Archive for the ‘WMDs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Ten Rapid (1997).

The release of this disc hot on the heels of Young Team rather confused me, especially when trying to keep track of which discs were “real” and which ones were compilations.  This one is a compilation.  It’s subtitled: (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).  And the fact that it has ten songs on it tells you just how much they released in those two years.  (It appears that they released 4 or 5 singles, although all the songs don’t seem to appear on Ten Rapid, and there seems to be a song or two unaccounted for.  Wikipedia also suggests that some of the songs were re-recorded for Ten Rapid.  Gosh, what’s a completist to do?).  And given all that they released back then, it’s also a surprise at how short this collection is  (just over 30 minutes).

The amazing thing is how much the disc sounds like a complete recording and not a collection of singles.  It is mostly Mogwai’s slower, quieter pieces, and the overall tone is one of “mood” rather than “songs.”  And, for those of us who thin of Mogwai as a really loud band, the prominent use of glockenspiel comes as something of a surprise (as does the quiet singing on two of the tracks).

The opener “Summer” is not the same as “Summer [Priority Version]” on Young Team.  This one is a beautiful track with glockenspiel while the YT version is much heavier and darker. “Helicon 2” (also known as “New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 2”), is a wonderful track with an interesting riff and texture.  On a recent live disc, it was expanded greatly. “Angels vs Aliens” and “Tuner” are the two tracks with vocals.  They’re both rather quiet and kind of soothing.

“I am Not Batman” is mostly washes rather than a riff based song.  “Ithica 27ϕ9” is one of their best early songs. It’s also the one track here that really experiments with sound dynamics.   It opens with a beautiful melody that swirls around for a bit.  Then the loud guitars come screaming out until it returns to that melody (and all in under 3 minutes).

The final track “End” is an entirely backwards recordings.  Wikipedia says that it is “Helicon 2” backwards, and I’ll take their word for it.

Ten Rapid is a really solid collection of songs showing just how good Mogwai was from the start.

[READ: March 8, 2011] Donald

This book is a speculative piece of fiction that answers the question: what would happen if Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Guantanamo Prison.  Note also that the cover is a parody of the cover of Rumsfeld’s own memoir (released around the same time).

The main character is clearly Rumsfeld, although he is never mentioned by his full name, always “Donald.”  But his description and his biography make it obvious that it is him.  There is a Note at the end of the book which states that the information about Donald is as accurate as possible.

First we see Donald in a library, presumably working on his memoirs.  He is accosted by a young kid who asks him questions.  Donald is annoyed by the kid and more or less blows him off.  Donald then has a fancy dinner with his wife and “Ed and Peggy” (two people who I can’t place historically).

That evening, masked people break into Donald’s home and haul him off to a prison (he is bound and his head is covered so he doesn’t know where).  The rest of the book sees him taken from one prison to the next, tortured in various ways (nothing too graphic, most of the torture consists of thinks like disrupting sleep, keeping the temperature really hot or really cold, and asking him lots and lots of questions, sometimes for 20 hours at a time.  There is no physical torture (again, it’s not graphic). (more…)

Read Full Post »

Howard Zinn [1922- 2010]

The death of J.D. Salinger totally overshdowed the death of Howard Zinn (which I just found out about today while reading a tribute to Salinger).

Howard Zinn was one of my favorite political writers, and I would have to say the one who has influenced me the most.  I first learned about him through You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, and have read most of his works since then.

His People’s History of the United States is an amazing read, and will make you rethink what you learned (or didn’t) about American history.    Zinn always spoke up for the underdog, and he tried to get people to see history (and current events) through the eyes of the average worker, not just the people who make and write history.

He was also a very outspoken anti-war activist.  He even spoke publicly against “popular” wars; railing against the military industrial complex and the inevitable injustices that war creates.

And in all of his writings and speeches, he was never stodgy or dull.

I’m not sure who will pick up the torch that he has now dropped.  But he will surely be missed.

Read Full Post »

weekI’m not sure how I first learned about The Week. I think I received a trial issue in the mail. But after just one or two issues we were hooked.  The Week is a comprehensive newsweekly, although it offers virtually no original reporting.  It collates news stories and offers opinions from a variety of sources: newspapers, online magazines, political journals etc. And it provides opinions from across the political spectrum.

Each issue has the same set up (although they recently had an image makeover: a new cover design and some unexpected font changes in a few sections, which I suppose does lend to an easier read).

