Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Play it: "Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman

I haven't been writing much lately, as I've been running crazy getting images together of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. Looking through the images today (photos that just break your heart,) I started listening to Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" (thanks Jeff Chang) from the album Good Old Boys (1974,) which tells of the great flood of 1927, and it gives goosebumps:
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away

-Randy Newman "Louisiana 1927"
If it's in your heart, I'd ask you to donate whatever you feel comfortable doing in aid to these folks devastated down there. Network for good is good place to do it.

Lord nows, since we're spending a billion dollars a day in Iraq for a war going nowhere, relief back home for disasters like this isn't like it should be.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Show me the money

Play it: Entourage Episode 21

The gang is out shopping as a test to E's generosity - which he passed. While Vince is inside paying for Drama and Turtle's watches, the rest spot Mandy leaving Gucci w/ her ex-fiance (Drama: "That's what happens at Gucci... you buy shoes and they let you f*ck your ex-fiance!") Drama and Turtle get their sleuth on and follow them around town while E distracts Vince.

Ari is surprised when Terrance shows up at a staff meeting and turns him away for being late, which would be appropriate except Terrence hasn't been to a staff meeting in three years. Thus begins the agent pissing match. Meanwhile, Drama and Turtle are tail Mandy and ex to Blockbuster (in the inconspicuous bright yellow H2... proving that nobody pays any attention in Hollywood,) and then to Mandy's house (which you'll notice, is the Beverly Hills 90210 Walsh household,) where they have to duck at the last second as E drives by to drop off Vince.

Back to the pissing match - Terrance calls Ari's assistant Lloyd and tells him he wants Ari up in his office immediately. They go back and forth and finally meet on neutral turf in the conference room on the floor between them. Terrance has decided he's coming back to work full time and Ari, who's run basically run place for the past eight years, cringes noticeably. Ari then pushes to find out where he stands by asking for an extension and finds out when Terrance scribbles secretly on a piece a paper what he should expect to recieve ("NOTHING!") Ari then goes back to his office and goes postal zen (Ari to Lloyd: "Silence is F*CKING GOLDEN!")

Gang confronts Vince about Mandy and he's nonplused. Drama and Turtle take off to go to Blockbuster to figure out which movie they rented to get a better read, only to find out it was the male-tear-jerker classic, Brian's Song (Drama: "He basically could use his tears as lubricant.")

Ari, after meditating, decides to put his emergency plan into action and gives Lloyd a list of 8 agents to say "tsetse fly" to, which is apparently code for, grab your contacts and files, we're starting up our own agency. Vince confronts Mandy and she waffles like a Belgian breakfast hut, making Vince realize his worst fears: he alone is in love.

Meanwhile Ari realizes his worst fear as well when he goes to the secret meeting place and discovers no one there (Lloyd to Ari: "Code red, code red - He Knows!") Ari tells Lloyd to "start boxing up my office everything. If you find a used condom, an executioners mask, and spike paddle don't ask any question just box the mother f*cker - CHOP SUEY!" He pulls back into the agency parking lot, has Ernesto leave the car running, and runs inside to find security guards blocking his door.

Now it gets all-Jerry Maguire with the confrontation with Terrance (ala Jay Mohr) and a vow to start a new agency, calling out a 'who's with me' to have only (instead of girly-girl Rene Zellwegger,) girly-man Lloyd with him and they walk out after Ari vows to destroy the firm. They get down to the garage and Ari finds out his phone no longer works (company phone) and can't get his company car back from Ernesto (Ari: "Can't give it to me? Ernesto. How many fucking pesos did I give you for Christmas? Huh Ernesto? Every Christmas for the past decade. Half of Mexico is eating on my tips that I have given you. Now bring my mother fucking car now. Por Favor." Ernesto: "Sorry Mr. Gold, I can't do it. Oh and Mr Gold, I'm from Guatemala and our currency is the quetzal.") So Lloyd gets his suped-up racing striped Toyota and Ari leaves with him (Ari: "I came to work in an $80,000 Mercedes and now I'm leaving in a prop car from The Fast and the Furious.")

Vince interrupts the gang getting teary-eyed over Brian's Song to tell thank them for telling him about Mandy and that it's over. "Oh, and call Ari and tell him I'm not doing the movie (Aquaman) anymore." Drama and Turtle's tears are all dried up right about now.

Lloyd drives a drunk Ari home where he laments what he's gonna tell his wife. Lloyd then gives him a Gale Sayers-like inspirational speech about what he went through to get to the dismal place he is now, saying "but I see the end game, Ari, and you're it." Ari's inspired ("Lloyd that speech was great... If I was 25 and liked cock we could be something") and as Stevie Wonder sings "For Once In My Life" his mood turns for the better. A few honks of the horn later, he's picking up his angry wife and carrying her back into the house while Lloyd drives off into next week.

Will Ari keep Vince as a client? Will he even want to if Vince backs out of playing Aquaman? Will Lloyd dress like Rene Zellweger's character in Jerry Maguire? I guess we'll find out in next week's season finale.

