Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best of the Year 2013: TV

I still haven't caught up on Eastbound & Down, or seen any of Breaking Bad past season one (I don't pay for cable)... but here's what I picked for this year:


Arrow
Highly impressed that this CW teen drama is actually pretty deep. It's formulaic, but it has a Lost-like flashback to it that sends it to the top tier of television. Also, the young actors out-act the seniors in the show.


Orange is the New Black
I just love Crazy Eyes! I guess the rest of the characters are interesting...


Under the Dome
I wasn't convinced (until later) that this was a good show. But, again, the Lost influence does its magic.


American Horror Story: Asylum
Second season totally sold me on what this show is doing. It's incredible, despite having the FX stereotype of being soap opera-ish. Frigging Jessica Lange is excellent. This year had everything: demonic possessions, serial killers, mad scientists, monsters, and even alien abductions!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

BOTY 2013

Best of the Year lists for 2013, coming soon... I'll probably do:

  1. Music (songs and albums)
  2. Music videos
  3. Movies (maybe later on in January)
  4. TV
  5. Sports performances
Wuwu!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Dumb and Dumber soundtrack

I am overly hopefuly for the new Dumb and Dumber To coming out in 2014. The original is a classic, and my favorite comedy of all time. High hopes.



One thing the original got right was the soundtrack. There is tons of music in the movie. The soundtrack is probably the best of the 90s. Right up there with Singles and Pulp Fiction. For real, y'all. It's got Green Jelly, Crash Test Dummies, and other R.E.M.-sounding bands. Real alternative. Deadeye Dick and Deee-Lite are also included!

None of the artists were ever that famous in the U.S., but I think that makes it better. The songs fit the movie--they didn't need Aerosmith or Springsteen. Could you say the Soundgarden song in The Avengers fit?

My absolute favorite track is Butthole Surfers' cover of "Hurdy Gurdy Man". It is worth it for this track alone. In addition, "Crash" by the Primitives captures the precise moment of 1994.

If you have not listened to it, it probably costs $3.00 in the bargain bin.


Monday, October 28, 2013

My Lou Reed experience


I hesitated to write anything when I heard Lou Reed died. At first. Because I am a rookie. My first serious encounters with VU and Lou started only recently in the 2010s. Before that, it was just brief glimpses of Reed's music. The first version of "Venus in Furs" I'd ever heard was a 1999 cover by Dave Navarro (which is good). Lou's "Walk on the Wild Side" sounded horrible, so I discounted his career for a long time. Then, I visited New York City.

New York City is so awesome. I wish I could have lived there during the late 60s and during the 1977 CBGB-punk era. I learned a lot about music before, during, and after my first visit there. A New York trip has become an autumn tradition for me.

In the past week, I have blasted "I'm Waiting for the Man", at least three times. I listened to 90% of Lou's solo catalog just this year (thanks Spotify). That is a shitload of music. I am fortunate to know about him before he died. A lot of it I do not like, but I listened to all of it because of Advanced Genius Theory. AGT is a humor book that inspires one to look at weirdness in another way. Lou Reed is the focal point of the theory. The book forced me to listen to Metal Machine Music. Rather, it opened me up to the idea that the music had more than meets the eye. I also listened to Lulu when it came out. A lot of it is awful, but there are some moments where it is worth rewinding. There is also a Gorillaz live performance that is just... indescribable.



The crowd sounds like they are booing, but it's just "Louing". The man looks uncomfortable on stage (and he probably is). Lou needs a music stand to see the lyrics to the Damon Albarn song. Just look at the guitar choice. He is yelling at the sound guy throughout the performance. What the fuck is this? Is this a genius?

I also recently watched two of Reed's 80s music videos: "No Money Down" & "The Original Wrapper". They were so noteworthy (to me) that I created Wikipedia articles on them. Definitely worth a watch. A few months ago, I watched a documentary on Transformer (thanks Netflix). I loved it, because it went over a lot of Lou Reed's life... not just the 1972 record.

I mentioned Lou Reed on at least three dates in the past year. That's the biggest compliment I could pay him. None of my dates really knew his music, but they knew who who the guy was.

