Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Tour of Memphis' Ardent Studios

Memphis: Ardent Studios - Home to Big Star, The Replacements, Isaac Hayes, and moreThis is a great look at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee may not be quite as famous as its neighbors Sun Studio or Stax Records, but it produced a number of famous records in its own right, including Issac Hayes' recorded Hot Buttered Soul, R.E.M.'s Green, the White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan, and every album that Big Star ever made. Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, the Staples Singers, and M.I.A., have also recorded there. The "Pop Pilgrims" video series continues to deliver.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great Cover of "Fell In Love With A Girl"

Of Montreal's cover of The White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl" was spot-on. I generally prefer covers in which the singer makes the song his or her own in some new way, but a straight-forward cover of a difficult-to-imitate band like The White Stripes is impressive, regardless.

Of Montreal covers The White Stripes

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Total Unbookening Fail, Pt. 17

I love reading, and, like most readers, I have a long, loose, and ever-growing mental list of books I would like to read someday. I also love books (related to, but distinct from, loving to read), which makes the aforementined mental list very dangerous. I have trouble walking past a bookstore without stopping to look at the new arrivals, or to see if there are any diamonds in the rough to be found on the remainder rack. Stoop sales are ever worse. As a result, my constant struggle to "unbooken" my apartment, by giving books to my friends, donating books to Housing Works or to my office library, is undermined by my inability to resist paying a dollar for a used copy of Lev Grossman's The Magicians or $5.98 for a hardcover copy of Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land.

In the past two days, I have accumulated seven books. From the Court Street Barnes & Noble, Arthur Phillips' This Song Is You ($5.98), John Hodgman's More Information Than You Require ($4.98), and Francine Prose's, Reading Like A Writer ($4.98). From the Shakespeare & Co. on 69th and Lexington, Terry Gross', All I Did Was Ask ($4.98); Mark Harris', Pictures At A Revolution ($6.98), and, from a pile on Sackett Street that somebody was giving away, two books of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Basil and Josephine Stories and The Pat Hobby Stories.

Thirty dollars, every couple of months, is not too much to spend on one's favorite hobby, but is it too much to spend when all of those books are available from the public library for free? Is it indulgent? Is it indulgent to ask? Some questions to ponder while I'm reading.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sloane Crosley was on Craig Ferguson

Sloane Crosley was on Craig Ferguson last night. Crosley is always adorable and charming on television and Ferguson is the perfect at the sort of banter and off-the-cuff anecdotes in which Crosley specializes. Unfortunately, last night's appearance hasn't been posted on the internet yet, but her previous appearance, from last September, is online, and is enormously fun.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Ghostbusters Headquarters To Be Demolished

In New York Magazine, friend-of-the-blog and former Yale oarsman Chris Rovzar reported that the City of New York is planning to close a number of old firehouses around the city, including the old-fashioned single-bay firehouse at the corner of N. Moore and Varick Streets in Manhattan, most famously known for being the building where the Ghostbusters made their headquarters.

Ghostbusters is the first film I remember seeing in the theater. Though I don't remember much from the theater, I've watched it, conservatively, thirty times since then. When the Ghostbusters buy the building (taking out third mortgages in the process), Egon Spengler said of the firehouse: "Actually, I think this building should be condemned. There's serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is sub-standard, it's completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is a demilitarized zone." Twenty-seven years later, the Lower West Side isn't even the Lower West Side any more, it is TriBeCa, and, far from being a demilitarized zone, it is the most expensive zip code in New York City. That building was going to outlive its utility eventually, but it will be sad to see it go. Hopefully, whoever buys it will renovate it and keep the original exterior, which is an irreplaceable part of the neighborhood's history. If it gets torn down and replaced with a new high-rise building of luxury condos, then Gozer has won.

Previously Unreleased New Order Song Hits the Internet

Rhino is releasing a single-disk combination Joy Division/New Order greatest hits. As Sean O'Neal of the AV Club points out, it is hard to see why this greatest hits is necessary, as Joy Division only made two albums, and already has a greatest hits, and New Order, which made five albums, already has two different greatest hits collections. The album does have a selling point, which is that a previously unreleased New Order song, "Hellbent," is being released as a track on this CD. In the age of iTunes, everybody will just download the song and ignore the CD. But the release of any new content from one of the most beloved bands of the 80's.
New Order - Hellbent (Previously Unreleased) by Rhino UK

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, Pt. 2

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland is a great novel. Its one of the best novels I've read about New York City, about immigrants, about marriage, about sports, particularly the playing of sports as an adult, and about the differences between the United States and Europe. Though the novel is only about 250 pages long, it is so full of ideas and beautiful set pieces that it provides the reader plenty on which to chew. The themes and characters in the novel gave me so much to consider that, at times, I had to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the language; O'Neill's sentences are stuffed with little gold coins that routinely inspired me to stop and re-read them out of sheer aesthetic joy.

In this passage, the narrator and his wife have, by chance, spotted Monica Lewinsky while out for a walk in Manhattan's West Village, and the sighting prompts the narrator to consider his life in New York and the privilege he has come to take for granted.

