Monday, August 30, 2010

F*CK Yeah, "F*CK You!"

Cee Lo Green, the lead singer of Gnarls Barkley, released a song on YouTube about ten days ago entitled "Fuck You." Apparently it isn't on an album of any kind; you can't buy it in a store. It wasn't even available as a legal, for-pay download until a couple of days ago, after its YouTube site was viewed several million times in its first week.

I finally got around to hearing it tonight, and, now that I've heard it, I don't forsee it getting unstuck from my head or off of my workout mix anytime soon.

The last time an R & B song did this was Gnarls Barkley's "Smiley Faces" - unsurprisingly, another Cee Lo song.

Super Sad True Love Story

Some friends of a friend got married last month, and the wedding video that they had produced is so sweet that it makes me want to just hug somebody and cry. The music is a little much, but doesn't ruin an otherwise beautiful video. I'm really happy for Sari and Holly.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The National's New Video (??) for Terrible Love

The National released High Violent to universally favorable reviews in May, but the album's version of "Terrible Love," with its slower beat, muted vocals and atmospheric guitars didn't have the bite of their live performances. This video seems to be an official release of a live version of the song, falling somewhere between a music video, and performance art (?). Either way, we like it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Its a Little Shticky . . ."

Mayor Bloomberg was on The Daily Show on Thursday, discussing the Sliced Bagel Tax and the 'Ground Zero Mosque That's Not Really A Mosque.' The CSD staff are big fans of both Stewart and Mayor Bloomberg, and seeing their chemistry and old-fashioned, wise-cracking New York Jewish humor at work was, as always, a delight.

The embed is broken, but here's the link.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Party Down

The CSD staff has been plowing through Season 1 of Party Down over the past week or so. There's so much to love about the show - its rapid pacing, casual profanity, out-of-nowhere punch lines, and its hilarious cameos from beloved comic actors like Ed Begley Jr., J.K. Simmons, Kristen Bell, and Jennifer Coolidge. Though it has been on our radar screen for months, we didn't get to it until it was already cancelled, but we take consolation in seeing how just about everybody in the cast has graduated to more high-profile projects, which, in some cases (particularly Jane Lynch and Martin Starr) are long overdue.

This scene, from the third episode of the first season, is one of my favorites. As the "ranking a woman on a scale of 1-to-10" begins, we all assume we know where its going, but then it goes in a weird, overly detailed direction, lands a killer punchling ("I prefer linoleum") and develops both characters in the process.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Everybody Loves Freedom

In The New York Times Book Review, Sam Tenenhaus writes: "Jonathan Franzen's new novel Freedom, like his previous one, "The Corrections," is a masterpiece of American fiction." It is a great review; whether you should read it or not depends on how much of the novel you want spoiled.

In other Freedom-related news, President Obama apparently read an advance copy of the novel during his recent vacation to Martha's Vineyard. You may remember that former President George W. Bush read Albert Camus' The Stranger during his presidency - all 160 pages of it! But then, that is a novel about murdering an Arab.

Conan O'Brien's Comedy Record

"And They Call Me Mad . . .", the first track from Conan O'Brien's upcoming comedy album, was released yesterday. As with most things having to do with Conan, it is both funny and weird.

(Apparently the preview is only going to be up online for 24 hours.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Indie Rock and Vague T.S. Eliot References

"We Used to Wait," by Arcade Fire, live at Madison Square Garden. I love it when Win Butler goes into the crowd - that band has always had ridiculous chops, but now they are developing legitimate rock star-swagger to go along with it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Accidental Billionaires Is Full Of Shit

Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires details the founding of Facebook, and does its best to show who screwed and got screwed, and who knew what, and when. However, it isn't particularly well-sourced, openly speculates much of the time, and, one suspects, covertly speculates much of the rest of the time.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, is the main character, for obvious reasons. Facebook was his idea, though he may have been "inspired" by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, identical twins, rowing stars, and fellow Harvard students who hired him to work on a dating website called "Connect U" two months before Zuckerberg launched Facebook on his own. Whether Zuckerberg stole the Winklevoss' ideas or not is a bit of an open question; before Facebook went national, its main appeal was its exclusivity - if you were on Facebook, that meant you attended Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or a handful of other elite colleges, and that exclusivity was a big part of its appeal, particularly since Friendster and MySpace were, then as now, full of fake profiles and spammers. The Winklevoss twins' idea for a college student dating site limited to students at elite college had enough similarities, but also enough differences, to make intellectual copyright infringement claims plausible, but not certain successes. The inevitable lawsuit settled out of court for tens of millions of dollars. Also screwed over by Zuckerbreg (allegedly) was Eduardo Severin, a friend who fronted his own money, earned investing in oil futures in his spare time (!) to rent servers for the fledgling sites, and help Zuckerberg hire assistants.