Each issue starts with The main stories… …and how they were covered. The first article is a look at whatever major story captivated the editorials that week.  (The growing gloom in Afghanistan).  And in a general sense of what you get for long articles (the long articles are about 3/4 of a page) You get WHAT HAPPENED, WHAT THE EDITORIALS SAID, and WHAT THE COLUMNISTS SAID.  The What Happened section is a paragraph or two summary of the story.  The editorials offer a one or two sentence summary from sources like USA Today, L.A. Times and The Financial Times, while The Columnists are from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Time.com, for example. (more…)

Read Full Post »

blackSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (1999).

syr4This SYR recording consists of Sonic Youth’s interpretations of 20th century composers’ works.  Some of the composers are obscure, but a few are more or less household names: John Cage, Yoko Ono, maybe Steve Reich.  I knew a few of these composers from Kronos Quartet, but for the most part the pieces are all new to me.  Since I don’t know the original pieces I have no idea how faithful they are.

The most fascinating thing about the disc is the CD-ROM video of “Piano Piece #13 (Carpenter’s Piece)” which shows the band performing.  The “song” is literally the band nailing the keys of a piano down.

There are a number of guests on the CD, including the first (I think) performance by Coco Haley Gordon Moore (on the 17 second “Voice Piece for Soprano”).  And, the liner notes are all in English.

This is the longest SYR disc (at over an hour and a half) and it is a fascinating mix of noises and sounds and screams and spoken bits (okay okay okay okay okay okay okay).

This is not for everyone, not even the average Sonic Youth fan.  There’s absolutely nothing in the way of “songs” here.  The abstractness of the disc is palpable.  And, clearly, just knowing that one of the pieces is a bunch of people nailing keys of a piano, you get a fair idea of the breadth of “music” that the disc covers.

[RE-READ August 19th] J.O.I. Filmography

Before reading this week’s section, I had noticed that many people on Infinite Summer (and elsewhere) have discussed James’ films and how they relate to incidents in the overall story.  So, I decided to go back and re-read his filmography Endnote, just to see what else I could learn.

In general, with more background, the Endnote is much more interesting. The first batch of films are more amusing to read about just to see the emphasis on pain and disfigurement.  We also see that he had been using students and teachers from E.T.A. in his films for a while.

We have had an in-depth look at some of these earlier films: The Medusa v. The Odalisque; Homo Duplex, The Joke, The ONANtiad (which the endnote describes as unfunny).  But the ones we haven’t seen show distinct commentary about the state of the country since the Reconfiguration (it’s clear that J.O.I. was against it).  The American Century As Seen Through a Brick deals with anti-O.N.A.N. riots; The Universe Lashes Out is about the evacuation of New Hampshire during the Reconfiguration; Poultry in Motion concerns the toxification of Thanksgiving Turkeys; and No Troy is about miscalibrated Waste Displacement Units that crashed into Troy, NY (which was mentioned in the scene about people looking for entertainment outside of their living rooms).

[Unrelated to the story, on page 990 of my paperback IJ (with forward by Dave Eggers) every italicized word contains a superscript 1 after it (indicating, what? more footnotes?) It is an astonishingly weird glitch/typo and I can’t believe that it wasn’t spotted before going to print as it makes the titles actually harder to read.] (more…)

Read Full Post »

ny1It took me going to Seattle to learn about The New Yorker magazine.  I was visiting my friend Rob and he was really surprised that I didn’t read the magazine all the time (my reading always seems to surprise people, see The Believer.)

Upon my first read of the magazine, I was surprised to see that the first twenty pages or so are taken up with upcoming shows: films, concerts, sports, everything.  I actually wondered how much content would be left after all that small print.

Since then I have learned that Sasha Frere-Jones writes columns in here quite ofuiten.  For reasons known only to my head, I was convinced that Sasha was a black woman.  Little did I realize that he is not.  And that he was in a band that I have a CD of called Ui.  He is an excellent resource for all things music, whether I like the artist he’s talking about or not.  Some entries are here.  This audio entry about Auto-Tune is simply fantastic.

But of course, there’s a lot of content.  And the first thing you get are letters.  I don’t think I have EVER looked at the letters section. (more…)

Read Full Post »

powwer[WATCHED: June 2009] The Power of Nightmares

This is a film, not a book.  But I found it so fascinating that I had to say something about it.  I have to say it again, this series was truly amazing, and I encourage everyone to watch it.

The Power of Nightmares is a 3 part documentary, totaling about 3 hours.  It was created by the BBC in 2004.  The underlying theme of the film is that politicians have begun to resort to fear in order to achieve their desired aims.  Where in the distant past, politicians offered hope and future fulfillment, nearly all campaigns now try to scare you into voting for them.  (This was before Obama, and may explain the popularity of Obama’s campaign).

The premise of the series is that the rise of the radical Islamist movement (including al Qaeda) and the rise of the American Neo-Conservatives not only parallels each other but actually supports each other.

This documentary is well researched and, obviously, controversial.  It has, to the best of my knowledge, never aired in the U.S. (more…)

Read Full Post »

mojoBack oh, fifteen years ago, I subscribed to Mother Jones.  I also subscribed to an unvaried assortment of political mags: The Nation, The Progressive, and In These Times.  But as I grew less politically motivated, I slacked off on the subscriptions.  I just didn’t have time to read all of that.

