Friday, November 28, 2008

on "lunch deal."

This may or may not be the restaurant used in In the Valley of Elah which was filmed here in town. But really, what are they saying? Like, this one doesn't make sense no matter how you look at it. Hah.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

on twilight.

Surprise, surprise, at my job as a teacher, I've been hearing about this book, Twilight, that all the little girls are loving on. But here's the thing: I read it and...it's not all that bad. It was predictable, it could have been a lot better in places, and, as with many young adults books' authors, Stephanie Meyer needs some serious work when it comes to dialogue.

But let me say this, before I get to the serious criticism: I don't care. I couldn't care less if Twilight was the worst book ever. I couldn't care less when someone thinks that a kids fantasy book is encouraging heathenism so I really don't have any nits to pick when it comes to the negative aspects of some of the typical young adult fiction genre. Twilight is a solid book that the kiddos love to read. And let me tell you what I mean when I say that they love to read it: I mean that this book has a waiting list of approximately 100 names in our library. Any book that can get kids that excited is good by me. I'm psyched any time kids are excited to read, and I'm especially excited that so many girls have told me, "This is literally the first book I've ever read." That's great.

So, on to the bad stuff.

Uh, the book really isn't that good. It's a novel read, but it doesn't really have anything original to it. It's the same old love story that's been told forever, and it's such an obvious cliche that, for someone who grew up with Interview with the Vampire, it's not a huge twist to have the love interest be a vampire instead of Montague vs. Capulet. It's the same old thing where the girl thinks that guy isn't bad (at least not for her) and that, maybe, she can change him. So that's problematic.

But more than that there's the whole issue of the conflict in the story. If we discount the basic love-story aspect (which I'm hoping you can tell that I did), the conflict doesn't arise in this book until the thing's dang near 4/5 of the way done. That's no way to properly run a plot! The conflicts that run through the book aren't true conflicts: Bella moves, she doesn't fit in, she's unhappy that the guys like her, her friends are unhappy with her because they like the guys. I mean, hell, that reads like a diary, not a story! And then, when we finally do get the conflict, it feels rushed, because Meyer's almost run out of room to run through the whole thing.

The dialogue is its own issue when it comes to this genre. I will say that, while I know that many kids think this way, I've never heard them actually speak this way. Falling in love after seeing nothing of a person (love at first sight?) might be a common cliche, but it's not actually so terribly common in real life. Not even in high school. Not even in middle school.

All this being said, I will not lie: the movie was great. I even thought it was better than the book, because it cut some of the extraneous stuff and put forth the story in a kind-of summarized version. For as much flack as the soundtrack got, I thought it fit well with the movie and will probably end up downloading it. (Things that I'm not ashamed to admit that I might probably should be?)

I'm gonna conclude this by again saying that any book that gets kids reading is A-OK with me. Also, despite my unhappiness with the original book, I'm psyched to read the next three because almost everyone that I've spoken with said that each and every one of them is better than the first, by different degrees.

Monday, November 24, 2008

on 808s and heartbreaks.

Stream Kanye's new album from his site while you're pondering whether you'll end up buying a whole album from him where he uses that Auto-Tune effect to its supremely annoying (and inevitable) end.

I've listened to the album three times already, twice in quick succession and then once more intermittently through out the day thus far and I have to say that it's not nearly as bad as I was fearing it'd be. The re-mastering of "Love Lockdown" really brought out better things. The Jeezy appearance on "Amazing" is a nice touch, but I would have liked to have seen some more typical Kanye guests... Where's Common? Lupe? Ya know... the rappers with a Benz and a backpack? That would have been nice.

"Robocop" will go down as one of the worst songs that Kanye will ever do.

The album overall is an interesting experiment and I don't mind that it exists, but it exists on such a different level that it's hard to think that the guy who made this 5 star classic is the same one here and now. Of course, the guys from It's The Real have already weighed in on this and I think there's some value to what they're saying; yes, experimentation is great and yes, creativity is amazing, and continuing to grow is important, but damn! I still lose my shit when this song comes on. Years from now, I won't feel that way about "The Coldest Winter" - know what I mean?

