Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 2005 - My Eyes Are Still Bleeding From The Awfulness

Film Review: I have come to accept that I will never know why this jumble of crap has a 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Did I like a single thing about this? Well yes, actually, I did. But this movie is worse than Vogon Poetry. Much worse.

The cinematography was an absolute joke. As bad - or possibly even worse - than Eragon. The visual effects were okay, the Vogan's being the only interesting bit there (Yes, that's the part of the movie I liked). The dialog was not so much written as shat out. And the list goes on. But this is just what goes into most movies today though, why is this one particularly bad?

1. It's all so stereotypical it comes off mono: Apparently, in space, every single person/thing is 100% stereotypical. From the rock and roll president to the ultra-logical priest, from the repulsive Vogans to the British man just chasing after women and tea while not fully ready for either, could this movie support any more stereotypes? Trust me it does. You see, it doesn't trust you to understand a little thing called character depth, or even character development for that matter.

2. Humor: Namely, there isn't any. The only funny part is the computer. The big one. The one that just toys with the galaxy for fun and watches television. Besides that, it's okay humor I guess, but the lack of acting passion just drags it down to the ground.

3. Actors need not apply: The acting can't even be called acting except for Mos Def, and then only at a couple of parts, and quite possibly only because I like Mos Def. Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy (Two of my favorite British Actors) almost act, but overall the performance of the actors cannot be called acting - they're just there to collect their checks. They are dead weight on screen.

And those three reasons are why I hate this movie. It's true, I hate this movie. The narration is inconsistent, the humor is lackluster, there is no acting, and it's all just one big stereotypical love-fest. And it comes off horrible. Do not watch this movie unless the fate of humanity depends on you watching it. And even then, the price may be too high.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 17

Sorry for the late post. Academia and all. You know how it goes.

Funny thing of the week:

Two YouTube videos this week: Powerthirst 1, and Powerthirst 2: Re-Domination. If I've ever said "Made of Biceps!" or "You'll win at Arson!" around you, these are where that's from.

On to the Dailies:

Cyanide and Happiness: San Francisco Nuke

SMBC: Opposites Attract and Nice Collared Shirts

Real Life: What're We Having for Dinner?

Biff: Wham

Lio: Day of Doom

Non-Dailies really took the cake this week, with the best being the first XKCD:

XKCD: Mistranslations and Restraining Order

Penny Arcade: Beijing 2008/MKWii

Ctrl+Alt+Del: Idiots in Space Epilogue and the Plot Tree for IiS

ExtraLife: Inappropriate Rick Roll

White Ninja: Breast Feeding

Hijinks Ensue: Holodeck Pitch

And I think that's it for this week. Oh, except one last thing. This is a followup to the Blood Ninja Chronicles posted in BCotW 15 and a comic from the archives of the great Perry Bible Fellowship: Love Wizard.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Best Television Since Carnivàle?

I am sorry that there was a pause in Film Week, but we are back on. The reson for the pause is stated explicitly in the title for this post, and to answer the above question, oh good God yes. Formally chalk this one down as number 12 on the list of ATY's non-hierarchical (except Fawlty Towers) watchable television. A strong addition, especially coming so soon after Firefly. So let's get the Film Week rolling again with a review of the miniseries/backdoor pilot/first episode/mind-blowing, ravenous television.

Pilot Review: Why did I pick up BSG at the rental store on Friday? Because about 80 people have told me that I need to watch this show. Now you can imagine the range of personalities, interests, and hobbies those 80 people have had, and so I figured that I had to at least taste it. So I watched it yesterday. IT IS A BAD IDEA TO WATCH THIS NOW IF YOU ARE IN SCHOOL. WAIT UNTIL SUMMER LEST YOU END UP LIKE ME. Well, now that that's out of the way, let's move onto the show, shall we?

What I like best about BSG is what Morgan said the other night: "It's not about space. It's about these people and the fact that they are in space is background." Yes, and this 3 hour and 3 minute pilot is most of that background. But after the first hour and a half, it starts to get into the groove that the show takes on so effectively. But this isn't all.