Full tracklisting with scene descriptions

Sympathy for the Ari (Episode 20)
Headed for a Gigli (Episode 19)
That's Hebrew for 'When do you get off?' (Episode 18)
Comic-consies (Episode 17)
Mandy Moore is Aquaman's kryptonite (Episode 16)
Cross-sword traffic (Episode 15)
Crouching Turtle, hidden Drama (Episode 14)
More Bob Saget on drugs (Episode 13)
Bring out the suit (Episode 11 & 12)
My Maserati Does 185 (Episode 10)
Let's Hug It Out, Bitch (Episode 9 - Season 2 Premiere)

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Bookclub's Nun mo' better blues

Play it: Bookclub's 10th Anniversary Party and Clubber Awards

The bookclub I'm in (Not Oprah's Bookclub is what we go by) just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past Saturday night, and let me tell you, that's a lot of books. The theme was award night, and 'Clubber' awards (lawn nuns, pictured surrounding Eli) were handed out to various categories. Best Dressed, Best Quote, Best Food Moment (our meetings are potlucks,) Best Bullsh*tter, Lifetime Achievement (longtime member,) and Most Valuable Reader. I pulled down the coveted MVR and had the Best Dressed winner on my arm.

No award for Children's Books, so Eli will have to wait to get his.

Tracks in playlist:
* "Join The Book Club" - George Carlin
* "In The Mind Of The Bourgeois Reader" - Sonic Youth
* "The Mammy Nuns" - Frank Zappa

Monday, August 29, 2005

Neko commands and nature obeys

Play it: Zoo Tunes - Neko Case and Laura Veirs

Went to see Neko Case last night at the Woodland Park Zoo (Zoo Tunes,) and was pleasantly surprised to find that Laura Veirs was opening. I've been playing the hell out of her latest release (Year of the Meteor) lately, so it was private thrill (no one else seemed to share my delight.) She started out with the prophetic "Cool Water" and proceeded through a wonderful set. I highly recommend the album.

It was 80+ degrees mere hours prior, but by the time Neko Case came on, the black clouds had moved in, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped dramatically. She played a few songs (including the great "Deep Red Bells" and "Soulful Shade of Blue") before apologizing for the weather and then going into the song "Buckets of Rain." Minutes after the song was over, buckets of rain did fall... the kind of rain we don't get in Seattle. Seriously... there's misconception about rain in Seattle. Sure, we get a lot of days of rain, but we never get a lot at once. This was a torrential downpower, a cloudburst in a thunderstorm, and that happens in Seattle maybe once a year or so. Second, rain in August in Seattle is almost as rare. That's the power that Neko Case has on the great NW. She's loved like no other chanteuse, and wields a power over the Seattle-area that's shaman-like, but I'm sure she has no idea of her supernatural abilities, or she would've stuck to indoors and avoided singing "Buckets of Rain."

Anyway, we had to bundle up our lil' Eli and run him to the car, before he became a water-logged mr. grumpy pants (hell hath no fury...)

More reports from the front:
More rgordon's photos (one of his wonderful shots above)
Getting Wet w/ Neko Case
The NINE on Suicide Girls comments on the show
Some random person's live journal
Girl in Greenwood was there

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Lips mix for Minuteman

Play it: MXTP: Steven Drozd for Mike Watt

My favorite mix from Thurston Moore's book mix tape: the art of cassette culture is one given to Mike Watt (Minutemen) from Flaming Lips guitarist (and drummer) Steven Drozd. A few of his picks weren't in the Rhapslibrary, but most were, and they're quite an ecelctic bunch (which you'll notice is my fave type of playlist.) Any mix that can pair "Wichita Lineman" with a Mice Parade song is one you know you at least have to check out. Of the mix, Watts says this:
It's pretty righteous. He said he was thinking of me. He's quite cool peeps and has a good heart. - Mike Watt
Drozd, for his part, can be seen in the new Flaming Lips documentary, The Fearless Freaks, as the genius behind the Lips' recent success (and also can be seen preparing a shooting up heroin in a rather sad & tragic scene.)

The Flaming Lips also have a new music video retrospective out with companion soundtrack, called VOID (Video Overview In Deceleration), which is significant at least for the inclusion of "Mr. Ambulance Driver" (from the Wedding Crashers soundtrack.) The song is interesting in that parts have sort of a blaxploitation soundtrack sound (forward to 2:50 in the track and tell me you don't see Shaft or Foxy Brown in action?)

Play it: The Flaming Lips VOID

Mix Tape: the art of cassette culture

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rssmbld Soundtrack: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Play it: Reassembled Soundtrack: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

To both celebrate the release of another Terry Gilliam directed picture (The Brothers Grimm) and Hunter S. Thompson's recent ascension (with the help of his portrayor Johnny Depp,) I've reassembled probably Gilliam's most interesting soundtrack to a movie that he's taken part of. The setting of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas automatically lends itself to some great kitsch, but add to the mix Hunter S. Thompson's drug theme and you have a positively surrealistic mix and experience.

A place where Wayne Newton, Robert Goulet, Perry Como and Debbie Reynolds rub shoulders with Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Co., Buffalo Springfield and the Rolling Stones is truly a place I'd like to visit.

While Gilliam's picture didn't encapsulate all of Thomspon's great novel, Johnny Depp did an admirable job as Thompson (still a fan of Bill Murray's portrayal, though.) Thompson and Depp struck up a friendship after meeting so Depp could better get a grasp of his 'character.' Both Depp and Murray were present this past weekend when Thompson's ashes were shot into the sky with fireworks. He really knew how to go out with a bang - he did it twice.