But the sighting had served as a luxurious instance of the city's ceaseless affirmation of its salvific worth: even that bizarre class of deliverance fit for poor Monica, it seemed, could be looked for here. And if that were so, one instinctively deduced, then one's own needs, such as they were, might equally be met. Not that we were in much doubt on this score. Our jobs were working out well - much better than expected, in my case - and we'd settled happily into our loft on Watts Street. This had a suitably gritty view of a parking lot and was huge enough to contain, in a corner of our white-bricked bedroom, a mechanical clothes rack with a swooping tail, like a roller coaster's appropriated from a dry-cleaning store: you pressed a button and Rachel's jackets and skirts and shirts clattered down from the ceiling like entering revelers. We had plenty to feel smug about, if so inclined. Smugness, however, requires a certain reflectiveness, which requires perspective, which requires distance; and we, or certainly I, didn't look upon our circumstances from the observatory offered by a disposition to the more spatial emotions - those feelings, of regret or gratitude or relief, say, that make reference to situations removed from one's own. It didn't seem to me, for example, that I had dodged a bullet, perhaps because I had no real idea what a bullet was. I was young. I was not much extracted from the innocence in which the benevolent but fradulent world conspires to place us as children.

I'll post a few more passages in over the next week or so. Hopefully at least one of them will inspire you to run out and buy or borrow a copy of this magnificent novel.

Monday, May 16, 2011

emo environmental thoughts

Recycle aluminum cans. Seriously. It is really important. You get a staggering energy savings from recycled aluminum vs. creating primary aluminum (all that mining of bauxite and smelting and such). It is 95% more efficient. PET plastic and glass aren't anywhere close to the efficient. so if you see an aluminum can, pick it up and recycled it. Obviously if you have the time and energy to pick up and recycle all stray packaging, go for it. but prioritize aluminum.

I think I hate Yelp. Other people just can't be trusted, it seems. They have a lousy record of identifying what is good in the aggregate, and I find trying to search for writing cues that indicate individual non-stupidity to be tiresome and unreliable. When does the next wave of thinking about the shortcomings of web 2.0 happen (did it already happen?) I may also just be a screaming elitist.

rhubarb is delicious. I am pleased it is rhubarb time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Have Way Too Much Free Time On My Hands

A list of terrible band names I have come up with recently:

1) Beard Party
2) Lt. Maverick and the Target-Rich Environment
3) The Peter Pan-Asians
4) Clusterfucktastrophe
5) Prince Gnarls and Lady Die
6) Deerspayer
7) Deersplayer
7) Queef Richards
8) Queef Barzelay

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm old, and I am starting the bridesmaids backlash

I mean, don't get me wrong, I am excited for Bridesmaids. But somehow claiming that paying for and enjoying a comic movie is significant step in supporting women's equality smacks of the derided ethical consumerism. A movie cannot bear all our desires and expectations about gender equality. And asking it to do so is setting it up for backlash.

I am officially old now, because I skip foods I find delicious because I know they will make me feel gross later. (The primary food in question is costco pizza).

My gym finally got an erg. Nothing makes one feel older than literally being able to measure oneself against the prime of one's youth.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

emo entertainment thoughts

Large-group birthday restaurant dinners are tricky. It seems like no one ever leaves pleased with the fun to dollar ratio

The lilacs cooperated with the Arnold Arboretum's Lilac Sunday celebration. I consider this impressive. as were the lilacs. and the bonsai collection. (of course Harvard has a humbling bonzai collection)

The PBS special on the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination includes way too much armchair psychologizing of James Earl Ray

Monday, May 9, 2011

Scoops Callahan is the Bee's Knees

Yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers from the NBA playoffs. Lakers' coach Phil Jackson, who has coached eleven NBA championship teams over the course of his twenty-year career, held a press conference to discuss the game, and to say goodbye to the press. For ten minutes, sportswriters asked questions, and Jackson answered them in the thoughtful, slightly hippie-ish manner in which he had held press conferences for the past two decades. Then, this happened:

In case you didn't understand the question - and most people didn't - it was "Champ! Champ! Being a Hall of Famer like the legendary Barney "Mighty Mite" Sedran, and having more rings than Douglas Fairbanks even has Oscars, you have to ultimately take a lot of pride in knowing that you in your cager career were nothing but the bee's knees."

I didn't know how it looks when you know what's coming, but, watching it live, the 1920's newsreel announcer voice coming from off-camera to the profound confusion of everybody else in the room just killed me. Apparently the voice belongs to "Scoops Callahan," a fictional 1920's reporter played by Dallas-area sports radio personality Tom Gribble, and he has been at it for years:
Some coaches, like Bill Belichek, are regular Mrs. Grundys, responding to Callahan's questions like they've been given a wooden nickel. Others, like Tom Brady and Sidney Crosby, are really on the trolley; they pick up on the joke and play along as if they think Callahan is the cat's meow. Others, like Eli Manning, did not seem to understand that a joke was being played whatsoever.

