Monday, June 30, 2008

on music video renaissance.

It appears as though a lot of people are obsessed right now with The Ting Tings. They have their own Apple commercial, and they're getting a lot of press. Granted, this usually means that I haven't heard anything about them, or that I've read about them, without realizing which song is their. But I finally got a chance to watch the video for the song that everyone loves and...well, I didn't love it. I didn't even really find all that much to remotely like about it.

However, it did strike a chord. It reminded me of the video for the song D.A.N.C.E. by Justice that I was jamming out to a while ago. And then I was browsing Prefix (hat tip) as I'm wont to be doing these days and I see a new favorite band of theirs has released a video that seems to have a lot of the same traits!

And the similarities between these videos got me there a new music video renaissance going on? Has this already been noted and I'm just missing it because I'm getting older? These are really the only three that I've specifically noted in this (what I'll call) nouveau-style, but there are undeniable similarities and trace roots of one of the most famous videos of the last couple years (Michel Gondry's vision for The White Stripes' "Fell in Love With A Girl") in both of these, at least insofar as I can see.

All of this similar goodness spilling over into different works really reminds me of that (all-too-brief) time when some of the best directors in the world were putting out what amounted to, essentially, mixtapes of their work. It was a cool time and I remember going to the video store specifically to rent the Spike Jonze one, just getting a kick out of how innovative these people were and how lucky they were to have contemporaries who not only appreciated them but also pushed their boundaries so consistently.

(I wonder if there's room in here for the Daft Punk 'Hands Video' - I know it's not directed by a visionary or anyone like that, but it sure seems to tap into the zeitgeist.)

Some of you may think that I'm pulling at strings here, but I really think this would be exciting. One of my biggest dreams is to not only be an artist (writer, really. I guess some people would have problems with my qualifying writing as an art, but to those people I but to be an artist who has artist friends with whom I can talk about discuss some of these things that are constantly racing through my head. I envy those people who have found like-minded souls.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

link of the day.

I got a chance to see Wanted at a sneak peek on Thursday night and was going to write about it that night, but still just haven't gotten around to it. I still have this video post that I want to put up. I have this entry starting to germinate in my head about the nature of communication that I alluded to earlier, based on a great conversation that I had. And I also want to talk a bit about the implosion of Free Darko, which was train-wreck-like to watch.

But for today, enjoy this video of Jay-Z performing at Glastonbury, where Noel Gallagher had gone on record as saying that he wasn't really welcome, because Glastonbury has, "a tradition of guitar music." Barring the almost inherently (and impossible to ignore/avoid) racist elements of that statement, I say good job on Mr. Carter on replying in a playful manner.

Click the link here to see the video on the Prefix page.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

on fresh donuts "daily."

Hopefully this will be the first in a series. Around my town (and everywhere, really) I notice a ton of quotation marks being used in the most bizarrely inappropriate ways. I think this is because of my schooling and profession and I realize that I might be the only person on the Earth that it bothers this much, but... It bothers me. A lot. So I'm going to be carrying my digi-cam with me everywhere, trying to capture as many of them as I can. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

on today being the day to get away with it.

Yesterday on Prefix, I saw a link to this Gawker story looking at a new JC Penny ad that totally appears to be promoting pre-marital, teen-aged sex! Wow, right? I'm not sure if we're happy about this or not, but it was certainly something to be observed. Especially if they were going to air this oh, say...anywhere in middle America? You know those people. They don't like sex to be had, much less talked about.

Regardless, in the comments section, we find this re-direct where it's revealed that the whole thing was a hoax but seemingly on a whole new level. It even tricked a judges panel! Pretty good, right? But that gets me to thinking: who sees this and, on a critical level, doesn't at least have the thought, "There's no way this came from them." I mean, this is supposed to be a reputable company. If I was a judge that thought would have to cross my mind.

The commercial in and of itself is well-put together, there's no doubt about that, but there's also not a lot of doubt that you can watch it and keep a straight face. I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that boundaries have been pushed in the last forty, fifty, sixty years, and that there's a lot of stuff we can get away with nowadays that they couldn't get away with in the past. But seriously?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

link of the day.