Reassembled Soundtrack: Wedding Crashers

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mix Tape: the art of cassette culture

Play it: Thurston Moore's Love Mix
Play it: Warning: Sensitive Pussies Should Not Listen To This Awesome Set Of Ditties, by Ahmet Zappa
Trying to control sharing through music is like trying to control an affair of the heart -- nothing will stop it. - Thurston Moore
mix tape: the art of cassette cultureThurston Moore (Sonic Youth) recently put together a love letter to the past called mix tape: the art of cassette culture, which talks about and compiles mix tapes from various artists. With the advent of technology, making mixes has become so much easier: the iPod, the CD-R, and, of course, the easiest to share, Rhapsody. Mix tapes took a long time to make, giving it an edge in sentiment.

One passage from the book that I found most interesting, was the analog vs. digital argument, dealing specifically with what Moore calls the ear-heart. Essentially, digital (CD's, MP3's) is a definitive wave sound, whereas analog is not... so the first time you hear a song digitally, it's imprinted in your memory, and repeated listenings brings back the same imprint. Analog (tapes, vinyl) is an imperfect playback that your ear and brain fill in the blanks for.
Analog has the mystery arc where cosmos exist, which digital has not reined in. We used to listen to records over and over and each time they would offer something new because the ear-heart would respond to new resonations not previously detected. It was like each kiss had a new sensation... ...Anyway, a cassette rocking at normal bias will bring healing analog tones to the ear-heart. Trust me. You won't crash.
- Thurston Moore
Thurston Moore's Love Mix is one I think he made specifically for the book. When coming across a love mix tape with nothing but New York Dolls songs [You Best Believe I'm In Love (L-U-V),] Moore wonders whether this is more a love letter to oneself then to a prospective lover:
I asked one mix tape maker this question. He claims that when making mix tapes, love songs included, they are pretty much for himself first. Sure, he will pass them on to his amour for a Valentine, but he primarily made it because it's the music that kicks his own ass. Is there a desire to convert your lover into you? Why not make a mix tape with songs you know your darling likes, regardless of your own tastes?
- Thurston Moore
Warning: Sensitive Pussies Should Not Listen To This Awesome Set Of Ditties, by Ahmet Zappa, is another one that might've been made up specifically for the book. Explaining the impetus for the mix, Zappa says:
This mix is filled with the power of rock and is fueled by Satan himself. If you dare listen to the fine music I have assembled, you'll instantly be transported back to a time and place where people snorted coke off Nagel paintings, and lopard-print spandex camel-toes gave young boys instant erections.
- Ahmet Zappa
One of my favorite mix tapes I remember making was for Mary Lou Lord when we had a brief fling. I remember it had all the music that was blowing me away at the time: Nick Drake, Big Star, Ride, Guided By Voices, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, Silkworm, Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Freedy Johnston - and I brazenly snuck in one of my own songs at the end of side B. We were going to exchange tapes back and forth, but she got busy touring and never got around to finishing one for me before she moved on to someone else to make mix tapes for. She said she liked it, though... I think it's romanticized in my mind as a great mix because I can't listen it now, nor probably concretely recreate it.

Years ago I made a couple for my eventual wife that we still have lying around someplace, and I need to look them over again. I'll try to resurrect one and post it later. I remember the best one of those began with Buffalo Tom's "Mountains of Your Head" but I draw a blank after that, other then I remember it was songs that I thought she would dig, which is my modus operandi on these mixes.

Do you have a favorite mix tape you remember making or receiving?

Art of the Mix website
Automatic Mix Tape Generator

Thurston Moore interview on NPR (Listen w/ RealPlayer here.)

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Canadian supergroup of Canadian supergroups

The New Pornographers
Twin Cinema
Matador (August 23, 2005)

Rhapsody Playlist:
Play the album

Bonus Playlist:
Parts of the New Pornographers

Starting out as a one-off almalgamation of Vancouver B.C. cult musicians, The New Pornographers outgrew their individual projects in popularity and have since become a full-fledged band. Twin Cinemas document this change more then 2003's Electric Version, with a tightness of musicianship and vocal harmonies that can only be accomplished with time and familiarity of members. Back are the principals: main songwriter Carl (A.C.) Newman, chanteuse Neko Case, and the under-appreciated songwriter Dan Bejar (Destroyer.)

For those looking for a NP 3.0 Power Pop masterpiece, you might be a little disappointed, but it certainly shouldn't disappoint. It's more of the same, which for the most part, is a welcome thing. Songs are not as straightforward (see the weird cyclical chorus of "Falling Through Your Clothes,") and thus may take some more listens. One thing I notice I'm loving is the drums ((courtesy of Kurt Dahle) more upfront (see "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras") and, at times, bigger guitars (see title track and "Use It.") Newman again is the workhorse here, writing 10 or the 13 songs, with the other three by Bejar. Newman's highlights include the title track, "Use It," (featuring the line "Two sips from the cup of human kindness and I'm shitfaced,") and the almost funky "Three or Four." My only complaint about Newman's songs is that he fails to utilize Case's other-worldly vocals on at least one of the more upbeat songs (ala "Letter to an Occupant,") instead using her to carry two of the slower numbers (the excellent "These Are the Fables," and "The Bones of an Idol.") Bejar's song have traditionally utilized Case's background prowess, and they do so here - their voices really compliment each other... especially on Bejar's highlight, "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras" (a sequel to Mass Romantic's "Jackie.") His solo stuff (Destroyer) can feel a little dark to the listener, so it's always entertaining to here how the NP's can add a bounce or two to his Bowie-esque style.

It's a welcome return, and if not the masterpiece some folks had hoped for, it's still it's pretty close to it, and one of the year's best releases (in a great year for releases.)