Song recommendations:
  • "Waiting for the Man" (VU)
  • "Satellite of Love" (for the outro)
  • "The Kids"
  • "The Gun"
  • Metal Machine Music
  • "Street Hassle"
  • "Original Wrapper" (remix)
  • "The Raven" (mostly for Willem Dafoe)
  • "Junior Dad" (Loutallica) 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Spotify Wishlist

Let me be clear: Spotify is immense. It has opened my musical world tenfold. But, there are gaps in its huge catalog of records. These are the things that are missing:
 
Updated Dec 18, 2015

MISSING FROM CATALOG:
    • Peter Gabriel: assorted (they removed it)
    • Jesus and Mary Chain: "Upside Down"
    • Lou Reed & Metallica: Lulu
    • Sponge: Rotting Pinata
    • Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
    • Tool: all major releases
    • King Crimson: all major releases
    • Prince: everything now! Plus, The Gold Experience, Chaos and Disorder, Emancipation, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, 3121, Lotusflower, & 20Ten
    • Zwan: Mary Star of the Sea
    • U2: "Discotheque" (from Pop)
    • Garth Brooks: all major releases
    • Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: assorted
    • John Frusciante: assorted
    • Ronnie Wood: assorted
    • Sam Kinison: all major releases
    • Gang of Four: Solid Gold, Songs of the Free, & Hard
    • Dave Clark Five: Glad All Over
    • Graham Coxon: A+E
    • Jimmy Chamberlain Complex
    • Skysaw
    • The Rentals: Return of the Rentals
    • John Entwistle: all major releases
    GAPS ADDED TO CATALOG:
    • Girl Band (Dublin)
    • Lou Reed: New Sensations
    • Kinks: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One  
    • The Frogs: all major releases 
    • Rick James: Cold Blooded, & Glow 
    • Klaxons: Surfing the Void
    • Placebo, Black Market Music, Without You I'm Nothing, Sleeping with Ghosts 
    • Pink Floyd
    • Silverchair: Freak Show
    • Lou Reed: Street Hassle
    • Prince: Diamonds and Pearls
    • Metallica
    • Prince: For You
    • Melissa Auf der Maur: Auf der Maur
    • Beady Eye: (BE)
    • Led Zeppelin
    • Boards of Canada
    • Rick James: Bustin' out  of L Seven
    • Pete Townshend: solo albums (specifically the "Slit Skirts" track!) 
    • The Legendary Stardust Cowboy: "Paralyzed" and "I Took a Trip (On a Gemini Spaceship)" 
    Here's a link to submit requests to Spotify US: https://www.spotify.com/us/about-us/contact/contact-spotify-support/?contact

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Austin's Radio Stations, Old and Quasi-New

    This isn't about how rock 'n roll is (almost certainly) dying, nor how automated radio stations (sans DJs) are ruining things. Nor how XM Radio is pretty good. This is just about the Austin, Texas, radio stations, circa 2013.

    First, let me talk about Comedy 102.7 (RIP). I listen to the radio about three times a day, probably 30 minutes total: commuting to work, and lunch, and finally back home. It was actually funny. Everyone who rode around with me also loved it (and actually laughed at the censored stand-up comedian tirades). And then, after a short go... BAM! !Latino estacion explosivo!

    WHAT HAPPENED? I found this article ("The Day the Laughter Died"). How can an automated radio station that plays pre-recorded live stand-up not be profitable? I understand DJs ("the talent") are the most expensive part of a station's operating costs. Has that changed? Were the comedians charging too much for their art?

    Anyway, that station is kaput. So, it's June, and I'm searching for something new. I'm scanning the FM band for something, anything. I find the college station, but it's playing yodeling muzak. And then I spring upon iHeart Radio Austin... 103.1. "Celebrating the live music capital of the world", it states at each commercial break. And there are DJs! (Are they paid?)

    It turns out that the station is really (for lack of a better word) hipster.... where one can hear stuff that's rarely received radio play (outside of an ironic college dorm or someone's private earbuds). Probably the first for-profit station that broadcast LCD Soundsystem on the airwaves! I've actually heard two LCDSS songs on there. But this revelation has another aspect... another side of the coin. There is music on iHeart Austin that is unfit for radio. Lounge music, elevator music, nightmarish pop, folk-retro-psychadelic chamber music, pseudorap, etc etc.

    This comes at a time where that local "alternative" station (101X) is playing tripe like Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men (do I capitalize the "of"). Notice the "X" in 101X. And... I understand this business decision. I understand the "why". People don't seem to realize that Capital Cities's "Safe and Sound" is awful, and not alternative in any way. I thought it was Empire of the Sun for a really long time. It's totally catering to the female daytime radio listeners who sit at their desk and have the privilege of listening to radio. Somehow, they don't have the privilege to pick their choice of music, or are oblivious to what's out there.

