Friday, July 30, 2010

Diane, It's Been A Rough Week

Hola, all.

Apologies, but there won't be a Lost & Found column today. The week's been a long one, without much in the way of time to write up the episodes. I'll resume next Friday. Have a terrific weekend!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thor Escapes


So, say you weren't at Comic Con this year. And say that, hypothetically, you wanted very much to see the footage shown from Kenneth Branagh's Thor.

Hypothetically.

Then you might want to scoot on over to, oh, I don't know, a site like this one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On The Shelf: A New King

I'm something of a ceaseless reader. Stephen King once wrote (in On Writing I think, though I could easily be wrong) that he never goes anywhere without a book, since you never know when you'll need a mental escape hatch. Those are the words of a kindred soul. I cart books and magazine articles with me everywhere I go which is sometimes less than wise. Walking and reading is, typically, not a good thing. Still, I do it all the time. That being the case I thought I'd start letting you folks know what tomes I've got my nose buried in. I love having someone recommend a good book just as much as I enjoy reading someone's evisceration of a bad one. Here I'll do both, depending on the book and my enjoyment of it.

The Passage is one of those annoyingly-oversold summer books. They're omnipresent on the display shelves of bookstores and pop up on all the mainstream "What To Read For Summer" lists as well as in the hands of multiple Subway and Bus riders. If an album/book/crocheted-panorama/whathaveyou is being enjoyed by everyone and talked about on Good Morning America, I'm sometimes perversely compelled to skip over it in search of rarer gems* (this is why, despite its cultural ubiquity, I have not touched Stieg Larsen's Millenium Trilogy). I freely admit that this is weird behavior, but it's not (entirely) snobby behavior. It's not that I'm "too good" for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or anything. I'm just wired, seemingly from birth, to look for the underdogs. The snobby part, self-admittedly, comes from the fact that some of the things which the larger culture embraces completely tend to be - to me - kind of....average at best.

That said, I'm not immune to the larger conversation happening around me, or to Big Popular Mainstream Entertainment**. I've devoured Stephen King's books since I first discovered his book IT at age 12, read the opening scenes in which poor Georgie meets the scariest clown of all time and then promptly hid its nightmare-inducing cover under a stack of other, more benign books as though they'd help to drain away some of the pure terror that it induced in me through literary osmosis.

I bring King up because Cronin's book gets a glowing (sneaky pun!) back cover blurb from the Master of Horror. That's not what attracted me to the book, but I did find it interesting since the novel is so far reading like early King - specifically The Stand (there's even a seemingly-'special' kid, one of King's most consistently recycled elements). This is very much a compliment. I'm impressed by Cronin's skill with his characters, by the way in which he's unspooling this addictive narrative and by the economy and force of his prose. The sentence "Now I know why the soldiers are here," which appears some twenty-something pages into the book, perfectly sums up the sure-handed approach that Cronin takes with this potentially uber-pulpy material. Cronin doesn't fall prey to typical genre traps; his characters are uniformly well-rounded and struck through with shades of gray, his plot turns are deftly executed, and his writing is spare and evocative. The basic spine of this book's story could easily be a terrible Sci-Fi channel miniseries. There's little that's truly original thus far in the macro details of the story (Mysterious virus? Check. Shady Military involvement? Check. Vampires? Double-check, since every bit of entertainment that's produced is now contractually obligated to feature at least one vampire) but the skill of the storyteller elevates it far above that.

I'm only 100 or so pages into this one, but I'd already recommend it. It's compulsively-readable, literary without being difficult/boring, pulpy and appealing without being dumb/obvious. I'm as vamped-out as anyone (keep in mind: I've seen ALL the Twilight movies, thanks to The Lovely Wife) and if folks were prohibited from releasing anything undead-related for a year or two I think the culture as a whole would feel a lot less dull/repetitive, but if you're going to read one vampire-related novel this year, make it The Passage.***

What about you? What're you reading this summer?

