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Archive for the ‘other’ Category

The Pogues

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OK, so I had the bright idea to do a search for the Pogues on You Tube. Now that I’ve lost a well spent hour or so watching wonderful videos, I thought I’d share a couple.

First up, an old version of Sally MacLennane

On a side note, the woman in this vid, playing bass, would later leave the band to get married to the guy that produced one of the band’s albums. Some English guy by the name of Elvis Costello.

Next up we’ve got the classic Pogues song. The one most likely to be heard around Christmas. And despite the fact that it involves lines like ‘you scum bag, you maggot, you cheap lousy fagot’ it really is a lovely tender song. Here you go, Fairytale of New York. With Kristy on vocals no less.

From the same show (which seems to have been loaded in its entirety by a lovely person with the handle, ShastaOrange) we’ve got Fiesta. Now watch this and tell me this doesn’t look like fun.

Finally, I’ve long held that punk rock did not begin in the 70s. We just started calling it punk in the 70s. Before that it was known as Irish Traditional. Here’s the Pogues playing a couple of tunes with the legendary Irish Traditional group The Dubliners.

Irish Rover

Jack’s Heros

Written by Matt

November 13th, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Posted in other

Stop Standing Still

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So, last month I dropped a couple of hints about a top secret project that I’ve been working on. Well, today’s the day of the grand unveiling.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Geeks of all fandoms.

I give you…

Stop Standing Still!!!

For those that may be curious, Stop Standing Still is a site that I’ve set up to help promote the idea of geek culture. For now, it does this by providing a listing of geek centric shows that are happening around the world. Overtime, and after I develop an application with a better tool set for users, I’ll expand on this idea to include other things.

Heading over to the site, you’ll probably notice that the listings are a little sparse at the moment. This is just the beginning. I wanted to get a core list of artists into the system so people could get an idea of how things worked. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to work on expanding the offerings available for the geek music connoisseur.

Speaking of which, if you would like to help, please let me know. There’s a breakdown of the kind of help I’m looking for in the FAQ on the site.

OK, if you’ll excuse me, I’m kind of beat. Between the site and work and other things, I’ve been going non stop for the past 4 or 5 days. At the moment, I need to go to bed. More later.

Written by Matt

October 31st, 2007 at 9:18 pm

A manifesto

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Several weeks ago Z pointed Church and I to an article over at Something Awful, titled The 8 Most Awful Minorities. Specifically, this page which talks about nerdcore.

To quote,

The genre amounts to a bunch of people aping that MC Hawking joke site from like 1998, but that hasn’t stopped Internet losers from falling head over Mass Heals for nerd rappers. Get a microphone in front of a CS major and you can rest assured that an unintentionally racist pantomime of thug tropes will come spilling out of their mouths.

Church’s reaction was a simple and elegant, “Meh. That makes us even.” I got a bit more verbose.

While the original comments were pointed at nerdcore specifically, I see it as an echo of other questions that have been floating around recently as the mainstream and underground try to grapple with the question of how to approach the alien world of geeks. We have existed outside their view for so long that now that our culture is bleeding through into theirs, they don’t know what to do with it. Consider this my attempt at shining a little light on the issue

To whom it may concern,

This is ours. It is by us, for us, and about us. You are more then welcome to indulge in our world if you want, but you must understand that it is our world. There is no use in ridiculing our actions. If you do not understand what we are doing, then you are not one of us, and so this is not for you. Your ridicule only proves just how out of step you are with us. It only serves to show that you don’t get it.

What we do is not a joke, except when it is. It is not parody, except when it is. It makes sense to us and that is all it needs to do. This is not something that we will translate for you. We will not explain it to you. Not out of spite, but because it is something that you can only understand if you are one of us.

If you can not understand why we do what we do, then that is fine. This is not meant for you, it is meant for us. We do not ask you to understand. We do not ask you to come to terms with what we are doing. We simply ask that you leave alone those things that you do not understand. Pretend that we do not exist, that is fine with us. Do not try to explain us though. Do not try to understand where we come from or what motivates us. If you are not one of us, then you will never understand these things.