Bonus playlist contains highlights from the players that make up the NP juggernaut. Featuring Newman's Zumpano and solo power-pop, some Neko Case's alt-country beauties, Bejar's Bowie-esque Destroyer, and the 70s pop of Fancey.

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Picking at the SFU scab some more

Six Feet Under Season 4 soundtrack

Still licking the wounds from the end of SFU, so it's appropriate
that the DVD for SFU Season 4 was released today. Season 4 featured some of the most gripping, graphic and horrific scenes of human nature ever broadcast on television. "That's My Dog" is still talked about to this day, for the graphic and terrifying ride that David went on through the 50 minutes of the show. This episode set off a debate both about the show, and about what we're expected to see on television, as it put off quite a few fans. I was shocked, and I can take (and have taken) a lot of abuse, but still found the episode riveting. Claire's character gets a lot of development this season, as she goes to art school and tries to find who she is. "Terror Begins At Home" is a great episode in this thematic vein, and is also still talked about. Claire's character arc continues from Season 4 all the way to Sunday night's series finale, so it's interesting to revisit this key season in the SFU cannon.

Musically the art school scenes add a lot of indie and experimental rock to the usual classical (Funeral Home & Dinner tables,) electronica, latin, musicals, tin pan alley and jazz.

Previous SFU Season Soundtrack Playlists:
Six Feet Under Season 1
Six Feet Under Season 2 - Ep. 14-20
Six Feet Under Season 2 - Ep. 21-26
Six Feet Under Season 3

Previous Recaps:
The end of everything (Ep. 63 - Series Finale)
Do you want to touch it? (Ep. 62)
Real mourners don't eat quiche (Ep. 61)
Surf's up, Nate (Ep. 60)
A 'Giant Sucker' Punch (Ep. 59)
Staring into the abyss, Quaker style (Ep. 58)
The loss of the loss of virginity (Ep. 57)
Accept, adapt and adopt (Ep. 56)
Life is not a vending machine (Ep. 55)
Six Feet Under: Ep. 54
Mortality, insanity, paternity and more insanity (Ep. 53)
Requiem for a soap opera (Ep. 52 - Season 5 premiere)

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Sympathy for the Ari

Entourage Ep. 20

This weeks episode starts with Vince MIA for his physical... Mandy's missing too. Add to that a spread in US Weekly of the two posing while picking out fruit at a market and you've got some panicked suits. Ari's beside himself (but not so much that he can't yell "Got MILF?" as he jogs by a lactating mother,) and he and Shauna get on E's case, who, annoyed at this point, merely says "I told you, I'm handling it." Funny, no one, including us fair viewers, believe that to be the case.

Vince finally shows up ("it's hard to tear yourself away from a good spoon,") and is instantly given the 3rd degree. The Maserati's been stolen (and found) so they go to impound to pick it up, when E gets another harried Ari call (Ari: "We're going to hell so bring your sunblock.") Babs, Mandy's agent (played by MILFBeverly D'Angelo) wants a meeting between all concerned (6 Mandy suits to Vince's 2 - where's Shauna?) and E walks into what seems like a Vince-lynch party. Ari defers to Babs (Ari: "You've got the biggest cock in the room," Babs: "I don't know, we haven't seen Eric's yet,") and E's instantly having to defend his client's love life. E walks out with a few f-bombs levied at all in the room, Ari catches up to him and tells him that Cameron called and said Vince can be replaced. Babs catches up to E in the elevator and reminds him that he's only got one client (to her 100) and that should concern him more.

Meanwhile, Turtle's driving the Maserati and notices that someone left a demo rap CD in the player, and he thinks it's perfect for the Queens Blvd closing credits. He drops off Vince for some Claw target practice and he and Drama go pay a visit on Walsh in some delapitated low-rent hotel. Walsh, after first saying he's planning on playing a sitar throughout the movie, agrees that the song would be great for closing credits and has $10G's for licensing if it's available for that. Drama takes this info to the name and address on the demo (it's underground rap sensation, Saigon,) and between bouts of Drama's embarrassing attempts at trying to sound like he's from 'the streets' (Drama "I'm down wit rap, I'm OG," Turtle: "The last hip-hop cd you bought was the Kid 'n Play boxset.") Saigon agrees to the 10G's and has a new manager: Turtle.

E meets up w/ Vince at his miserable training session (E: "You killed eleven whales?" Trainer: "Don't forget two dolphins, also friends of Aquaman!") and repeats what Ari told him in confidence about Cameron. Vince is convinced that Ari's lying... which they catch him in after bluffing a call to Cameron in his office. Vince tells Ari that he can't control himself, that he doesn't care anymore about the movie, and then walks out. E catches up and Vince confesses he's pulling Ari's leg. Ari calls later wanting a Vincervention, and E sends him on a wild goose chase to Napa Valley ("it's only a seven-hour drive, Ari, but... you know,") making him believe Vince has blown a gasket and driven off ("Vince? Drive?") The boys then settle for a nice roast thanks to Drama, all set to "Sympathy For The Devil," which we're all kind of feeling (Ari being the devil.)

Full tracklisting with scene descriptions

Headed for a Gigli (Episode 19)
That's Hebrew for 'When do you get off?' (Episode 18)
Comic-consies (Episode 17)
Mandy Moore is Aquaman's kryptonite (Episode 16)
Cross-sword traffic (Episode 15)
Crouching Turtle, hidden Drama (Episode 14)
More Bob Saget on drugs (Episode 13)
Bring out the suit (Episode 11 & 12)
My Maserati Does 185 (Episode 10)
Let's Hug It Out, Bitch (Episode 9 - Season 2 Premiere)

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The end of everything

Six Feet Under Ep. 63

Spoiler alert - Let me just get this out of the way: everybody dies. You knew that, though... it's a by-product of life, really.

