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The Music Never Left You

27 Jan

It has become difficult, especially over these past few weeks, to shake the feeling that we are lying in the basin of some vast, vague ditch of malaise, frustration and crappiness – nationally, globally, but also individually.  Everyone seems depressed, and not just because it’s January.

We’ll see if Mr. Obama can get up there tonight for his first State of the Union and make us feel better about things. I imagine that at the very least he’ll make those of us who support him feel a bit better about him, which should in turn make us feel a bit better about “things.” I doubt, however, that it’ll be the spiritual salve that I, at least, am craving.

But I think I know something that could be. I was browsing the Facebook statuses of my friends and fellow musicians when I saw a post by a San Francisco saxophonist I know, Bari Sax-man extraordinaire Doug Rowan, who shared the following:

Everyone that ever played a musical instrument and quit playing for some reason or another should pick it back up again and see what happens.

To which I say: YES. Doug, I love this. “Pick it back up again and see what happens.” Yes. Yes.

Right after I saw that (and wholly unrelated to it), a singer friend of mine shared on my wall that she’d picked up her alto sax again after several years of not playing, and was loving it.  And I realized: that’s it!  We should go for it, we should turn that thought into some sort of unofficial national initiative.

People of the world!

Ex-band geeks, garage rockers! Former dorm-room strummers and lapsed fifth-grade recorder virtuosos!

Hear me, and heed the call!  It is time to pick up your instruments once more!

Seriously, I am talking to YOU.  Perhaps you played an instrument in your high school band, or banged on the bass in a garage punk group in college?  Maybe you sang in the madrigals or were a marching band nerd?  Did you rent-to-own a euphonium, or spend days learning scales on the xylophone? Is there an accordion moldering in a closet somewhere in your house?

If so, go dig that accordion up, dust of those drum cases, re-string that bass, have your folks ship out your old Squire. Find your old instrument and see if it still works, because I’ll bet it does. And more to the point, I’ll bet that you can still work it. Just place your hands on it and see what they remember. You just might surprise yourself.

And sure, you might be utter rubbish, you might give your cat a nervous breakdown. Playing again may remind you why the lip pain, sore fingers, and frustrating metronome bleeps made you stop in the first place.  But maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize how much you loved music, how much you miss it, and you might start to play again.  Find a teacher.  Learn some new songs you like.  Join a band.

I know this won’t solve anything tangible.  It won’t get back any bailout money, or fix the California state budget, or re-hire all the amazing teachers who are going to be let go this year, to say nothing of what it won’t do for the suffering multitudes of the world.

But what it will do is something less quantifiable, perhaps smaller but no less grand – it might allow you to rediscover a part of yourself that you’d forgotten was even there.

You don’t have to sound “good.”

You don’t have to sound like anything at all.

Just give it a try. See what happens.

Welcome to Veridian, America

22 Jan

An apple is not an orange. My wallet is not a tree. A truck is not a pair of jeans. And a corporation is not a person. This is not a letter/spirit of the law thing, this is just… true.

If there’s really nothing to be done about Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, then it really is just a matter of time until day-to-day life becomes an unfunny version of Better Off Ted.

ABC’s (hilarious) corporate send-up takes on a bit of a new flavor now, doesn’t it?  While the writers get a lot of mileage out of ironically having Portia Di Rossi anthropomorphize a corporation (i.e. “The Corporation would rather you didn’t do that.”), Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas have just literally anthropomorphized corporations. As if by some black alchemy, they have made them People.

So. Prepare for a world in which every day is casual Fribsday and all scientists (even the funny ones) are evil; where each of us is placed in his or her own cat- or space-themed cubicle and all the stolen coffee creamer in the world can’t set things right.

ABC may be canceling the show, but in a few years, we’ll get to live it.

Welcome to Veridian, America. The Corporation has been waiting for you.

A Bear With Chainsaws Instead of Paws

1 Oct

Daily Show Democratic Supermajority Bear With Chainsaws Instead of Paws

…makes me think of a lot of things:

“Haaaaa” followed by “He’s looking at me, Ray,” then maybe “OMG RUN”

“Democratic Super Majority,” on the other hand? Doesn’t really come to mind.

Also: I hope no one tells Colbert that the bears are now arming themselves with chainsaws.

Geddit? ARMing?  Because the… arms… and paws… are…

…sigh.

(pic via)

Rest In Peace

23 Sep

Here lies The Internets

Yesterday I heard a lady on a cell at Trader Joe’s say it, and she just sounded so pleased with herself…

Sigh. Let’s just accept it and move on. There will be time to grieve later.

