Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's About Time, Germany

Germany To Settle Outstanding WWI Debt
- San Francisco Chronicle

Outstanding, Germany. Simply Outstanding.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interesting Interview with French Writer Michel Houellebecq

Perfect name for a French writer, eh? He's well known in France for his anti-Muslim comments and graphic sex scenes. The interview made me want to read his stuff.


So what made you write your first novel, Whatever, about a computer
programmer and his sexually frustrated friend?


I hadn’t seen any novel make the statement that entering the workforce was like entering the grave. That from then on, nothing happens and you have to pretend to be interested in your work. And, furthermore, that some people have a sex life and others don’t just because some are more attractive than others. I wanted to acknowledge that if people don’t have a sex life, it’s not for some moral reason, it’s just because they’re ugly. Once you’ve said it,
it sounds obvious, but I wanted to say it."

Hippo Licks Croc

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fun With Rolling Stone

Back To The Wall

Sadly, we are only given an excerpt on the website, but soon, in a store near you, I will be reading the rest of this, and not giving Rolling Stone my money:
The former Pink Floyd leader has just ducked his still-gangly six-foot-three-inch frame into a town car for a ride to a midtown Manhattan restaurant, and it is immediately clear that the driver is way too excited to see him. Waters braces himself. "Been a fan all my life, man," says the driver, a baseball-capped, middle-aged dude named Fred, with a broad New York accent. " 'Wish You Were Here' — I was backpacking in Europe when I got turned on to it. I was like, 'This is the best album evvuh!' It must be an unbelievable feeling to know what an impact you made on my generation."

"Normally, we don't know until we get in your car," Waters replies in his crisply British tones, buckling his seat belt. As usual, it's hard to read his chilly blue-gray eyes — color-coordinated these days with his longish, silvery hair and professorial beard — but it seems he's decided to be amused. It helps that Waters just shared an excellent bottle of Montrachet, in celebration of the end of a long workday: After driving into Manhattan this morning from his house in the Hamptons, he endured a biceps, triceps and abdominal core workout ("It nearly kills me, but I need to get a little stronger"), sang scales with the vocal coach who's been helping him reclaim the high notes of his youth, met with a stylist to select stage clothes in various shades of black (rejecting one pair of leather boots as "very Bruce" and another as "too Pete Townshend") and spent hours in a downtown production studio, making minute tweaks to lighting and digital animation.
"The high notes of his youth"? What, you mean "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat"? It must be interesting to wake up in the morning and be Roger Waters. You've made your contribution to the human race and there are no expectations of you contributing any more. You can just sit around and bask in your impact - and money. I'm glad he's doing these Wall shows, but I don't think I'll be attending. However, I would have liked to have been in the audience to see Waters and Gilmour's impromptu appearance at an English fundraiser for Palestinian refugees:
Gilmour and Waters were originally planning to play three songs. But one attendee, British financier Arpad Busson, was so taken with the performance, he donated £50,000 to get them to play "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." "Some other people were also saying they'd give £200,000 for them to play one more song," Freud adds. "People were crying — really! I know it sounds corny, but it was magic. David and Roger — they looked so happy up there and they made something so beautiful happen."
So, are they like charity whores or something? "Here's another 100,000 pounds - play 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene" - immediately!"

Julian Lennon On His New Photos Of U2, Kate Hudson

Speaking of touchy British rock reconciliations, How about Julian Lennon and Yoko Ono:

Midway through the evening, Yoko Ono, Sean and Julian Lennon themselves emerged into the room for a tour, laughing together and pausing to look at intimate shots of U2...Julian's mother Cynthia Lennon, Patti Boyd, George Harrison’s first wife, and Sid Bernstein, 92, the promoter who first brought the Beatles to the U.S., also came to see the exhibit, Lennon’s first. May Pang, Lennon's girlfriend during his eighteen-month “Lost Weekend” between 1973 to 1975, also attended — making it the first time she, Cynthia Lennon, Yoko Ono, Sean and Julian have all been in the same room together.
Anyone have a knife? Because the tension in this room is so thick, I could cut it with one. All in all, Julian seems like a pretty cool guy, especially considering that the first thing anyone automatically thinks of when they see him is probably, "You're John Lennon's son!" and Julian barely knew his father and didn't really feel that close to him anyway. Recently I listened to some of Julian's music, and it's actually quite good, if you like well-crafted but somewhat lyrically generic Beatlesque pop. Let's say this: he's a better songwriter than Ringo. Here's a really interesting, but non-Rolling Stone interview from last year:
“If Dad was to walk through the door now, we’d hug and cry, and get rid of all that pent-up emotion and anger. I have nothing but love for him now.”