    I'm a huge steward of cutting edge (new) music, but radio is mainly throwback nostalgia music I'm hearing. It's not original or innovative. I know "new" and "unfamiliar" are dangerous ideas for the public to grasp. FM 103.1 will most likely fail. I will still be able to hear the music, albeit limited, with UT Radio AM.

    ***

    I use Spotify at work (and at home, and at the gym), and that little application has changed me in ways that Napster, KaZaA, and Pandora never could. I got on board when Trent Reznor invited fans to try it in 2011. It makes Pandora look like dog shit. My dad uses it, and all my coworkers do too. It's got a massive catalog. 99% of the music I want is there. I've never had that access before. It's thrilling, and makes me listen to music more (and be more ADHD about it).

    The only reason I don't use Spotify in my car (unless I'm on a long cross-country trip) is that it does not integrate with my car so easily. This is not Spotify's fault (or my mobile phone's fault). It's my car's inconvenient interface. I'm not worried... it will get better when I purchase a new car.

    I still purchase CDs (if I really like the songs I hear on Spotify), but my MP3 file collection is collecting dust. It will come in handy when my network goes out... but that's about it. I mean, there are some rare tracks I own that I sometimes play, but it's really a novelty now. I now only use Winamp for podcasts.

    I understand change. I didn't think my habits would change so easily, but they have. I held on to, and constantly cataloged my intact MP3 collection since high school... now it's an antiquated way of listening.

    I look forward to the time when Austin is declared un-hip by the world. Then, we'll get our culture back.

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Richard Matheson R.I.P.

    I learned that Richard Matheson passed away. He wrote one of my favorite books, and spawned a lot of good movies (and good writers). If you've read I Am Legend and liked the scientific slant of the story, I would recommend Hell House. It's about ghosts instead of zombie-vampires...

    A few weeks before his death, I started writing an "odd couple" story that was vaguely about the undead. I named the protagonist after Matheson. Here is the partial intro of the story.

    ---

    “You were seduced by a vampire.”
    Drapes flew open. The girl on the couch squinted in their direction. A jacket was picked up from off the living room floor.

    This happened from time to time. Matheson’s roommate would come in a little late, and have to get to bed immediately. The “victim” was left on the couch for another day’s late night snack. But this was no ordinary day.

    Matheson was a good roommate. The complete opposite of a night stalker in temperament. He was ambivalent about girls. He usually made coffee or tea for the lucky survivor. And, Matheson told them the truth. They usually just wanted to discover where they were and how they got there. 


    "Yep, a vampire."
    He usually told the simplest of truths.

    The girl sat up, her hair a little frazzled (but not too bad). She was dark toned and dark-haired. She wore a short skirt and a necklace of big obsidian beads. The necklace complimented her blouse (which was black, too).

    ***

    Mycroft was tucked deep under covers, under pillows, in the darkness. Matheson rarely went into his roommate's crypt. He always slept like the Dead.


    ---

    I was thinking about calling it Coffinmates.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    The Austin plastic bag ban: will it succeed?


    I have used reusable grocery bags since I lived in Australia in 2008. I have a freezer bag (with insulation lining) that I take everywhere. I often get odd looks and laughs, but it no longer bothers me. I do it because single-use plastic is horribad for the environment. I do it to reduce the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I do it because whales eat hundreds of plastic bags in their lifetime. I do it because sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. I do it because it saves petroleum.

    I do it because plastics ares often very difficult to recycle (compared to aluminum or glass). I refuse to drink bottled water for the same reason: the bottles.

    The country of China has the plastic bag banned--why can't America do it? Because Americans love convenience. It's probably our greatest flaw as a people. There are Starbucks on opposite corners in this country. We haven't had to tighten our belts since WWII and the gas crisis of the 70s. Convenience is king. But there is hope.

    Starting March 1st, 2013, Austin, Texas, will ban the bag. This is a victory for the environment, but will it stick? Is Austin progressive enough to keep it going? I think it has a good chance, but not a great one.

    When I think about the demographics of Austin (and it's recent immigration surge), I don't see environmentalism or conservationism in droves. I see rich white men with UT license plates on their gas guzzlers. I see and working men with trailers full of cleared brush (taking up two lanes on Mopac).