What I like best about BSG is the camera. I was trying to figure out why this show consumed a weekend of mine (8 episodes today, more tomorrow as soon as the video stores open up again) and you know I hit on some of the normal stuff for me:

1. The acting is solid, especially Katee Sackhoff. So much depth to her acting.
2. The plot is good, as is the writing and the dialog.
3. Art direction is superb, with everything making a certain sort of sense and the continuity is almost perfect.

But what really struck me was the camera. Let me just point out two obvious facts: the camera work is done by the same group that did Firefly, and the camera gets hit with debris and goes spinning off into space within the first five minutes. Now that is good. The zooms, cuts, angles, frames - the camera work sucks you into the film more than the three elements above do. And sucked in is a very good way to put it. The camera doesn't tell you more about a scene but for a couple of times; it raises questions. It forces you to re-evaluate your relation to the story in the same way Blade Runner's camera work did. Similarly, it doesn't let legibility get in the way of communication. It is superb.

In short, the show must be watched, or waded through depending on your perspective. The first hour and a half was good, not great, but the second hour and a half took my breath away. Now I can't stop. And that's what good television and good books do to me: I can't put them down.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Southland Tales: 2007 - Have A Nice Apocalypse

Film Review: So my movie watching MO is this: I spend two or three weeks watching one or two films a day, then months without watching another. It's because I get bored. I screen a lot of films - probably around 150 a year. There is so much crap out there, but I usually stick to pretty good movies. This movie intrigued me the most in the past few years. It is confusing, certainly, but it is coherent to a point - coherent enough for me.

Remember the wonderful Donnie Darko? This is Richard Kelly's next film. This man is damn good at making interesting movies and story lines. The story centers on the lives of important government officials, an actor, a porn star, a scientist and his eccentric posse, and an ex-soldier. I have said many times that one of my favorite books of all time is The Divine Comedy, and to me, this is exactly in the same vein as that satirical and serious piece of literature. At times uproariously funny, uncomfortably funny, heartbreaking, ironic, heartwarming, scary, and fun, this movie embraces unpredictability and pulls it off absolutely brilliantly.

From Justin Timberlake as the blood covered ex-soldier tripping he's in a Killers music video (above) to The Rock being, well, squirrel-like (below), this movie broadsided me. I came into it expecting another great film like DD, but walked away with what may be the best film of the century so far. I know that's a lot to say when the movie gets only 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, but come on, just because it is dense does not make it bad. The density made me want to unpack the film and try to understand more of what was happening. But I completely revel in the unknown. I absolutely love that I do not understand this film entirely. I have never experienced that in cinema before. But not just its' density, its' beauty and passion and quirkiness strong-arm me into wanting to understand it more and more. In short, I understand enough of the film to be able to follow it and want to unpack the rest of it.

Because this movie was completely unexpected and pulled whatever it pulled off stunningly, I would give it a 90% and it is that low only because the cinematography is fairly standard. Kelly has set a mood and a stage, then allowed a story to evolve in them that takes my breath away every time. It is satirical at points. It is scary. It is overly dramatic. It makes fun of itself. It makes fun of absolutely everything. And I love it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blade Runner: 1982

Film Review: Deckard hunts androids. He is possibly one himself. Everything turns out happy. That's about it on the plot synopsis. To me, the things that stand out the most are the visual effects, art direction, cinematography, dialogue, and storyline.

The visual effects look better than most effects today, twenty-six years later. Seeing Tyrell's buildings, seeing the spinners flying, seeing the roving spotlights infiltrate every part of life (above) - the visual effects are continuous and perfect, allowing the viewer to believe them and not have to think about them. The biggest credited department is hands down this one, with 73 people.

The art direction, which includes the costuming and set design, is just quirky enough to be believable and fantastic. From JF Sebastian's "friends" to Tyrell's glasses, every single piece on every scale is thought out, designed, and placed perfectly. This is the second most populous department at 24.

The storyline is simple on the grand scale, as shown at the beginning of this review, but actually quite complex and detailed. The dialogue has only few parts that stumble, and most of those parts are spoken by Harrison Ford, but I’ll get to him in a moment. The words are at times reserved, at times over the top, and fitted to the characters perfectly all the way through. And this is remarkable considering this was Hampton Fancher’s first script and David Peoples’ second. Beginner’s luck much?