But instead of starting out with a death, SFU ends their season by starting out with life - Willa, the premie daughter of Brenda and Nate the late. [Perhaps they should start a series called Three Feet Above (height of a hospital bed?) and house it in a maternity ward... each week starting with a different newborn.] She's free of any birth defects (other then being only 2 lbs) but Brenda (and all of us) can't shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen, and Nate's there to only encourage her fatalism. Ruth sees Brenda differently now, and no longer stands in the way of Maya leaving, but descends into deep depression just the same when Margaret comes and takes Maya back to Brenda's. David moves back into his old home and he and Ruth briefly regress about 25 years in time, freaking out Claire a bit ("do you want some cereal?") Speaking of Claire, she makes up with sturdy Ted and gets offered a job in NY as a photographer's assistant at a stock photo company thanks to a recommendation from Olivier ("It doesn't matter who f*cked Russell. I still believe in you, Claire.")

Rico and Vanessa decide to go in on starting their own funeral home and briefly talk David into selling the place. Brenda (who now has Nate's stake) and Ruth all agree to it, and they put it on the market. Ruth decides to give in and move in with George to let him take care of her. David finally contronts his demon and they have a battle ala Luke in Empire Strikes Back when he discovers he's fighting himself, and gives his red-hooded self just what it needs - a big hug.

This is the begining of a domino fall of un-SFU like resolutions... which, for regular viewers, might be unsettling - we've gotten so used to conflict. David decides not to sell the family business, briefly pissing off Rico, but Keith steps in to help buy Rico out and they move into the old Fisher home, while Rico and 'Nessa buy their own funeral home and start their new business - even putting in an espresso stand in the funeral home. Ruth has the most conflicts to resolve, so the writers had to squeeze a bunch in. First Ruth and Claire deal with their issue, and Claire's overture about not going to NY and staying to take care of her wakes up Ruth from her self-pity, seeing her younger self in Claire. They have a Lifetime Movie moment and Ruth unfreezes Claire's trust fund and gives her blessing. Ruth then calls Maggie (who is at the doctor's office... pregnant? the only SFU-like unresolved conflict) and asks her if Nate was happy at the time he collapsed. Knowing that he was (and that Maggie was) seems to embolden Ruth. She's then able to resolve everything with Brenda and moves in w/ her sister Sarah in Topanga Canyon (the only place she was happy through the five seasons.) Brenda wakes up to find both Nate the lates standing over Willa's crib and Brenda's vision of Nate now loves the child, finally freeing her of her fatalism (boy, SFU really must be over!)

Claire gets a call that the new job isn't there anymore, but Nate tells her not to tell anyone and go to NY anyway. She has a going away party at David and Keith's new version of the funeral home, which is more colorful (and has a room dedicated to Playstation.) It turns into a celebrate Nate party and everyone exchanges Nate stories (feeling to us like everyone trading SFU stories at it's end) followed by a toast. Claire leaves the next morning and pops in Ted's Decidedly Unhip Mix (which starts with "Breathe Me" by Sia - which is decidedly not un-hip.) As Claire drives in her new Prius across the country, a montage of time leading up to every main characters' eventual death. We're treated with a lot of aging make-up, seeing everyone age in a soft-focus. David and Keith get married in a traditional ceremony (Gay marriage eventually accepted in about 6-9 years it looks like based on Anthony's and Willa's age.) Other, non-death related revelations: Durrell becomes a funeral director (presides over Ruth's funeral,) Anthony turns out to be gay (showing up at a funeral with a partner,) and finally Ted and Claire marry after seeing eachother at Ruth's funeral. With the exception of Keith (who gets shot on the job as a security guard,) everyone lives to the ripe old age of 75 or more. Billy's there at the time of Brenda's death mumbling with a cane about "Claire and Ted" and "emotional closure" (still holding on to that!) to her as she keels over. Claire nearly makes it to 102 - and it's somehow comforting to know the world Claire lives in doesn't end sooner in a war over oil.

All in all, the episode was incredibly touching, but I found it almost too convenient in how all conflicts and loose ends were tied up neatly in a bow (that is, except for Maggie and her doctor's visit.) I find myself missing the series already, though, and as much as I liked to poke fun at it's overly melo-dramatic moments, it felt like a good friend. So last night was like a funeral for a friend I got to know for five years, and my own mortality gets caught in my throat seeing people my age die in the eerily-bad-makeup future (Brenda, David and Keith.)

As far as the soundtrack goes, this week's will definitely be remembered for the final montage with the song "Breathe Me" by Sia (remembered most for a Zero 7 appearance.) It was requested several times and played on KEXP this AM, and I understand it's association with the final scene has made it a downloaded sensation today.

Full tracklisting with scene descriptions. Of note: HBO left off one song (Lyrics Born's "I Changed My Mind") which was playing at Claire's going away party.