To its credit, it emphasizes that Facebook's exclusivity was originally the biggest part of its appeal; I for one remember when you needed an e-mail address from one of a handful of universities in order to join, and I, like so many others, thought it was a welcome alternative to the likes of Friendster. However, the book is very well-written in other respects - it reads like a non-fiction airport novel, told in breathless prose, full of beautiful people, everything overly dramaticized to make it more exciting than it was when it actually happened in real life (Exhibit 1: the lacy red bra and martini glasses on the cover). It repeatedly misrepresents Harvard University as being overflowing with beautiful women who are fashionably dressed and flirty. I've spent a fair amount of time there, and it just isn't true.

Also, a good fact-checker would have caught any number of mistakes, for instance . . . anything involved in any of the book's numerous rowing scenes. Example:

"Five A.M.
A desolate stretch of the Charles River, a quarter-mil eserpent's twist of glassy greenish blue, braced by the arched stone Weeks Footbridge on one side and the concrerte, multi-lane Mass Ave. Bridge on the other. A frigid glade of water winding beneath a gray-on-gray canopy of fog, hanging low and heavy, air so think with moisture it was hard to tell where the river ended and the sky began.
Dead silence, a moment frozen in time, a single paragraph on a single page in a book that spanned three centuries of pregnant, frozen moments like this. Dead silence--and then, the slightest of noises: the sound of two knifelike oars dipped expertly into that frigid glade, pivoting beneath the swirl of greenish blue, levering backward in a perfect and complex marriage of mechanics and art.
A second later, a two-man skif slid out from under the shadow of Weeks Bridge, its phallic, fiberglass body slicing down the center of the curving river like a diamond-edged blade carving its way across a windowpane." (P. 23-24).

A few of my many problems with this passage, and the other rowing-related passages in the book, other than that it made Mark Twain ("if you catch an adjective, kill it") roll over in his grave:

1) This is the sort of overwritten passage that rowers hate to read about rowing - most rowers feel that the sport is described too often in a pretty, new-agey way ("perfect and complex marriage of mechanics and art") that ignores how brutal and physically taxing high-level rowing actually is.

2) A boat in which one rows is not a "skiff," it is a "shell." I've rowed for ten years, and I've never known anybody to be in the middle of a workout at 5:00 A.M. You might wake up at 5:00 to make it to a 6:00 or 6:30 practice, but you would never be on the water, in the middle of a workout, at such an early hour. Besides being inhumanly early, it would be dark, and dangerous to row at that time.

2) Rowers refer to rowing boats by their size; a 2-man boat like the one described above is referred to as a "pair." Rowing shells are neither phallic nor fiberglass. They are made out of carbon-fiber, particularly those used by athletes at Cameron and Tyler's level.

3) The book states that, in the fall of 2004, the Harvard crew "sat atop the Ivy League standings in any number of rowing categories. However, Harvard's men's rowing team does not compete in the Ivy League, it competes in the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC), which includes all eight Ivy League schools, but also M.I.T., Georgetown, Syracuse, the Naval Academy, the University of Wisconsin, Boston University, etc. There is literally no such thing as an Ivy League rowing championship. There are no "standings;" a team's won-loss record is factored into its seeding for the Eastern Sprints, the EARC championship race, but there are no "standings" per se in the way that there are in basketball or football. Also, what are the different "categories" in which they lead the Ivy League? There are no categories that I know of . . . just rankings in the coaches' poll.

4) Last, but not least, I rowed for ten years, and could never "feel the river resonating beneath" me three hours after I had finished rowing, which Mezerich says of Tyler Winklevoss on page 25. Is that what Tyler actually felt? Or is Mezerich just full of shit?

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, by Steve Almond

Steve Almond's latest book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, is a quick little read, full of comic asides and Nick Hornby-like lists, but which doesn't really take off until he abandons the gimmicks and big-picture discussions of rock fandom and just tells stories from his twenty-year career as a music critic. Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life has a few too many digressions and unexpected shifts in tone to really hold together as a book, per se, but has much to offer as a collection of insightful stories and charming turns of phrase.

Its telling that a book about one's love of music spends mots of its time discussing its disappointments - being let down or stood up by the big stars, and his relationships with talented musicians whose bad luck kept them from making it big. Almond describes a back-stage view of an early MC Hammer performance as looking like "an ad for a delicious soda that makes people want to commit murder." Describing his first position as a movie critic, with the El Paso Times, he writes "Every year or so I got to review a band I liked, such as R.E.M. or Concrete Blonde or Steve Earle. But for the most part I was writing about Winger and Alabama and Reba McIntire and Vixen and Poison and George Strait, whom I reviewed four times, making me the only Jew (that I know of) to have his work excerpted in The George Strait Newsletter." Most bittersweet are the great bar bands, underground rappers, and alternative songwriters he meets on the music beat, none of whom achieve the sort of widespread fame and exposure their talent warranted. Almond appends an "official playlist" at the end of the book, and even streams a lot of their music on his website. Its difficult to listen to these bands from the nineties and early aughts and not wonder how much different popular music would have looked if those acts hadn't been sidetracked by arrests, alcoholism, or simple bad luck. Almond's love of music is obvious, but this book never fails to remind us that that love usually comes from a sad and depressed place.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Marcel The Shell

This is totally twee, and not in keeping with my regular manly, rough-and-tumble bouncer personality, but this video, written by Saturday Night Live's Jenny Slate, is the funniest thing I've seen on the internet in a long time.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Running Wilde

Will Arnett and Keri Russell are starring in a new Mitchell Hurwitz show called Running Wilde, which is coming out this fall. CSD headquarters is thrilled to see Arnett and Russell reunited on a show that looks as if it has all of the cult potential of Arrested Development, although with more absurdity and less of the smart-assed too-cool-for-school tone from which Arrested Development occasionally suffered. And Keri Russell . . . well, I was so in love with her when she was in Felicity that I've never really gotten over it, and the fact that she lives in Brooklyn doesn't make me love her any less. All of which is a very long way of saying that we are looking forward to this show.

The National + NPR = A Very Happy Wade Garrett

The National appeared on Minnesota Public Radio's "The Current" last week, playing three songs from High Violet (including a drum-less version of "Bloodbuzz, Ohio") as well as one new, previously unreleased song, "You Were A Kindness." Interspersed between the songs is a very "NPR-y" interview. Just great stuff if you're in the intended demographic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gowanus: A Photo Essay

"Hey, this is a nice shot of the Eagle factory. Not quite as iconic as the Kentile factory, but still pretty solid."

"Either some little kid let his popsicle drip all over the ground, or else there was a fight here last night."

"You know, this is beginning to look more and more like blood."

"Yup - pretty sure this is blood. Probably from somebody's head."

Then I turned the corner, and all doubt vanished:

If there's a black market for human body parts in Brooklyn, its probably located in this stretch of Third Avenue (or else on the equally-shady Second Avenue):

This little stretch is actually prospering - there's a rennovated factory that houses a brand-new Apple repair store and the trendy rock and roll bar The Bell House, among other businesses:

But the real reason to go to Gowanus is Four and Twenty Blackbirds, an extraordinary bakery specializing in pies, but with great coffee and an open, country store-type feel:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On Silver Linings

Today was a bit of a fail. Among my other weekend errands, I wanted to do two things: pick up a book I had on reserve at the Pacific Branch Library and get a slice of pie and a coffee at Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that they were both closed today - Pacific Branch because the Brooklyn Public Library is cutting back its weekend hours to save money and Four and Twenty Blackbirds because the staff is baking pies for a friend's wedding. Fortunately, my stroll around Gowanus was soundtracked by Arcade Fire's new album The Suburbs, so it wasn't a total wash.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Eat Pray Vomit

I have not read Eat Pray Love. I will not see Eat Pray Love. I believe the Onion summed up everything that needs to be said on the issue 11 years ago.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Big Book Bucket List

As I approach an uncomfortably round birthday (complete with an uncomfortably round midsection), I have begun to reflect that there are some famous books that are really really freaking long. Also, I have begun to reflect that I am no spring chicken. Therefore, I should start getting up the patience to get through at least a few of them. With this in mind, I present the current Big Book Bucket List:

1) The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu. I have read about 5 chapters. This one may be doable. The explanatory literature is surprisingly readable.
2) Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust. I have read about 70 pages. This one is really painful. Like, really unpleasant. Not sure what the motivation is here.
3) Quiet Flows the Don, Mikhail Sholohov. This one has the problem of being written in a Cossack dialect of Russian. OY. I can haz Russian edition with annotations pleze?
4) The Chinese Classical Novels. I have read half a volume of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Meh. I think The Dream of the Red Chamber is the safer bet. Or I can try The Plum in the Golden Vase, the super sexy forbidden fifth classical novel. This one would probably require a lot of explanatory literature.

Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes I'm Glad Its Not 1970 Anymore

Yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati got into a "brawl" before the first pitch of the first inning had been thrown. I put brawl in quotation marks because it really wasn't much of a fight, but, since there are so few fights in major sports these days, it nonetheless qualifies as one of the bigger fights of the past couple of years. (9-minute long video):

Fighting in sports is stupid and pointless. When was the last time somebody bought a ticket to watch professional baseball or basketball players fight? Having said that, I prefer a fight to the sort of cheap-shot, throw-at-the-other-player's-head tactics that some managers employ; that always escalates and sometimes players get legitimately injured when they are hit in the head, or on the fingers, with a pitch. Compared to that, I would rather see a fight where at least everybody can get it out of their system.