Over the past two decades Julian has himself bought John Lennon memorabilia, much of it to be displayed in the exhibition in Liverpool, which will run until the end of the year. It has been, as he accepts, his way of “re-connecting” with his father. Yet he has had to spend more than £1m of his own money to gain possession. “It is, in a way, horrendous and very sad that this is what I have needed to do. Yet I’m blessed too that I have had the money to be able to do this.”

Julian ‘lost’ his father when he was five at the time of the divorce though he did get back on reasonable terms with him in the mid 1970s when John split from Yoko Ono for a couple of years after meeting May Pang. It was she who encouraged a rapprochment. “Dad and I got on a great deal better than,” recalls Julian. “We had a lot of fun, laughed a lot and had a great time in general when he was with May Pang.” This relationship was initially known as ‘the lost weekend’ though it lasted a good deal longer - 18 months in fact - before John and Yoko Ono were reconciled in 1975. “My memories of that time with Dad and May are very clear - they were the happiest time I can remember with them.”

His relationship with his step-mother is well documented. There has not been a lot of love lost on either side. But now, again with the passing of time, Julian and Yoko Ono are on better terms. He saw her earlier this year in New York for dinner while she was recording her latest album. “But it was no more than a brief dinner with her and Sean.” Sean, of course, is his half-brother, and, like Julian, has carved out a musical career. “The fault with Yoko is as much mine. I unleashed Hell on her. Now I’ve made my peace with her and put the past on the backburner. We talked over things at that dinner. There is no point in further animosity as I’ve had enough of anger. It is a waste of time and energy.” Julian makes it very clear though that his relationship with Sean could not be better even if he was clearly John’s favourite while he was alive. “We’ve got a fabulous friendship. The issue was never with him; it was with Yoko.”

Sacha Baron Cohen To Play Queen's Freddie Mercury

What do you think?

Springsteen Talks Darkness With Ed Norton

Although I may have outgrown my Springsteen phase, I always did like Darkness On The Edge Of Town and for the nice price of nothing, I might actually want to hear this upcoming box set, which includes "21 unused songs from the sessions" and a documentary with concert footage. Although I have to say, the following lyrical samples give me pause:
On the light, rollicking “Gotta Get That Feeling,” Springsteen sings, “Hey girl, won’t you come out tonight?” There’s also “Ain’t Good Enough For You” (“you criticize about me endlessly/Logic defies how you got stuck with me”); “Someday (We’ll Be Together),” which is a romantic ballad with a bit of a ‘50s feel; and “Talk To Me,” about a guy pining for a girl whose “dad won’t ever let me in.”
Oh my God! That girl's dad won't ever let him in! What's a poor working-class Jersey boy to do? This is the future of rock and roll!

The Best Record Stores In The U.S.A.

You guessed it: Amoeba is listed first. But that's probably because the list is in alphabetical order.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The 2010 Midterm Elections - What Were You Expecting?

According to the pundits and the prognosticators and the magical soothsayers, Americans are disappointed with Barack Obama's presidency and want to elect Republicans to Congress again. To which I say, go ahead. And to which I also say, to all sides: what were you expecting?

First of all, to liberals: Did you really think Republicans were going to disappear? I don't know about everybody else, but personally I did not get the sense that Obama's victory in 2008 represented any sort of substantial "shift" in American politics, or in the political preferences of John Q. American. I suspect that "swing voters" were fed up with eight years of Bush and associated the economically prosperous 1990s with Bill Clinton and, by further association, the Democratic party. I've got news for you people. The 1990s are not coming back. There is nothing Barack Obama or Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or Meg Whitman can do to bring them back. I've heard it said that voters are in "an anti-incumbent mood." If voters won't be satisfied until the 1990s return, then I hope they enjoy being in that "anti-incumbent mood," because they're probably going to be in that anti-incumbent mood for the rest of their lives.