The cinematography is pristine and it illustrates the point that you can't let legibility get in the way of communication. Jordan Cronenweth's work is nothing short of a true masterpiece here.

Rotten Tomatoes gives the Final Cut Edition (top) a 97% and I say nay: this movie is 99% perfect. That missing 1% is because Harrison Ford stands out just a little too much to me, though his costumes and makeup are perfectly blended, his posture and delivery are too Harrison Ford and not enough Rick Deckard. And that is just barely. This movie may join my top five list. Maybe. I have to live with it for a year before I will know for sure. It survives it’s time perfectly. Go see it or buy it today. Especially the new version, the Final Cut Edition.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eragon: 2006 - Why It Isn't As Bad As I Think It Is

Film Review: Okay, let's get a few things out of the way first: this movie is bad. I guess that's just one thing, but it's a big thing. Now let's talk about the movie and why it is bad, or isn't. Okay, I'm already confused.

The plot and writing is by one of my least favorite script-writers: Peter Buchman. This dude also did Jurassic Park III, which was one of the worst movies I have ever seen - we're talking bottom five of all time here. So the movie is already shot in the foot by the writer. It's also based on a fantasy novel by a teenage boy. Bullet #2. It has a first-time director and a first-time lead - bullets 3 and 4. Not only is it a first-time director, but it is a first-time director coming to directing after working on a series of big-budget films as the special effects supervisor. Bullet 5. Somebody decided to give this crew $100 million dollars, and that would give us bullet 6. (I agree with Wes Anderson's commentary on big-budget cinema in The Life Aquatic, namely, it ruins film) But there are two rays of hope: Hugh Johnson as the cinematographer and the director came out of special effects. I loved the cinematography in Kingdom of Heaven - it was quirky, unexpected, and it kept me coming back to that movie more times than the movie really deserved. Also, I still think Master and Commander is one of the best looking films I have ever seen - Fangmeier has a true talent for creating intensity as a visual effects guy. So there we have it, six bullets to the foot of this movie, and two positives. That's how I approached it: with four marks already against it.

The movie wasn't terrible all the way through. I actually enjoyed a few parts. It's true, and Kelly will probably beat me up for saying this, but if Rotten Tomatoes is going to be consistent, I don't think it deserves the 16% rating it has. I think it deserves a better rating than Jurassic Park III, which is at 48%. It should be at 53% and here's why:

1. Cinematography. Come on, you couldn't see this one coming? Can I say it's not as good as I hoped it would be? Well it's not, but it's definitely still quirky and good. It's even great at times. Well, I guess only once.

2. Visual Effects. Review after review praises the work done on the dragon and villages, making the movie visually almost believable. I completely agree that this movie is visually stunning in this department, as well as the cinematography.

3. Acting. Sienna Guillory was screwed with a really bad script for her character, and she performed equally bad, but Ed Speelers (above) wasn't half bad. Yeah, he isn't great, but he's definitely not bad there at the almost-end. His performance has passion and even though it is unrestrained, inconsistent, and sometimes mis- or un-aimed passion, it has passion.

4. Story. Every review calls it derivative and a mixup of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But what isn't derivative? (Especially in the post-LotR Fantasy Genre) There is no blank slate. There is nothing new under the sun, and there has almost never been. Sure, I've heard each part before, but so has anybody who has read Shakespeare. Honestly, the story interested me enough to buy the book. (That is the biggest compliment this film will get from me, and considering how much of a hobby it has become to beat it up, that's the best it will probably ever get)

That's it. It had four marks against it and four marks for it. That gives it a fifty percent in my mind. The fact that I wanted to read the books afterwards gives it the extra three percent. Eragon is in some ways terrible, but come on, it's Hollywood - it's gonna be bad. This movie almost transcended that and became good. Not great, don't get me wrong, but it was almost good.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Logan's Run: 1976 - Apparently If You Shoot One Light In The Future, Entire Towns Asplode

Film Review: "Total pleasure" but for one thing: nobody gets their 30th birthday. Everybody has a life clock diamond placed in their hands and when it starts flashing red, they die by reporting to Carousal for renewal, reporting to a sleep shop, or running and getting shot by a Sandman, a sort of police force. The system is perfect: everybody is young and beautiful, there is no sadness, no want. But the system starts to unravel for Logan when he has a prostitute-ish, Jessica, come to his house and refuse to have sex with him. Then, as the title states, he runs.