At its most base level, the album really is a failure. It works best when there's some rap happening, which is not often and never from Kanye. Jeezy's there (as mentioned above) and Weezy gets in on the action with "See You in My Nightmares" and both of those tracks stand out as highlights. But the thing is that Kanye seems to be pushing against that at every opportunity. He strikes me most of all as Andree 3000 four years or so ago, when Stacks claimed that he had no interest in rapping again. Which honestly means there's quite a bit of hope left in my tank for Mr. West but belies kind of bad things for the here and now. But the reason I say the album is a failure is not because of a personal preference for Kanye rapping versus singing, not because I dislike the Auto-Tune, and certainly not because of the artistic virtue of what's going on. I think all of those things are admirable. It's great to push boundaries, especially when they're your own. However, I stand by the claim that the album is a failure mainly because of the internal conflict that is so apparent through out the whole thing.

Kanye's claimed that this album is about a break up. That seems painfully obvious. When he concludes the album with the one song that he claims he's written (or chosen to release) about the death of his mother, and talks about how he'll never love again, I can't help but hear it as his need for penance. The break up is real. But it's not a girl that's truly causing Kanye to act out in this way. I think he's frustrated that he hasn't truly changed the game, changed the world. (And, much like dream interpretation this might be me overreaching my bounds. I mean, I'm not a psychologist, and I don't know Kanye on any level other than the music he's made.) But I think that Kanye's over-confidence has always shown us real things about him: he didn't just talk about being the best rapper, he really thought he was. And he thought the game was messed up. And he thought he could change it. And he thought, just by being himself, just by gracing us with his presence, by forcing his talent out into the world, that things would get better. 808s and Heartbreaks might be, ultimately, Kanye West's teenage rebellion after making the varsity team as a freshman but realizing that you can't actually change a team from the inside.

Moving on from Kanye, I do just want to say that this is going to be a great week for music in general and, hopefully, the blog. I hope you all got your free Dr. Pepper and I'm going to put up a review of the whole album sometime later this week. Also, I just got the soundtrack from "Dan in Real Life" which is primarily done by Sondre Lerche, and that's promising to shape up in a great way. But, I don't want to miss out on saying that Q-Tip's "The Renaissance" has been the soundtrack of my life for the last week or so and it's a fine piece of work. Expect lots more on music in the coming days and weeks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

on the seattle supersonics.

So let's chat for a while about the Seattle Supersonics. I think it should be painfully obvious for anyone who knows me (and thus who reads this blog) that I'll be following in The Sports Guy's footsteps and refusing to call them by their new official name. Boo. I really don't even have a soft spot for the Sonics, per se, (I mean, Gary Payton is one of my least favorite NBA players in the history of the Association!) but there's a lot more at play here.

I'm not going to get into all the stuff that was in play at this moment, mainly just because it's been so well-covered already in other places. The plight of the Sonics and their theft from Seattle is not what I'm here to discuss.

Instead, I want to ask a serious question:

Why are the Sonics so bad? Seriously, I mean...they're terrible.

It's not like they're an expansion team in their first year. That kind of suckage is totally explicable - and to be honest, expected. But that's not the case with these Sonics.

They have a kid that some people are fairly obsessed with - and for good reason! They have two ex-Bruins and they have Collison from Kansas! They're coached by P.J. Carlesimo! (Whom I feel bad for, by the way, through all of this. Imagine being up in Seattle and being forced to endure all of this...)

The '72-'73 Philadelpha 76er's went 9-73 which is the lowmark for a single season in the modern NBA. I'm truly curious as to whether these Sonics will fall lower than that. If they do, how will people in Seattle feel? Vindicated? Infuriated? It's just a terrible situation. It's a sad, sad day for the NBA to have this poor action diluting what is shaping up to be an otherwise stellar season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

on lacking balls.

I've already gone on and on about Joe Lieberman and what a Judas he is to the Democratic Party, so I won't go on at length about that again, but rather, I'll say that this is now the second time since commanding a significant majority of the vote and obtaining quite the political mandate that the Democrats have pussy-footed around the right solution just because they don't want to be thought of as rash. Don't be so silly! People elected you because they wanted you to clean up some of the old messes! If you don't do so, you won't be in power for very long. Keep that in mind.

