Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Tears On His Cheeks Are From Laughter

The Swiss finance minister explains customs tariff on spiced meat. Or tries to, anyway.

Ever noticed politicians don't have laughing fits?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Bound Pair

Slate has been running a series on "creative collaborations" and in that series is a 3-parter about Lennon and McCartney. I am not entirely convinced the subject of artistic collaboration lends itself very well to pop analysis (or even serious analysis) but that does not mean such explorations are not fun and Slate's writer does make a couple of very interesting points:
"It's supremely odd how history would play the collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The result of one of the most intertwined partnerships in music history, their work would consistently be reduced to static roles. It's almost as if, faced with the bound pair, a culture obsessed with individualism found a way to cleave them in two."
Individualism maybe, but figuring out who wrote what is also a fun musical parlor-game when you are fifteen or sixteen and first listen to "Nowhere Man" and "Yesterday" (or "Revolution" and "Michelle"). But many times, those guesses are plain wrong. For example, most of us think of John's music as being more edgy, but "Sgt. Pepper" was Paul's project - for the most part. Though many would argue that the edginess of that album came equally from the two Georges. Without George Martin's expert arrangements, production and editing, "Sgt. Pepper" would be a bunch of good songs and nothing more. (And this is why analyzing artistic collaboration sometimes strikes me as an exercise in futility. How can we ever know how these things really work?)

The third act in the Beatles' narrative is usually about the band's breakup and how John and Paul just stopped writing together; "White Album" being the key evidence. But is that really true?
"But even in the hardest times, it's hardly true that John and Paul stopped working together. In what was, ostensibly, the nadir of their partnership in January 1969, their concert on the Apple rooftop shows the two men in profound sympathy. At one point, John forgot a verse to "Don't Let Me Down." He and Paul proceeded in perfect sync as John sang nonsense lyrics, then returned to the top of the verse as if nothing had happened. You can see on the film how John shoots Paul a look of pure boyish glee. Several months later, when John wrote "The Ballad of John and Yoko," he rushed to Paul's doorstep. With George and Ringo out of town, he insisted they go straight to the studio. They cut the song in one long day, John taking the guitars and lead vocal, Paul on bass, drums, piano, maracas—and coming in with breathtaking harmonies."
That, perhaps, is one way to explain their post-breakup output. It is not as if their musical chops were in decline. They just weren't in "profound sympathy" with a collaborator.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Piper's Calling You To Join Him

"What initially looks like a classic ‘Overcoming the Monster’ plot turns into a nightmarish tale of disproportionate revenge. The Piper’s retribution oversteps the boundaries, suggesting society’s ultim­ate taboo: child murder."
What happened in Hamelin on June 26, 1284? It's a fun read if you enjoy reading about death, plague and lost children. (And who doesn't?)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dug? Dock?

The Internet, it makes you see familiar things differently.

(I'm pretty sure I saw this first on Reddit last week. But if ever there was an idea crying - no, quacking - for a website, it is this.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Cave Of Forgotten Dreams"

A couple of years ago, an essay in the New Yorker got me completely hooked to the subject of cave art. In my opinion, there are few topics as mesmerizing and as mysterious as cave art. The subject raises endlessly engaging questions: what were the impulses behind those paintings? Why didn't all early communities produce cave art? How did the concept of art travel from continent to continent? Does the existence of cave art prove that art is just as essential as food, air and water? And just how the hell did cavemen stand for hours and hours in dark, dank dangerous places and paint without proper tools and equipment?

So while I was hungrily scouring the library for books and articles on cave art, I came across this fantastically produced book by Mr. Cave Art himself, Jean Clottes. I found it much, much better than your typical coffee-table art fare. The book covers not just cave art in France and Europe but also in other parts of the world, including India. (That last link is to the Bradshaw Foundation's website, an excellent source of information if you are interested in the subject. (BTW, anyone know of a well-produced book exclusively about Indian cave art?)

All of the above is just an excuse to say Werner Herzog has a new film out on this very subject. Even if Herzog did nothing more than focus his camera on a little dark spot on a dirty cave wall and just spoke about art, caves, early man and civilization for 90 minutes, I would still be there to watch it. (Herzog's buddy loved the film. Cinematical describes the film as "nothing short of mind-boggling".)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


"Bokeh" irritates me. I don't know why.

YMMV, but it also seems that this word does not bow down to semantic satiation. (Or maybe I didn't say it for long enough?)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sacred Harpist

Bill Marx has a website about his father, that beloved "plug-hatted ragamuffin", Harpo. Thank you, Bill Marx.

Isn't it funny that while Harpo was the silent one, it is his presence in a scene that just completely shatters even that tiniest bit of sense and order? Harpo walks in and suddenly all bets are off. The character he played was, as his son rightly puts it, "a lunatic...a wild man capable of the craziest things imaginable".

Take the immortal lemonade stand scene. No dangerous undercurrents in that one - the currents are all up on the surface. Harpo's rebelliousness, the childlike pleasure he seems to take in destroying things of value (dipping one's feet into a vat of lemonade is just genius) and the funny, absurd, systematic take-down of a man who has done nothing to deserve that troubles that befall him. In other words, the purest comedy: someone else's troubles, viewed from a safe, comfortable distance.

Subversion through comedy is a wonderful thing to watch and who can believe that there once lived a comedian who achieved subversion through silence, scissors, candles and all these other things?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Never Metabisulfite I Liked

Coconut water containing Sodium Metabisulfite: Fail. Epic Fail.

I need something pure and natural.

Rum and Coke, maybe.