*There's a strange, indefinable difference between entertainment that's truly been embraced on a massive level by the public at large (see: The DaVinci Code) and entertainment that's been wholly-embraced by the critical/media establishment, which is NOT the larger viewing public (see: Mad Men). I'm curiously compelled to avoid the former, not so much the latter. The reasoning behind this is as murky and elusive as you'd expect.

**Film especially. I'm always up for a good blockbuster. Make of this what you will.

***For the love of all that is good and holy, don't make that book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Peanut Butter AND Chocolate?! Are You Mad?!



EW.com:

"I’ve always been wary of an Avengers movie, but I never could put my finger on exactly why. Then, last week, LeBron James took his “talents to South Beach” to form an unprecedented basketball superteam, and I now totally understand my original misgivings. James shouldn’t be in the same uniform as new teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, soaring past, through, and over mere basketball mortals from New York, Cleveland, or Toronto. In sports, as in physics, heavenly bodies like superstars are supposed to attract their own satellites. Instead, James’ Jupiter is about to collide with Wade’s Saturn. It’s simply unnatural.

Ditto The Avengers. Can you really imagine a world where Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and possibly the Hulk work out at the same gym?"


Uh...yeah, I can. There's actually a pretty well-established comic book out there that deals with this. It's called The Avengers. There's even a gym.

"Isn’t it the rare comic-book movie that manages to craft a believable universe that explains even one superhero?"

Uh...No. Not really. That is, unless the standards used to judge those films are different than the standards for every other film "genre." I mean, it's rare for ANY film "to craft a believable universe that explains" its characters. Just look to any of the dozens of disposable, inhuman romantic comedies churned out each year, or the cookie-cutter human life lesson films that inundate our theaters in the fall and winter, or the action films (sans the super-heroic) that consistently trade in logic and genuine feeling for anti-gravity fistfights and weightless, meaningless dialogue.

Now, it's very likely that the author of EW's barely-there article has no idea that an Avengers book exists. It's also possible that this person, for whatever reason, just has a legitimately difficult time wrapping his mind around the concept of different characters from different films interacting (Roger Rabbit must have BLOWN HIS MIND). But how difficult is it, really, to imagine this team of heroes working together? What kind of cognitive leap do you have to make to convince yourself that it can work, and (much more importantly) why on earth does that leap seem like a big one for Jeff LaBrecque? Does the coexistence of the mystic Force and Han Solo's non-mystical laser gun in Star Wars bewilder him? Does the murderer's row of talent in the Ocean's Eleven films frighten and confuse him?

Get used to this kind of article, because you're going to be seeing a lot of it. Once a media meme establishes itself its difficult to eradicate. In the coming months/year you are going to see countless entertainment site/magazine stories that pose variations on the question being asked in EW's article-ette. What I can't decide is whether this meme will be the result of the follow-the-herd mentality that's naturally a part of the journalistic culture online, or if it's indicative of something worse: a death of imagination.

As far as I'm concerned, if a child can take his Iron Man figure and his Captain America figure and create a compelling adventure in his own mind, then it seems to me that it is decidedly within the power of a film company to create an entertaining film from a group of properties that have, collectively, provided 3/4's of a century's-worth of wildly imaginative stories. Is that crazy? It doesn't seem crazy to me.

Pass The Sentence

(For an explanation, click here)

This week's sentence:

If it hadn't been for Daisy, he'd have never left that place.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thou Shalt Not...

"Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust." - Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail


There are, in the final analysis, no good rational arguments against gay marriage. There are specious, illogical, and bigoted arguments galore for sure but they are, to a one, specious, illogical and bigoted. There are "religious" arguments to be made, but those arguments are (a) irrelevant in America, as we enjoy a separation between Church and State as regards the functioning of the law and (b) disingenuous to say the very least.

Anyone who wants to argue point (a) is in favor of a theocratic state. They should be dismissed both from your minds and from the larger public discourse. Theocracies are Dictatorships-with-training-wheels, and no intelligent American familiar with our history could support such a thing.

