Friday, March 31, 2006

Hail to the chief.

Jason Gross goes from strength to strength. His wonderful e-zine, Perfect Sound Forever, has one of its best ever issues out today. You owe it to yourself to check out the issue and the entire archived site, if you really want to uphold the pretense that you care about popular music at all. BTW the zine's title refers to the original campaign for CDs jointly developed by Philips and Sony. Of course, it's BS. Digital media is corruptible just like analog media, only in different and perhaps subtler ways. Oh yeah, it's also the title of Pavement's third ep. I was once privileged enough to have a little thing in PSF; let me tell you it made my year!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

JEOPARDY! Closing Theme Mastertone.

The test was exhilirating. I'm amazed how short 15 seconds is when you have to get an answer and then type it out in an answer box. At least we only had to do last names and no phrasing as a question. I don't type 300 wpm after all! Even on the ones I got immediately, I decided not to punch the submit button and pace myself for all 50 questions. They didn't appear to be factoring speed into the grading equation. Two I blanked on for 14 seconds and couldn't get anything down: Fishburne (who played Neo and a Spike Lee role) and the 2003 musical pre-history of Oz Witches (Wicked.) D'oh! Of the other 48 I'm confident 45 were right and the other 3 were legitimate guesses (thrown ball arc, Ho Chi Minh's river: the long one with a famous delta not the Saigon, and Armenia not Georgia as ex-Soviet republic led by a Petrosian). They don't announce passing scores, and even if you pass total numbers and demographics, geography, etc. might prevent you from going on. So we wait.

Lots of literature: The Tempest, Beowulf as progenitor of Berger's Grendel, Robert Frost reading at Kennedy's inauguration. Sports too: Teddy Ballgame(.406 avg) and Roberto Clemente (3000 hits and dead in relief effort). And a home state question about the location of Appalachicola and Osceola National Forests. Alas no Potent Potables. My fave question was about what kind of poem Keats' "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer" is. Ahem, moment of honesty, I taught that very poem most semesters from Fall 1996 to Spring 2003. That's what I call a home field advantage. Oh, it's a sonnet and should be paired with Emily Dickinson's "There is no frigate like a book" as masterpieces about literary imagining.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Think music.(here)

I'm doing this tonight. Wish me luck as I chase the legends of the unbeaten Brad Rutter, the maniacal strategist Chuck Forrest, fellow Crimsonite Jerome Vered, the Sylva, NC bookseller Phoebe Juel, the Manhattan cop Frank Spangenburg et al.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Never on sunday.

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later in this year's crazy March Madness. And yes, King, it is one of the best ever, even if you are a hirsute "Dirty Golden Bear." Here I was cruising to easy wins in both of my Yahoo Tournament Pick 'Em groups and just like that no #1 seeds make the Final Four — it's been over twenty years since that happened, so we're talking statistical anomaly though the changing nature of how long stars stay to play does level the court a lot — and half my bracket is done. In one day, I went from about to enter the top 100 to an egregious 697th place (just kidding).

It's hard to get upset about George Mason's miraculous fightback against UConn, although the officiating again at times was egregious (like the bogus palming call). UConn took their shot to win and it didn't happen, kinda like when they snuck up on the Dookies a few year's back in the title game, well except it's an 11 seed from the Colonial Athletic Association.

Villanova didn't show up. As a native Tallahasseean and former Junior Nole, I brake for all animals 'cept Gators. However, the team is an interesting story and Yannick's kid an emergent star!

So now I need the UCLA Bruins to win and then get beat by George Mason. No chance you say? Well GMU has a smell of '83 NC State about them. I mean they have taken down recent former champs MSU and UNC along the way, while shocking the Shockers as well.

Live by the lucky close wins, but be prepared to die by the close losses as well.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Golden shower of hits: TNA on 45 (apologies to the jerks).