As you should all know by now, flying without an ID is coming to an end. But not really. The thing about this is that it's not really doing anything, much less making anyone safer. If you refuse to show your ID, you won't be allowed to fly. If you "forgot" your ID, they'll work with you. This is one of the bad things that have been happening recently in America; it's not good when our liberties are chipped away in this way.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

on complete and utter destruction.

Almost everyone picked the Lakers in six (or seven). That would obviously include myself. How could I not? They rolled through the Western Conference Playoffs, a playoff selection that was one of the toughest in history (all of the teams were 50+ win teams!) and looked to have momentum on their side. They had Phil Jackson, the Zen Master of coaching, whose loss in the 2004 Finals was starting to look like an aberration with the way the guys were rolling. They had Kobe Bryant, who'd been crowned MVP this season, finally, after having several people (including fellow players!) call him the best player in the game for the last four or five years. They had a bench that was so efficient it got its own shirt and nickname. How could they lose?

Oh, but lose they did. It was a little more than a loss, in fact. Marc Stein says it was the league's first six-game sweep which is just depressing to read from a Lakers-fan's point of view. I didn't write about any of this during the playoffs because of a long-held superstition that it is extremely bad luck for me to write about the Lakers during the playoffs (it's a long story, but I still seriously believe that I am 100% responsible for their utter collapse against the Suns in '06) but now that I've had a few days to stew, the pain's not really going away. How could we be so wrong?

I'm not here to take anything away from the Celtics. They whupped the hell out of us and they were clearly the better team. It was depressing to see my team get dismantled so badly. But it was even worse to see that one of the biggest reasons it happened was because of the desire. The Celtics wanted it more. They hustled. They were hungrier.

So my only hope is that this loss will motivate the Lakers. Next year Andrew Bynum will be back. Both Ronny and I hope he'll be back. The main core of the team will be back. This is a young team that just went to the Finals. Can they use that loss as motivation to get back there and get over the hump? Here's to hoping for next year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

on fixies and the culture.

Bike riding is a pretty big part of my life, mainly because it's a huge part of my brother's life. You can tell by the videos he makes, the races he puts on, etc. It's super sweet to have an influence like him around, mainly because I was never really into bike-riding before he moved back from Cali. We both got into skating around the time of the third wave (and one of us was a bit more dedicated to riding that wave...) but we didn't really like to do anything together when we were kids. We didn't like each other very much.

That's changed a lot nowadays, and I have to say that I'm extremely proud of my brother and his bike prowess. My favorite thing about his bike-love is the fact that he refuses to be pigeonholed. He rides a fixed gear bike or a fixie but that's not the only thing he's in to. When he put on his Earth Day Relay, part of the race involved using the local bus system. He's not one of those holier-than-thou scenesters who think that it's fixie or nothing.

So I'm psyched to report that in the Albuquerque Journal's article today on fixies, he's not mentioned once. He doesn't need to have his name in the paper as one of the 'creators' of the scene. But you can see him in the slideshow that accompanies the article doing his Johnny thing. Look for him just before the two minute mark.

Oh yeah, and I'd be remiss if I didn't direct you towards this video that takes a humorous look at what skateboard fixies would look like, lovingly shared with me by the BFF.

More to come in the future regarding the Lakers epic collapse (I've been seriously depressed and haven't wanted to address it), flying without ID and the blow that it took recently, a bizarre new trend in music videos that I've been noticing, and an interesting conversation I had on the nature of communication, and how radically different it is between people my age and those who are just barely younger. MySpace really is the devil.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

on punk festivals.

Some of you may have noticed that I've been posting more than a few links from Prefix Magazine. Well, that's not about to stop.