Also, to liberals: Did you think Obama was going to magically create a budget surplus, end every armed conflict everywhere in the world, redistribute Wall Street bonuses to orphaned children, and generally pass every single law Democrats have felt like passing for forty years?

Finally, to conservatives: Do you think that massive tax cuts, the implementation of pure laissez-faire capitalism, and the elimination of all government stimulus programs is going to improve the economy and erase the national debt? I have news for you: the national debt will exist the day you die. The national debt will exist as long as the United States of America functions as a sovereign entity. Get used to it. It is not going anywhere. Electing Republicans to Congress is not going to erase the national debt. But if it makes you feel better, you can vote for Republicans if you want to. And yet, didn't we just do that? What makes you think a 2012 government led by Republicans will be any different from the 2000-2006 government led by Republicans?

Republicans often accuse Democrats of being "pie-in-the-sky liberals," but honestly I find conservative ideals more unrealistic. They seem to expect the world to be perfect in some patently shallow sort of way. They expect a world with no debt, no waste, no welfare, no terrorist attacks, no thriving autocratic Middle East dictators - no problems at all. And anything short of such a world is a disgrace and a travesty and an insult to the Founding Fathers. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but such a world will never exist. People have to let go of some superficial notion of the way the world is "supposed to be." And yet woe to the politician who fails to pretend such a world is only a couple of years away. I get the feeling that conservatives would rather live in a world where everybody's miserable but, look! The national debt has finally been eradicated!

On the whole, I must admit that Obama has lived up to my extremely low expectations. Here are some of the things Barack Obama has not done:

1) Been caught in a sleazy sex scandal
2) Started a war of choice with a Middle-Eastern country
3) Made the recession noticeably worse
4) Actively supported racism and homophobia
5) Appointed WASP-y assholes to the Supreme Court

I have no complaints.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ooo6 - "Crazy Theremin Jam"

For a single that Peter chose as the #1 song of the decade, "Crazy Theremin Jam" doesn't seem particularly significant or profound. Which is fine by me, but I thought only I was allowed to like songs for that reason, not Peter. Nevertheless, as someone once said about Shakespeare, it's really very good in spite of the people who like it.

First of all, the band name is great. Randy George, KD, OG, and Elliot, the four members of ooo6, were also kicking around "ooo5" and "ooo4," either of which could have worked just as well. Randy George has described their music as "an experiment to see how rapidly the theremin can be injected into the world's collective consciousness." Count me in.

As I think is the case with many of my other favorite songs of the 00s, ooo6 didn't appear to be taking their enterprise very seriously, but that sort of attitude is precisely what allowed them to surpass their own expectations. On the surface, "Crazy Theremin Jam" is quite silly and nonsensical. But the pull of the melody and Randy George's soulful theremin delivery manage to make this little bit of goofing off resonate on a deeper level. Or am I crazy?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"

For a single that Rolling Stone chose as the #1 song of the decade, "Crazy" doesn't seem particularly significant or profound. Which is fine by me, but I thought only I was allowed to like songs for that reason, not Rolling Stone. Nevertheless, as someone once said about Shakespeare, it's really very good in spite of the people who like it.

First of all, the band name is great. Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, the two members of Gnarls Barkley, were also kicking around "Prince Gnarls" and "Bob Gnarley," either of which could have worked just as well. Cee-Lo has described their music as "electric industrial Euro soul." Count me in.

As I think is the case with many of my other favorite songs of the 00s, Gnarls Barkley didn't appear to be taking their enterprise very seriously, but that sort of attitude is precisely what allowed them to surpass their own expectations. On the surface, "Crazy" is quite silly and nonsensical. But the pull of the melody and Cee-Lo's soulful vocal delivery manage to make this little bit of goofing off resonate on a deeper level. Or am I crazy?