Wednesday, November 02, 2011


The greatest unreleased rock album just had its official release. (Link to the Guardian). I heard one track this afternoon and had to crank it up: the bass guitar line sounded eerily like something Paul McCartney would have played on the "Revolver" sessions. (I keep mixing up the chain of events. Is it Rubber Soul influenced Pet Sounds influenced Revolver influenced Smile influenced Sgt. Pepper?)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Marty On George


Martin Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison, "Living in the material world", will air on HBO next week. The trailer is on YT.

There is, however, no truth to the story that Ingmar Bergman will be directing the definitive Ringo Starr bio-pic.

Monday, September 05, 2011


I was "there" for Live Aid. In front of the television, anyway. And yes, kids - Freddie Mercury was just as larger-than-life then as he seems today. In fact, when he and the band performed "Hammer to Fall" that day in July, I was convinced he was 40-feet tall. Just fire up that YouTube video to see what I am talking about.

After that crazy, exuberant singalong/intro, Freddie exclaims "ALL RIGHT!" and the crowd echoes his exclamation so very faithfully. Freddie looks elated at the crowd's response. It's as if he is congratulating the crowd on their joint performance. This is what they mean when they talk about great performers erasing boundaries between themselves and the audience.

But I am not in the stadium. Not even close. I am fifteen years old, watching this thrilling moment unfold on live TV and I just lose my fucking mind. It's the kind of a moment that makes you want to run to everyone and tell them about this thing you just saw.

Now here I am. I just saw the YouTube video again and I want to tell *everyone* about it. So here they are: Queen, playing Hammer to Fall, at Live Aid. I hope you lose your fucking mind.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I'm Floating In A Most Peculiar Way

Early psychedelic rock was influenced by children's literature. So it's fun to see "Space Oddity" rendered as a children's book. Lovely stuff, whether or not you are a fan of Bowie or of children's books. (Via MeFi)

Now where's my "Atom Heart Mother" coloring book? (Just sell it with LSD-soaked crayons...)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jerry Lieber

"She said 'I'm gonna mix it up right here in the sink'"

"You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine"

"You're gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion"

Jerry Lieber, R.I.P. Like the greatest of artists, Lieber practiced alchemy: his songwriting transformed the utterly American idiom of rock lyric into a universal language. Only Lieber also invented the rock lyric. ("The warden threw a party in the county jail" - that is terrible law enforcement but what an opening.)

I get the chills just thinking of his discography: Hound Dog, Love Potion #9, Yakety Yak, Stand by me, Smokey Joe's Cafe, Kansas City, Jailhouse Rock...(and browsing around, I learned today that he also wrote "Jackson" and - I couldn't have guessed this one - "Stuck in the middle with you".)

Some obituaries: NYT, Village Voice (page has lots of song videos).

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Dalai Lama: The Rolling Stone Interview

On India's democracy:

"And here, too, I had the opportunity to visit Indian Parliament. I found big contrast. In Indian Parliament, lots of noise. No discipline. This was a clear sign of complete freedom of expression. Indian parliamentarians, they love to criticize their government. So I realized, this is the meaning of democracy — freedom of speech. I was so impressed with the democratic system."

On dialogue:

"Peace will not come from thought or from Buddha. Peace must be built by humans, through action. So that means, whenever we face problem — dialogue. That's the only way."

Finally, His Holiness in full on comedy mode upon being asked whether he will be buried in Potala:

"Most probably, if change comes and it is time to return to Tibet, my body will be preserved there. But it doesn't matter. If the airplane I'm on crashes, then finished! Follow bin Laden!"

The full interview

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Stereotypical Teenagers Are Stereotypical

A cousin's fifteen year-old daughter tells me, with a straight face and intensity that only fifteen year-olds possess, "American music is so overrated. I am into South Korean and French Emo-pop these days".

I rolled my eyes, of course, but I also wanted to pat her on the back and say, "Atta girl! You keep that attitude up for another two decades and you will turn into an old hipster like your uncle!"

Later in the evening, I found a bunch of kids, Ms. French Emo-Pop included, sitting at a computer and intently watching Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" on YouTube.

There's nothing funnier than watching a teenager trying on different identities.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dear Spammer, Always Remember to Use The Active Voice

You know your inner Grammar Nazi has reached its full potential when receiving spam email bothers you less than receiving spam email riddled with typos and grammatical errors (and you seriously consider writing back with corrections).