So, let us tackle point (b) for a moment, because I think it's an important one, and because I believe the utter hypocrisy on display continually needs to be addressed, no matter that it's been addressed before.

God tells His people in the Bible that its an abomination for a man to lie with a man (Leviticus 18:22), but he also tells His people that its an abomination for them to wear mixed fibers, to eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10-12) and to consume pork (Deuteronomy 14:7-8). Yet, somehow, those shellfish-eating heathens and mixed-fiber-wearing sinners are still able to legally wed in this country. There is also, incidentally, a profound and unambiguous commandment against murder. Also, I seem to remember one regarding adultery: "Thou shalt...something something." And yet, somehow, murderer and adulterer alike are still able (if they ain't no homo!) to get hitched in the grand ol' US of A. Adulterers? Why, they can marry as many times as they'd like so long as they can find someone willing to officiate.

I'd like those opposed to gay marriage to explain how this makes sense at all - how its in any way "moral" or "just" or "right" to deny two loving, monogamous gay people the same legal protections and rights, the same access to the very word Marriage, that's currently enjoyed by numerous Donald Drapers all over America; to explain to me the selective enforcement of "Biblical law" that's clearly the root of this discrimination in a way that doesn't in turn make a mockery of that enforcement.

If they can do that, without tying us both into enough knots for a Three's Company reunion, I will reconsider my position on the seemingly-stark, unambiguous fact of their bigotry. I will also, in all likelihood, suddenly and improbably transform into a Unicorn.

Who exactly is being harmed when two homosexuals are able to legally commit themselves to one another? Some might say "the children" (and someone ALWAYS invokes "the children"), but those people are wrong. There is no (again reliable, rational, scientific, calculable, REAL) evidence that children of gay parents are in any way "worse off" than children of straight parents. Nor is there any evidence that having gay parents "makes you gay." So, the kids are alright, to steal the film title. And even if some kids did grow up to be gay - so what? How is it different than, say, the fear/belief that interracial households are "sociologically troublesome" for children - an argument that racists made over and over again in attempting to stop different races from marrying, from procreating, from loving one another?

On the other hand, how many people have been substantively, demonstrably harmed over the past several years by the country's (and the world's) over-elaborate, under-transparent, barely (if at all) regulated economy? How many jobs have been lost? How many children have suffered? How many marriages have ended under that strain? How many companies have folded, or downsized (or, in my favorite bit of sh*tty finessing, been "right-sized") in the wake of all of this?

I cannot make heads nor tails of current Conservative thought on this issue. The VERY SAME PEOPLE who want to ensure that two consenting adults in a committed monogamous relationship cannot say that they are "married," and who are willing to utilize the full might of the US government to achieve this result are the VERY SAME PEOPLE who demand that government deregulate industries, deregulate the markets, and generally-speaking, stay the heck outta the boardroom.

Put more simply: The folks who SAY that they want the government to have as little involvement in the lives of its citizens as possible clearly don't believe their own hype. And realizing this - knowing this with certainty - makes it easier to meet the challenge of this recurrent bigotry head-on.

MLK thoughtfully and patiently laid out the distinction between just and unjust laws in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail, and his words here serve, remarkably well, to remind us that unjust laws do not go away. There will always be a group for us to hate - be they black, or gay, or Muslim, or Martian, or whathaveyou. It is up to us to recognize this flaw in our collective character, and to work toward a greater understanding with our fellow man. It is up to us to demand just laws on behalf of our brothers and our sisters, be they black or white, Christian or Muslim, heterosexual or homosexual.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do The Hump Day Shuffle

(For an explanation, click HERE.)