I was laughing when I read this description of this year's press kit for the Vans Warped Tour because it sure reminded me a lot of me. I'll cop to a lot of the differences (I didn't like punk before 1990 - I was only 8 at that point, so that might have been a little weird) that aren't me, per se, in Jeff's clever little write up, but it struck more than a few chords. This is something that I think about a lot of the time: the way music and our ownership (more on that tomorrow) and our relationship with it has changed. I know guys who are still fanatics about their vinyl collection, but I also teach kids who probably wouldn't know what a turntable was if you put it in front of them. It's an odd thing. It's odd for me to think about those road trips that The Sloot and I went on, out to Arizona, because the Warped Tour didn't come through here (although it technically still doesn't [WTF, Las Cruces?!]). It's odd for me to think about how easy it must seem to the kids nowadays to find some old record that they've been hearing about, when I remember my friends and I, when we were first discovering punk music, back at the end of middle school, traveling to big-box music stores and realizing in horror, "Oh shit! They don't have what we want! What are we going to do?" It wasn't like we could drive, Al Gore hadn't perfected the Internet yet (he'd already invented it, sure, but at this point it was only 'a giant, electric ball'...), we really had no connection to this world. Slowly but surely, however, we made our cracks in it. I remember being absolutely psyched when someone got a new CD, because that meant that we would all immediately make a tape of it.

Music has been a big part of my life for a really long time. I'm very interested in the ways that it's changing and the ways in which people now relate to music, the ways in which it still infiltrates lives and souls. Just because it's changing doesn't mean it's bad. But it sure does make me feel old.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

on untitled.

So, as you should have already heard, Nas has been working on a new album. You may or may not have heard about the controversy, but Nas wanted to use a certain word as the title of his album that a lot of people were very frustrated by - and some weren't. Regardless, the album's getting set to drop in about a month according to Amazon, at least, (keep in mind, this album was originally supposed to drop in December of '06) but in a pejorative move against his record label (I guess this is all theorizing [not just on my part] but I feel pretty comfortable labeling it as fact), Nas someone has leaked a copy of what's being called "The N_____ Mixtape" - a collaboration between Nas and DJ Green Lantern. I listened to it today. Twice. It's great. There's a lot of really insightful stuff on there, some interesting political tracks (combining 2pac, Nas' old stuff, and Barack Obama seems obvious once you hear it, but then you think about how distant this all seemed ten, twenty years ago), and, of course, some fluff. It's good, though. It's worth getting. It's especially worth getting if you're interested in Hip-Hop, if you're interested in race, if you're interested in politics, and if you're interested in the inevitable comparison and contrast between this album (maybe the one he actually wanted to put out?) and the one that's coming out, that his record company is calling Untitled and Amazon is (apparently) calling Nas.

One of the real reasons I'm putting up this blog, though, as well, is because of the guys over at The Real. They do really funny stuff most of the time, obviously centered around Hip-Hop and the culture associated with it, but I can't figure out their latest video. I'm not sure if it's pure genius, maybe the smartest dig that I've ever seen, or if it's "just" pure comic genius. There's quite a difference and the first time I watched it, I laughed out loud. But then it stayed with me the whole day and I had to come back and watch it again. Then I watched it again. And now I'm thinking about it a lot. It references a ton of stuff, including Nas' back catalog, Memph Bleek's fading career and, of course, the new controversy. So, obviously, it's gonna help if you know a bit about Hip-Hop and the recent past thereof. But even if you don't, I think you'll dig the video. Check it below.

?saN sdrawkcaB from jeff on Vimeo.

Monday, June 16, 2008

link of the day.

So, being that I'm a semi-mature adult and I pride myself on having a house, a nice car, a real-world ("big boy") job and all that, there are certain aspects of my past that be frank...they sometimes embarrass me. I've never had a problem copping to the fact that I still read and collect comics (to almost an obsessive point, to be fair) but one of the things that Brother One and I laugh about a lot when we tell people stories of our childhood is the extent to which we were obsessed with Magic: The Gathering. I really don't think it's that embarrassing, to be honest, but it's hard to explain to someone who only sees me now how this picture could fit with that.