This is ours. It will always be ours. You will never grok it, unless you become one of us. Do not try to make it yours. Do not try to co-opt it for your own ends. If it inspires you to create your own thing, then fine. The thing that you create though is not the thing we have created. Do not pretend otherwise.

You are welcome to join us. Otherwise, leave us alone.

The Geek Community

I’ve created a page for the manifesto itself which can be found here. That link may be a little easier to send around.

Written by Matt

October 12th, 2007 at 10:13 pm

A moment of silence

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Red Shipley has passed.

Don’t know who Red Shipley is? Then you don’t live in the DC area or central VA. And if you do, then you’re not a fan of old time country or bluegrass.

Shipley was the host of Stained Glass Bluegrass a show devoted to gospel country/bluegrass music, that ran on the local NPR station WAMU every Sunday morning, from 1982 until last month when WAMU moved all of their bluegrass shows over to HD Radio, and devoted its normal programming to repeats and national programing.

DC used to be an odd little town. Home of Duke Ellington and one of the first black mayors, it was christened ‘Chocolate City‘ by George Clinton. DC is also just outside of the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. In the 50s and 60s, DC was considered by some to be the folk capital of the US. Its location, where the south meats the north east, combined with the growing federal government, meant that it was a meeting point where the sophisticated intellectual folkies of the NE could run into the real deal, plain spoken, folks who had inspired the folk revival. Combine this with a thriving black community, and yes, DC used to be an odd little town.

This dichotomy was probably best shown on the radio. If memory serves, one radio station separated 88.5 FM from 90.1 FM. 88.5 was WAMU, an NPR station that devoted 3-6 PM M-F (one of the most sought after time slots in radio) to a show called Bluegrass Country up until sometime in the late 90s or early 00’s (I confess, I wasn’t paying attention when WAMU first betrayed its loyal bluegrass fans). I remember getting into bluegrass around ’96 or ’97, thanks to the wonderfully fun Leftover Salmon, and WAMU played a big part of that.

To be honest, I never listened to SGBG all that much. Occasionally I’d catch part of it and when I did, the radio dial would just rest there for as long as possible. I remember driving down to Warrenton, VA one Sunday morning to see Salmon play on a flat bed truck in front of the court house (that was a fun show), or may be it was the drive down to Charlottesville, VA to see Salmon’s guitarist/singer almost get arrested for encouraging people to slide down a muddy hill (that was also a fun show), either way, I spent the first part of the drive seeing just how far WAMU’s signal would last. As I recall, it made it a surprisingly long distance before giving out to static. And as I also recall, listening to Red was a wonderful way to greet Sunday.

Up a couple of skips on the dial was 90.1, better known to its fans as Jazz 90. It was run by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and was quite possibly one of the greatest jazz radio stations to ever grace the air waves. I remember getting into Jazz in the early 90s. I asked a friend of mine how to get into a genre which seemed so daunting to a new comer like me. His advice was simple. Listen to Jazz 90. When you hear something you like, write down what the DJs tell you. 90.1 was another station that I would just randomly tune into only to have the dial just sit there while I listened to some great music. Sadly, Jazz 90 was the first of the two stations to go. The victim of budget cuts in the mid 90s, the station was sold to CSPAN. I’ve had a mild dislike of CSPAN ever since.

Putting the two stations side by side like this, I’m struck by their similarities. The most obvious example is the DJs. Both stations hired amazing DJs. Listening to these stations you got the sense that the DJs really loved the music they were playing. Not just that, but that they loved every song they played. That shows weren’t just thrown together, but that there was a real attempt to uncover gems that might have otherwise been forgotten. May be it is just because I didn’t know anything about either genre when I listened to the stations, but every song was new to me. And I never heard the same song twice. And it was all amazing.

More then just the music though, the DJs themselves were special. They all had this relaxed way of jamming a ton of information into a short span of time. Jazz 90 didn’t just tell you what album a given track was on, but told you every person who played on that track and what they were playing. So if you heard a track, and really liked the trumpet solo, you knew what artist to look out for the next time you made a trip to the record store, even if it wasn’t their album.