Below find 3 compilations that K-tel ® Records mysteriously forgot to release:

TNA presents: the Undeniable US 70s

After The Gold Rush 3:46 Neil Young
American Girl 3:34 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
I Saw The Light 3:02 Todd Rundgren
Green Grass & High Tides 9:47 The Outlaws
Boogie No More 6:09 Molly Hatchet
(Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party 4:43 J. Geils Band
The Ballad Of Curtis Loew 4:51 Lynyrd Skynyrd
Band of Gold 2:56 Freda Payne
Back Stabbers 3:06 The O'Jays
When Will I See You Again 2:58 The Three Degrees
It's Over 2:52 Boz Scaggs
San Francisco 5:22 The Village People
If You Want Me To Stay 2:57 Sly & The Family Stone
No Knock 1:30 Gil Scott-
Go All The Way 3:20 The Raspberries
Mod Lang 2:45 Big Star
Non Alignment Pact 3:18 Pere Ubu
Hanging On The Telephone 2:33 Blondie
My Best Friend's Girl 3:43 The Cars
The Hard Way 2:13 The Knack
52 Girls 3:36 The B-52's

TNA presents: The Undeniable UK 70s

(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais 4:00 The Clash
1977 (demo) starts at 0:20 2:04 The Clash
Typical Girls 3:57 The Slits
I Heard It Through The Grapevine 3:59 The Slits
Satellite (Suburban Kid) starts at 0:12 4:14 Sex Pistols
Germfree Adolescents 3:10 X-Ray Spex
Damaged Goods 3:27 Gang Of Four
I Found That Essence Rare 3:13 Gang Of Four
Now That You've Gone 4:13 Delta 5
Never Been In A Riot 1:08 Mekons
One Chord Wonders 2:37 The Adverts
Love Lies Limp 3:03 Alternative TV
Read about Seymour 1:28 Swell Maps
In the City 2:14 The Jam
Bingo Master's Breakout 2:23 The Fall
Ex Lion Tamer 2:18 Wire
Outdoor Miner 1:44 Wire
40 Versions 3:27 Wire
Orgasm Addict 2:00 Buzzcocks
Harmony in My Head 3:09 Buzzcocks
Don't Dictate 2:56 Penetration
Drawback 1:44 Warsaw
Five Years 4:42 David Bowie
Andy Warhol 3:56 David Bowie

My 1980s v 3.1

Give Me Back My Man 4:01 The B-52's
I Love Lucy 3:52 The Producers
Everywhere That I'm Not 4:04 Translator
Life 4:46 Flipper
I Know What Boys Like 3:13 Waitresses
11 O'Clock Tick Tock 4:43 U2
That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate 2:04 Mission Of Burma
I Want To Help You Ann 2:31 The Lyres
Lucky Star 3:37 Madonna
King Of Rock 5:14 Run-D.M.C.
Candy 4:26 Cameo
Neverland 2:46 The dB's
Keep Hanging On 3:19 Hüsker Dü
The Trumpton Riots 3:19 Half Man Half Biscuit
Elegant Chaos 4:05 Julian Cope
Im Not Always So Stupid 4:05 The Wedding Present
A Song About A Girl Who Went Shopping 5:30 The Mr. T Experience
Hearing Voices 3:36 Galaxie 500
Ma And Pa 3:20 Fishbone
Feed Me with Your Kiss 3:56 My Bloody Valentine

NOW That's What I Call Music Kids!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Up the bracket.

How 'bout dem Bayou Bengals! A historical half-evening as I broke into 4 digits (8,747 to be exact) for the first time evah on Yahoo Tournament Pick 'Em!

Friday AM update: 2 late game picks run me further up to 3,771.

Every picture tells a story.

Great piece about Chim on NPR's Morning Edition this AM. Photographer extraordinaire and co-founder of Magnum Photos.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Everything's gone green.

Yup, it's that day of the year. I have to concur with NPR Weekend Edition Sunday's culinary essayist Bonny Wolf, who suggested trying a real Irish drink instead of PBR dyed green. If you're lucky enough to find them, be adventurous and go for the slightly smoother tastes of Murphy's and Beamish stout over Guinness. Or better yet hoist a wee dram of Bushmill's neat. You could even do much worse than Kilkenny Irish (a red) or Harp (a lager). Just forgo the green.