When someone stabs you (whether it's in the back or in the front) it's not your job to still be their friend. I thought most of us learned that in middle school.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

on james bond.

James Bond kicks ass. I don't think there's ever been any denying this. However, I've never really been a James Bond fan. I don't know why, to be honest. Almost all the guys my age love James Bond. They love his movies, they love the shit out of Sean Connery's version of the character, and they love all the minutiae associated with the various side characters.

I, personally, loved the N64 version of the James Bond game but Brother One would always kick my ass. (But only because he would use Oddjob. That dude was too short! You could never shoot him! Unfair.)

However, even with that love, I never really cared about Bond.

My cousin whom I trust, however, told me that Casino Royale was the bomb. So I checked it out. And I thought it was pretty good. But, unfortunately, definitively, not the bomb. So...I don't really know how to explain it, but somehow...

I'm freakin' psyched for Quantum of Solace!

Check it before you wreck it:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

on cyfi.

A great product coming out combining two of my favorite things, biking and music, is called Cy-Fi and it's available now.

It's an interesting concept, and it's something that I think we're going to see a lot more of. The ubiquity of iPods in general, how prevalent they are in our society now really means that more and more, people will be looking at delivering music to people in more ways. There was this great report that I just read talking about how many cars are now coming with iPod hookups standard and I don't think that's really going to come as a surprise to anyone. But remember how fresh it was to make that transition from elevator muzak to the tunes that you actually knew being played in department stores to now being able to have a personal soundtrack of music you love bumping almost all the time. (We're going to look past the volume/deafness issues for now.)

When you combine that, though, with the Bluetooth technology that, honestly, is only now getting its feet wet in the new digital world that people are really starting to embrace, I think you're going to see some amazing things. It reminds me of a time that I've only read about, when people were really into this idea of playing with the ham radios in their basements and the excitement we all felt when we were kids and we first learned about the truckers' CB radio.

The easier it is for people to communicate with each other, I think, the more likely they are to do so. And an increase in communication can only be good, not just for individuals, but for our society in general.

By the way, Kanye's new song "Amazing" is pretty much that - it's got Young Jeezy with the rapping and Kanye doing his 808-Auto-Tune thing. The best thing I've heard from this album. I'm getting more and more psyched for it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

on thinking blue.

For just over four years I've had this little blue band. I never took it off. I wore it on my right wrist and, fortunately for my sense of balance, at the Green Day concert, I got a white One Campaign band to match.

However, it was always my intention to take this band off once I'd done my job Thinking Blue. And as it's now my understanding that I've done that job, I'm rewarding myself.

While researching for this one, I found out that there was, apparently, a little drama with the whole Think Blue campaign; when isn't there, right?

The whole point, however, is that dedicating a bit of time is almost always worth it.

When I worked for the DNC four years ago, I dedicated a lot of time. I worked for John Kerry even though he wasn't really the man I believed in - he was the better choice. That doesn't always have to be a bad thing. People like Ralph Nader have made their recent careers over telling us that it's wrong to make the choice of the lesser of two evils - but it doesn't have to be. We don't live in a world of absolutes. We don't always have to be perfect. We just have to be good enough.

Four years ago, my friends and I weren't. So when we suffered this loss, I went out and bought us all these bracelets so that we could have a reminder on our wrists of what we were working for over the last four years. Although I don't talk to all of the people that I bought bands for, I know that something good came of the fact that I did.

Now it's four years later. We've done good work for four years. There's more to come. Just because he made it doesn't mean he gets a free pass. Let's be vigilant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

on ulysses.

Wow.

I've never cared much for Franz Ferdinand, to be honest. I think they're just all right, they made some great pop music that I like to scream along to, but I didn't think of them in very rarefied light. They were just another foreign band, doing their part to rock out in a clever way.

However, this news about their new album, and particularly, a contest with the new single which is going to be called "Ulysses" (which is a bold thing to do, to title your single after the greatest book written) is convincing me that I might have to take another look at them.

