Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency

My brother has some innovative Altoid tin art up for bid on eBay. Great combination of creativity and socio-political commentary. You may hafta fight me for it, though.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Obama Drama

Update on those 50 buck Shepard Fairey prints which eventually went for 1000+ on eBay: Apparently, Fairey and Co were pretty disappointed about that, too:
It looks like we were naive in believing that people would be true and do what they actually said they would do. All those that received these street pasters knew that they were not to be auctioned on EBAY or sold anywhere else. Its extremely discouraging when we intentionally make Shep’s art obtainable and affordable for all and in turn are exploited and taken advantage of by GREEDY people. We put 100% of the poster proceeds back into the Obama campaign.
They do plan on making more prints available soon, 600 this coming Thursday.

Wonder if they know about these t-shirts?

Nothing New

The Economist notes that Twitter is being used by journalists during election coverage as a tool akin to cablese, which journalists used in the early 20th century.

The Economist also recently noted that the first occurrence of spam was probably in 1864, when British politicians received telegrams in the middle of the night, which turned out to be advertisements for dentistry. They very suitably annoyed, much in the way we were to get phone calls from MCI at dinner time or Viagra ads in our email. (Oh yeah, still get the latter.) It's hard to think of what life was like before the phone, but you can imagine:
In 1903 the trade journal Telephony reported an elderly woman's complaints about her niece, who received a phone call from a male friend while dressing. “The two of them stood talking to one another just as if they were entirely dressed and had stopped for a little chat on the street! I tell you this generation is too much for me,” she grumbled.
Telephone protocol also differs around the world: in parts of Scandinavia, people text you first to get your permission to call (I kinda like that), and in Japan using your phone for spoken conversations on the train is verboten, although phones work there. If we get connectivity on the subway here in New York (and you can guarantee we will), I hope that's a custom that's appropriated here, pronto.

Related: NPR's News Blog Twitter feed | New York Times Politics feed

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tumblng Alng

I have a Tumblr log now, too, simply called Stribs*, where I'll probably just post quotes and photos from my phone, when the mood strikes me. They call it a tumblelog; I'd call it micro-blogging. Fatter than twittering, thinner than blogging.

Check out my brother's latest plastic creation on his own new tumblelog.

*now called Pattern Recognition

Legofesto

Gitmo by Legofesto

Legofesto protests torture and human rights violations with disturbing Lego dioramas. The disclaimer on her blog says "LEGO© in no way endorse this blog or the images within." Not for the faint of heart. But the actual events Legofesto depicts aren't either. One would hope that anyone initially outraged by her recreations would eventually conclude that their outrage would be better directed at actual people performing actual torture.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quote for the Day

The absolute value of love makes life worth while and so makes Man's strange and difficult situation acceptable. Love cannot save life from death; but it can fulfill life's purpose.
- Arnold J. Toynbee, "Why and how I work," 1969

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Time to Say Sorry

The Australia government has officially apologized to Australia's indigenous peoples, the aborigines:
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

- Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
The phrase "stolen generations" refers specifically to mixed race aborigine children who were taken away from their families and made wards of the state, supposedly for their own protection. Phillip Noyce's heart-breaking movie Rabbit Proof Fence portrays the life of one such individual, Molly Craig, whose daughter, Doris Pilkington Garimara, wrote a memoir detailing her experience.

Maine's Morning Sentinel asks why is so hard for people to apologize without qualification. I often wonder, why is apologizing considered a sign of weakness, not a sign of civility? Some people bear the mantra "Never apologize" as a badge of honor. Seems especially the case in our society.

As far as I know, the United States has never officially apologized to the Native Americans for past government misdeeds, nor to African Americans for slavery, though resolutions have been presented to Congress. Under Reagan in 1988, the United States did officially apologize to Japanese-American detainees and presented them each with a $20,000 check. Republican Senator Sam Brownback also recently introduced an amendment to the Indian healthcare bill that would formally apologize to the Native Americans.

Video of Kevin Rudd's apology

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Guantánamo

Bill Moyers gives us a recap of the excellent, if chilling documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. I can't imagine how anyone one could watch it or Michael Winterbottom's film The Road to Guantánamo and not conclude that there's been something terribly wrong and immoral going on down in Cuba.
This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"?
- George Bush
Watch the Taxi to the Dark Side trailer

Update: Apparently, Discovery has dropped plans to air Taxi, since it's considered so controversial. When the truth is too controversial to show the American public, aren't we in a lot of trouble?