Regardless, that's kind of a story for another time, but the point here is this: I love Penny Arcade and their newest strip found right here in this link is what I would imagine it would be like if I tried to get back into playing Magic. This is only one of the reasons I could never imagine myself doing so. But it's definitely worth a laugh.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

on arenas, populations, and money.

Albuquerque is not a huge city. It's mid-sized, but it's perfect for me. I hated it growing up (hence the running away to a far-away college) but in my old age, I've realized that it's a great place. I'd love to raise a family here. (Assuming I ever get to that point.) However, this leads to problems every once in a while, when we try to think that we're something we're not. One of my favorite stories that my mom tells me is when she was a kid, moving here from California and watching the television, where the newscasters were trying to explain this new so-called "highway" and how to use it. (I wish I could find video for this, but I doubt it exists... I'd kill for that, though, so I might spend some time scouring the web after I'm done with this entry.)

Regardless, my city has great potential. We have amazing weather, we have a river running through the city, we have mountains, etc. It's great. There's a lot here to be proud of. And recently, there's been a lot of attention paid to the downtown area. This is a great move, in my opinion, and it follows the successful models put forth by other cities in the sincerest form of flattery.

However, there are things that haven't worked out so well. We had a rather infamous (at least by city standards) debate about a trolley service recently and there have been other, larger issues that a lot of people have taken points of interest in.

(Hah! Just as a sidenote, I'm writing this at a local cafe (where they provide free wireless, shout out!) and in walks that semi-famous local politician again! All by himself, again, totally relaxed, but at least this time I get to see that he drives a black Prius. What a guy.)

Anyway, as I was saying, the new issue that people are talking about is the idea of an arena downtown. There are many, many factors to consider here, especially in regards to our population, the money issue, and, of course, the previously failed projects scattered around town. We have a mall that used to be really popular that is now all-but closed currently being used for nothing - although I did hear that they're currently filming a movie there, so that might be worth keeping it around for those purposes. We also have an old arena that no one likes to go to concerts at, because the acoustics are terrible that used to be coupled with a race track, but that race track appears to be on the way out. Both of these locations would seem to be custom-tailored to renovating insofar as putting up an arena. However, that doesn't fit in with the mayor's wish of 'revitalizing' downtown and so we have to talk about putting this arena downtown. I'd love if it was downtown. I live around that area, so it'd be a boon to my house insofar as value, but I also worry about the transportation issues that others have brought up. I also recognize that it's not an easy thing to obtain the money needed for a project of this magnitude.

So the real question is: do we need something like this? Based on the size of our city, I'm not sure that we do. However, I do think that it could be a boon. If we determined that something like this would make us money, then we could determine where it should go.

Friday, June 13, 2008

on true newscasters.

Wow, just a quick note to say that Tim Russert has died, about half an hour ago. This is truly sad news, as he was one of the best in the business in an occupation that has been increasingly occupied by pundits and talking heads. Tim Russert didn't do a great job in everything that I ever watched, but he was a giant in the business, and he worked well one-on-one in interviews and I appreciated his talents, and I'll be sad to not see him on Sunday mornings from now on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

on the city of ember.

So I finished The City of Ember the other night and let me sum it up for you in one word...unimpressed. I acknowledge that it was not written for someone my age, but thus far in my teaching career, I've been able to read fiction falling under the genre of "Young Adult" without being terribly offput. This one, though? Not so much. (Although to be fair, my mom, a librarian, told me, upon my conveying my dissatisfaction with the book that it wasn't even written for Middle School students. She said the target audience was fourth graders. So I guess that makes me feel a little bit better, but it certainly doesn't lead me to think that I'll be recommending the book to any of my students.)

