Sunday, June 29, 2008

The movie stinks, but the music ain't bad.

So here's the other pilfered entry: a soundtrack for my life. (Take a look here for the inspiration.)

This was damn hard (but quite fun). Probably much too big a project to tackle in one night. But ... whatever. Here's a first draft that'll surely need to be edited heavily.

opening credits: british sea power, “childhood memories”
waking up: peter bjorn & john, “up against the wall”
hanging out: the go! team, “huddle formation”
suburban boredom: beautiful people, “sedated times”
prelude to fistfight: white rose movement, “alsatian

nighttime drive: hooverphonic, “inhaler”
reflection: the radio dept., “strange things will happen”
transition to adulthood: saint etienne, “roseneck”
infatuation: feist, “one evening”
falling in love: lykke li, “little bit”
love scene: broken social scene, “lover’s spit”
argument: the killers, “smile like you mean it”
breaking up: cocteau twins, “cherry-cloured funk”
after the breakup: one dove, “there goes the cure”
drifting aimlessly: fields, “if you fail we all fail”
falling apart: pet shop boys, “we all feel better in the dark”
in dark room alone: my bloody valentine, “sometimes”
thinking about her: keane, “try again”
reconnection: frou frou, “it’s good to be in love”
holding hands: club 8, “you and me”
first dance at wedding: leona naess, “sunny sunday

closing credits: jem, “wish i

Wow. That's quite the heavy sprinkling of cheese. Has my life been, and will it be, that sappy? Man, if this were a movie, I wouldn't watch it.

But I'd buy the soundtrack.

Favorites among favorites, revisited.

This entry has spent many months in gestation. Tonight, it was finally time to induce labor.

I stole the idea from someone on Brilliant, just brilliant, I thought when I stumbled upon her journal entry. (Even more brilliant is her other journal entry, which shall also be pilfered.)

When I first read her entry many months ago, I immediately wanted to put together a list of my own. But it's been a monumentally daunting task. I came up with a rough draft while flying home to Houston some time last year. But I couldn't commit to my selections enough to finalize them. How many spots to give to old-timers? How many to give to current favorites, who, given my often short attention span, may no longer be favorites in a couple of months? Hell, I struggled for another couple of hours just now scooting bands in and escorting others out. But I'm at peace with my choices now ... I suppose.

Here are my top 17 favorite bands of all time, arranged in reverse chronological order by the approximate date on which I fell in love with each. (17 because that's my favorite number.)
first song: the comeback
fell in love with: shut your eyes
current favorite: hard rain

first song: the zookeper’s boy
fell in love with: the seething rain weeps for you
current favorite: snow brigade

first song: remember me
fell in love with: childhood memories
current favorite: trip out

first song: too young
fell in love with: holdin’ on together
current favorite: everything is everything

first song: ibi dreams of pavement (a better day)
fell in love with: swimmers
current favorite: 7/4 (shoreline)

first song: set yourself on fire
fell in love with: elevator love letter
current favorite: life 2: the unhappy ending

first song: against the tide
fell in love with: strange things will happen
current favorite: ewan

first song: obstacle 1
fell in love with: obstacle 1
current favorite: obstacle 1

first song: everlasting love
fell in love with: better days
current favorite: the beauty of the way we’re living

first song: soon
fell in love with: when you sleep
current favorite: sometimes

first song: mario’s cafe
fell in love with: spring
current favorite: new thing

first song: carolyn’s fingers
fell in love with: cico buff
current favorite: orange appled

first song: how soon is now?
fell in love with: there is a light that never goes out
current favorite: there is a light that never goes out

first song: just like heaven
fell in love with: just like heaven
current favorite: just like heaven

first song: oh l’amour
fell in love with: victim of love (vixenvitesse mix)
current favorite: i love saturday

first song: strangelove
fell in love with: everything counts
current favorite: but not tonight

first song: bizarre love triangle
fell in love with: bizarre love triangle
current favorite: primitive notion

But I'm gonna cheat a bit, because it was agonizing to leave out this band. They're actually my current favorite, but I couldn't justify bumping off any of the others to let in this relative newcomer. Maybe in another few months. For now, they get a very honorable mention in their very own space.

first song: it never entered my mind
fell in love with: it never entered my mind
current favorite: beggin’

A throwback of sorts. Very reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys, but with newer synthesizers, deeper bass lines and stronger integration of guitars. That and they're Swedish ... as are three of my top 17. (Add in one from Denmark, and that's a pretty big Scandinavian bloc. Hmm ... I've just noticed that only one among the 17 is American. Go figure.)

It'll be fun to take a look at this (and update it) in a couple of years.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

You're like the rest of them.

I picked up a few discs at the Virgin Megastore today. While there, I discovered that I own four of the albums on their Top 20 chart.

Coldplay, Viva La Vida
The Ting Tings, We Started Nothing
Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer
Santogold, Santogold

Not quite sure what to make of that. I suppose the most accurate statement for the situation is that I appear to share the tastes of an appreciable portion of the shoppers at this particular Virgin Megastore. But, again ... not quite sure what to make of that.

BTW -- The new Wolf Parade is quite blah. Much too "whine and drone" for my tastes. And my initial infatuation with Viva La Vida has dissipated precipitously. Might have something to do with their Today Show appearance. Seeing bands perform poorly live has a way of making my thumb apply pressure to the "skip" button with greater ease when their songs sneak into the rotation on my iPod. Punishment for those who fail to master their craft in its entirety.

Tonight, I write.

For many a weekend, I've told myself that I'd park in front of the computer and write, write, write. Well, this may finally be the night.

The window's open. There's a gentle breeze. I see ships passing on the river. Music is humming in the background.

I feel inspired. I feel determined.

Let's see if I can finally tackle some of those neglected entries.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Maybe you should practice a little.

Coldplay performed on the Today Show this morning. Quite dreadful. I had been disappointed about not snagging tickets to the free MSG show on Monday (which was also, apparently, not very good), because they're not scheduled to play in NYC again during the Viva La Vida tour. (Well, they'll be in the Meadowlands at some point, but that don't count.) Now, I feel better. Chris's voice just doesn't seem to be made for live performances. And his knack for ad-libbing doesn't help, either. (Did the same thing on Austin City Limits and How We Saw the World.) It's as if he doesn't rehearse and just makes crap up as he goes. (He flubbed the opening lyrics to one of the songs this morning, much like he did at the MSG show.)

I don't insist on a note-for-note replay of an album when I go to a concert, but I do insist on a polished sound. I wonder if Jonny, Will and Guy get annoyed with him? They're amazingly polished compared to his nonchalant ways.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let me tell you about this thing I found called the Internet.

So John McCain thinks that eBay is a model for U.S. economic growth. Actually, I'm paraphrasing liberally, because I can't make much sense of the story. From what I can gather, McCain has a penchant for asserting that 1.3 million people worldwide "make a living off eBay." And he follows that up with statements like: "It's called an information-technology revolution, and it's not that much different as far as its effects worldwide as the industrial revolution was."

I bet he doesn't even know how to load up the eBay home page. And if he'd just watch The 40 Year Old Virgin, I'd bet he'd stop touting the economic wonders of making a living selling crap on eBay.

Whatever his point, he comes across as a severely out of touch kook. Reminds me of the time when my mom watched The Net (you know, that dreadful Sandra Bullock yarn about the bogeyman who resides online) and then called me all worked up, wanting to warn me that dangerous things can happen on this thing called the Internet. And that was, what ... eleven years ago? Even my mom's with it by now.

C'mon, John! Go buy a Wii or something!

[All fun and games aside, I'd truly pity the country that has this man as President. His "gooks" remark in 2000 still sticks with me. Sure, he justified use of the derogatory term as a reference only to his torturers in Vietnam. But, as a commentator in the linked San Francisco Chronicle article points out, would it be acceptable for McCain to refer to his torturers as "niggers" had he been captured by Nigerians? Why can't he simply refer to them as "bastards" or "fuckers"? Why use a race-injected epithet ... unless he has a problem with that race? Was the torture somehow worse because it was inflicted by Asians?]

Sunday, June 22, 2008

You can come out now.

I've got a rather conflicted relationship with Coldplay. I first heard Coldplay during law school. Stumbled upon the last bit of the video for "Yellow" while clicking through MTV and found it to be rather catchy -- especially for something on MTV. (I'm pretty sure "Yellow" was already a colossal hit, but I had no idea because I'd basically stopped listening to the radio.) I mentioned my intrigue to one of my music buddies: "Hey, have you heard this song 'Yellow?'" His response was an indignant, "Bleh!" And that was that for my nascent interest in Coldplay.