Which is why I applaud that Nigerian prince in exile who emails me every week - such impeccable language! That, and his convincing business proposition make his emails so much more credible.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Holy, Crap

A most unfortunate juxtaposition seen while driving through a small Southern town:

Arrow-shaped sign nailed to the trunk of a tree: "Church - all are welcome".
Sign planted in the ground at the base of the tree: "Free manure".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Go Man Go

One the one hand, it's starting to smell funky and the flesh is turning a disturbingly deep shade of black. On the other hand, it is a mango.

Oh, the decisions.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We're Not Dead Yet. That's All.

If I hear one more painfully obvious* Rapture/Judgement Day joke on the radio, TV or the Internet today (or ever), I swear I will go postal.

* Making a reference to that REM song title is just as serious a crime.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No Need To Imagine. There *Is* No Heaven.

"In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time."
Well, the good news is that Hawking did not dismiss the existence of the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.

But why didn't Hawking explicitly dismiss the existence of Hell? What if there's no Heaven but only a Hell? What if everyone goes to Hell? No, wait, that will make Hell just like earth, except with better heating and more interesting roommates.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Girl In The Picture

Remember this picture?

NYT has a front-page feature on Samar Hassan, the blood-splattered girl in the photograph. She's now twelve, a school dropout and is still traumatized by the death of her parents.

The story just breaks your heart.

We voted for a change. We voted so that fucking sham of a war would come to an end. But it's 2011 and we are still merrily creating more Samar Hassans. How is that acceptable?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Desert Island Beat

The BBC has made available its entire archive of "Desert Island Discs", spanning some 60 years. (Very nicely done site, but would it have killed them to include a Grooveshark playlist for each castaway? It's the web, make it work!)

As a concept, Desert Island Discs is so early-20th century. Now, one could simply ask for a Wifi connection (as a luxury item) and just ruin the fun.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blues For A Good Friday

The crucifixion of Christ has inspired so much art: great paintings, literature and, of course, music. But I want to talk about one song - a song that clocks in a little over thee minutes - Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark was the night, cold was the ground".

This very stark, dark piece features just one acoustic guitar (allegedly a knife was used as a slide) and a few moaned notes. With that sparse setup, Johnson sings about the great tragedy of that night when "His sweat like drops of blood ran down /In agony he prayed".

Now, those words don't actually appear in the song. In fact, Johnson's song does not contain any words at all. Those words (and the song's title) come from an old English hymn called Gethsemane, which served as the inspiration for "Dark was the night". (Wiki has more details).

The song reminds me a little of Hindustani music in its rejection of lyrics. Words can distract us from experiencing the emotion that arises from listening to a pure note or a great melody. In another way, this blues song could also be thought of as a continuation of the same line of thinking that runs through Impressionistic (or Abstract) art. By moving away from forms and shapes - the "words" of a painting - it is still possible to communicate. Besides, what words can truly express the sadness felt at the passing of that kind, decent man?

And so Johnson sings.

Dark was the night, cold was the ground. This is American blues at its finest.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Paul Simon

I'm quite enjoying the new Paul Simon song "The Afterlife" from his "So Beautiful or So What" album. An excerpt:
"Buddha and Moses and all the noses from narrow to flat, had to stand in the line, just to glimpse the divine, what you think about that?
Well it seems like our fate to suffer and wait for the knowledge we seek.
It’s all his design, no one cuts in the line, no one here likes a sneak"
With a line like "and all the noses from narrow to flat", how can I *not* buy this album? (Though I am just as impressed by the sound of the guitars on this track.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coitus Humorous

"Christian’s manroot jumped against her thigh and she imagined it a velvet-tipped iron spear. He would render her vulnerable, she would yield, then he would conquer her with his formidable weapon!" - “Desire” - Virginia Henley
There's a tumblr blog dedicated to collecting excerpts from bad romance novels and it's called, wait for it, Bad Romance Novels. (SFW)

Let it also be known that as a English Grammar and Style Nazi, I find the use of the "!" at the end of the second sentence in the excerpted passage more objectionable than the word "manroot". Just kidding. "Manroot" is easily the worst thing in that passage, followed by "velvet-tipped iron spear".