I've never been a huge "let's get our Paddy on" kind of guy, but I do have a few memorable St. Patrick's Day experiences. I went to college in the Boston metro area, and one of my swimming teammates was Irish Catholic, Southie-raised. So I survived my one March 17th foray into "authenticity" under the protection of a local. BTW, St. Patrick's Day as a drinking festival was first celebrated by immigrants in Boston in 1737. At Stanford, I passed my PhD orals on the St. Patrick's Day of my third year there. In Starkville, there was the CD release party for Young Agent Jones' debut Discretion is Our Profession at Dave's.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Toys in the attic.

According to another absurd VH1 countdown show, the #1 Toy of All Time is . . . wait for it . . . The Hula Hoop.
I love Toys! rounds out it's Top 10 thusly:

#2 Barbie
#4 G.I. Joe
#5 Mr. Potato Head
#6 Monopoly
#7 Star Wars figures
#8 Yo-yo
#9 Slinky
#10 Wiffle ball and bat.

Well o.k. I think the obvious 2 missing general interest toys here are the Frisbee® and Silly Putty. Aren't Barbie and G.I. Joe really just gendered versions of the same toy (i.e. medium sized plastic doll used to enstill cultural stereotypes about sex and gender). So dump them together as a pair; I mean Ken's out of the picture still, isn't he? That solves one problem. I'm not sure a board game should be in the top 10. That solves the second.

If you want to stick with a game, there are a number of more suitable replacements for Monopoly like Battleship, Life, Risk, or Clue, or, if you're really thinking younger, Candy Land.

My own Top 10 at least today would be in no real order

Corgi ® Cars (especially any of the following: The Green Hornet's Black Beauty 268; Batmobile 267; James Bond D.B.5 270; Yellow Submarine—no box so no handy number)
Märklin HO train set (especially my Heineken car from the brewery in Amsterdam
The Original TINKERTOY
Lincoln Logs ®
Frisbee ®
Nerf Ball
Wiffle ® Ball and Bat
Silly Putty ®
Playskool Car-Go Bike
Parker Bros. Masterpiece

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Le sacre du printemps aka The rite of spring.

O.k. so I used "Basketball jones" as my header last March and I really can't stand "One Shining Moment," but it is one of my favorite times again—the week from Selection Sunday through the first two rounds of March Madness games. I'll be spending bits of the next two days analyzing season records, looking at long-term trends, filling out, erasing, and refilling out my bracket until I have a definitive set of selections.

My one tip for you: don't look for the national champion to emerge from the ACC.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm not a loser.

ARDF or radiosport.

When i'm sixty-four.

As one approaches middle age, it's perhaps natural for nostalgia and fear to creep in in somewhat equal measures. Recently I came across Wikipedia's year-by-year entries featuring births. Examining mine, I was surprised that I'm just a bit younger than Nicholas Cage, Jeff Bezos, Laura Linney, Matt Dillon, Bret Easton Ellis, Irene Cara, Rob Lowe, David Cross, Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Andy Bell, and Caroline Rhea and shocked to find out that I'm older than Miguel Induráin, Melissa Gilbert, Yeardley "Lisa Simpson" Smith, Barry Bonds, Dan Brown, Bonnie Hunt, Teri Hatcher, and Eddie Vedder.

You should check out the births from your natal year. You might surprise or shock yourself as well.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Video killed the radio star.

Simon's comment linked to in the last post got me to thinking about the qualities of televised music in the US, both before and after the MTV "revolution" as first espoused by the Buggles. At some level, Reynolds is right about the ways in which alternative musics (especially of the post-punk late 70s/early 80s variety) charted in Britain and thus were allowed to have appearances on mainstream media outlets that impacted at a national level in a way unimaginable in the States. Much of this has little to do with differing national characters with respect to the mainstream and much more to do with the relative size and homogeneity of the two countries as well as the fact that cable interpenetration of the UK "terrestrial" market came much later and has still not reached market shares or channel variety similar to that in America.

However, there have been moments in which the best in US music (outside the mainstream) has appeared on TV, either live or in video form. One thinks of some of the classic Don Cornelius Soul Train episodes, now easily the longest continuously running music show (even if the new hosts are picked for their fly soap opera pecs and not their silky or booming dj voices). Regionally there were a bunch of music shows, cable access or otherwise, that showcased local and non-mainstream music. One of my favorites was "Solid in Sum-ma-ville" and "Wikked in Woo-stah" - Boston's mid-1980s commercial video channel V-66.

Perhaps the greatest irony of America in the 1980s was that cable penetrated the red state heartland much more rapidly than it did the large urban blue state coastal enclaves. Possibly, of course, because places like New York, Boston, and San Francisco had a plethora of free TV options on both UHF and VHF frequencies but also because antenna technology was still catching up with high rise reality. While I lived in Cambridge, MA from September 1981 to July 1985, I never had access to MTV. So instead I got my video fix from V-66. MTV was all powerful in those days and actually played primarily videos (one wonders why it hasn't changed its name now that music figures so little in the programming scheme but I digress). MTV acted like the 800 lb gorilla and would often pull videos if it didn't get exclusives. The upshot was a station like V-66 had to scramble for programming fodder if it were going to air 24-7. They looked in two specific directions: locally and globally (specifically across the Atlantic to the UK). V-66 was famous for airing obscure British bands and their videos like the black and white home-movie-quality "How Soon is Now?" by The Smiths, featuring Morrisey in all his NHS spectacle, faux hearing-aid glory, The Art of Noise's stylishly robotic "Close (to the Edit)", and The Cult's statuesque "She Sells Sanctuary." V-66 actually beat MTV to the punch on a-ha's "Take on Me", though I'm not sure that's really a positive. Favorite videos from local artists included 'til tuesday, Lizzie Borden and the Axes, and The Lyres. V-66 was also famously creative; when Prince decided not to make any more videos (a decision he not surprisingly revoked later), the station created a "Raspberry Beret" video featuring an overhead shot of the vinyl record playing interspersed with various bits of album art. If only we could return to such pseudo-guerilla TV. For those who remember, now's the time to throw the Winston "Flying V" salute.

While there have been long running roots for televised pop music in the US (think shows like the syndicateed American Bandstand, NBC's Hullabaloo!, and ABC's Shindig!), there really haven't been the great live on TV venues that there were in Britain like TOTP and The Old Grey Whistle Test. Instead late night has been the locus for televised music in the US, both with the musical act at the end of the talk show routine as well as a series of either syndicated or network shows like Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (the former) and Friday Night Videos and Saturday Night presented by David Sanborn and Jools Holland (the latter).

The exception which proves the rule about the banality of televised music in the US generally, of course, is the show now commonly known as The Ed Sullivan Show but originating as The Toast of the Town - the place where many people first saw "Elvis, Beatles and The Rolling Stones" but also such middlebrow pablum as Topo Gigio, Charro, and Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass. We come full circle vis-a-vis televised music in the US with the Beastie Boys live performance of "Ch-Check It Out" on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman to celebrate the release of To the 5 Boroughs on June 15, 2004. They began emerging from the 53rd St. ("Feelin' almost Groovy") subway station, walked down the middle of some Manhattan streets, and ended emerging with a bang on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater. Now that's live televised music!

Friday, March 10, 2006


It's been a while, hasn't it? Anyway, I'll work on fully updating the sidebar stuff later. I was moved to post by Noel Murray's AV Club item on the Ten Memorable Saturday Night Live Musical Moments . Mainly he gets it right. And though I've never been a Vedderhead, his call on Pearl Jam's performance of "Alive" is spot on; it was THAT good. The one he missed and missed horribly was DEVO from 1978. They opened with their fractured take on The Stones' "Satisfaction" and closed the show down with a 10+ minute "medley" (really a film followed by a filmed in-studio performance) highlighted by "Jocko Homo" and the band disrobing (well ripping their spaceman garbage suits off to reveal DEVO boxers!). It's that spirit that U2's show-closing performance harkened back to.

To retain a classic 10, what would I remove from Murray's list? Personal taste would call for removing The Replacements, but since I was living in England in January 1986 and didn't see it that would be unfair. Instead I'd probably lose that early Simon and Garfunkel appearance because over the years they have become so ubiquitous on the show and in random sketches that they're almost an extra house "band."

For Simon Reynold's interesting take on late 1970s cultural differences between the UK and the US with specific emphasis on televised music, go here.

Good to be back.