Oh, Monkey Washing A Cat…

11 Aug

Jon Stewart Monkey Washing Cat…is there no complex social issue you can’t cure?

(via)

So You Think You Can Douche

31 Jul

Daily Show So You Think You Can Douche

Glen Beck! Sean Hannity! Lou Dobbs!  Who will go home tonight?  I thought that Hannity’s solo routine to Carmina Burana was pretty good, but, in a shocker, Beck wins the night with a double-toepick-contradiction that has the audience out of their seats!  This show, I’m telling ya – people say it’s just cheap thrills, but really, the level of douchebaggery on display makes it so much more than that. (Via)

Pianist Henry Hey Makes McCain and Palin Sing

22 Jul
John McCain Sings

Flyeee me to the moooon...

I’ve been talking a lot about Auto-Tune the News this past week – everyone I’ve shown the video to (and my post on the subject) agrees that it’s pretty damn amazing.  My addiction to issue #6 remains, though I haven’t been watching it as many times as I was, and damned if I’m not still noticing little jokes (the singers are called the “Congressional Congress,” the way that MJ’s attorney and Katie Couric join the final stacked chord on “Waking Up,” etc).

While in NYC, my buddy Landon, a fantastic jazz pianist I went to school with, showed me a couple of videos made by fellow NY jazz pianist Henry Hey.  In the videos, Hey plays piano along with campaign speeches and interviews given by John McCain and Sarah Palin, to hilarious, fascinating result.  The first one features a McCain speech and a Palin Interview:

Amazing!  Seriously, listen to it again – the modulation at the very start of McCain’s speech, the way that it speeds up and slows down so effortlessly with his strange speaking cadences (particularly when he gets confused about agree/disagree, haaaaaa)… and Palin!  Wow, whenever I hear her jumbled, confused-sounding speaking style (particularly in interviews), I cringe, but when it’s put to music, it’s actually staccato and interesting!  Here’s another Palin interview, really great stuff:

I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into doing these – while ATTN wears its slick production on its sleeve, Henry Hey’s videos make music out of politicians’ words in a much more organic, challenging way – that is to say, he uses his accompanying skills to literally make music out of their words!  Brilliant.

Hey is a total badass on his own, and one gets the sense that he does these videos more for the hell of it than anything, but even taken on their own, they make a pretty compelling case for any jazz vocalist to hire him.  I mean, if he can make Sarah Palin sound good, imagine what he could do for someone with talent!

“Auto-Tune The News”: Satire, Remixed

14 Jul
Auto Tune The News Boehner Hell No

More like "Hell Yes!"

I’ve been aware of the YouTube phenomenon “Auto-Tune The News” for some time – I think that maybe Sullivan linked to one of their videos a while back, or someone similar. I knew it was similar to the impressive, if somewhat annoying, Slap-Chop remix that got so much play a few months back.  Take regular folks talking on the TV, run it through Antares Auto-Tuning software, and boom!  Instant remix.

However, I hadn’t really watched one until just this week, when my buddy Brian sent me a link to the sixth edition, named, naturally, “Auto-Tune The News #6.” I took his recommendation and watched it, and thought it was great.  Then, I watched it again, and thought it was really great. And then the addiction started to creep in… I found I couldn’t stop watching it, I’d finish it and then play it again, play it for friends, email it to other friends, unable to get over the hooks, the grooves, the ridiculous awesomeness of it all.

There’s really no point in talking more about this until you’ve seen it, so:

I mean, Holy. Crap. The strength of the writing, the jokes upon jokes, the tiny visual puns (The puppet!  The Pelosi cowbell! “Junkie Einstein” attempting to light up a piece of (bread?) as “Olga Barth” drools ice cream all over herself, all while a re-tuned John Boehner gets gospel and testifies about Freedom!) …this is some seriously amazing stuff.

The videos are the work of The Gregory Brothers, a band made up of the three brothers Gregory – Evan, Andrew, and Michael, as well as vocalist/guitarist Sarah Fullen.  They perform as their own pop/rock group (check out their Myspace Page for more info), and sound great. Fullen can really wail, and the few videos of them playing their own music show a solid, straight-ahead soul/pop sound.  So, while I’m sure that was going just fine for them, I’m not sure where, along the line, they started to start doing news autotuning, but damn – I believe they have found their calling.

After listening to #6 several times, I went back and watched several of the other ATTN videos. The most successful one was ATTN #2, which has over a million views on YouTube, and it’s funny, to be sure – a Kanye-esque remix of Sean Hannity, Fox News Roundtables, and Katie Couric, loaded with bleeps, bloops, and “shawtayee’s.”  But as cool as that one is, the newest video is an almost revolutionary step forward for a number of reasons.