The bluegrass boys over at 88.5 were just as full of knowledge and nuggets of information. If you wanted to get into either genre, all you really needed to do was listen to those two stations with a pen and paper and you’d go broke buying a ton of amazing music.

While it will always be the DJs that I remember fondly for both of those stations, they have another thing in common. Both were public stations that created music that reflected this once wonderful little town. On one hand you have the black urban sounds of jazz, on the other the rustic sounds of bluegrass and early country. As the city grows, it has begun to loose that sense of history. Now with both stations, for all intents and purposes, gone, DC is a little bit further from what it used to be.

Written by Matt

October 8th, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Posted in other,Thoughts

Watchmen

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So, someone is turning The Watchmen into a movie.

Honestly, I think this is a bad idea.

Now I’m not motivated by the usual knee jerk reactionism that they’ll ‘ruin it’. I just don’t see the point of doing it. I don’t see anyway to adapt something like The Watchmen into a film, and keep the spirit of the series.

Before I expound on this, a little history for those readers who aren’t comic book geeks, and so may not be familiar with the series.

Watchmen was a mini series that came out in the 80s. It was written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. While it was put out by DC comics, it is set in a self contained universe with its own heros. Though, it isn’t hard to draw analogies between the characters in the series and the characters from the old Charlton line of comics, which were originally going to be used to tell the story. The series is basically a deconstruction of the medium of super hero comics. That over simplifies things a little bit though.

The best example I can come up with to put the series in its proper context would be to say it is kind of like the day you found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. You tried to pretend that it was a lie, but deep down, Christmas was never the same. Watchmen took the archetypes that are common fodder in super hero comic books, and deconstructed them. It exploited the cliches to their logical ends. And it made you question the motivations of the supposed heros. In short it asked, if these were real people, what would really motivate them and how would they really act?

It isn’t to much hyperbola to say that the series eventually became one of the greatest things that has ever happened to the medium and one of the worst. Writers still, 20 years later, try to grapple with the repercussions of the series. A lot of people complain about the ambiguity in comics these days. That good isn’t always good, and bad isn’t always bad. This thread pre-dated Watchmen, but the series put such a fine point on the whole idea that it could no longer be ignored. Everyone knew that it was mom and dad who put the presents under the Christmas tree, and it was done in such a spectacular way, that to pretend otherwise was to come across as trite or irrelevant. Moore himself has been unable to escape the grasp of his own creation. And has been known to grumble about what he set in motion from time to time.

Before you get the wrong idea. I should point out that the series isn’t the cliched ‘dark’ story that you may believe it to be. There is that element to the story, and it is that element that is the story’s most lasting cliche, but there is also a fair amount of hope and love in this series as well. It is possibly as close as the medium has ever gotten to really capturing what real life is like, in comics. If you have ever wondered what it would be like if super heros really did exist, Watchmen is one of the best places to start looking (Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is another great example)

Now back to the movie. Watchmen has a story, and it isn’t a half bad story at that. The story though exists so that Alan could expound on his ideas. The purpose of the story was to explore the world of super hero comics and to take it in a direction that it had always shied away from in the past, but one that probably did need to be explored. With out those ideas, the series is a decent to good story, with decent to strong characterization. It isn’t Watchmen though. To divorce Watchmen from its own ideas is to steal from series the whole point of the series. In short, with out the ideas, there is really no reason for Watchmen to exist.

And here’s the crux. The ideas behind Watchmen, aren’t just tied to super hero comic books, the ideas are super hero comic books. Alan did not intend to shake up movies or television or any other kind of collective fiction. He wrote the series to change the fundamental nature with which we approach super hero comic books and succeeded beyond even his wildest ambitions.

I guess it could be possible to create a Watchmen film that kept that spirit alive, but I’m not sure I see the point. The thing is though, that the film would bomb, and bomb hard. It would only have any meaning to comic book geeks. To people who have an investment in the medium. No one else would really grok it, because it would be so tied to the medium. The only people who buy classic prog albums are people who really love classic prog. To the rest of us, it is just 30 minute keyboard solos.