1) "All to Myself," off The Philosopher Kings by The Philosopher Kings

My unplanned, hardcore tryst with the Canadian music scene rears its head again this week in the first shuffle-cut, a song from Canada's own Philosopher Kings. This album - their first - is also their best. Truly eclectic, and truly accomplished, the tracks on this album weave through R&B, rock, pop and honest-to-God jazz (I love good jazz, automatically making me older and more boring than you are), blending these divergent genres together in a way that feels smoothly cool and timeless more than a decade after its release. "All to Myself" is a perfect example of this - combining elastic upright bass and jazz-inflected piano riffs with a lounge-y, urbane crooning that's part Sinatra, part Maxwell, and all-good. You'll find a shiver-inducing cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" here, as well as one of the sparest, most affecting acoustic-guitar-accompanied ballads I've ever heard in "Ain't No Woman Around."

Subsequent releases found the Kings moving further away from the melting pot excitement they conjure here, and deeper into streamlined pop/soul, resulting (for this listener) in a less rewarding, less overall-interesting sound. But The Philosopher Kings remains a great, completely underappreciated album (at least here in the States - I understand the group is quite popular and well known in their native country), and one you ought to consider buying.

2) "Architecture," off Armistice by MuteMath

MuteMath, otherwise known as my brother-in-law's favorite band, pulls off futurist electro-rock very, very well. If you've ever loved Depeche Mode you'll love MuteMath. I don't, as a general rule, adore much electronic music. Much of it comes across to my ears as precise and "perfect" to an extreme that's deadening, or even boring, but MuteMatch cranks out electro-influenced tunes that still vibrate with emotion and humanity.

3) "Hey Jealousy," off New Miserable Experience by the Gin Blossoms

There are an awful lot of sad stories in Rock n' Roll. For my money, one of the very saddest stories belongs to Doug Hopkins. Hopkins was the guitarist and arguable lead-songwriter for the Gin Blossoms, an at-the-time up-and-coming Arizona band. The songs he wrote for the band, including "Hey Jealousy" and "Found out about you," were the songs that catapulted the band to sudden fame and fortune. Hopkins was also, by all reports, a full-on alcoholic, barely able to stand during the recording sessions for New Miserable Experience. Gin Blossoms' label gave the band an ultimatum: lose Hopkins, or we lose you.

And that is how an alcoholic, chronically-depressed, very gifted guitar player and pop melody writer found himself on the outside looking in as his former band mates and friends went on to (albeit, non-lasting) fame and fortune thanks to Hopkins' songs. Want to know what's even worse? The band withheld money owed to Hopkins for his session work until he'd agreed to sign over half of the publishing royalties due to him on the songs he'd crafted, which meant that when New Miserable Experience became a Multi-Platinum phenomenon, Hopkins wasn't even able to fully bask in the financial reward.

None of which is to say that Hopkins was a saint, or that he didn't arguably deserve some of what was coming to him (only the people involved can weight in on that). By all accounts he was a horror-show to work with - the kind of all-too-common victim of his demons who was, so it's said, a real sweetheart and a real sonofabitch depending on the second you caught him in.

Hopkins died the year after New Miserable Experience was released of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Long live Rock n' Roll?

4) "I Got Love If You Want It," off The Excello Singles by Slim Harpo

On a lighter end-note, I love me some Blues. I've got no idea what led to my appreciation for the art form - I grew up White, arguably well-off, and in the Northeast after all - but I suspect it's the same magnetic attraction that led to The Kinks recording Harpo's song. No matter your color, "the blues ain't nothin' but a good man feelin' bad, thinkin' 'bout the woman he once was with"(to quote the wholly-unappreciated little gem of a movie, Crossroads, which manages to make Ralph Macchio semi-interesting, and which features one of the most entertaining showdown sequences I've seen - involving guitar legend Steve Vai, the devil, and a battle of musical prowess that veers from blues licks to soul to rock to classical). Harpo was an excellent harmonica player (I dabble, am fairly decent, but do not possess Harpo's naturalism or his flair for fat, open-ended note playing) and has an excellently-strange, compellingly-nasal voice. If you've never spent much time listening to the Blues, don't start here. But if you're already a fan of the genre, Harpo's one to know.