The characters were pretty flat, I wasn't really feeling their interactions, much less their contrived way of feeling toward one another. The plot was simple, to be generous, and was full of elements that any advanced reader could see coming a mile away. (Again, I realize she wasn't writing for college graduates, but still... There's gotta be something in there that's not predictable!) Also, as a rather complex complaint, I felt that the editors (whoever they may be) did a particularly terrible job with this book; there were logical problems with the narrative that led me to think, "Well, this won't be an issue for a child reading this, but how did this make it past someone whose job it is to catch things of this nature?" Furthermore, the ending fell short on so many different levels that I really don't even want to get into it, but suffice it to say that after a whole novel's worth of build-up, to leave off on this note was terribly unforgivable. I knew there were two sequels, but looking at Amazon for the above link showed me that there's even a fourth book. Keeping in mind that I haven't read the second book (The People of Sparks) or the third (The Prophet of Yonwood) much less the fourth, which hasn't even come out yet, just reading the Amazon description of the fourth book discouraged me quite a bit. At this point, it seems like maybe (just maybe) the author is stretching her story beyond it's initial idea. Not many people set out to write more than a trilogy. (I mean, seriously, that's hard. Harder than people realize already.)

So, how many books does she have planned for this series? Do they get better? I hope so. As it stands now? The City of Ember is a good book for lower-level kids, or for those kids who are psyched for the movie adaptation they're making - which, honestly, looks just as bad as the book. It's a quick, easy read that might be just what some kids need to motivate them to try something harder. Just don't get into it expecting it to work on many barely works on the one it attempts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

link of the day.

Very, very disturbing news regarding your rights to privacy! According to this story, the US government, in conjunction with others, is seeking the right to look through your stuff, to see if you have any pirated material. If you do, the officer who's perusing your iPod/computer/thumb drive (whatever!) might have license to delete the stuff, confiscate the device, etc. This is no good. Look into it and see what you can do to prevent these sorts of wanton violations of your rights before it gets too late!

Monday, June 9, 2008

on music and our appetites.

All right! Very interesting stuff today from the Phoenix New Times, via Prefix, asking the question: When we can hear all the music in the world, will we? Oh man, I've been talking about this for so long! It's so refreshing to hear these questions being asked.

The article is basically saying that, yeah, we can get albums in about ten minutes, for free, over a broadband connection, and that, yes, there are tons of people out there being exposed to new music, but wondering if they're really listening to it. Are we just going to listen to our same old favorites, since so much fluff is passing us by, ultimately causing us to tune it out?

Totally great question, right? (BTW, you need to follow this Prefix link in order to see all the trackbacks and read all the comments because there is seriously great material out there being talked about.) I've been on this trip for a while, which is why I'm such an obsessive a-hole about keeping my iPod on random. I feel like if I choose every time, I'm likely to just set it to whatever album I'm obsessed with at the time and that'll lead to me forgetting all this great, old music that I have, or not listening to the third track of an album that I only loved tracks one, two, four and five on when I was sixteen, but now that I'm old and cultured, I'll finally appreciate it. Hah.

Seriously, though, I think there's a lot to be said for this concept. We've heard the examinations of availability versus desire before and I'm sure we'll hear them again, but this is the first serious application to music that I've read about. I'd be very interested to see if they could get people to participate in an experiment keeping track of play counts and frequencies, etc. The only problem with the iPod (insofar as this experiment...there's plenty of other problems...) is that it has to play the whole song to register it on the play counter, and I'm sure that present technical difficulties for my idea for this experiment. But that's why there's scientists: to think up solutions to problems that I can't.

Anyway, go read the piece and let me know what you think of it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

link of the day.

Men's Health does a feature called Drink This, Not That! that is very interesting insofar as what I can/could be drinking as opposed to other things. I might have to look into other things of this nature.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

on rivalries.

First of all, go read Basketbawful's excellent re-caps of the Lakers vs. Celtics duels from back in the day. Then realize that it's happening a different form, perhaps without some of that intesity, but it's starting tonight.

My best friend from Gonzaga moved here a while ago, and he's a lifer for Team Green. I've previously stated my life-long love for the Forum Blue and Gold guys. While we were playing busket last Sunday, he told me that I didn't get to have this one. He said that I've had three already in my lifetime (more actually but I only have memories of the Shaq/Kobe threepeat) and he's not been to the Finals since 1987. That's a long time. I told him how I'd suffered in the years since '04 when the Beatles team collapsed. He looked at me with hate in his eyes and I realized that I really have been spoiled. But nothing compares with eight in a row. So who's really been spoiled?