Taken from the write-up at Prefix, "the band has made some remix stems of the track available on the popular Beatport website. The Beatport stems allow fans to remix the track before actually hearing what the finished version sounds like." The article continues to say that the winner of the contest will be awarded 500 Euros, and have their version of the song released.

What a great idea! This is part of that future-wave that we're currently trying to figure out how to ride, and I applaud all innovative moves like this one.

You can find the two stems here at Beatport. They're pretty basic, so the remixing will have to be semi-intense, but I can't imagine that we'd really want it any other way, right?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

on the heavenly virtues.

Faith, Hope and Love are the three Heavenly Virtues. There are different interpretations of which one's the 'most important' and what order they go in, in general.

However, herein lies my take:

Love is easy. Falling in love with someone is one of the easiest damn things in the whole world to do. I mean, seriously, we've talked here previously about how we can even fall in love with the 'wrong' person, about how we don't have control of it, etc. Love is easy. Sure, true love, where you find your soul mate and you stay happy with them forever is pretty rare, and even if it does happen, I'm not saying it's a walk in the park, I acknowledge that it takes work. But with all these things being said about it, I think it has to be clear that Love, while an amazing thing in and of itself, is the least of the Heavenly Virtues.

On the next hand, there's been a lot of talk recently about Hope. Hope is amazing. I'm not here to disparage any of these genuine emotions/feelings. Believe that. Hope can sustain a person. Hope can give someone who feels they have nothing something to live for. Hope can resuscitate a person. Hope is an incredible high. Hope can deliver promise.

However...hope is merely that. Hope. That means that you hope it'll happen. Hope, to me, implies a lack of trust. A lack of...faith.

Faith, on the other hand, is perfect in my eyes. This is a big part of why I still maintain a strict religious presence in my life. I think that Faith gives my life some element, some intangible, wherein there is less of a chance for someone to control me. Faith means that, while I value reason, and I think of myself as a reason-based creature, there are some things that I accept simply because I accept them. I accept them based on faith.

I have faith in humans. I think that we are good, by nature. I think that to think otherwise is foolish. There's so much evidence, some of which I might get into later. But the bottom line for me is that Faith is the tops when it comes to the Heavenly Virtues.

You can easily fall in love with an idea. Then you can hope that it'll work out. And all the while, you should be working to make it so. But at some point, you have to acknowledge that it might be out of your hands. You have to have faith that something good will happen if you've worked hard enough for it. It's not enough to love something, it's not enough to hope for it, some things require a deep faith.

Monday, November 3, 2008

on barack.

In general, I figure that not many people I don't know read this blog. I don't really go out of my way to advertise it, I'm not super-active in any online communities or anything like that, and I've not been linked to by any huge names. So when I say that tomorrow I'm going to be holding my breath until Barack Obama wins, I kind of figure that it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone here.

However, I have kind of gone out of my way to not directly get too into it, not to beat anyone over the head with my uber-liberal tendencies.

But.

That doesn't mean that it's not there. My whole life, for the last week, definitely, has been consumed by the chorus "Obama, Obama, Obama!" I've been furiously consuming political news for so long that it seems like I'm on the verge of burning out, but every time that happens, all I can think of is how excited I'm going to be tomorrow when the nation finally elects a President I can be proud of. Four years ago, as I was working with the DNC, I poured my heart into John Kerry's campaign, traveling around not only New Mexico, but even up to Colorado. I worked my ass off for that man, even though I didn't truly think he was a great candidate. But I was willing to do it because I thought he was the better choice. And when he lost, it was easily one of the top 5 most disappointing (worst?) moments of my life.

I'm now realizing that it had to happen that way so then so that it could happen this way now.

I could not be more excited.

2Pac said that we weren't ready for a black President and it really did seem that he was right. But the crazy thing is that it wasn't that long ago! Chris Rock's been jumping up and down, desperately trying to make everyone forget that he called Billy Clint the first black President. It's a huge thing in America, where racism is still rampant. The craziest thing about that is that there are still some people who believe that it's not a problem in modern-day society.

Now, however, Nas says it best. We are ready. We are the people we've been waiting for, we are the change we want to see in the world, etc. Every other cheesy cliche you can think of is true. We can do better. We deserve better. And tomorrow, we will get it.