Director Alex Gibney:
In refusing to air the film, Discovery is perpetuating what has become the policy of this government: it is ok to employ torture, just not to show it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

UNKLE - War Stories

UNKLE - War Stories

UNKLE
War Stories (CD)

Though their first release bore DJ Shadow's distinctive imprimatur, UNKLE continues as James Lavelle and friends now. On War Stories, those friends include The Cult's Ian Astbury on two tracks, as well as Josh Homme, and Massive Attack's Robert "3D" Del Naja. Despite its moniker, War Stories isn't really an explicit protest album. If anything the album's most unequivocal reference to current events, "Persons and Machinery," feels shoehorned into the disk, out of place within the generally more somber proceedings. Or maybe it just pops where most of the disk rocks. After a brief and wholly unnecessary intro, War Stories launches with “Chemistry,” an instrumental track, which foreshadows the grittier sound the album largely rattles along with. Ian Astbury makes the most impressive appearance; providing searing vocals on the thunderous "Burn my Shadow." Not all of these tracks pack the same visceral punch, but many do wend their way into your cranium after a few spins. Josh Homme owns the twisty, handclappy "Restless," but 3D's presence is better reflected in his sanguinary cover art, than on the wispy "Twilight." Lavelle contributes his own vocals to the ratcheting slither of "Price You Pay." And Gavin Clark's droning, loping vocals prove effective on the drowsy "Keys to the Kingdom," where on each chorus, Clark lifts his voice for a passage of optimistic if still paralyzed yearning. – Robert Stribley

unkle.com

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 26 (Fall 2007)

Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur

CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA
Ma Fleur (CD) – Ninja Tune

Who was it said, "It's not the notes that count, but the spaces in between"? Maestro Justin Swinscoe understands that principle and wields it masterfully as he fronts Cinematic Orchestra’s latest offering Ma Fleur. Beginning with Patrick Watson’s quavering, Antony-esque vocals on "That Home" and ending with the same, this fourth disk from Swincoe and crew proves a modest, but refined affair. American soul singer Fontella Bass joins the British-based Orchestra again on “Familiar Ground” and "Breathe," which gives Pink Floyd a casual nod along the way. Former Lamb torch singer Lou Rhodes' smoky vocals probably aren’t used to full effect on "Time and Space," but the song does build grandly, slouching through its notes, creating a dark, sexy atmosphere along the way. Those who have enjoyed the Orchestra’s purely instrumental music will find much to enjoy here, too, with tunes like “As the Stars Fall” for moody movies not yet made. It’s the closer that’s worth hanging around for though: Ma Fleur culminates with Watson’s goose-bump inducing contributions on both piano and vocals for "To Build a Home," a lengthy reprise that fully delivers on the promise of the opening track. It’s the most exquisite song I’ve heard this year. Swinscoe orchestrates this mellifluous closer primarily with Watson’s voice and his spare piano, eventually enjoining strings and finally double bass. – Robert Stribley

cinematicorchestra.com

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 26 (Fall 2007)

The National - Boxer

The National - Boxer

THE NATIONAL
Boxer (CD)– Beggars Banquet

One device The National deploy adroitly on their excellent fifth offering Boxer is the changeup. The disk’s stirring opener "Fake Empire" includes two of them. The first comes when, after drawling along to tentative piano for two verses, lead singer Matt Berninger bursts into a musical break against increasingly brisk percussion. It’s a moment that sends a pleasurable chill up your spine. The second comes at the song’s close after grungier guitars have joined the proceedings, when twirling brass close everything out. It’s a short and remarkably simple song – with just a few spare lyrics – but it illustrates what makes many of the songs here soar above their seemingly modest trappings. Listen for the subtle bassoon in "Slow Show" and wait for the surprising change in mood there, too, also signaled by melancholy piano. It’s the moment when Berninger interrupts "Ada" to address his lover in a tone that’s soft, almost pleading but doesn’t disengage from the flat dignity you typically associate with his baritone. In fact, it’s that emotional distance that contributes to the brooding atmosphere, which permeates Boxer. The terrain gets even chillier in some places: "Brainy" is a stalker song in the tradition Sting’s "Every Breath You Take." And the staccato "Mistaken for Strangers" might the most concise statement on existential isolation you’ll hear in a pop song all year. – Robert Stribley

americanmary.com

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 26 (Fall 2007)

Joan as Police Woman - Real Life

Skyscraper Magazine has graciously allowed me to reprint some of my music reviews here, so I'd like by adding a few from their last issue, then link to some from previous issues, as well. The latest issue of Skyscraper should be hitting a store near you very soon. Let's start off with one of my favorite releases from the last year or so.

JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN
Real Life (CD) – Cheap Lullaby

Joan Wasser is a New York artist/violinist who’s built an impressive résumé working with musicians like Joseph Arthur, Antony and the Johnsons, Scissor Sisters, and Lou Reed. On Real Life Joan and her band have crafted an exquisite album, which equals and even bests the work of many of those same luminaries. Throughout Real Life, Wasser alternates between sweet and insistent, often within the same song: "Feed the Light," "Save Me" – those are imperatives. So, too, on the title track, Joan tenderly implores, "be reckless with me," reminding you that lowering your guard sometimes exposes you to "real life." With similar insistence, Antony Hagerty appears in all his glory, too, trading vocals with Joan as they stamp out "I Defy" against militant piano. "Eternal Flame" proves most the charming and affirming tune here as Joan sings against chanting whirls of her own "yes, yes" accompanying vocals while Joseph Arthur seesaws between growls and falsetto behind her. Arthur also accompanies her on "Feed the Light," a spooky, elongated, but gently encouraging tune, ruffled with distorted strings. There’s much more: "Save Me" with its jabbing piano, "Flushed Chest," with its muted brass and Wasser’s violin, and the sinuous lines she traces on "The Ride." Take your time with Real Life. It offers sublime rewards. - Robert Stribley

www.joanaspolicewoman.com

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 26 (Fall 2007)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Props Where Due

I didn't know it until recently, but since I moved to NYC, I've been getting my hair cut by Kelly, the "Best Hairdresser for Long Layers Plus Japanese Food Advice," according to the Village Voice's Best of NYC last year. I can confirm, she rocks. See you soon, Kelly!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nothing Left

A Swedish archaeologist confirms what I already suspected: there's no real left wing in the United States. As he says,
US politics often look absurd from a European perspective, since the entire bipartisan system maps onto the conservative half of European politics. A case in point is that the US "Left" is called "the liberals", while the Liberal Party in Sweden is part of the Right wing. How could it be otherwise? Liberalism is about free-market capitalism, small government, low taxes, all Right-wing ideals. Yes, both US parties advocate low taxes. Normal taxes are 30% to a Swede. And that's rock bottom, before adding the effect of progressive taxation. That's how we can afford universal health care. Hint, hint.

So, believe me, US politics don't have a Left. Looking at the presidential candidates, I am frankly appalled. None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden. They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority.

Separated at Birth?

Separated at birth?

I was flipping through newspapers at work today, doing some research, when I saw a recent picture of Ralph Lauren, which made me wonder, have he and Joe Lieberman ever been seen together in the same room? Not to mention the dearly departed Don Knotts.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Art & Politics

Obama by Shepard Fairey

Last week Shepard Fairey's Obama posters sold out in an L.A. minute and some of those $50 purchases are already selling on eBay for $800+. That's how the free market works, I guess, but it leaves me feeling about those guys the same way I feel about scalpers. For those of us who can't afford to fork out a grand, Fairey has made a black-and-white version [PDF] available, and he's advised takin' it to the streets.

Elsewhere, check out this Obama "Yes We Can " music video, and this one showing the making of "Fired Up, Ready to Go." More great Obama posters here and here and here. And here's one for Kucinich.

I'd link to some art inspired by the Republican candidates, but I can't find any. Well, there is this Huckabee song, but somehow I don't think it's truly an endorsement.

Google Bombing Scientology

According to The Guardian, hackers have been Google bombing Scientology by linking to their site via the phrase "dangerous cult." I would never, of course, promote such a juvenile use of the Web.