    Better idea: sin tax


    To be honest, I think an all-out ban on the bags is a bad idea. I think the city council missed a huge opportunity here. They could have taxed the bags. Many supermarkets already do this: simply charge 5¢ or 10¢ extra if the person didn't bring their own bags ("BYOB"). New Jersey is doing this statewide. It could have meant a lot of tax dollars for the city.

    When March comes around, there may be a massive backlash. People may resent the fact that they don't have the freedom to use plastic bags anymore. They may take out their frustration on the environment (or environmentalists).

    The bacteria argument is irrelevant


    What will probably be the rallying cry of the anti-bagism peoples are that reusing bags can kill you (by infecting the unhealthy with E. coli and such). Know what else has lots of deadly bacteria? The surfaces of your fridge, your mobile phone, your soap dispenser. Wash your bags (or just lay them out in the sun).

    What the plastic bag ban movement really needs is puppies. One good puppy-choking-on-a-plastic-bag stunt could go a long way. Nothing galvanizes a movement quite like "man's best friend".

    Plan B?


    If the law is reversed, maybe the city council could take a stab at plastic water bottles?


    See also: Austin Recycling: What about Glass?

    Government information:

    Monday, January 28, 2013

    Best of 2012: Film

    Sorry for the delay... but it's still the first month of 2013. I held off because I wanted to see a few more films (catch up). Here's what I picked as best of 2012.


    Marvel's Avengers
    This will probably never happen again: a culmination of several movie franchises into one. I am sure they'll try again, but you know something will go wrong. Yes, it's a popcorn film, but so was Jaws. Robert Downey still stands out in the cast, but the rest do their part well.

    Prometheus
    Yes, I'm a nerd. It felt sloppy for sci-fi, but it really did its job here: scary, interesting, advanced.

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    It honestly didn't feel that long. Skyfall and Django Unchained were much more boring (longer).


    Casa de mi Padre
    I think Will learned a few things from Tim and Eric here. The gags are good, and if you go in to this movie ready to laugh out loud, you won't be disappointed.

    Dark Knight Rises
    Even though I wrote about how horrible this film would be, I was pleasantly, pleasantly surprised. It's better than The Dark Knight (but not by much). It is packed with good scenes, characters, and toys. The tie-in with Batman Begins seemed a bit tacked-on, but who the hell cares? It's the best, most complete film I saw this year.

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Best of 2012: Song

    Since the advent of Spotify USA about two years ago, I have been exposed to massive amounts of music. You would think that would make finding the best music of the year, but it does not. It makes it harder. And I even made a 2012-specific playlist, only to find myself not really satisfied. Maybe it was a rough year for my musical tastes. But, here's the songs I had on a loop for a little while.


    "To the World"
    KanYe West, R. Kelly, & Teyana Taylor
    This is good music. Hits the spot and is just the right amount of pop. A Rick James/Chappelle's Show shout-out here, which is kind of funny considering Dave Chappelle also lampooned the guy. Oh well

    "Bones of Birds"
    Soundgarden
    Really loved the album, and it's hard to pick the best on it. Cornell says that this song is about childhood and losing innocence, but I don't really care. It's dark and Soundgarden in its truest, best form.

    "Panopticon"
    The Smashing Pumpkins
    I liked Oceania, and really couldn't filter the "best song" from the album. "Pale Horse" came close, but it didn't have that sonic punch like "Panopticon". Really looking forward to what else comes out of Corgan next year!

    "Dirty Rotten Bastards"
    Green Day
    Hard to pick a song in the triple album release... but this one seemed the most epic and all-encompassing. It reminds me of "Jesus of Suburbia".

    "Tantalus"
    Menomena
    Moms is a really rockin' album, and doesn't disappoint for a Menomena fan.

    Honorable mentions:

    "Song Groove"
    Michael Jackson
    Also known as "Abortion Papers", this track was never released legitimately until now. It's a classic.

    "She's the Woman"
    Van Halen
    Have to shout-out VH at least once this year.

    "Opera Obscura"
    ...and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
    This band is really good at combining punk and metal into something arty. A lot of their stuff was good this year.

    "There's That Grin"
    Deerhoof
    Pitchfork made a really good point about this band's music: all of their albums are different. High praise when a lot of bands just rehash and remix.


    MST3k Return thoughts

    There used to be two camps when it comes to MSTies: Team Joel or Team Mike. I'm in the Michael J. Nelson camp (the 1997 Sci-Fi Channel ...