Recently, I added Mother Jones to my Google Home page.  I started seeing some good headlines, so I thought I’d look into resubscribing.  And for $10, I got a year.

At first I was a bit disappointed in it.  The first issue I received had the cover story: Who Ran Away With Your 401K?  And frankly, it’s gone, I don’t really need to see the trail of footprints leading to a culprit that will never be punished.  And that is the general focus of MoJo: Follow stories that no one is covering; muckrake, if you will.  And they’re very good at it.  And yet, most of the time I feel like nothing really comes of it.  Knowing that someone is at fault doesn’t make them pay for it (most of the time).

The other problem I had was with what we can call liberal guilt.  I’ve got better things to worry about, frankly.  So, when I get an article like this in the current issue: What’s Your Water Footprint? And the subtitle is If you thought calculating your carbon impact made you feel guilty, just wait….  Well, I’m not going to read that.

So the magazine starts like most magazines: the Out Front section is full of short articles that are usually depressing.

I do enjoy Conspiracy Watch, a small box that delves into a current conspiracy (by any side of the political spectrum) and sees if there’s any merit to it (with a rating in tinfoil hats).

There’s usually a look at someone in the administration and then some heavy-hitting articles.  This particular issue is all about the Drug War.  So there’s an article about drug violence in Mexico.  But then a more light-hearted, I suppose, article about drugs in the U.S., including a timeline for drug issues, was more interesting.  This particular one was a first-person account of the war on drugs.

The muckraking article was about the car dealers who steal from military families. (more…)

Read Full Post »

rsI began my Rolling Stone subscription a few years ago when I bought something at Best Buy. The subscription was a bonus gift of some sort. The choices were pretty lousy and I didn’t even want Rolling Stone, but I figured what the heck.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the magazine.

I suppose no one has to be told what Rolling Stone is like. Or so I thought, because here was me, being surprised by this most mainstream of magazines.  I mean, I’ve seen the covers for years, and I knew they liked sex, drugs and rock and roll, but there’s more under the covers.

I have quickly learned my favorite sections and the ones I don’t even bother looking at.

Skim the letters. Maybe there’s a worthwhile addition.

The first main section is the “news” of the last two weeks…usually a concert or a new album or some such. This one happens to focus on American Idol, so, I skipped right past that nonsense.

The Hot List is 5 things that impress them since last issue. I usually like 1 of the 5.

I never read the Smoking Section, but Breaking is usually about an indie band that I heard about a few months earlier.  RS finally catches up and I can read a bit more about them. The In the Studio section is worth browsing to see who’s due for a new disc.

The Random Notes I feel is meant to be a big deal, with “insider” photos and blah blah. I skim it but little more than that.

And then the issue proper starts. (more…)

Read Full Post »

harpers 1993I first heard about this magazine from my friend Ailish’s then-boyfriend, Dave (this was sometime in 1993, I would guess).  Dave fancied himself an artiste: he typed his novel on a portable Underwood, loved Henry Miller and read Harper‘s.   I liked him, but was always confused by his pretensions since he didn’t really fit the bill.  But regardless, when we visited, I always read his Harper’s. I very quickly got hooked on it and have been subscribing ever since.

Harper’s is another one of those magazines that I don’t immediately get excited about receiving because there’s always the possibility that there will be five really long articles that I want to read in it.  And who has the time for all of that? Perversely, I am secretly delighted when there is only one story that I want to read in that month’s issue. But I know that if I’m going to read something in it, it will be good.

Clearly the high point of the magazine is Harper’s Index.  The index is a list of various statistics.  The gimmick, if you will is that everything is written in such a way that the answer can be given in a numerical value.  for example: “Amount the ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again says it was paid to play a concert for Vladimir Putin in January (2009): $27,500; Estimated street value of drugs seized last March at three Phish reunion shows in Hampton, Virginia: $1,200,000.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Unsurprisngly there are no online images of this periodical which is all text and no pictures.

Unsurprisingly, there are no online images of this periodical which is all text and no pictures.

I don’t even recall where I first heard of The Washington Spectator, or when I even started my subscription (although it is going on at least ten years now). No one else seems to have heard of it, so maybe it’s printed just for me.

The Washington Spectator comes out every two weeks. It is a 4 page (that’s right, four page– it doesn’t even have a staple) newsletter that covers national politics. For the most part, every issue covers one topic.   Usually that topic is, if not ignored, then certainly under-reported in the mainstream press. And each issue is more or less an extended article about that topic.

The most recent issue’s main topic, for instance, is “Republicans Shocked, Shocked, by Partisan Behavior of Democrats.” And yes, this publication is pretty exclusively pro-Democrat.  It’s not even issues-related as much as it is party-related (unless that’s just because the last eight years basically just chronicled the offenses of the Bush White House and the Republican majority). (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »