Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Museum of propaganda: Truth dollars


“Fame ’90” addendum: “Major Tom”


Deepa found a good one for the list:

“Major Tom (Coming Home),” Peter Schilling’s synthpop trifle from 1983, exploited David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” character all the way to No. 1 in his native Germany (and No. 14 in the U.S.). And since Schilling never had another hit, he exploited his one own wee bit of success not once, not twice, but three times, for “Major Tom ’94,” the inevitable “Major Tom 2000,” and the unfortunately very evitable “Major Tom 2003.”

Bowie himself is no stranger to the game, of course; “Fame ’90” is the apotheosis of catalogsploitation. But in the case of Major Tom, he at least had the creativity to write two new songs, not just slap a new expiration date on it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presidential debate drinking game

You have to chug a beer when:

  • Obama says "is is"
  • McCain laughs like Elmer Fudd
  • Anybody says "pork barrel"
  • McCain says "My friends"
  • When Jim Lehrer tells them to talk to each other
  • McCain mentions being tortured in Vietnam (if he merely alludes: sip)
  • Obama says "John"
  • Obama says "simply not true"
  • McCain pushes for offshore drilling
  • Obama says "Oraq"
  • Lehrer asks the same question more than four times
  • McCain says "my entire career"
  • Anybody makes a gross arithmetical error
  • Either candy-date says "fundamental difference" (but if they only say "fundamentally different" — psych!)

Stick your finger down your throat when:

  • McCain says "maverick"

Boo when:

  • Either candidate says "the American people"

Worst poster award: ‘Californication’



Recently I was invited by the good people at Dusted magazine to contribute to their “Listed” feature, which is an annotated playlist. They asked me to dig deep in my collection for 10 records that “mean something special” to me; I went for maximum crate-dug sentimentality and chose some favorite 7-inches of the 1990s.

“Listed” runs weekly as a pair of columns by two guests, and I’m honored that my contribution appears alongside the always interesting Shearwater.

Thursday, September 25, 2008



Dunno if it’s anything worth bragging about, but I have seen the original:


Museum of propaganda: ‘Is your trip necessary?’


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Where were you in ’92?


So, MBV.

Loudest band ever. Turn your intestines into linguine. Man, you shoulda been there back in ’92 — their sound birthed 1,000 bands and 5,000 rock critics.

I’ve been hearing this for 16 years. I am one of the unlucky many who did not see their infamously loud tour with Dinosaur Jr., and I have no idea whether I never had the opportunity to seem them (did they go to Albany?), or simply wasn’t cool enough at age 17 to know it was happening.

Now I’m of a certain age and in a certain bizness and, last night at Roseland, finally got to see the storied My Bloody Valentine. Based purely on vibe, I would guess that the crowd was split evenly between those who had seen them before (and let us all know), those who hadn’t (and have been living with jealousy), and those who hadn’t but lied and said they had. I wonder how many dates happened under false pretenses last night.

It says something about their legend that my first reaction was slight disappointment: they didn’t actually seem so loud. Was the problem my ears or everybody else’s? Or could it be that they had turned down? Reports from the previous night had many people running out with their hands over their ears, or hiding in safety back by the merch table. But to what’s left of my ears, it was no more extreme than any other rock concert. And how could it be otherwise, really? Doesn’t everybody use essentially the same equipment?

And even though it was wonderful to hear songs like “I Only Said” and “When You Sleep” early in the set, something wasn’t clicking. I thought about grunge, I thought about Sonic Youth and Dino Jr., I thought about the color on the cover of Loveless and how it basically proved that MBV was on the right side of their own sonic Manicheanism. But it just sort of seemed like another concert.

At some point, though — I think it was when they played “Soon,” or maybe a song or two before — it clicked, because of two things: (1) it got really loud, like really loud, in a way that I could feel in my chest, and (2) it stopped making sense. During “Soon” the music seemed to be pulling itself in different directions, the grungy guitars tugging downward against the high, whistling sample. It was out of sync, like most of MBV’s counterpoint, but that’s what seemed to keep it moving.

For the finale, “You Made Me Realise,” they basically played 10, 12, 15 minutes of noise — I don’t know how long it was, but it felt like the loudest thing I had ever heard/felt in my life. I could see the drummer, Colm Ó Cíosóig, bashing away but I couldn’t hear him; he was lost in the blast of pure guitar, or at least pure something. [This blog describes the listening experience as “like standing in front of a jet engine preparing for takeoff,” and clocks the “Realise” noise jam at 15 minutes.] When they went back into the song, I had forgotten they had even been playing a song.

And when the lights went up and I turned around, there were people holding their ears and other people with blissed-out smiles. That’s the My Bloody Valentine I wanted to see.

(Photo via Flickr.)

Press release of the day: Kip Winger = Bergman, Prokofiev



The general balance and atmosphere of 'From The Moon...' is very reminiscent of Kip Winger's previous solo albums. A highly textured, harmonious tapestry of sounds and influences from his own pop/rock sensibilities to Middle Eastern flavors as heard in the opening 'Every Story Told' with it's
[sic] string surges and a lively Andy Timmons solo, to the instrumental 'Ghosts', conjuring up imagery of Ingmar Bergman movies and Prokofiev soundtracks. Whereas the massive 'Nothing' would fit neatly into the Winger IV album. Most songwriters dry up by the time they are 30, whereas Kip Winger continues to produce and compose so much high caliber music its [sic] uncanny. This latest epic is possibly his greatest effort so far.

"In his own word's
[sic] 'I worked hard to make this record my best yet.' So there you have it, Kip Winger is not only a genius but a man of his word." - Rory Sullivan, alloutguitar.com, 2008

‘The Hard Ride’


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Museum of propaganda: ‘Contra el fascismo’


From the Spanish Civil War: The FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica), a still-active group of militant anarchists, solicits fighters against Franco.

(Via this person’s Flickr page.)

‘The brightest, hardest, loudest drumstroke you’ve ever heard’


(Via Vintage Ads.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

A nice collection of posters and propaganda

Vintage Ads links to an impressive collection of poster art, ads and some propaganda. This is the nice sort of propaganda, the “teamwork wins” and “drink milk” variety, not “your mother is responsible for killing you.”



Infinite Jad Fair


On Friday the inimitable Jad Fair will open an exhibition of his paper-cut art at Cake Shop with a live performance, on a bill with fellow pseudo-outsider musicians R. Stevie Moore and Lumberob.

Over three decades Fair’s music has alternated between inspired primitivism and total insufferability, but his art has always been fascinating. You’ve seen it on record covers by not only his band Half Japanese but also Yo La Tengo, the Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Crush, etc. (Has he ever done a Daniel Johnston cover, or has Daniel always done his own?) It’s both creepy and innocent, and often seems to have a clearer and more inspired vision than his music.


I hadn’t looked at his art in a while, but it seems better than ever, and I’m especially pleased that he’s taken to the Internet. In a weird way it looks like the perfect medium for him — easy animation, easy replication, easy dissemination. His Photobucket page has a ton of images, some of them animated GIFs, like the one at the top of this post, and the list of his top friends on MySpace seems to confirm something essential about Jad Fair: he is everywhere, and he is in his own little world:


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

‘The Ghost and Master Boh’

What is it with these weird Thai movie posters? Does everybody there look flatulent and retarded?


Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Press release of the day: Talk like a pirate


My first press release for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is tomorrow. It’s for a new song by Lambchop called, appropriately enough for our benighted, xenophobic times, “National Talk Like a Pirate Day”:



Do you know what you’ll be listening to tomorrow, September 19, to commemorate International Talk Like A Pirate Day? Allow us to suggest Lambchop’s American perspective on this rapidly growing phenomenon, their song “National Talk Like A Pirate Day,” from the new album “OH (ohio)” coming out Oct 7 on Merge Records.

In observance of the big day tomorrow, Merge has made the song available for free download. You can link directly to it here:


... Lambchop principle Kurt Wagner has recently announced a string of solo dates. See below for info:


One nit: This came from a major, mainstream publicity company that should, in principle, know its principals.

Metallica, the font


It’s called Pastor of Muppets, and if you download it (for Windows/Mac TrueType and Mac PostScript), it also includes Pastor of Muppets Flipped, so you can do both ends of LUNCH or FLUFFY or MOM or whatever.

Found via a comment on Brand New, which has a very interesting look at the new version Metallica’s classic logo. Along with a bunch of other Metallica merch, it was designed by the company that also did the latest Coke cans and all sorts of other designs for famous commodity brands.


(Via The Daily Swarm.)

Museum of propaganda: ‘Talking too much helps the enemy’


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wikipedia article of the day of the day: David Lovering


Now, this is very neat, and I’m glad to be cited a lot in it, which means that for a day my name is on the splash page of the most popular — if not exactly most reliable — reference resource on the Internet. (I share space with news updates on the ongoing subprime mortagage crisis, the collapse of the ruling coalition of Ukraine, and the crash of Aeroflot 821!)

But there is one very irritating aspect about this and every other Pixies-related entry on Wikipedia. I am checking myself to be absolutely sure about the facts before I call out a major error. But if this does indeed check out, I will post here and maybe do something on Wikipedia too.

Stay tuned.

Star Wars bath collection, Atari kiosk

God bless you, Vintage Ads blog.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Museum of propaganda, literally, again

The Living Room Candidate, the Museum of the Moving Image’s web archive of presidential campaign commercials going back to 1952, is a treasure trove of the most important and expensive form of modern propaganda. More than $100 million had been spent on primary ads just by the end of January, and by the end of July Obama and McCain had spent a combined $50 million on general-election spots. What this could all add up to by Nov. 4 is mind-boggling.

[Update: In January the Federal Election Commission projected that total campaign costs could exceed $1 billion. In August Obama raised $66 million — a one-month record for anybody — and this Tuesday he scared up $11 million in two back-to-back Hollywood fund-raisers.]

The general story is as you’d expect: it goes from happy-go-lucky jingles in the “I Like Ike” era to more, ahem, sophisticated forms of manipulation. The big milestone is usually considered to be Johnson’s “Daisy” commercial in 1964, in which a young girl counts off the petals of a flower and then an atomic bomb abruptly explodes — the idea being that “the stakes are too high” to vote for what’s-his-name, Barry Goldwater.

The ’60s and ’70s in general have the most interesting ads, with what seem to be the most creative influence from Madison Avenue; by the ’80s the ads are dominated by the familiar dumbed-down formulaics of montage biographies and fear-mongering. But watch this 1968 spot for Nixon, which has no script at all, but instead uses strange, psychedelic imagery to suggest that Hubert Humphrey would use some sort of psycho-sonic distortion weapon to give everybody a really, really bad trip:

For hard-core campaign ad analysis, take a look at the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project.

Museum of propaganda: Women in wartime 4


Monday, September 15, 2008

mind-machine, n.

[< MIND n.1 + MACHINE n.]

1. The human brain or human person regarded as a rational machine.

1903 Contemp. Rev. Sept. 389 When the child plays it is literally organising its brain, myelinising its mind-machine. 1972 H. A. WILLIAMS True Resurrection iii. 70 Man is a rational being—i.e. he is a mind-machine, and therefore it is to his interest to be treated as a mind-machine.
2. An electronic device equipped with earphones and flashing lights which is worn over the head for sensory stimulation and relaxation.
1986 Daily Tel. 9 Oct. 28 The plain truth is that a secondary school child would be very lucky to get 10 minutes on a computer a week... It is little more than conjuring, a fashionable sleight of hand to dazzle us with the mystery of these magic new mind machines. 1991 Futurist May 58/2 (advt.) Innerquest Mind Machines, Acoustic Brain Research, Hemi-Sync and Super-Learning Tapes,..Earth Pulse Generators & more. 1993 R. RUCKER et al. Mondo 2000 10/2 Someone had a mind machine with earphones playing pulsed sound to match the flickering rhythms in two rings of tiny red light bulbs mounted in goggles that went over your eyes.

Copyright © Oxford University Press 2008


1. When did Mondo 2000 become a credited source in the OED? Are Raygun and Maximumrocknroll next?

2. H.A. Williams, whoever you are, I doff my mind-machine to you, sir: “Man is a rational being—i.e. he is a mind-machine, and therefore it is to his interest to be treated as a mind-machine.”

Watchin’ the Watchmen cinematography video


Number 6 in the Watchmen video journal series went up last week. This one has Zack Snyder and his director of photography, Larry Fong, talking about their approach to cinematography. Pretty dry stuff, although the fact that they are supposedly using so many one-camera shots is interesting. Snyder: “For this movie, it’s a one-camera show.”

As always, there are HD versions for those extra close, slo-mo studies of Malin Akerman’s butt.

Given the lawsuit over rights, however, and the late trial date, who knows what will become of any of this.

‘Los Cronocrímenes’

Timecrimes, that is.

New Spanish film directed by Nacho Vigalondo, who has gotten some notice for his short films, one of which, 7:35 de la Mañana, was nominated for an Oscar a few years back.

It played at Sundance this year, and was picked up for remake by United Artists. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Timothy J. Sexton, who was one of the writers of Children of Men and is also redoing Logan’s Run, has been hired to write the script.

Who knows how that will turn out, but the original looks like a somewhat corny horror (but pretty cool) take on the Twelve Monkeys/La Jetée theme of the paradox of time-travel murder:

A man who accidentally travels back into the past and meets himself. A naked girl in the middle of the forest. A mysterious stranger with his face wrapped in a pink bandage. A disquieting mansion on the top of a hill. All of them pieces of an unpredictable jigsaw puzzle where terror, drama and suspense will lead to an unthinkable crime. Who’s the murderer? Who’s the victim?

But whoa, there are some fantastic posters for it, which will excite film nerds:


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mapping Girl Talk samples

Andy Baio at Waxy.org has done an impressive number-crunching job with the 264 samples on Girl Talk’s album Feed the Animals.

Using Wikipedia data and Amazon.com’s crowdsourcing program Mechanical Turk, he charted out exactly what moment each sample appears on the songs, graphically illustrating the spacing and density of samples on the record. It’s pretty dense — out of 14 tracks, the average number of samples per track, Baio says, is 19.8. (Though I don’t totally understand that computation: 264 divided by 14 is 18.9; maybe it’s a typo.)

Other interesting visual aids show how old each of the samples are across Feed the Animals. They stretch back to the mid-’60s but most are very recent:

Very impressive work, though it’s not a big surprise given Baio’s record: on two posts in May, he did some incredible data-mining in the Billboard singles charts, looking at the track length of Top 40 songs over the last 50 years as well as the staying power of one-hit wonders. Highly recommended reading, and not just for people like me who already spend too much time reading pop charts.

In related news, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in the New Yorker this week about laptop music, and he talked to Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) about how he does the show live. It’s very labor intensive: “To perform a live set, Gillis has to turn a new loop on and off every few seconds, or choose to let several go on longer if he feels like getting up and dancing. The software is not set up to execute a long, complicated series of decisions on his behalf. He has to re-create the mix every night.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Museum of propaganda: Moaist children’s music


“Yeah, growing up I was never much into the big corny radio hits, you know, like ‘Criticize Lin Piao and Discredit Him Completely.’ I was more into the deep cuts. ‘Under the Shining Five-Star Red Flag’; ‘Little Red Guards Attend a Repudiation Meeting’ — that one really kicked my ass!”

(Via LP Cover Lover.)

Museum of propaganda: Women in wartime 1


Monday, September 8, 2008