Auto Tune News Bill Kristol All In

Bill's so happy to be gambling!

For starters, the group has clearly gotten a lot better at using Autotune – the range of each “unintentional singer” has increased significantly, which allows for much greater freedom in how their words are put to music.  In addition to that, whatever they’re using to rhythmically shift the vocals is doing more heavy lifting and being used more effectively, and the way that the speakers’ odd cadences have been “Beat Detectived” into the groove makes for some really left-handed, hip rhythms. I refer you again to John Boehner’s speech about the “Freedom to allow the American people to.. /live /their /lives.”  Nice.

Due to those two technical advances, ATTN #6 allows the politicians and pundits themselves to sing most of the lead lines, as opposed to the green-screened musicians from the band – which makes a humongous difference. In previous versions of ATTN, a lot of the vocal parts were performed by the Gregorys and Sarah, relying heavily on comedy material written after the fact, rather than the actual dialogue of the TV show being auto-tuned.  Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is really funny and they’re great singers, but the hook has always been that the NEWS was the thing being auto-tuned, and previous editions made me want more of that.  Maybe I’m spoiled by seeing #6 first, but the way that they coaxed some straight bitchin’ performances out of Michelle Bachmann and John Boehner was just amazing, and there’s no going back.

Which brings me to the last, and largest improvement made in ATTN #6 – the music.  The track is a remixed version of the tune “100th Sight,” from brother Michael’s side project Kaplukus (you can download the tune on iTunes here), and man, it burns. The unending modulations and builds, the hilariously over-the-top hi-hat, the layered vocal harmonies, it all makes for a pretty beastly tune.  You can actually download an MP3 of ATTN #6 here, and while with past editions, watching the news be auto-tuned was an integral part of the experience, this track is strong enough to stand on its own. Particularly a couple of the hooks – Boehner’s “Hell No” section is inspired, and the Michael Jackson-themed “Wake Up Dead” has been stuck in my head all day.

I think we may be looking at a rising force in satire here – much like Andy Samburg’s Lonely Island comedy group rose to prominence through their “Lazy Sunday” video, if SNL or some other major network show picks up “Auto-Tune the News,” (and I saw somewhere that Attack of the Show already played it), we’ll be hearing more and more from these guys, and on a grander stage.

Which would be just freakin’ fine by me – the incredible improvement that they’ve shown since their first edition speaks to The Gregory Brothers’ exceptional talent and hard work, and all but promises even funnier, crazier, catchier music in the future. Bravo.

Auto Tune Waking Up Is A Strange Reason To Die

Waking up is, indeed, a strange reason to die.

Palin’s Full-Court Press Metaphor, Diagrammed

7 Jul

Tommy Craiggs at Deadspin knows no fear, diagramming what may have been the most tortured metaphor in Palin’s resignation speech last Friday:

“Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me – sports… basketball. I use it because you’re naïve if you don’t see the national full-court press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket… and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can WIN. And I’m doing that – keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities – smaller government, energy independence, national security, freedom! And I know when it’s time to pass the ball – for victory.”

custom_1246902587359_palinpress1

Har har.  (Via)

Sarah Palin Resigns?

3 Jul

Wow. According to the AP, Sarah Palin is resigning as governor of Alaska.  In her words:

“Once I decided not to run for re-election, I also felt that to embrace the conventional Lame Duck status in this particular climate would just be another dose of politics as usual, something I campaigned against and will always oppose,” Palin said in a statement released by her office.

“It is my duty to always protect our great state. With that in mind, my family and I determined that it is best to make a difference this summer, and I am willing to change things, so that this administration, with its positive agenda, its accomplishments, and its successful road to an incredible future, can continue without interruption and with great administrative and legislative success,” she said. (via)

OMG what horseshit. The upshot is that we’re about to go all Moose-Crazy again, which has got to be the goal here, but in the long run, I can’t see this as anything other than a bonehead move.  No effing way she is a serious contender for the White House in 2012.

And just as a side note, I’d like to offer a timeline of the events of today: First her intra-office campaign emails leak, then Sullivan mocks her, then I link to him, and two hours later she resigns her office.

In other words, I totally made Sarah Palin resign.

You’re welcome.

fey-palin-side-by-side

Give me a fucking break, lady. Tina Fey's busy enough as it is.

If This Whole “President” Thing Doesn’t Work Out…

3 Jul

At least Obama can fall back on his Theremin outreach concerts…

Obama Theremin Concert For The Homeless(via)

The Burggie

2 Jul

Daily Show Burggie

Shiites refer to it as the “Slurka.”