Do you want to touch it? (Ep. 62)
Real mourners don't eat quiche (Ep. 61)
Surf's up, Nate (Ep. 60)
A 'Giant Sucker' Punch (Ep. 59)
Staring into the abyss, Quaker style (Ep. 58)
The loss of the loss of virginity (Ep. 57)
Accept, adapt and adopt (Ep. 56)
Life is not a vending machine (Ep. 55)
Six Feet Under: Ep. 54
Mortality, insanity, paternity and more insanity (Ep. 53)
Requiem for a soap opera (Ep. 52 - Season 5 premiere)

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Friday, August 19, 2005

History of Hip-Hop: The Message 1984-1992

Novel Soundtracks: Can't Stop Won't Stop - A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Broken into 4 parts (Loops)

Playlist: Loop 3 The Message 1984-1992
When kids have no father image, who filfulls that role? The drug dealer in the neighborhood? Motherfu*king Michael Jordan? Rappers come along and say, 'This is everything you want ot be. You want to be like me, I'm your peer, and I talk to you every day.' So the kid is being raised by LL Cool J, because LL is talking to the kid more directly than his parents ever did.
-Chuck D
Part 3 of Jeff Chang's excellent book Can't Stop, Won't Stop: History of the Hip Hop Generation, which explores the intellectual roots, political movements, and society's ills in the formation of a full-fledged culture that is hip-hop. This following is no substitute for the book, and I highly recommend it. (Click here for Loop 1 and here for Loop 2.)

Rap proved to be the ideal form to sell hip-hop, and crews got smaller, records got shorter and began being tailored to pop-song structures. The direction of innovative rap, however, stopped being about having fun and started to get serious. The role of the DJ began to recede and the role of the producer rose thanks to sampling tools. The sound had already moved out of the Bronx with Run DMC and Russell Simmons home-owning land of Queens and was even moving to the suburbs, into Rick Rubin's ol' hood: Long Island.

When young Carlton Ridenhour first heard "Rapper's Delight" he knew that was for him. He took up the name Chuck D. and joined up with Spectrum City, run by Hank "Shocklee" Boxley (the Afrika Bambaataa of Long Island.) People first really noticed Chuck D's promise with "Check Out the Radio," a b-side to "Lies" a Spectrum City single.

Bill Stephney, also a Long Island resident, spotted Chuck D. in his Spectrum City jacket on the campus of Adelphi and talked him and Hank into doing a Saturday night rap show, called the "Super spectrum Mix Hour." Stephney was hired on at DefJam as their first full-time staffer, with a vision of taking rap full-on to the suburbs. He then proceeded to push his radio friends to play Run DMC's cover of "Walk This Way," when all research showed it wouldn't play. By the end of '86 he'd done an end-around: Run DMC had crossed over to white audiences, and The Beastie Boys had crossed over to black audiences. Stephney also believed their was a place for a rap group that was equal parts Run DMC and The Clash... he wanted a rap Sandanista! Meanwhile, Rubin was pestering Chuck until Stephney got him to finally came in for a meeting and based on a demo was signed to DefJam. Chuck didn't want to go it alone, so he negotiated Hank and DJ MC Flavor into the deal. Richard Griffin provided the security for Spectrum City and in the new model, became Profressor Griff and his security team renamed the Security of the First World (S1W's.) Hank assembled the musical team with Spectrum City DJ Norman Rogers, who became "Terminator X." He and a collection of a few others became known as the Bomb Squad. They then changed their name to Public Enemy, reborn with a political slant, influenced by artists like Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets and H. Rap Brown; the speeches of Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson; and recent events like the Howard Beach incident, vigilante Bernhard Goetz and the fatal police beating of graffiti artist Michael Stewart.

Their first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987,) found Chuck D frustrated that white critics didn't vibe with his pro-Black stance while Black radio remained indifferent to their music and message. A series of interviews Chuck D. lambasted both White and Black Amercia. As Chuck D. put it, "our interviews were better than most people's shows." The record wasn't even close to sales of label mates Run DMC, The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J. New school acts like MC Shan, Biz Markie, De La Soul and EPMD were sprouting up and doing well, making it look like PE might not be able to compete. One act in particular, though, hit PE the hardest...

It was another act from Queens that took PE by surprise. Founded by DJ Eric Barrier (Eric B.) and rapper William Griffin (Rakim,) Eric B. and Rakim debuted their album Paid In Full, and it was a critical masterpiece. Still considered today as one the greatest rap albums ever recorded, Paid in Full explored both the braggodocio of the day, but also a self-consciousness that rap hadn't seen before. As writer Greg Tate wrote, "Chuck D's forte is the overview, Rakim's is the innerview." When "I Know You Got Soul" was dropped, Chuck and Hank heard it and knew where they had to go.

"I got soul too," rapped Chuck D. on "Rebel Without a Pause," both recognizing Rakim's rhyme and signaling it out. He and PE had just raised the bar, and "Rebel" heated up the clubs like a boiling kettle squeal, with fights even breaking out in response to it's riot call. Within two months of it's release, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back had sold two-million copies and had probably set off just as many debates. One of those debates was over whether rappers should be held to revolutionary standards as leaders, which was a sign of the troubled state of post-Civil Rights leadership.

One individual that found himself in the same boat as PE, was Spike Lee. His film, Do the Right Thing (1989,) sparked a lot of controversey with it's racial battle in Bed-Stuy between Radio Raheem, Korean grocers, and an Italian pizzaria. At the heart of the battle was a song from Public Enemy - "Fight the Power." The video for the song, directed by Lee, was in the style of a Black power march, starting with footage from 1963's March on Washington, then flashing forward with Chuck D saying "1989! The number, another summer." One lyric in the song had Chuck D. ready for controversey ("Fu*k him [Elvis] and John Wayne,") but a series of Professor Griff interviews that were sprinkled with anti-semitic remarks had Chuck D. on a different defense. It was a PR fire that burned out of control and initially led to Griff's removal from spokesperson duties, and then finally from Public Enemy entirely, complete with apology from Chuck D. "Welcome to the Terrordome" had D rapping "Crucifixion ain't no fiction, so-called chosen frozen, apologies made to whoever please, still they got me like Jesus" which had many calling it anti-semetic as well, even w/o Griff in the mix.