As ESPN's Bill Simmons reminded us this afternoon, nothing that happens on the playing field today is as dangerous as the fights that they had in the 1970's, when the players earned less money, changed teams less freqyently, and seemed to legitimately want to hurt each other. This is probably as bad as it ever got:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Arcade Fire's new album The Suburbs has been playing almost non-stop at CSD Headquarters since its release one week ago. They played two concerts at Madison Square Garden last week, one of which, "Unstaged," was streamed online. Here's one of the many highlights:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend Links

The CSD staff recently took a field trip to Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a bakery in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn that specializes in pies and looks like an upscale country store. It was awesome. The Cooking Channel profiled it recently.

The Onion A.V. Club's "Q & A" about culture that represented adulthood really rang true. For me, it was Pulp Fiction - what was it for you?

I recently discovered The Written Nerd, a personal blog about books written by Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo, owner of Greenlight Books in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Its excellent.

Body Mass Index isn't everything, but this New York Times story about rising obesity rates in the United States is mind-blowing. Everybody knows that Americans are heavier than they were a generation or two ago, but the differences that have occurred in even the past ten years have been pretty shocking.

I dug this interview with Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker - when will their next album come up?

MA Men, a parody video that features over-the-top Red Sox fans and Chowderhead parodies in a Sterling Cooper-like workplace is depressingly insightful.

And, just a reminder: Cigarette smoking isn't cool, unless its done by Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Rachel Mencken, or Joan Holloway.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On Outdoor Concerts and LCD Soundsystem's Ownage

The AV Club's Kyle Ryan cites this LCD Soundsystem set, from last month's Pitchfork Music Festival, as a reason to go to large outdoor concerts in the summertime, despite the heat, expensive concessions, overwhelming body odor and poor sightlines. I am not a fan of big outdoor concerts, but watching this video - and the sort of crowd response that only happens at large venues without assigned seating - I definitely see his point. Also, James Murphy and his band absolutely kill it in this video:

The Only Thing Better Than Indie Rock Is A Good Indie Bookstore

New York Magazine has a big feature on the independent bookstore revival - a revival which, needless to say, CSD supports whole-heartedly. I was happy to see that two local favorites - Cobble Hill's Bookcourt and Fort Greene's Greenlight Books - are mentioned in this page about where some well-known New York City authors shop for books.

My loyalties are mixed - Greenlight is a beautiful store in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city, its inventory is fantastic, and its staff recommendations are all class. Bookcourt isn't as nice of a space, but its in-store author events blow away everybody else - Don DeLillo, Peter Hedges and David Mitchell in the past few months, among others. In upstate New York, Talking Leaves Books, my old neighborhood bookstore, continues to flourish.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sometimes I Miss 1994

Vintage indie rockers Superchunk stopped by the AV Club's headquaters in Chicago last week to cover The Cure's "In Between Days."

Superchunk covers The Cure

As we all know, Superchunk's Foolish is part of the indie rock canon. Cool guys aging hipsters like myself are looking forward to their new album, Majesty Shredding, which drops on September 14th.

The Cure's 1985 original can be found here.

Weekend Links

On McSweeney's, Laura Jayne Martin's "This Is Just To Say I'm Tired of Sharing An Apartment With William Carlos Williams" is hilarious.

Sloane Crosley on "the new naked," the new trend of people de-robing during New York City's Heat Wave From Hell.

The AV Club's discussion of "Overly Distracting Actors" was right on the nose; I for one cannot look at Nicholas Cage and see a character, I can only see Nicholas Cage. I recently read a story about how Nicholas Cage demanded that his character in The Sorcerer's Apprentice have magic rings, instead of the magic necklace called for by the script, because he wanted to be able to "wave his arms around a lot." AV Club critic Tasha Robinson said that he "acted up a storm" in that movie, further evidence that acting like Nicholas Cage is no longer as interested in playing characters as he is in being Nicholas Cage.

This New York Times article discusses how Mad Men appeals to the part of our psyche that enjoys seeing messy lives.

ESPN's Bill Simmons article on how the ever-increasing length of baseball games is killings its popularity is being discussed in a lot of circles; hopefully Bud Selig and company will do something about it.

The Town, with Jon Hamm playing an F.B.I. agent pursuing Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner and co-starring CSD-approved hot babes Rebecca Hall and Blake Lively, looks like a must-see: