Thursday, November 26

The Pilgrims Would Have Wanted You To

It's Thanksgiving. Will no one come see Ninja Assassin with me?
Family, turkey, football, and throwing stars -- what's not to love?
Enjoy the Holiday, Everyone.

[Listening to:  Telepopmusik - "Breathe" ]

Wednesday, November 25

Acually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"When people disappear from your lives before you want them to, its like you hold on to the memory of them
at that time. That memory never ages, dates other people, or votes Republican. It's hard to fight a memory."

[Listening to:  Aaliyah - "Rock the Boat" ]

Monday, November 23

That's My Jam: Badger? I Hardly Know Her!

It's an question that perhaps seemed more prevalent back in the 80's, but I would argue might actually be more relevant now:
Does an interesting video make a song seem better?
The old knock on MTV and it's various contemporaries was that the advent of music video created a world where looking good was more important than actually having musical talent. That if you filled your music video with enough half naked women and images of cool cars and filled clubs or whatever that it wouldn't really matter how good the song was or not.

And depending on your musical tastes or point of view, it's probably pretty easy to come up with half a dozen hit songs that seemed to be propelled by their visual aids far more than their actual sound.

It's sort of a thin argument though -- because when you think about it, The Beatles were adored by hordes of screaming girls in the 60's who had no idea at the time that something called a music video would ever be invented. Heartthrob singers, uber-cute boy bands, sexpot singers, and hot girl dance groups have been around forever -- so to argue that music videos somehow allowed groups through that wouldn't have survived if all albums had all come in plain brown paper wrappers seems kinda short-sighted.

All that being said, music videos can take a good song (or more specifically, a song that fans of a certain genre really like) and provide it with an avenue to be at least initially interesting to audiences that otherwise might not have any reason to check it out.

In other words, if you listen to broadcast radio -- you're listening to a station with a specific sound. Even if there's variety among the playlists (Top 40, Alt Rock, Urban, Classic Rock) the chances of crossing the streams is pretty rare. You might have a chance to discover a new and unique artist in that given style, but there's zero chance of Rock 105 playing the newest song by Ludacris, or the Urban station in town doing it's best to make sure the legacy of Foghat stays alive.

But what if Foghat (or Dire Straits, or MC Hammer, or Madonna) were able to
encase their songs in the media equivalent of fancy Christmas wrapping paper?

During normal playtimes, MTV in it's heyday tried to be a musical mixed bag. Sure you liked some things more than others, and violently hated some tunes -- but for the most part you could always count on being presented with some sort of sampler's menu. And because artists knew they were appealing to a mixed audience -- it became a big deal to have "interesting" videos. Videos that would allow certain earworm tunes enough time to get in your head.

For example: I heard the worst song ever the other day. Some travesty of a rap/dance song track called I Know You Want Me by some guy named Pitbull. I know this because even though I found the song cloying and stupid, within 30 seconds of hearing it the hook became unavoidably branded into my brain tissue, and after a while I wanted to figure out what asshole was at fault.

I can guarantee you that I'll never, ever be buying any of Pitbull's music -- but in my battle to try to get this song out of my head (using the most reliable method ever, which is introducing it to other people who can then take the infection from you [Which is how I came across it in the first place -- thank you very much, j. ]) I not only learned the name of the song and it's artist, but in doing so watched part of the video on YouTube.
Do I hate the song? Oh yeah.
Could I name it in two notes now? Unfortunately, yes.
In the music industry, that's a win.
It's all about exposure and infection, which is what initially made the pretty flashing lights and pouty-faced boy-band landscape of TRL-era MTV and it's ham-fisted attempts to make you like certain things simply because Carson Daily said it was great so annoying, but in a lot of ways is even more crafty and effective today. Seriously -- check your ipod. Do you have any songs on it that were once used in iPod or Apple commercials -- those hippy dippy everyone's happy songs by the Submarines, that counting song by Feist, or Jerk it Out by the Ceasers?

Look, if you like a song, you like it. That's not a crime, regardless of how you first came across it.
But if you like a video, if that's what draws you in -- and it seems like one really can't go without the other..
I openly admit that I'm a sucker for fun videos. I like jump cuts and slow motion montages. I enjoy animation and I love boobs. As a result, music videos don’t really have to fight all that hard to get my attention (Lets face it -- half the reason I sat through as much of the Pitbull video as I did was because of the eye candy). But I'm also a horrific music snob -- which means at some point I will eventually shake out of my boobs and cartoons-induced trance and evaluate the song on it's own. At which point even things I thought I liked sort of fall by the wayside.
This is sort of how I eventually came to realize that despite the fact she's done a couple of
tunes I dig, in the end I really prefer looking at Rhianna a lot more than I like hearing her sing.
It's something I like to call the Gumball Rule -- which goes something like this:
Which brings us to this weeks video, which I discovered recently when I was catching up on Kanye West's blog. It's certainly not a new song by any means -- but despite it's catchy hook and fun vibe, it's not like I'm the kind of person to be up on all the latest German dance music tracks. If anything, I think it's kinda cool that Kanye of all people was the one who (sorta) hipped me to this.

But lets not lie here: the song is cool -- but the video is awesome. It's like The Jungle Book on acid, with a healthy dose of buxom badgers, ferrets, weasels, and mongooses in Ecko gear and bikinis shaking what their mama gave them.

I could easily see having this track on my iPod (and since starting this entry I went ahead and downloaded it), but I do wonder if I'll listen to it that much. Like a lot of people, I suspect -- there are is a whole island of misfit toys filled with songs that I have on my iPod because I like them, but whenever they come up on shuffle it's skip, skip, skip.
It's as if I've discovered an entire vein of my musical taste that I only really like once in a while.
And sure, some of them are just somber tunes that don't always fit the mood when I'm driving, but a lot of them I've noticed are songs that I first found on video -- and it got me sorta wondering, "Do if I really like these songs, or are they just the perfect soundtracks for video clips that I happen to dig?"

The other thing I notice is that it sorta works in reverse. You'll hear a song as part of a movie soundtrack, especially when the credits are playing, you know -- that one outro song they've saved the whole movie to send you out the door with? And it gets stuck in your head, and the next thing you know you're sorta checking online to find out what it is, and maybe even download it?
Then you listen to it later and you're all like, "Who the hell put this crap on here?"
I don't know -- maybe it's just me. Have any of you noticed a correlation between how much you like a given video versus how much you actually like the song (or perhaps better said, how long the song stays fresh and interesting in your taste?)
And if so, what were they?

[Listening to:  Musiq Soulchild - "So Beautiful" ]

Sunday, November 22

Hey Rocky

About a week ago I noticed my dishwasher was making a weird noise mid-cycle. Sort of a rattling squeak, like a pump was blocked up or something. Although my landlords are pretty quick when it comes to fixing things, they're notoriously slow when it comes to replacing stuff -- so immediately I was concerned that I was gonna get caught (in a holiday week no less) needing them to come through.

At the same time, it's a friggin' dishwasher. Not exactly the most intuitive of appliances when it comes to being able to fix it on the fly. So I did what I always do -- which is sorta kick it in the general area of the noise in the hope that it would shake whatever the blockage was loose.

The sound stopped. The dishes continued to cycle. Problem solved, check me out on my good side -- move on with the day.
Then about two days after that, I heard the noise again
..coming from the other side of the apartment.
I had to double-check to be sure I was hearing things right, but after a few minutes it was fairly clear that my original assumption was correct, and suddenly my "broken dishwasher" had moved from the kitchen to the living room. I dug around the area the noise seemed to be coming from, but couldn't find anything.
I searched around some more, but by that time the noise had stopped again.
It's weird, because all this was happening on the heels of the apparent runaway success of that movie Paranormal Activity, and all the buzz surrounding it. Having hated Blair Witch myself, I had steered clear of it -- but a lot of people I knew had taken the bait and checked it out. The funny thing was that responses were pretty much split down the middle. Either people though it was the scariest thing ever, or declared it fucking retarded and wanted their money back.

Ever notice when people you know gush over movies or music you don't like, your opinion of them sorta takes a hit? Not really sure why that is, but the more I read about the movie and heard about it -- the more I truly began to believe the people I knew who had been terrified by it were idiots who had been duped (once again) by another shaky-cam hype-fest.
And yet here I was -- weird noises in the walls, moving around in the dark, creeping in all around me.
Growing up in Colorado, my mother was fond of blaming the various odd noises that our house made on a "ghost" that she claimed was watching over us. I'm not sure where she picked the idea up, but over the short time we spent in that place, the idea of a benevolent spirit that made the staircase to the basement occasionally creak or was responsible for the car keys not being in the place they were supposed to be seemed endlessly cool.

So much so that I remember as we were packing up the moving van to come to Florida my little brother being really upset that we couldn't bring the ghost with us.

Perhaps part of that spirit was still with me, or I've just grown used to the various sounds and imperfections that come from living in a space that's attached to three other peoples walls. I looked around to try to figure out where the noise was coming from, I couldn't find anything -- figured it was nothing, and went on with my life.
Later that night I had a bizarre dream.
I dreamt that I was sleeping on the couch (which I actually do quite a bit), and a monster with beaded black eyes was watching me sleep. I could see myself, covers tucked around my feet and pulled to my shoulder -- utterly unaware of the figure in front of me. His shadow cast by the flickering of the television on the wall, silently engulfing my sleeping body in darkness. On the couch I would fidget and turn, but no matter how close it drew to me -- I wouldn't wake up.
I tried calling out to myself, but my voice made no sound.
I woke the next morning, scattered and worn from the restless dream that I could only remember in pieces, although the parts I could recall seemed so utterly vivid that it was hard to tell if they had actually happened or not. Kinda freaky.

Luckily it was a weekend morning so I had plenty of time to kind of shake it off, make some coffee, and engage my mind in other things. Soon enough, I found myself sitting in the corner of the couch -- ESPN on the TV, laptop close at hand, a coffee mug cupped in my hands, the warmth seeping into me, bringing me out of the fog the night before had left me with --
When suddenly and without warning, this happened:

Ever had something occur, like clearly happen right in front of you but it's so fucked up that you have trouble really accepting it? I mean, I live in North Florida, in an apartment complex filled with trees and natural landscaping. I see squirrels every day.
Just not in my living room less than a foot away from where I'm sitting.
He scampered from one window sill to the other, in a motion that seemed to indicate he wanted to get out, but couldn't figure his way through the glass. Every movement I made freaked him out, as he bolted back and forth. I opened my front door and tried to herd him towards it with no success. He'd just fly across the floor into the kitchen, and then back to the window sills.

By the way, for the record -- my cats? Fucking useless. Sure they were aware of another animal being in the house, but it was apparently not enough to interest them beyond watching it skitter back and forth. Lazy bitches.
Finally it darted back into the kitchen and disappeared.
I called the landlords office, but being a weekend had to leave a message. I checked around the dishwasher, and found a little space near the floor where it seemed he might have gotten in through (I figure he crawled in through the dryer vent outside). I filled in the gap and sealed it shut with duct tape. The way I figure it had gotten caught inside, was scared to death, and finally found it's way out after being chased around by me for a half hour.
If nothing else, I figured I had a funny story to tell.
Until the next morning -- when I woke up to see him sitting on the living room floor, staring at me.
Since then, he's continued to come and go -- conveniently nowhere to be found when the apartment maintenance guys come by, but leaving little traces of his presence on my carpet, and showing up every now and then as a blur racing from the corner of the couch to the laundry room.

Finally I raised hell with the landlords, and they replaced my outside dryer vent with a new one that's more like an air conditioning lattice, with openings that my new little roommate surely couldn't squeeze through. The day went by without incident, although I'd certainly been down that road before -- but finally after three days or so of poop-less silence it seemed my squirrelly ordeal had finally come to an end.
Which is good, because I don't know if you know this or not -- but squirrels are dicks.
UPDATE: ..This morning, he was in the kitchen again.

[Listening to:  Skindred - "Calling All Stations" ]

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