The film does an okay job with the cinematography. When Ernest Laszlo is shooting in full scale, he is quite good. But the model shots are poor here - shaky camera work. For a mid-1970s sci-fi, dystopian thriller, the effects are really good and it won an Academy Award for them. However, it seems like too much focus is on those and not enough on the screen writing. The reasons for Logan's running are never stated while everything else is in the movie. Now, I appreciate letting me figure out some things, but when you spoon feed me everything but one thing, that just throws me for a loop.

Now, the movie isn't great, but it is just good enough and just quirky enough for me to be interested. Even though the "what purpose?" of Logan's running isn't answered explicitly, I think it is implicitly. The reason reviewers like NYT and Roger Ebert get frustrated trying to figure out why Logan runs is because it isn't one reason. He runs because: he is tasked to, he is scared, he's falling in love and wants to be what she wants him to be, he's curious if there is an outside, the system makes no sense and he want to prove to himself that it does, and he keeps running because there is no going back. He has no choice. He doesn't want to die. One could say those reasons are all related to curiosity, but they are not all curiosity, which I think confuses some big-time critics.

Best actor in the movie is hands down Peter Ustinov. I mean, come on, he's a crazy cat man living in the US Senate Chamber with his cats, and he pulls it off brilliantly. How good is that? The acting all around isn't bad, but it definitely isn't great. Michael York delivers some very good parts as Logan, but after the cave scene I just can't believe him. Jenny Agutter on the other hand, is best after they make it through the Love Shop. Robert Jordan is good most of the way through, but not great. The music, on the other hand, doesn’t detract from the movie but for a couple of moments.

So here we have it, the beginning of ATY's Film Week, and we're starting off strong. This is a movie most would call terrible, and in a way it is. But there are enough good points here to keep me watching. It is interesting. If you can buy it all the way through, then I think it can be pretty good. It's worth watching. Once. Maybe twice.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Great Article

This week, Next Generation published this controversial list of the 100 best selling video games of 2007. It wasn't controversial because it was wrong, most people, like me, assume it was right because they took three months to research it. Rather, it was controversial because it showed us what really sells in the world of gaming. Nobody expected Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 to not be at the top, but did anybody expect Need for Speed: Pro Street to finish above Super Mario Galaxy when both were November releases? Could anybody have predicted that Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games would sell more in two months than Bioshock, Orange Box, or God of War II did in a year? You can chock part of that games success up to the runaway that is the Wii (a quarter of a million units sold in March 2008 alone), but it is nothing compared to those other three games; except maybe GoW II, but that's personal. I was thinking about this list a lot this week, and considering doing a post on it, but luckily Joystiq did it for me.

In "Selling Out Without Selling Out," Jeff Engel and Geoff Brooks theorize that the list isn't as depressing as it seems. Rather, it shows that taking risks and attempting to redefine a genre actually pays: "a notable proportion of top-selling games from this past year have attempted to tackle new, interesting, and even provocative styles or topics." They raise an interesting point that having a good script, or good art direction, is in many ways secondary to enjoyability of the game, but is becoming more important. For instance, Bioshock has great storytelling and great art direction, and it is fun, but games that are fun without the other two, like Mario Party 8, are doing just as well or better. The article concludes, "this list illustrates [that] you can certainly make a profit and a statement at the same time." I think that is an important point to take from this list. Gaming is a business and you have to make money to do it. However, "making a statement" is being rewarded in today's gaming environment.

In architecture, it is much the same. The function of gaming is to provide entertainment. The function of a building is defined by its' program, be that housing, warehouse space, or library. Loosely defined, architecture is a business and we have to make buildings that work. But to me, the transcendence of architecture is in what it does beyond that. This is a weak statement but it's all I know how to say. I think I can illuminate it with a definition of architecture by Tschumi: "Architecture is the violent and sometimes pleasurable interaction of spaces and their use." Architecture is what we make it translated through what we use it for. The building is one part, but we are the equally important other part. Today in both gaming and Architecture, buildings that function are just a viable as buildings that "make a statement." Not just making a statement in the sense of the Bilbao Effect or Venturi's Mother's House, though it certainly includes those elements; making a statement is also rethinking program, like the SCL, or having wonderful art direction, like the Acropolis, or a wonderful interaction with the environment, like a Glenn Murcutt, et cetera, et cetera. It's no wonder Vitruvius tells us to know everything, what with all the influences on the design process. It is buildings that do more than just function that are Architecture with a capital "A." However, we "can certainly make a profit and a statement at the same time."

"Optimism in the inevitable:" we need to build buildings because that's who we are, we are architects. But we want to be able to make a statement without being so disconnected from the average everydayness that we can't also make a profit. Is this a role of architects?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 16

Funny Thing of the Week: I found two this week that I couldn't decide between, and both will appeal to different people, so I'll give you them both:

The Shakespeare Insult Kit: insult in the fairest prose.

nerdybirdy85's architectural nightmare: if you are an architecture student you will understand all to well and this video may make you weep, but after a few days, I was able to laugh again.

Best Daily Comics:

SMBC: Ted! I'm you from the future! and Classic Practical Joke #49

Real Life: You're at Checkout Number 35

The Book of Biff has three great ones this week:

Now, onto the non-dailies:

XKCD: Math Paper "That's nothing. I once lost my genetics, rocketry, and stripping licenses in a single incident."

Ctrl+Alt+Del: Ethan Faints-ish

Dueling Analogs: Pixel Drama

The Warehouse: Thompkins is a Dinkwad and I'd Like a Slice of that Pie

Hijinks Ensue: Macaveli featuring the Zune guy.

Of Noobs and Men: Prologue Proliferation. Square two my friends, square two.

TBK: Molt Club which reminded me of the Peep Show.

In sad news, Monkey Fluids has called it quits, but he gave us one last damn good comic: The Only Thing Left

And I'll end on that and get back to work.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Music Links

Songza allows you to listen to songs for free online.

Pandora helps you discover new music by creating your own "Radio Station."

RCRD LBL has free MP3 downloads. Basically, bands pick which songs they want to release for free, so it's interesting seeing which songs bands pick. also helps find new music.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tegan & Sara: The Con

Album Review: Three long years after their legendary album So Jealous, (yes, that's where Walking With a Ghost" comes from) the Canadian twins bring us their 2007 album, The Con. The con is poppy and slick without being too either. There is still all that quirkiness and personality - almost awkwardness at times - that makes Tegan and Sara one of the best bands of our age. The songs "The Con" and "Like O, Like H" really stand out, but to me, there is one song here that transcends the album: "Are You Ten Years Ago." Okay, that's all too restrictive of a statement. This album rocks; the entire thing; start to end it's indie-pop perfection. One could say that they brought non-American music to America - they may well be the most important instigators, with Sigur Ros and Mogwai, of this current non-American music scene. On this, the last day of ATY's Music Week, Tegan and Sara again remind me why I love music so much. I know people who think this album is "too mainstream" or some nonsense like that. My only gripe is that repeating lines and licks, which has worked brilliantly for them, is just a tiny bit overdone on this album. I can't state how small the amount of overdoing is, but there: there's a fault with the album. Now go listen to it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

José González: Veneer

Album Review: Born in Sweden the year his parents moved there from Argentina, this smooth singing singer-songwriter started out in hardcore and punk bands. Now, with this album, his first, released in 2003, I have to again get something out of the way: "Yes his cover of The Knife's 'Heartbeats' is spectacular, but so are three or four of his songs." Don't get me wrong, it's not like I wanted to skip parts of the album, but a few songs really stand out here, and "Heartbeats" is one of them. "Deadweight on Velveteen," and "Hints" rival his cover of "Heartbeats" for the best song here. The reason I am talking about the cover so much is because he made it wholly his own: rather than covering and trying to sound exactly like the covered, González took this song to a whole different place and then fiddled with it until it worked beautifully there. That is the genius of González: he is able to do so much in a limited one-dude and a guitar framework. Mostly though, his voice is the shinning diamond in this album. It is smooth and sultry and oh so beautiful. It keeps me coming back to this five year old album over and over again. It is just so relaxing and energizing at the same time. I don't know how he did it, but give the album a shot for yourself and see if you can figure it out.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beirut: Gulag Orkestar