No, the chance that the film will be presented in a way that holds true to the spirit of the series, is so small as to be non-existant.

And so, I’m left alternating between feeling ‘blah’ about the movie and wish desperately that it won’t be made. Of course, every day makes the latter harder and harder to hope for. In the end. I’ll probably go see it. And I may even walk out of the theater thinking that it was a pretty decent film. It won’t be Watchmen though. That much is certain.

Written by Matt

September 25th, 2007 at 9:48 pm

Posted in other

On the subjects of videos and new projects

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Remember how I said that I’d have a new project to debut this week? You didn’t really expect me to follow through on that did you?

Seriously, this week has taken a change for the weird so I’m pushing the new project back to Sept 30th. Possibly earlier, but that’s the date I’d expect to hear something if I were you.

As penance for my sins, I offer you videos,

Billy Bragg video for the song Great Leap Forward,

Live version of the same song, with different lyrics,

Billy Bragg video for Sexuality

And just to show that Billy apparently seems totally incapable of doing a decent video, here’s The Boy Done Good (this song isn’t political)

Live video of Billy playing with The Levellers, doing the song English Civil War

From the same DVD, The Levellers doing their song Riverflow

And finally, a video for The Levellers song One Way. The video may cause motion sickness, but the song is good.

These videos are offered as proof that if you really want to change the world, give your message a good beat that people can dance to.

Written by Matt

September 11th, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Posted in other,pop,site info

Stardust

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So I just got back from seeing Stardust, the new film based on the book of the same name, by Neil Gaiman.

The book tells the story of a boy, named Tristan, who travels into the world of Faerie in order to fulfill a promise he has made to the woman he loves, to bring back a fallen star before her birthday. The woman has promised that if Tristan does this for her, she will marry him. And so he sets off on a quest full of magic and adventure.

If you are familiar with Gaiman’s award winning, and critically adored comic book series, Sandman or, even more so, his comic book mini series Books of Magic, you know how wonderful and amazing Gaiman’s Faerie stories are. In Gaiman’s hands, Faerie is a land of wonder and magic, but also one of danger. Where words take on new meanings and become critically important. His view of Faerie is so rich and detailed, it becomes a place that is fully real to the reader. Where finding the right gateway is all that separates us from our own adventures there.

The book version of Stardust is a modern fairy tale. Not in the sense of Disney movies which have mined these stories, but in the original sense. The book is full of magic and adventure, suspense and love, but most of all, it is full of wonder.

Those who read Gaiman’s blog have been warned that the movie was going to take certain liberties with the story. Neil himself admitted that the story, as it existed in the book, would make a horrible movie and needed to be retold in a way that worked for the screen. Neil consoled fans of the book though by telling us that the parts that were cut where only the parts that needed to be cut. And that the retelling of the story did not sacrifice the underlying story. After seeing the film, I can say that Neil was right.

Stardust, as told in the book, would not have made a particularly good movie. For one it would be too long, but more importantly, the nuances that work so well in the book, would not have translated into film. The team behind the movie have obviously understood this. Instead of simply cutting the book up into pieces and then stringing those pieces together though, the team behind the movie retold the story from scratch. In much the same way that two storytellers can tell the same story in vastly different ways. The real story is still there, whole and intact, it is just the flourishes that have been changed.

The story of the movie is set in a mystical land, but not in Faerie. At least not the Faerie that Neil has introduced us to. The most obvious comparison for the movie is to the Princes Bride. The comparison is a tad unfortunate, since the mark set by the Princes Bride is higher then perhaps any film can reach. The creators of the film appear to have realized this. The movie follows in the footsteps of the Princess Bride, but does not try to be a clone of it. Stardust is its own film, which uses some of the same elements as Princess Bridge, but only because those are the elements of a good story and an even better fairy tale.

There are two compliments that I can give this book.