South Central Los Angeles had a similar situation to South Bronx, both socially and economically. In the 1920s, as the Black population of LA was growing, the neighborhood Watts became predominantly Black, so to avoid having a black mayor, LA quickly annexed Watts. When WWII happened, migrants moved into the neighborhood in droves and Watts was busting at the seems and strapped for services to handle the strain, and one of the results was the first race riots (Zoot Suit riots) in 1943. The conditions continued to get worse, and by late summer in 1965, it overflowed into the Watts riots, where Watts found their gangs dropping their rivalries and fighting together against the police. When the Black Panthers were brought down in 1969, Raymond Washington filled the void and created the Baby Avenues, which eventually became the "Crips." In 1973, when beefs between gangs turned bloody, several of Crips rivals merged to form one conglomeration called the Bloods. During the Reagan years, Firestone, Goodyear and GM all closed their manufacturing plants in South Central. 131 plants in all, affecting 124,000 people unemployed and by 1983 South Central's unemployment rate was at least 50% for youths, and the poverty level there was up over 30%. In 1988, Police Chief Daryl Gates started Operation Hammer, his war on gangs, where they'd demolish apartment buildings based on rumors, leaving hordes of innocent people homeless. It was these circumstances that weighed heavily on the music scene in L.A.

In Compton (South Central LA,) young O'Shea Jackson had been rapping in a group called C.I.A. (Criminals in Action) under the name Ice Cube, dropping sex rhymes to shocked and delighted crowds. Eric Wright, a 23-year old drug dealer, saw hip-hop growing in South Central and saw a way to get cash legit. He got Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, Antoine "Dj Yella" and Jackson together for a collaboration. One night, in 1987, Young and Wright were in the studio with an East Coast group (HBO) that Dre had found, thinking that NY-style would go over well in South Central. Ice Cube had written some lyrics for one song, and HBO refused to do it and walked out, so Wright stepped in, took the name Eazy E and they recorded "Boyz-N-The Hood." It was released as a single for Eazy E, and it became the stuff of legends. Emboldened they finished an album under Easy E's name and then put the all-star rap group together E called it Niggaz With Attitude (N.W.A.,) an intense image that they tried to uphold.

Straight Outta Compton was released in 1989 and went gold in six weeks (it eventually went double platinum.) Radio wouldn't touch it, Priority records didn't promote it, and MTV banned their video for the title track, but it sold anyway, which signaled a change in how albums reached the public. It put both West Coast Hip-Hop and Gansta Rap on the map. The song "Fu*k da Police" earned a letter from the FBI, and the ire of law enforcement wherever they played. Boycotts were formed at every level, but it still broke through, and found it's way into the white suburbs, which began a sort war on youth culture. Coupled with the war on gangs, crime legislation went overboard with three strikes out, mandatory sentences, prison expansion, and more cops.

Ice Cube, inspired by Public Enemy releases, took off to the East Coast to work on his solo album, and enlisted the help of the Bomb Squad (who had just wrapped up PE's Fear of a Black Planet, 1990) for the recording. Cube took his black teen rebellion and infused it with Chuck and the S1W's Black nationalism for his Amerikkka's Most Wanted (1990) album. His raps still talked about living in the ghetto, but instead of glorifying it now the raps were meant to condemn society for letting ghetto despair occur. Excited about his solo career, Cube went back to work immediately on a follow-up.

Death Certificate (1991,) which made platinum before it was even released (advance sales,) and was even harder and angrier than his debut, and it immediately struck both positive and negative chords in society. Boycotts appeared immediately from the Simon Wiesenthal Center (for the song "No Vaseline") and from the Korean American Coalition. The KAC's beef was with the song "Black Korea," which came at a bad time for the Korean-Black relations, after a Korean storekeeper shot and killed a black woman trying to buy some Orange Juice. The Korean American Grocer's Association (KAGRO) joined in and hit Cube where it hurt - his endorsement deal with St. Ides. KAGRO demanded that they drop Cube and when they didn't, they stopped St. Ides from being sold in over 5,000 stores across the country. Ice Cube stepped in and tried to make amends w/ an apology in February of 1992, and both the ban and the boycott were lifted. Relations seemed better, but a little more then a month later, it all went to hell.

Next: Loop 4 - Stakes is High 1992-2001

Loop 1 Babylon is Burning 1968-1977
Loop 2 Planet Rock 1975-1986

More: Jeff Chang's blog

Novel Soundtracks is intended as a soundtrack for a novel/book that is being read and can also serve on it's own as a music playlist. Songs referenced in the book are put into a playlist.

Previous Novel Soundtracks:
Novel Soundtrack: Kafka On The Shore (Murukami)
Novel Soundtracks: Killing Yourself To Live (Klosterman)
Novel Soundtracks: Drive Like Hell (Hudgens)
Novel Soundtracks: Fortress of Solitude (Lethem)
James Frey's My Friend Leonard
Jonathon Lethem's The Disappointment Artist

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sped up and miniaturized

The Dandy Warhols just got done playing here in the basement (see the video of it here.)