Album Review: This is good, American, now music. The music is by Zach Condon a 22 year old living in New York, and from Santa Fe. In 2007 he released four albums, one LP and three EPs. However, my introduction to him was May 2006's Gulag Orkestar. The album starts off incredibly: the title track is part restrained masterpiece and part insane, unrestricted party that goes for an all to short 4:39. In a way, I feel like this album is Condon saying, "here, I have this one song that transcends everything ever done, but I've also got this other really good music for you to listen to." I mean, the entire album is splendid, it really is some stunningly good music, but I have to listen to "Gulag Orkestar" four times before moving on to the rest of the album. That's probably just me because I am so obsessed with that song. Actually obsessed enough to know that if a time machine was invented and I could go only one place and time it would be May 6th, 2007 at the Bowery, just to see this in person. That is Beirut, Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire, and a ton of other musicians on stage for the final encore playing "Gulag Orkestar." Okay, enough about that song. The music is an intriguing blend between Balkan Gypsy and American, Southwest Folk with some standard American Indie and Rock thrown in to create a sound that is at once familiar and surprising. It is energetic and wild at times, restrained and heartbreaking (heartmaking?) at others. Condon's voice floats over the entire thing with its personality and faults put on display and even taken pride in. This creates an album that is musically diverse and a true gem of the 2000s so far. Pick it up and give it a listen.

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 15

I've decided to include a new element in the BCotW Friday Feature: thing that made me laugh this week. I guess it started with that picture of the MacBook Air table at MacWorld 2008 in BCotW 3, and returned with the House of Cosby's in BCotW 13. But I hope this will become a regular feature. And since it's new, we'll start it off with:

Funny Thing of the Week: Blood Ninja Chronicles (NSFW)
My favorite is his chats with BritneySpears14. Hilarious. Thanks Matt for the link.

Daily Comics: Man, this week just proved, again, that Calvin and Hobbes may well be the best comic strip ever created. This one was my favorite, but click "next day" to go through this entire week.

SMBC had two good comics about sex this week: Superman, and Birds & Bees.

Real Life: Writer's Block

Dinosaur Comics: Revelation about God

XKCD: Overqualified

Now to the non-dailies:

Ctrl+Alt+Del: Luck Change
Continues the "choose your own comic" plotline.

2pStart/Snafu Comics: I'm a Mac!

The Warehouse: Urbanknowledgy and Did you just call me?

Extra Life: Just walk away

Action Trip: Devoted Activists
This one is about Uwe Boll. So there's a petition online to stop him from making movies. An interviewer asked him about this and he said it would take a million signatures to make his quit. Then he replied to the petition with this video. But not satisfied, he made this video too. The Pro-Boll petition has been formed here, and another here.

Basic Instructions: How to Customize Your Cell Phone
Square 2 is absolutely pristine.

TBK: The Special

Lio: Gumby

After this last one I want to make a quick exit so let me just say that it made me laugh - especially the dude on the right. I actually like some Heston movies, but this one was funny, so here it is, and now I'm out.
Hijinks Ensue: I Guess You Can Have His Guns Now

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bloc Party: Silent Alarm

Album Review: So going back in time again, this time to 2005's introduction of Bloc Party. This London based band again demonstrates that good music is now just coming from America right now. Let's get this out of the way: yes their sound is similar to Interpol and Joy Division. However, this is not more Interpol or Joy Division. Their music ranges from outright dance tunes to simple, superbly crafted, subtle pieces of music that just get in your head and have a way of not getting out. Ever since viewing this video of Canadian Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) covering "This Modern Love" with himself, a looper, and a violin, I haven't got the song out of my head. It's been a year. A good year. But this album doesn't end there. Actually, "This Modern Love" is somewhere in the middle. The album opens with the heady "Like Eating Glass," and is thoroughly solid all the way through. This album is a must. The vocals are honest and rough and touching - everything I like in a singer. To me, Kele Okereke does not have a great voice, but he is one of my favorite singers. It's not some "failure's always sound better" complex, though I certainly exhibit one at times, it's just that I get his voice. He does so much with it and it is touching and honest. There's no reason to hide that. The songs build and build to this touching finish and each one, as well as the album as a whole, just gets me every time. Even now, three years later. This album is an absolute must.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Parallax: distance(moon)=distance(observer)/tan(angle)