Yeah, I'm really classing up this place.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Sign Of Madness

I can hear the "Skype incoming call" sound everywhere. (Coincidentally, I haven't heard the phantom cellphone ring in a few months now.)

Someone's pinging me again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Any Day Now

"Standing next to me in this lonely crowd
Is a man who swears he’s not to blame
All day long I hear him shout so loud
Crying out that he was framed
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released"

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tarkovsky, With A Polaroid Camera

Back in the 1970s, Michelangelo Antonioni gave Andrei Tarkovsky a Polaroid camera. Tarkovksy, being Tarkovsky, took some beautiful pictures. Don't at least a couple of images look like they belong in a...Tarkovsky film?

(And so kids, the moral of the story here is don't be lusting for camera gear. That won't necessarily make you a better photographer.)

(Via -->via one of Roger Ebert's tweets)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Damn, Nature, You So Strange

"Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenonemon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitos than they would expect, given the amoungt of stagnant, standing water that is around."
This is some serious cotton candy.

OK, so which natural disasters are likely to give us cellophane flowers of yellow and green? (Never mind. I don't want to know. Ma Nature has a peculiar way of answering these questions.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lost Pix

A picture of two musicians warming up before a gig. (Also, a portrait of one of those men, captured in what can only be described as a bizarre mood.)

Some background.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Tut tut. NYT chooses to frame the problem of rapes in the New Delhi region as "a clash between old and new India". Sure, that makes the narrative easy to understand (Sarson ke khet! Software! Cow dung! Oh, Timeless India, you!) but what does the story really tell us?

Not much, really.

For example, the writer does not ask why Bombay and Kolkata, two cities that are also home to "new India" (city people) and "old India" (villagers, people from small towns and suburbs) have less (reported) crime than New Delhi? Or how New Delhi compares to Bangalore and Hyderabad, two cities that have also witnessed significant Old India/New India transition in the last two decades. Or what the crime rates are like in "Old India"?

So, yeah, it's still all the news that fits the convenient story arc.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Pictory: one user-submitted (and captioned) photograph on a topic. Simple idea, terrific execution.

Some favorites: this photograph in "Infrastructure" is a stunner.
A portrait in a feature titled "Platonic love stories". A really trippy shot of swimmers underwater. Or this picture of a passenger on a train.

Via Metafilter.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Blinded By His Light

"..I felt as if I had stared into the sun's eye" - Max Kaminsky, upon hearing Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" (The song; just don't stare at the sun too long.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


"Excellence in dining"

I'm not sure if I saw the above words on a sign outside a restaurant or on the side of a truck, but after spending a day in the Metropolitan museum looking at Medieval art, in which things are exactly what they seem, the carelessly applied quotation marks seemed layered and full of meaning. It was really more MoMA than the Met, "if you ask me". I wish more advertisers would dare to shatter context and expectations with improper punctuation.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tele@60 - \m/

The Telecaster turned 60.

Sweet mother of God, it's such a great-looking guitar. How could Leo Fender have got it right so many times?

I'm always amazed at how much the look of the guitar influences the way you hear the music. Telecasters were and are popular with musicians playing country-rock, roots-rock, blues, "Americana" and that will always be the sound of "authentic" and "true" American music to me. Conversely, whenever I think of earthy, raw, organic, honest, serious rock music, something un-gimmicky and un-trendy, I can't help but picture the musician playing a Telecaster.

I'm trying hard to remember the first artist I ever completely identified with a Telecaster. Most of my guitar idols played Stratocasters or Les Pauls (or Rickenbackers), so I'm guessing it was Bruce Springsteen. (Imagine if he played a Flying V?)

(Also see this auction site that sold one of George Harrison's Telecasters from the Let it Be session. Mama. That's one beautiful Telecaster.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

This Is How America Will Regain Its Technology Mojo

Spotted this trivia question on a packet of oatmeal: "What does the acronym CPU stand for?"

I applaud you, Mr. Manufacturer, for avoiding pop trivia questions. But I'm now afraid to go near that box of granola lest it spring a surprise test on microprocessor design on me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Two More Chairs"

This is what late-night TV used to be. (Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal duking it out on air. Dick Cavett and Janet Flanner join in. Everybody wins.)