That's it for this week. What's your shuffle?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mosquerade

I try to steer clear of the overtly-political in my online writing.

I do this for two reasons:

(1) It brings out the worst in other people. In one of my Lost columns I tossed in some half-baked attempt at getting a laugh that involved a (very) veiled potshot at former President G.W. Bush, and promptly recieved a dozen emails telling me to keep my [CENSORED] mouth shut about the politickin'. None of them were polite. To say the least.

(2) It brings out the worst in me. I think most people secretly believe that their POV is the correct POV. I'm not immune to this syndrome, and if the majority of the internet is any indication, neither is anyone else. There's very little rational discourse about political decisionmaking in this country, and that's a shame because (a) its necessary and (b) it acts as an important counterpoint to rumor-mongering, gossip and trivial nonsense. Why would I want to add to the catty mentality?

Nonetheless, I feel the urge to do a little politically-based rambling today, and not the rational kind. I want to speak from the heart for just a minute.

"Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real." - Sarah Palin, 'tweeting' about the plan to build a Mosque near the (still not rebuilt) site of the World Trade Center tragedy.


Ms. Palin, allow me to be honest (and to pretend to address this to you personally). You live in Alaska, a state that's about as ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse as a snowflake. The likelihood of your having spent even a modicum of time with a Muslim in anything resembling a comfortable, non-posed-and-vetted setting is, frankly, laughable.

It does not occur to you - has probably never occured to you - that there might actually have been Muslims in those towers when they fell. It does not occur to you that some of the firefighters and policemen who gave their service that day were Muslim. It does not occur to you that the groups of survivors in the aftermath - the families and friends and loved ones of the dead - contained, and contain, Muslim people. It certainly does not seem to occur to you that the entirety of New York City might actually contain peaceful practitioners of Islam who desire a place of worship.

None of this occurs to you, I assume, because you've led the sort of sheltered, homogenous existence that many people live. You've never been/felt compelled to venture outside of your own comfort zone, and your life choices have ensured that you'd never have to do so. Wasilla may be a great lil' place to raise your kids, but it's a dirt-poor excuse for real diversity.

So. Allow me to explain something to you:

Until you've spent more than a week in this amazing city living in something other than a lavishly-appointed suite, until you've ridden the public bus/subway with a literal rainbow of humanity's potential (from peeing bum to Mayor Michael Bloomberg), and voluntarily exposed yourself to what it actually means when you live in a melting pot, you don't get word one in this discussion. You don't get to fetishize a tragedy that for all its actual impact on your personal life might as well have occured in Russia. You don't get to weigh in on what's appropriate during the rebuilding process.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I looked out of my apartment window and watched the towers fall. I was blocked from trying to make my way downtown in order to help by sympathetic, stonefaced men in flack jackets. My calls to loved ones who worked in and around those buildings were delayed and denied, and though I'm very, very lucky not to have lost anyone I personally knew on that day I'll never forget the panic that comes with trying in vain to reach a family member and getting nothing but silence. That night, I walked empty city streets lined with enormous, intimidating military vehicles and listened as people of every religion, every skin color, and every class, tried to make sense of something profoundly senseless. The very first person to voice his sadness and his anger to me that day was a Muslim. We lived that tragedy - are STILL living that tragedy - every day; in the air we breathe, in the people we lost, in the city itself.

You watched it on the news.

And now, here you are, appealing to "peaceful New Yorkers" (a group which, one can assume, doesn't include Muslims as far as you're concerned, since "peaceful Muslim" appears to be a nonsensical word grouping like "Jumbo Shrimp" in your mind) and attempting to create an issue where there is no issue. Will there be a Mosque near/on/in/on top of Ground Zero? I don't know. And, frankly, I don't care. Because it doesn't matter - no matter how many pushy-fear-mongers-who-think-that-stunt-opposition-to-religious-symbolism-is-the-same-thing-as-doing-something-that-actually-counts-in-this-world insist otherwise.