(via)

He May Not Be A Licensed Therapist…

30 Jun

Stuart Smalley's a Senator

…but Al Franken’s about to get sworn in to the United States Senate.

Strange times we live in, indeed.

Wow

17 Jun

Iran Rally

Will this be the Berlin Wall coming down or just another Tianenmen Sq.? I wonder to myself

(Via Twitter, Picture Via)

Iran, So Far

16 Jun

mouse

This is all pretty nutty. I know I’m just music guy over here, but I can’t really believe what I’m seeing, and thought I’d share where I’m seeing it.

I’ve been following Andrew Sullivan‘s outstanding coverage, as well as the NYT’s The Lede blog, and just found Nico Pitney’s blog at Huffpost through Sullivan. I also just got a tip to check out Al Giordano’s blog, which is good stuff as well. There’s so much coming out, and it’s all so scattered, it’s hard to get a sense of things.

There are things we can do, however –  it’s not too difficult to set up a proxy server for Iranian citizens (Thanks, Annie!).  I’m getting the sense, from some of the stuff coming out of Iran, that our public displays of support and solidarity really mean a lot to the protesters – wearing green in solidarity isn’t the empty gesture it may feel like.

It seems like helping the protesters’ voices get past the government information blockade is probably the most important thing.  Other than that, we wait, watch, and hope that Jason Jones is being careful over there.

Oh yeah, and rock on, Twitter.  Your hour has arrived.

Things That Are Not Lame

26 May
YesOnProp8

JFC already.

Blerg!  Not a shocker, I guess, but it’s now official: California is retarded.  Not so much about the court ruling, but the general existence of the constitutional amendment.  And not only just that, also the budget, the effing special election, the B-L-E-R-G.

Okay. I will now share some things that are not lame, do not suck, and don’t make me roll my eyes and gird myself in anticipation of more years of barf-tastic, wedge-issue-y fighting.

Deep breath… blue air in, green air out… and here we go.

1) A Giant Mixing Bowl Full of Cookie Dough

I made it yesterday, and, in accordance with the amazing new recipe I’m using, I’ll let it coalesce and chill for another 24-32 hours before baking into amazingness.  Aah, yes.  The sheer potential of the thing!  Lovely.  Also, that is indeed a bottle of Big Daddy IPA next to it, which makes everything even better.

photo

I chill, and then I cook.

2) Hamlet The Cat

I got to take care of the Fur-Monster this weekend while my sister was out of town, and he most definitely does not suck in any way at all.  In fact, I can confirm to you that, not only does he have great taste in the things that he loves, he is one of the most chilled out, people-loving Fur-Monsters I’ve ever known.

Hamlet The Cat

"Hello again, You."

3) Our Giant New Showerhead

After an afternoon of surprisingly satisfying work, not only is our apartment now incredibly clean, so is our bathroom!  And as if that weren’t enough, our awesome landlord came in this morning and replaced our broken shower head with this badass.  You guys, it is the size of my FACE.  Behold the glory:

Showerhead

"Look at the size of that thing!"

4) Hanne Hukkelberg’s Video for “A Cheater’s Armory”

Thank you so much to my listening-guru Russ Kleiner for telling me about Hanne Hukkelberg.  She is an amazing Norwegian multi-instrumentalist gal with the most georgeous voice, whose albums (I have the first two) are just crazy awesome.  Loaded with tiny clangs and whistles from her makeshift percussion instruments, each song sounds like a captured recording of a shattering crystal ball.  The only video I could find online is from her second album, “Rykestrasse 68,and it is so, so, so awesome.  Watch it all the way through, full-screen if possible.  And something about the story the video tells makes me think about our dumb state’s current Prop-8iness, and the nature of corrupt people-power vs. Real-Power, and whatever, just watch it:

See? Not everything is heartbreakingly dumb. Some things are actually quite wonderful. Now have fun at your local protest, stay safe, and let’s get girding.

The Line Between Fantasy and Reality

22 Jan

..gets thinner.  You guys remember that fake New York Times that got put up a few months ago?  It had headlines like “Iraq War Ends,” and “Nation Sets its Sites on Sane Economy?”  Well, I gotta say, reading the actual New York Times these days feels sort of like reading that (wonderful) fake one. It’s kind of disorienting.

Some comparisons.  Here’s a screen-grab from today’s Times:

real-new-york-times

…and here’s the wishful-thinking version:

dream-nyt

Or take these two.  Not real:

fake-nyt-2

and ACTUALLY REAL, even the part about Al Gore:

real-nyt-2

It’s going to take a while for all of this to sink in.

O Yeah.

20 Jan

obamalogo

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