Album Review: These two dudes are quickly becoming some Moscow-Pullman local favorites. Their sound is a bit folksy, but to me it is their lyrics and vocals that keep me coming back. There is a lot of emotion, a lot of honesty in their work, and to me, that is important in a band with a quiet sound. They do some amazing covers or Ben Goddard and Sufjan Stevens songs at their live show, but the album is their work. Their music wavers between bold, poppy songs, and touching almost-ballads. This album, and their live shows, are gaining them a lot of support and their fanbase is growing rapidly in Moscow-Pullman. They even played at the Prichard Art Gallery's Annual Auction this year. And Roger loved them. So if you're in the mood for some good indie-folk-pop, pick up this album. Check out their music here, then email them and get their album from 'em. It's really good stuff.

Shea Stadium Rickrolled!

In honor of Cypress Trees Music Week, I offer this extra post:


Hells yes. So if you use G-Chat, I probably asked you to help us Rickroll the Mets. They decided to have a single song played during the 8th inning all year, and put up an online poll for the fans, or random internet junkies, to vote. Well, they received over 5 million votes for Astley's song. To quote the MetsBlog author, typos and all,

"the funniest part about this entire thing is that, i never, in a million years, thought i would dedicate this much time and space to Rick Astley on…and i laugh every time i write his name…well played, FARK & DIGG…well played, indeed…this may be one of the biggest Rickrolls ever…"

Sweet. So it went down last night, Shea Stadium was Rickrolled.

Wow. Just... Wow.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

Album Review: I agreed with TIME Canada in 2005 when they put Arcade Fire on the cover with the words, "CANADA'S MOST INTRIGUING ROCK BAND." At that time they had released Arcade Fire EP, Live EP, and Funereal. If you haven't heard Funereal yet, go do that now. I love that album. It is quirky and pristine. Their follow-up full-length, Neon Bible came out March 2007 and stole my heart quickly. Besides the fact that I like the band and love self-produced music, this album has an interesting story: In 2006 the band bought Petite Église, an old masonic temple turned church turned restaurant, and turned it into a recording studio. They then recorded various songs there, as well as along the Hudson in NY, and in Budapest with the military choir. The album features a hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, accordion, and pipe-organ, as well as the instruments they used on their first album. Then they commissioned a six foot neon sign for the cover art. One of the songs is based off a French fable.

Despite this, I love this album for it's music. Though it's production was interesting enough to warrant a Wikipedia article, the music is what sets it apart for me. There is no song I skip here. This album is so flawless that I have spent a year searching desperately for something bad about it, and after a year, I have found it: the songs are too short. Sometimes the band gets in a sweet groove, then jumps to the next song. That ain't cool. I want more of the good music. A lot more. And one other bad thing about this album is that it is so good, everybody loves them, and their tour was long (122 shows) and just got over two months ago, so I have to wait a while for more new music. That's bad too. Anyways, I love this album. Go listen to "No Cars Go," then get the album, it lives up to its hype and, in my eyes, transcends it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Stars: Do You Trust Your Friends?

Album Review: I think the Canadian band Stars gets a lot of good press because they are good. I listen to their full-lengths and EPs over and over again. However, Emily gave me their remix album, Do You Trust Your Friends? a few months ago. This features songs off the Stars album Set Yourself on Fire remixed by Final Fantasy, Minotaur Shock, The Dears, and Russian Futurists, among others. It is different: though each song retains a semblance of the Stars sound, the introduction of the other bands' interpretations produces a much different sound than their regular. A couple nights ago my friend Kim said she gave it a cursory listen, but that was all because she didn't really like it all that much. Nay, I say, nay. Though it took me a little while to get into (I kept coming back to a few songs) I have listened to this album over 20 times and am loving it. I would say this era in music is that of the Icelandic, Australian, UK, and Canadian alternative experimentation. I take as my evidence Stars, Clann Zu, Architecture in Helsinki, Sigur Ros, Broken Social Scene, Mogwai, and others, but definitely this album. Remixed by 12 Canadian musicains/bands, and one dude from Bristol, this album is a tour de force of the Canadian alternative scene. If you want more good Canadian music, check out this album. Then check out the bands in the remixes. I think my favorite is "The First Five Times," though eight or nine of the other songs are just as good.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Genghis Tron: Board Up The House