What do we have on TV now? Jay Leno.

(I know, shitting on Leno is way past its expiration date.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Things We Said Today

Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, ice, frozen rain, sleet, snow, whiteout, black ice, snow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guess Who's At The Top Of The Pyramid?

The Egyptian government has reportedly cut off all access to the Net and SMS for its citizens.

So now we know - when the shit really starts to go down, this is how governments will take control. This is the future.

(And what is the Internet equivalent of the "rebels oust a government and take control of radio and TV stations" scenario? They tweet? They start a Facebook page? Everyone gets a text message?)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Much More Than Mere Anarchy

Hayao Miyazaki is one expert observer of children's behavior. Here's a a little scene from "My neighbor Totoro":

A family of three - a father and his 2 daughters - have just moved from the city into an old house in the country. This is the country house of everyone's imagination (and apparently beloved in Japan): a beautiful dilapidated structure standing amidst unruly grass, wildflowers and big trees, dark woods at the edge of the backyard and brooks and ponds with tadpoles and fishes.

Upon arriving at the place, the little girls race to the porch and with uncontainable excitement at having arrived at such a magical place, run and swing around a wooden column. But the old column, probably softened by rains and age, is unable to take even a child's weight and shows signs of collapse. The girls are shocked but not for long. Using a crazy, defiant logic that only children understand, the older girl pushes even harder against the column. It buckles even more under the force. The girls look at one another, scared, thrilled and delighted by this discovery.

"It's crumbling!" shouts the older girl. The younger sister, always repeating words and phrases uttered by her sister, echoes those exact words. The girls then run away from the porch, laughing loudly. They are so giddy at this new-found freedom, they break into cartwheels and a merry dance.

The scene is funny and touching. But it's also a little frightening. It brings back images from those well-known lines from Yeats' "The Second Coming". The kids are spinning out of control, they are pushing old structures down and they seem not to care about things falling apart. There is pleasure in construction and sometimes there is as much joy to be found in destruction. (Why was guitar-smashing popular with certain musicians in the 1960s? This is why.)

Now think of an adult's reaction to a crumbling column on the porch: what if it were to fall on the children? What about repair costs? Know a good contractor? Timber is so expensive this year! That paint job sucks!

But that is probably how the scene would have been written if the film were to be made by anyone else: the entire sequence viewed through the eyes of an adult, told with a cute-funny-mock exasperated tone. Instead, Miyazaki completely does away with adult presence in this scene. He lets the children be completely themselves in their environment.

So with one shot containing almost no dialog, Miyazaki sets up the contrast between the world of adults and the world of children. Adults have fears, anxieties and visits to the sanitarium. The kids too have those things (as we learn later in the film), but their lives seem to possess a different quality.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Summer Swells Anon

"See this ancient riverbed", "the pretty little patter of a seaport town" and of course, "the summer swells anon*" - three of my favorite bits from a song playing non-stop here - the Decemberists' "Down by the water". Such a great song.

I'm not sure if it's the harmonies on the song (co-sung by Gillian Welch) or the REM-esque** tune and arrangement that's got me hooked. Either way, this beautiful, bright, summery (is it really swelling anon?) tune is making the nasty winter enjoyable.

* Leave it to the Decemberists to work "anon" into a song.

**I dare you not to scream "FIIIIIIIRE!" during the song.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Needs More Donald Richie Commentary

A tumblr blog devoted to the fine art of fake Criterion titles. Holy crap, some of those posters actually make me want to watch the movie.

(And what, may I ask, is so funny about mocking "Air Bud"? It was a heart-warming movie. Besides, that Golden Retriever was just so...fetching.)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sgt. Frodo's Lonely Hearts Club Ring

Two of my favorite images from a poster contest on Super Punch celebrating what might have been one awesomely bizarre collaboration - Kubrick, Tolkien and the Beatles. (Apparently Tolkien killed the project. Thanks, JRR, for depriving the world of a Beatles film and a Kubrick film. And who knows, maybe even a great soundtrack?)

But what if the Beatles had done LoTR? Would it have spurred the Rolling Stones to do something crazier? I don't know, like maybe make a film based on Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita"? (The connection) Who would be the ideal director for that film? Goddard? Bunuel? Fellini? (Now I'm getting giddy about an imaginary film.)