I'm getting testy. I'll let Bloomberg handle the rest of this:

I think our young men and women overseas are fighting for exactly this, for the right to, of people to practice their religion and for government to not pick and choose which religions they support and which religions they don't. Sarah Palin has a right to her opinions, but I could not disagree more. Everything the United States stands for and New York stands for is tolerance and openness, and I think it's a great message for the world that unlike in other places where they might actually ban people from wearing a burqua or they might actually keep people from building a building, that's not what America was founded on, nor is it what America should become.


Amen.

Mea Culpa

Sorry for the lack of updating, folks.

I'm sick.

Thanks for your patience, and I'll see you soon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Are Now Experiencing Technical Difficulties?

Some folks have contacted me and informed me that they're unable to see the comment box here on the site, and so unable to post comments.

If you're having this problem please shoot me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com and let me know.

With thanks,

MMorse

A Week Of Independents: Day 2



"We're an independent band and so we don't have to play by anybody's rules but our own. We decided to put the art before the commerce, and you know, put meaning in songs and try to be a part of a world community via the Peacemakers, truly, and that's what people have responded to. Instead of worrying about writing for radio, or predicting or following trends, we just shot the art from the heart and bingo - it worked." - Roger Clyne

Back in 1996 a little band named The Refreshments had their fifteen minutes of fame. Their song, "Banditos," got some airplay and a quirky video on Mtv, and the band contributed the theme song to King of the Hill. Then they recorded a second album, imploded, and got dumped by Mercury Records.

Booyah.

Lead singer/rhythm guitarist/main songwriter Roger Clyne crawled from the wreckage and decided that he was done with record companies. Striking out with his own self-financed label, Clyne packed his gear into a van, set out on the road with a group of like-minded musicians, and hasn't looked back since. Ten years later he's the head of a small, successful, homegrown business - one that he, his bandmates and his support staff have built from the ground up. You can buy Roger Clyne tequila ("Mexican Moonshine"), travel to Mexico for the group's annual Circus Mexicus show (a pilgrimage I'll be undertaking for the first time next year), purchase an entire wardrobe of Peacemaker-branded clothing, and help yourself to a catalog of great albums. Clyne keeps it all reasonably priced and in fact you can purchase the entirety of his catalog - nine CDs-worth of his work with The Refreshments and The Peacemakers - for fifty-five dollars.

Clyne and his compatriots cultivate an atmosphere of laconic relaxation and tequila-fueled fun. Attending one of their shows is a little like hanging out with a big group of drunken friends, and their live shows are often compared to Jimmy Buffet in terms of fan dedication and general alcohol-related shenanigans.

All of this would be interesting but essentially meaningless if their musical output weren't so consistently kickass. During the course of a decade, the Peacemakers have slowly evolved from shitkickin' honkytonk layabouts, to hard-edged, philosophical cowboy troubadours, to older-n'-wiser, zen-cool, Siddhartha-ian beach bums. And each step in this evolution feels earned, feels organic, feels a part of the life experience of these specific people. Roger Clyne won't ever order you to Evacuate the Dancefloor, or offer you his Umbrella-ella-ella, but he will spin you gritty, dust-caked tales of blood and avarice and broken promises ("Well I did before what I'll do again/So forgive me father if I have sinned/But the old wood cracks before it bends"), then offer up some pointed-yet-non-histrionic political commentary ("I'm hearing whispers from our history books/The Kings, Queens, Bishops, Knights and Rooks/And the blood they spilt the gold they took/was always first the pawns'"), then turn around and offer up a snarky Zen koan like "I'll be free as soon as you enslave me."

There's something for everyone in the Peacemakers' catalog. If you're a fan of tongue-in-cheek country-fried rock n' roll, there's "Honky Tonk Union." If you prefer more introspection and simultaneous fire with your southwestern rhythms you can try "Sonoran Hope & Madness." Need more Springsteen and Petty and poetry and muscular guitar licks? Try "Americano." Want a mental dip into cool, summery waters with some dark undercurrents? Check "No More Beautiful World" - it's the perfect album for sipping margaritas on any Eve of possible Destruction.

Sample RCPM:

Performing Americano @ Danny's North
Performing "Preacher's Daughter" @ Circus Mexicus
Performing "Green & Dumb" (Great footage/sound quality, and maybe their best song)
Performing "Jack vs. Jose," a song about a clash between Whiskey and Tequila drinkers.
Performing "Maybe We Should Fall In Love" acoustically with drummer PH Naffah.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Week of Independents



It's Independent Music Week here at Verbosity!

Monday through Friday I'll be celebrating the musical efforts of true independents - acts that have consciously foregone major label support/ClearChannel venues/payola and forged careers for themselves the hard way. I have a lot of admiration for all of these groups/individuals, and I hope you'll take a chance on some of them.

Today's spotlighted artist:

Common Rotation.

Let's get this out of the way: Yes, Adam Busch is the nerdy dude from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Warren, aka the guy who made Willow really, really sad. Yes, he's also the co-lead-singer for Common Rotation.

That doesn't matter, though.

What matters is that Common Rotation writes and performs sparkly little pop gems (historically) and largely-effective folk/bluegrass songs (recently). What matters is that they do this, and make something of a living from it, entirely because they've worked to build a devoted fanbase from the ground up. They're successful, not because they've convinced a bottled water company to license their songs, and not because they've got a management company that's paying radio stations to play their songs, but because they tour hard and communicate well with their fans.

Openly contemptuous of the established music industry and ClearChannel's monopolistic business practices Common Rotation established a "Living Room Tour" in 2004, eschewing ClearChannel-owned venues, middlemen, and corporate promotion and literally playing in the living rooms of their fans - an experience they documented with the film "How To Lose" (you can view the trailer here).

I admire the group's ethos, their humor, and their way with harmony and melody. I'm a bigger fan of their pop stuff than I am of their recent turn into bluegrass and folk, but I enjoy everything they've recorded. Here's a random assortment of their music for you to try.

A Sampling of Common Rotation:

Covering Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel"

"Sit Down"/"The First Time"

CR covers They Might Be Giants' "Don't Let Start"
"Offstage Lines"
Joining The Indigo Girls on "Closer to Fine"
Covering Outkast's "Rosa Parks" with Martin Starr

You can visit Common Rotation's website for tour dates, music and merchandise by clicking here.

Pass The Sentence

(For an explanation, click here)

This week's sentence:

"It glittered, blue-black, like a beetle's carapace."

Hope everyone's weekend was a good one!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Make With The Chin-Music 'Til He Canaries.



Courtesy of AICN:

The second-quarter (April through June) ratings for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” have hit their lowest level since 1993, the year CBS launched “The Late Show With David Letterman.” ...In addition, the first 17 weeks of 2010’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” averages in 18-49 well below the first 17 weeks of 2009’s “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien.”


I'm not a particularly vindictive person (or so I like to reassure myself), and yet I'm curiously pleased by this news. Conan's ascension to Carson's hallowed seat got me watching The Tonight Show (hereafter, "TTS") regularly for the first time in forever and his unceremonious dismissal provoked a surprisingly-personal reaction from me.

Some of that comes from my genuine affection for O'Brien - an affection that I realize isn't shared by all - but most of it comes from my dangerously-outsized sense of "fair play." During Leno's first year on-air as TTS host, the show averaged numbers comparable to Conan's. Had NBC displayed the same shallow faith in The Chin that they displayed with Coco, they'd have never possessed the stable Late Night hit that they scrambled to recapture by junking O'Brien. Now, thanks to their own lousy planning and their knee-jerk, short-sighted attitude toward rebuilding a beloved brand, it looks as though they've shot themselves in the collective foot.

Just desserts, says I.

The folks running things at NBC ought to listen to Spoon more often. If they did, they'd realize the wisdom in the words "You got no fear of the underdog - that's why you will not survive."