Album Review: NY/Penn band Genghis Tron continues to prove that music is better than ever when it experiments with mixing genres. Approaching their specific sound from a metal standpoint, GT's new album is great. Alternately beautiful and tragic, the lyrics are good, if a bit cliche, but I am really digging the music. It is at once familiar and unusual. Where I expect some screaming, a downbeat section comes. Where I expect a choir, some DJ scratching happens. Where I expect glory, I get scary. The album keeps me on my toes and that is all I can ask out of music. Though the entire album is diverse, there are moments of continuity and traditional metal that keep it a tight mix. The wikipedia authors have a hard time nailing their sounds to a specific genre, saying they are metal, grindcore, cybergrind, IDM, power noise, doom, industrial, ambient, and synth-laden. It is this diversity that keeps me coming back to this album, which was released February 19th, this year. It's hard for me to pick out my favorite song, but I'll say "I Wont Come Back Alive" is probably it right now. This album is my introduction to the band (Thanks JR!) and I am in the process of getting the rest of their music for my perusal. I think that's all I can say about this album: it keeps me coming back, and it makes me want more.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

First? Theory Is Just Theory.

There seems to be an obsession of "first(s)" both in design and in our conversation last night: Frank Gehry was the first to build curvilinear structures, Robert Morris was the first to focus on process in 1961 with his Box with the Sound of its Own Making, et cetera. But to me there is no blank slate, we are all designing in a designed environment. There is nothing new to be done.

Don’t misunderstand me: I still believe innovation happens and will continue to happen, but I am saying Frank did not spring forth out of primordial soup one day, holding in his hand sketches that were completely new. His spectacular designs have predecessors in Gaudí, in Hundertwasser, in artists and designers all the way back to the cave, our first curvilinear dwelling. So Frank Gehry is not new: the forms he is using for dwelling is not new. However, he did apply technology to figuring out how to do those forms most efficiently. For instance, Gaudí’s Church is in its 126th year of construction, and it’s still not done. Frank figured out how to do that in a couple of years, in a different material, and much cheaper. To me, that is important and innovative, but nobody was first. These forms are simply adapted, like everything, from the latent world.

Architects furiously masturbate over the word process today, saying that nothing adds as much meaning to a project as a "good" process. But that is not a new idea. Vitruvius discussed process. The Haida, and nearly every other First Nation or Native American Tribe have tales of the process of their first houses dating thousands of years back. The Haida house is designed specifically, but the process of constructing and designing one is incredibly specific as well. To me, saying that some dude in the 60s, or Koolhaas today, invented process, or a process, or was the first to focus on process, is bullshit. Process has been around in art and architecture forever. They are inseparable, is a point I think Dillon was getting at that last night.

Yes, architecture steals terms to talk about itself, but so does Computer Science, so does Philosophy (As Derrida so aptly points out on pages 144-149 of the Kate Nesbitt anthology), so does everything. Everything is everything, or, as Vitruvius puts it, "all studies have a common bond of union and intercourse with each other." Architecture screws philosophy screws mathematics screws everything else. Therefore, I do not see a separation between art theory and architecture theory, between semiotics and music, between mathematics and medicine. It's all the same. I want to talk about the culinary arts and processes in this group. I want to talk about various types of bunch grasses. I want to talk about everything because everything is everything.

There is no blank slate. There is nothing new. Nobody was or is first. Everything is everything. That’s what I think.


That Vitruvius quote if from paragraph 12 of chapter 1 of book 1.

Best Comic(s) Of The Week 14

Another Saturday Edition! Yay! My two favorites are the two XKCD ones and SMBC's treatise on contemporary poetry.

SMBC: Poetry

XKCD: Convincing Pickup Line, and Venting

Ctrl+Alt+Del: Idiots in Space Page 3, where you can choose what happens next.

White Ninja's Camouflage Pants

Cyanide & Happiness: STOP!! DON"T SMOKE THAT JOINT!!

Lio: Zoo

2p Start: Evolution

Hijinks Ensue: Battlestar Galactica

Tuesday, April 01, 2008