

13. "Tired Of Being Alone" - Al Green (Beautiful soul, it sums up how sick I am of being alone in this cold, cold house.)

14. "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles" - Captain Beefheart (Easily his most accessible song off of Clear Spot, which is easily his most accessible album.)

15. "Gangsters" - The Specials (Part of the English ska revival, late 1970's and early 1980's. This sounds like a Clash outtake. If I ever make another movie, I want to set a car chase to this song.)

16. "Knock On Wood" - Eddie Floyd (Another cool Memphis soul tune. Later reworked into a disco song...ugh...but this version is great, with those beefy horns and a great vocal performance.)

17. "Positively 4th Street" - Bob Dylan (The number of people I could dedicate this to is too long of a list. I'm already wasting enough of your time.)

18. "Success Story" - The Who (Nick was asking me about this song, which he knew best for its accompanying clip from The Kids Are Alright. Written by John Entwistle, whose songs are always fantastic. Great cynical lyrics about the music industry on this one. My favorite lines: "I gotta give up my day job / To become a heartthrob / I may go far / If I / Smash my guitar" - a reference to the band's past, sung perfectly by Entwistle - and "Take 276 / You know this used to be fun...")
The full song:

The Kids Are Alright clip:

19. "Jack The Ripper" [Live] - Link Wray (Bow down before your conquering guitar king. One of the nastiest sounding guitar features I've ever heard - that bastard axe hums and feeds back like no other. And how about those pictures - he even looks like a badass.)

20. "Leaving My Old Life Behind" / "I Am A Hermit" - Jonathan Halper (These are the only known recordings made by this folk singer; I can't find anything else about him. He sounds like a young Mick Jagger on a good day, but with an experimental edge - listen to that intro on the guitar. It sounds injured. Backwards guitar noise, double-tracked vocals...beautiful and haunting melody. And yes, I see how the lyrics of both tunes relate to me and my present situation. I really am leaving my old life behind, with or without graduate school.)
These two songs comprised the soundtrack for a six minute short film by American avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger called Puce Moment. The film itself is an extract from an uncompleted feature called Puce Women. Beautiful use of colors in this one.

Let me know what you think.

In other news, another beach trip was planned for August 15th - 22nd. We're supposed to move out of our apartments by 8/15, so even if I wanted to go it would be difficult to sidestep the chaos of moving. I wouldn't go without Shelley, but since Eric's wonderful and charming girlfriend Sarah gave me her honest, heartfelt, and well-informed advice about my better half it's probably in everyone's better interests that I have moving as my [legitimate] excuse.

Refer to the latter half of this previous entry for more as to why. Apparently Eric read it - meaning Sarah probably did, too. So...chalk up one more excuse to duck out of the trip. Eric seems cool, though; any bad blood that created he seems to have let go. I don't really see Sarah as that type of person, though.

This feels like the Spanish Inquisition sketch: my one reason for not going is that I'm moving and that Shelley's not welcome - TWO reasons! Moving, Shelley's not welcome, and the inevitable cesspool of negativity - THREE reasons are moving, Shelley isn't welcome, too much negativity, and that they read my honest opinion on the matter - oh, damn!