Obviously, its a schtick. But its a funny schtick, isn't it? And everybody got the reference. Within minutes of Jackson's press conference - a conference at which Gribble did not introduce himself or his character - Twitter and Facebook had filled up with people asking about the identity of the imitation 1920's newsman who asked the question at Jackson's press conference. The questions he asks are basically good, sportswritery questions, even if you have to sort of translate them into contemporary English in order to answer them. And he's funny - asking Tom Brady to comment on a touchdown pass that he threw to a receiver so wide open that he looked like Brady and the receiver were doing the jitterbug while the Dallas secondary was doing the Charleston is going to make me laugh every time. What do you think - is Scoops Callahan a character whose presence you welcome, or a practical joke that has, or will soon, outlive its capacity to you laugh?

Allergic afternoon thoughts

Nearly 10 years later, it appears that Manu Chao is still the preferred soundtrack of hostels featuring a large number of Europeans

Maybe too much Don Cherry has made my heart into coal, but I couldn't believe the Heat weren't bumping Rondo's arm and/or setting screens on him more aggressively.

My community garden is going to get turned into condos unless Cambridge forks over $1MM. I like my garden, but I am unsure how much value it provides to the community vs. to me. (The squashes/tomatoes/tulips I give to passing pedestrians are nice, but that is a lot of money)


ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER, one of the most beloved personalities on the internet, has finally decided to start his own blog. For years, ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER and his distinctively enthusiastic, all-caps writing style have made the internet a more enjoyable place, filling message boards, comment threads, and Twitter with hilarious non-sequiturs, profane commentary on local Detroit politics, and unsolicited reviews of action movies, heavy metal music, and junk food. Perhaps the niche he has carved out for himself is small, but it is entertaining, and the CSD staff is willing to read anything he cares to write. As ZMF himself might say, following his blog is "NOT FUCKING OPTIONAL."

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Human League

The AV Club's "Undercover" series is just killing it this year. Rocky Votolato and Matt Pond (we don't know who they are, either) do an interesting cover of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" with male voices in both parts. This is one of those songs that has entered the canon to such an extent, and been played so many hundreds of times since its early-80's release, that I almost can't hear it on its own terms anymore; its musical DNA has been embedded in too many other catchy pop songs. Hearing the original reworked is a pretty cool things, because it lets you appreciate how good of a song it is, once you can really hear it again.

I'll be honest; I don't know if any of that even made sense. But its a good cover.

Rocky Votolato and Matt Pond PA cover The Human League

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Clem Snide Has a Lot of Cool Ideas

Clem Snide, a band on its way to the as-yet-non-existent Alt-Country and Indie Rock Hall of Fames, participated in the AV Club's "Undercover" series last summer, turning in a great acoustic cover of Journey's "Faithfully" with a bit of a surprise ending.

Yesterday, Clem Snide announced that it was planning to release an entire album of Journey covers, and that they were raising money for its production costs with a Kickstarter campaign. Depending on how much you donate, you may receive anything from a download of their cover album ($7) to an autographed test pressing of the album on LP ($100), to - and this is such a cool idea that I can't believe nobody has thought of it until now - they will cover a song of your choosing and e-mail it to you in mp3 format. HOW COOL IS THAT? I would imagine that serious Clem Snide fans would gladly pay $100 to her Clem Snide cover their favorite song, or a song for their children (anything to make children's music more tolerable) or a song that played at their wedding. Pretty cool stuff.

Clem Snide covers Journey

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland

I have finally gotten around to reading Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, which has probably been recommneded to me moreso than any book published in the last several years. Ever since I first read The Great Gatsby, I have had a weakness for stylish novels about outsiders living in New York, and, this one is so full of magnificently-wrought passages that make me have to reach down and pick my jaw up off of my desk every few pages. I'll discuss it more after I finish it, but, for the time being, I'll post a few of my favorite passages and see what you think of them.

Exhibit One:
In addition to the generous ceiling heights and the wood floors and the built-in closets, she undoubtedly took in the family photographs and the bachelor disarray and the second bedroom with its ironing board and its child's bed covered by a mound of wrinkled office shirts. I imagine this answered some questions she had about my situation, and not in an especially disheartening way. Like an old door, every man past a certain age comes with historical wraps and creaks of one kind or another, and a woman who wishes to put him to serious further use must expect to do a certain amount of sanding and planing. But of course not every woman is interested in this sort of refurbishment project, just as not every man has only one thing on his mind.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Links for the Week

In The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower - still the best book about 9/11 - discussed Bin Laden's death.

Friend-of-the-Blog Ellen Wernecke reviewed Tina Fey's Bossypants for the AV Club. Actually, Ellen was on fire this week - on her blog, Wormbook, she previewed this summer's cinematic adaptations, and shared her thoughts on Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad. I read Good Squad at the same time as her, and may share my thoughts later this week.

In New York Magazine, some musicians rate thirteen musicians' beards, and amazingly leave Iron and Wine's Sam Beam off of the list.

To commemorate Steve Carrell's final episode on The Office, The New Yorker re-ran the profile of Carrell that it ran last summer.

The New York Times magazine published its Design and Living issue.

From the public reading series The Moth, Salman Rushdie discusses how a trip to civil war-ravaged Nicaragua helped him overcome writer's block (Thanks to Marilyn for the tip):