They then proceeded to invite us all out for drinks (at the War Room, 8PM.) Tonight could be very Dig! like, but I doubt it.

In support of the new single, they're doing a mini-radio tour, and by mini, I mean their playing mini-instruments (not playing at miniaturized radio stations... but that's not a bad idea...mmmm.) They're calling it the 'suitcase tour,' playing only instruments that they can fit into a suitcase. There was no topless(NDFW) Zia McCabe, but the rest were on hand. Singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor played a Martin backpacker guitar, drummer Brent De Boer played a lil' electric keyboard, and guitarist Peter Holmstrom played a Gibson acoustic (refusing to play his miniature guitar when he found out they were being filmed.)

They only played three songs, as they'd only learned three for this odd instrumentation, and played them amphetamine-like so it was over very quickly (hence, not so many pics.)

Tracks played:
1. Smoke It
2. We Used to be Friends
3. Bohemian Like You

This is the exact songs and track order I had in Rhapsody when I got back to my desk. I guess I was anticipating songs they'd play, and turned out to be spot on. Here's a playlist of the songs played in their original form: Dandys in the Basement

So last night, they were previewing the new album and it was kind of noisy, what with all the people getting free drinks on Capitol Records tab, but I was able to gleam from the listen that it's a mix of the last two album styles. The first single, "Smoke It," obviously harkens back to 13 Tales..., but there were a few Duran Duran (Nick Rhodes) influenced songs, ala Welcome to the Monkey House.

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There's some Dandys in our basement

The Dandy Warhols are playing downstairs... the mayhem begins in about a 45 minutes.

I'll report back w/ pics (hopefully) shortly. In the meantime, here's their single "Smoke It," in advance of their new album Odditorium.

Play: Smoke It

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Too ugly for this world

G.G. Allin was truly ugly

Another Robert of the Radish challenge for BlogCritics: Who do you think the ugliest musician/band ever to walk the planet is and why?

Easily, for me, it's G.G. Allin - ugly personified. He really really made himself ugly, to reflect the world as he saw it. He was born Jesus Christ Allin, as his father was supposedly visited by an angel who told him to name his unborn son with this name. His brother couldn't pronounce it and called him "G.G." and his mother renamed him Kevin Michael before he started school. But G.G. came back to the Jesus Christ moniker, honestly seeing himself as a savior for rock and roll. He played sloppy punk rock, starting with Iggy Pop's persona with the Stooges and taking it to an extreme never before seen. He cut gashes into his face and body, urinated and deficated on the stage, and threw feces at the crowd. Understandably, he was arrested several times, often not getting more then a couple songs into a set before cops would shut it down.

His biggest stunt was going to be committing suicide on stage, but he was put in jail for an extended period of time to prevent him from this 'accomplishment.' In the end, he died of a heroin overdose a friend's New York City apartment after escaping, totally nude, from a nearby show that had been raided by the police.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Headed for a Gigli

Entourage Ep. 19

Only four songs this week, but prolly the best quality of selections...evah. Lyrics Born, Citizen Cope, M.I.A. & Beck... are you kidding me? Is KEXP programming the soundtrack for Entourage?

So this week, the cat's out of the bag as Page 6 has outted Vince and Mandy Moore's relationship. Since Mandy was engaged, Ari and Shauna know on-screen romances are bad for business, and want to make sure that Aquaman doesn't become this year's Gigli. Vince can't help himself, though, and freely admits he's head over heels... he just can't help himself.

They all go out to lunch at a deli and Drama & Turtle keep their conversation to a minimum (Drama, proudly: "I'm working on an MOW with Brooke Shields," Turtle: "I'm working hard.") Mandy, while E's tasked with making sure there's no PDA's.

Things escalate with Terrance's poaching of Vince as a client from Ari, and Ari gives Vince a valuable painting off his wall (Niche art, get it?) But is it really valuable? Thanks to a tip from Terrance, E finds out it's prolly a fake (and his wife's fine automobile is a 500, not a 600.) Ari scrambles and switches out the real Niche for E, so Vince can give it to Mandy as (too expensive of) a birthday gift. E's relationship with Terrance's daughter, Sloan, starts to escalate, which sets up another problem for Ari's plight.

Meanwhile, Drama's got his MOW with Brooke Shields, and is quite enamored with his co-star. Too bad she's married to one of the writers (and, in an Entourage special twist, is married to Entourage writer and co-producer Chris Henchy.) When they film their first scene together, their characters (who are brother and sister) have to hug, and Drama's visions of The Blue Lagoon sends some unwanted wood. Brooke quietly complains to Timothy Busfield about how stiff Drama's performance is, and Drama is shown his papers.

The gang all goes out for a birthday party for her at one of Terrence's restaraunts. Drama and Turtle have warmed up a bit (Drama: "I got fired from my MOW!" Turtle: "I've never even had a job!") Drama gives her Viking Quest on DVD (Turtle "That's from me, too.") Mandy glows over the attention and is happy to see them all as a family again.

Full tracklisting with scene descriptions

That's Hebrew for 'When do you get off?' (Episode 19)
Comic-consies (Episode 18)
Mandy Moore is Aquaman's kryptonite (Episode 16)
Cross-sword traffic (Episode 15)
Crouching Turtle, hidden Drama (Episode 14)
More Bob Saget on drugs (Episode 13)
Bring out the suit (Episode 11 & 12)
My Maserati Does 185 (Episode 10)
Let's Hug It Out, Bitch (Episode 9)

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