My next meaningful encounter with the band came at Coachella 2005 -- five years later and a chance to redeem my musical independence. Alas, it was not to be, thanks to one very annoying girl.

After Coachella, a friend at work lent me his copy of X&Y. I was skeptical and cautiously aware of the consequences entailed by becoming a fan of a megaband. But I took a listen and got hooked. For a long stretch afterwards, Coldplay was among the heaviest players on my iPod rotation.

But I was always a bit self-conscious about being a fan. So much so that, after Coldplay made it into the top 10 of my profile, I semi-consciously started listening to them less. I felt like an English literature major trying to hide his Danielle Steele "novel."

Well, there's no hiding my love for the seemingly pedestrian now. I picked up Viva La Vida last week, and Coldplay will soon be back in my top 10. I've been listening to the album virtually non-stop since last Tuesday.

My guess is that Coldplay traditionalists probably don't like the album as much as I do. They tend to favor the soft stuff (e.g., "The Scientist") whereas I prefer the hard stuff (e.g., "Square One"). More so than any Coldplay album, Viva La Vida lets Jonny, Will and Guy do their thing unencumbered. Instrumentation finally takes more of the foreground than Chris's voice, and Coldplay sounds more like what they describe themselves to be on MySpace: "our type of music is very heavy soft rock." Apparently, that didn't happen by accident, as Chris notes in an NYT article:
Mr. Martin said the band sat down about two years ago, after a lengthy tour behind “X&Y,” and said, “If we carry on like this, it’s going to appear like a one-man show, and it’s going to get very boring very quickly.” So, he explained, “everybody felt like they had to rip it up and start again.

I'm sure Brian Eno deserves much of the credit for the fuller sound. The liner notes credit him for the album's "sonic landscape," and that's a very fitting term. Many reviewers feel the need to invoke comparisons to U2 -- which is rather annoying -- just because Eno produced many of U2's albums. (Worse yet are the implicit suggestions that Coldplay is trying, unsuccessfuly, to pose as U2.) I don't hear any U2 at all. Rather, I hear Slowdive, Chapterhouse and other shoegazer goodness -- what with the effects-laden guitars swirling every which way. Makes you wonder if Jonny borrowed some effects pedals from Robin Guthrie or Kevin Shields.

When I heard "Cemeteries of London" and "Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love," aural memories of Slowdive's "Souvlaki Space Station" immediately swooped into the forefront of my consciousness. All three tracks feature a sustained, atmospheric drone that's somehow reminiscent of a ghost howling in the wind. (Quite appropriate for "Cemteries of London," no?) Lo and behold, when I read Eno's Wikipedia entry, I discovered that he worked on Souvlaki.

Actually, when I say
"Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love," I really mean "Lovers in Japan." That's one of the few annoying things about Viva La Vida -- a number of tracks (i.e., "Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love," "Yes" and "Death and All His Friends") inexplicably consist of two perfectly fine standalone songs rolled into one unecessarily long one. Bothered me so much that I spliced each of those in two with a sound editor.

But that annoyance is a small one. All in all, Viva La Vida is a damn good album. I almost regret leaving the first night of Coachella 2005 early. Almost.

Let's see if the affection sticks this time and I'm still hanging out with Coldplay in public a couple of months from now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Inspiration of the Desert

Every now and then, I take a gander at the Coachella website for nostalgia's sake. I just took a look at the lineup for 2005 and became rather disappointed in myself. Granted, I was but a Coachella neophyte that year, and I was still digging myself out of the creative black hole into which I had fallen, but how the hell did I never notice that British Sea Power and Shout Out Louds were there that year? Wish I hadn't looked.

Actually, that's not true. I'm glad I looked. Serves as a good reminder of how far I've come in the past three years in terms of getting back in touch with that awe-inspired me from the days of yore. (Besides, I've seen both bands three times now.)

This is yet another occasion in which Professor Hebert's admonition is ringing in my head: "Don't become someone ten years from now whom you'd hate right now." The me of ten years ago would've had quite the hefty load of disdain for the pre-Coachella 2005 version of me. But I think he'd have fewer issues with the me of now ... I hope. (Yes, the judgment of the me of ten years ago deserves attention from the me of now. Take a look here.)