It starts tonight. Be watching.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

link of the day.

As penance for my semi-long entry last time, here: have some delicious ear candy!

This is my new favorite song: The Internet's favorite rapper plus the real best rapper...Lil' Wayne plus Jay-Z. "Mr. Carter" off the already-leaked more than a million times Tha Carter III. I don't consider myself to be an uber-Lil' Wayne fan, but damn if he doesn't sound good here. Plus, the beat is ill. Jigga kills it, as always.


Monday, June 2, 2008

on begging the question.

This could have easily been a "link of the day" entry, but I felt the need to distinguish the title so that it's easily identifiable. This is not only one of my biggest pet peeves, but it's something that I dedicate almost an entire day to in my class. I'll tell a little story about this whole thing, but first, peep below:

Anyway, let's tell a little story real quickly about the numerous Philosophy classes that I took in college and how this was an unbelievably huge deal to all of those professors. I didn't get it at first, but then I started watching the news, listening to random conversations, etc. and noticing it even more. It just doesn't make any sense! How could so many people misuse something that was so blatantly wrong?! It's frustrating for a person who knows better to hear something so consistently being used in a poor fashion.

I decided when I became a teacher that I would make sure that I taught my students at least a few of the REALLY important things that didn't seem that important, but really, really, really mattered to the smart people that would inevitably be judging them the minute they tried to say or do anything. I knew there were a few things that I wanted to include (did you know that I didn't know that I was misspelling "definitely" for about the first 23 years of my life? It's very sad to be an English teacher and have to cop to that mistake, but I figure it's better than denying...) but I didn't really know where to start. Then, thanks to my afore-mentioned friend Silensy, I was pointed to a now-non-existent page (the author used to be on a different blog service? I don't know exactly what the deal is with the old one disappearing or this new "Tomato Nation" page, but it's all good with me...) that talked about some of the worst mistakes that one can make in the difficult-to-master English language, especially if you're writing a letter to impress someone with your supposed mastery of said language. I loved it, printed it out immediately, and contacted the author to ask her if I could use it in my classroom. She replied that I could, as long as I properly attributed it to her, and I was pleased to do so.

Now Sil posts an entry, we talk about this long-ago happening for a while, and she informs me that the author wrote a sequel of sorts. I'm psyched to hear this and I look through the sequel, happily, enjoying it (but not as much as the first, I have to be honest) and I realize there's a lot more that I can add to the paper for my kiddos. I also notice that she now says that we can use the paper at will, no attribution needed, and I wonder what I'll do with my pithy attribution paragraph that I give the kiddos with the page. (I'll probably keep it. It's good for them to see that some people still do give credit, even when it's not required.) The sequel, as I've already said, isn't as good. It's got lots of important things, but it's not nearly as funny, nor do I feel that she was really "feeling" it as much as she was last time; it seems more like a list of, "Oh, hey, these are some important things too, but I forgot them last time." And that's not bad, at all. I'm just trying to call it like I see it.

Anyway, there is one part of the list that is terribly important: "That begs the question...are we going to see some rain today? Over to you Mark!" OMG! So wrong. So, so, so, so, so wrong. So unbelievably wrong that I literally cannot believe that this guy explained it so succinctly with dinosaurs!

I love the internet.

*I also do think that the last point made in this comic is seriously worth perusing and it's one that I try to talk to my friends about as often as I can: if we use something in a completely different way than it was originally intended, but literally everyone uses it that way all the time...doesn't that mean that the meaning's changed? I mean, don't words only mean what we want them to mean? When someone says the wrong thing, but means the right thing and we know what they mean, we always say, "No, no worries, I know what you mean." It's meaning that we're after, not necessarily semantics. So, since begs the question is misused by nearly everyone nowadays, doesn't that mean that it actually means what they're misusing it as? This is a super-important question to me...I'll take this up in a lot more detail later.