1) At no time during the course of the movie did I find myself comparing the movie to the book. The story told in the movie, while the same as the book, is also its own story. And it tells its story well.

2) The only real complaint I had about the book, one section that I wished Neil had expounded on, is actually better in the film. And it does it in a way that does not violate the book’s story, but enhances it.

This summer has been full of fantastic stories. From the new Potter movie and the end of the Potter series, to the more futuristic stories of the Transformers movie. With all of the fantasy that has come to us this summer, it is fitting the the summer drifts into autumn with a film that returns to the roots of all fantastical tales. A really good story, told in a wonderful way.

Written by Matt

August 19th, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Posted in other,Reviews

Random Links

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So I’m trying to clean out my bloglines account of all the various posts that I’ve saved for later. I did an initial hack and slash earlier today and got rid of most of it, but I saved a couple of posts that I really wanted to mention, so here they are,

First up, we have two articles from Jambase.com, one I’ve read, the other I look forward to reading.

Grace Potter’s Nocturnal Existence – This is the article I’ve read. A nice long form (3 pages) interview with Grace Potter and Scott Tournet of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Their new album, their first for Hollywood Records, comes out next week and the two discuss the pressures of signing with a major label while still trying to keep a sense of authenticity in their music. They also talk about handling the buzz that’s been building around the band and the tendency of the media to single Grace out, instead of approaching the group as a band.

Boredoms | 07.07.07 | Brooklyn – This is the article I haven’t read. A review of the show that the Boredoms did in a park in Brooklyn back on 7/7/07. The performance featured 77 drummers. If you’re not familiar with the Boredoms, there is little I can say to properly convey just how off the chart these folks have been. Some have referred to them as Japan’s answer to Sonic Youth, but honestly? They make Sonic Youth, even at their wildest, look down right pedestrian.

Next up, we dip back into the world of Wizard Rock with two videos from the Moaning Myrtles. In my last post I gushed about the obvious talent of Ginny and the Heartbreakers. Lauren and Nina are another WRock group that brings with them buckets of obvious talent. Their backgrounds in musical theater come through in both the arrangements they use for their songs and the power of their voices. When I first heard the band, I’ll admit, I was a little less then impressed. Their early tracks weren’t properly recorded and mixed, leading to the vocals and piano stepping all over each other. Subsequent listens though began to give up the pure talent of this duo. The performances in these videos are much better representations of what these girls are capable of. Another group to keep an eye on both in the WRock community and what they do outside of it.

Finally, a couple of links revolving around a woman who has popped up in my readings quite a bit lately. Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Dancing In The Streets, among a number of other books. You can find a fairly nice review of the book at Salon.com. The reason that I am mentioning her again though is because of an editorial she wrote for the International Herald Tribune back in June, which you can find here. The editorial concerns a law on the books in New York City which forbids dancing in bars/clubs that do not have a cabaret license. The law is an old one that was largely ignored until former Mayor (and current Republican presidential candidate) Rudy Giuliani began using the law to limit what New Yorkers could do when they go out. To quote the editorial, did you know there are currently only 170 places in NYC where it is legal to get up and dance? Dance anywhere else in the city, and you’re breaking the law. I always thought Footloose was set in the mid-west.

The editorial itself is largely a retread of what is talked about in the book, but it is still an interesting piece to read, especially if you are unfamiliar with the book, which I can not recommend highly enough.

Finally, a video which seems to validate Barbara’s points, George Clinton taking over the crowd of Late Night with David Letterman. Yeah they look goofy, but when was the last time you had that much uninhibited fun in the span of less then four minutes?

I do wonder though if their studio (were they in the Ed Sullivan Theater by then?) had the proper licenses for that kind of dancing though?

Written by Matt

August 2nd, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Old Timey

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A quick post that I’ve been meaning to make.

I came across this a week or so ago and have been meaning to post about it. Archeophone Records is a label that sells recordings from early 20th Century. One of the cool things is that they have ‘year book’ compilations that let you sample music from different years.

This is an era of popular music that I’ve always wanted to check out, but have never had any kind of context with which to do it. As soon as finances get a little better (read, I stop spending all my money on books) I need to place an order with these guys.

If you already have some reference, or feel like just diving it, Archive.org has a collection of 78s and cylinder recordings that you can download.

Thanks to Neil Gaiman’s blog for the link to Archeophone.

Written by Matt

January 29th, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Posted in other

Appalachia

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At the end of July I went on a little record buying binge, placing orders with four or five different labels. I’m still digesting all the great music that I ended up getting, but there have already been a few things that stuck out that I thought I’d recommend.

First off is a new recording from a band called The Black Twigs, from south western VA. The album is called Midnight Has Come And Gone. The Black Twigs are a string band in the grand tradition of southern western VA and eastern KY string bands. This isn’t bluegrass, but instead is part of the tradition that was a major influence on Bill Monroe when he created bluegrass. The majority of the songs are originals, written by the band members, but could be passed off as older songs if you tried. The covers include a nice little gem in the form of the Original Natural Bridge Blues. The linear notes of the album tell the story of how this song, when originally recorded, lost its second verse when the vocalist froze during the recording. Since the band couldn’t do a second take, they played through the goof up, and to this day, most people only know the song with a single verse. Well, while looking through some old family albums, one of the band members came across the original sheet music for the song, including the lost second verse. They made the decision to record the song in its completed form. Fans of old Appalachian string band music, who might be looking for a band that is continuing the tradition into modern times, would be well served to pick this album up.

The second recommendation I’d like to make is steeped in history and tradition. Coming from the Revenant label, this is a collection of songs recorded by Dock Boggs back in the 30’s, called Country Blues. If you’ve never heard of Dock Boggs, he was one of the grand masters of Appalachian country blues. There is a story in the linear notes, told by Boggs, about an incident that happened around the time of these recordings.

It seams that he and his brother-in-law were driving around a town near their home. When they started the trek home, the brother-in-law told Dock that they needed to get more gas and oil if they hoped to get up over the mountain that separated them from their home. The problem was that neither of them had the money for the supplies. Dock, noticing some guys he knew over on a street corner, hatched a plan. He walked over to the guys and struck up a deal with them where he would play a couple of tunes in exchange for the money that they needed. The agreement being met and the money having been collected, Dock got about to playing some songs. After a few minutes his impromptu concert was interrupted by the cops.

It seems that the small group of folks that Dock was originally playing for had swelled in size to a small mob, who were now blocking traffic in an effort to hear Dock play. The cops asked Dock to move things over to a near by park, that could better handle the crowd. He obliged, played a couple more tunes, and then passed the hat around. At the end of the performance, not only did he and his brother-in-law have more then enough money to buy gas and oil for the trip home, they were also able to treat themselves to a nice dinner with the proceeds. Such was the popularity of Dock Boggs.

If you have any interest at all in Appalachian music, then you really owe it to yourself to pick up this collection and hear Dock Boggs the first time around. (A decade after these recordings, Dock had given up playing music. He was later discovered by Mike Seeger in ’63, and came back to performing and recording during the folk revival)

Now, I will give a warning to folks who perhaps are not used to hearing pre-WWII recordings. The possibility of hearing pristine recordings from this age is so remote that it might as well be impossible. The recording techniques of the day did not even record in pristine formats. On top of that, Revenant is a label that prefers to not mess with the raw magic of old recordings in some misguided attempt to “clean” things up, which, more often then not, results in the destruction of the very thing that makes the music so magical in the first place. This is music that was recorded before music had become a business. There is a rawness and authenticity, and yes, even a little magic, in those old recordings. And the static and pops are a part of that.

Now, all this said, the recordings on the record are surprisingly clean. Some of the 78’s they used for this album must have been in pristine condition to sound this good. Even the worse songs on this recording still sound pretty good, but they are also presented as bonus tracks (alternate takes, and Dock playing with other folks)

You can find the Black Twigs album through VHF Recordings and the Dock Boggs album can be found through Revenant Records

Written by Matt

July 13th, 2005 at 7:23 pm

Posted in other,Reviews