Would've been nice to have seen British Sea Power and Shout Out Louds at Coachella. But missing them seems to give that inaugural Coachella excursion just that much more of a mythical quality. I mean, I missed two of my all-time favorites, and, still, it was a magical experience. I'm smiling now thinking about it.

Thanks, O.C. friend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Meaning What You Don't Say

I think it's safe to say that I'm more sensitive to issues involving race than the average American. Perhaps that's what prompted my reaction to the snippet below.

I read that a former NASCAR inspector who is a black woman filed suit against NASCAR for race and sex discrimination. NASCAR, after claiming that it had not yet reviewed the suit, made this preliminary statement:
As an equal opportunity employer, NASCAR is fully committed to the spirit and letter of affirmative action law. NASCAR provides equal opportunity employment to job candidates and employees without regard to race, religion, creed, age, gender, or any other characteristic protected by law. Personnel decisions are made based on factors such as performance and adherence to corporate policy.

At first blush, that statement has all the hallmarks of a canned response to a discrimination suit. But a closer look should make you wonder why NASCAR felt compelled to refer to affirmative action.

Very strange. It's been a long while since I've taken constitutional law. But I remember enough to know that, for the most part, affirmative action statutes regulate the conduct of government agencies (e.g., the make-up of entering classes at universities or the awarding of government contracts to minority-owned businesses) and not that of private employers. To the extent that private employers adopt affirmative action policies, they do so on a voluntary basis. [Alright. I've re-read what I wrote, and I now realize that the NASCAR spokesperson so bewildered me with the reference to affirmative action that I got things all muddled here. Affirmative action consists of policies implemented by government or private entities. Law typically enters the analysis when affirmative action policies are challenged for violating the equal protection provisions of the Constitution. I cannot imagine any valid statute that would require NASCAR to put in place an affirmative action policy, so I cannot imagine any "affirmative action law" that NASCAR may have violated.
It just doesn't make any sense to me why the NASCAR spokesperson mentioned affirmative action.]

My point here isn't to quibble with the failure of NASCAR's spokesperson to understand which laws govern the operation of his company. But I do wonder why he invoked the term "affirmative action" and all the inflamed passions it brings -- especially among the NASCAR faithful -- when there is little likelihood the lawsuit in question will have anything to do with affirmative action. Perhaps I'm about to do what the NASCAR spokesperson did (i.e., speculate without basis), but I wonder if the subtext of the statement is that the (black) woman should be grateful she was hired in the first place, because she wasn't really qualified?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Is this forever?

Wow ... just experienced a very strange blast from the past. Have you ever Googled your name? (Sure you have! No need for the feigned aloofness. Everyone does it!) I just took a peek to, uh ... research. (Yeah, that's it!) And I came upon this little electronic fossil:

It's a posting I made to the 4AD-L mailing list way back in February 1996. I was rambling about the music used in Volkswagen commercials after someone mentioned the use of Lush's "Sweetness and Light" in the Drive VW campaign. In particular, I was expressing my joy in having discovered Ivy by way of that series of catchy ads.

Funny how I've already written an entry about that episode. Brings back such memories ... like how my high school buddies and I shared a goofy infatuation with Miki Berenyi, the lead singer for Lush. (From the looks of the linked site, someone out there is still holding on to his infatuation a bit too tightly. Scary. I think I saw a Law & Order episode start that way.)

Not as amusing is the rather poor command of the written word I displayed in that posting. (Who knew it'd be hanging around for all the world to see 12 years later?) Then again, I'll probably be saying the same thing about this posting when I stumble upon it 12 years from now.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pressing Questions

Yes, questions so pressing that I had to take a moment away from work to jot this down.

1. Why the hell do guys wear crew neck undershirts if they're not going to button their top buttons? Are v-neck undershirts really that hard to find? Or am I just too clueless to appreciate the niceties of having your dingy undershirt crawl up from below your dress shirt to say hello to the world?

2. Who the hell came up with pleats? And who decided that it would be an even better idea to double them? As if that weren't enough ... triple pleats? I mean, shouldn't you go ahead and switch to wearing a kilt at that point?

Such mysteries of the universe baffle me so.