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  RECENTLY

Reviews: The Life and Times' The Life and Times
Reviews: Atoms and Void's And Nothing Else
Reviews: Survival Knife's "Traces of Me" and "Divine Mob" Singles
2013 (and 2012!) Year-End List Extravaganza
Reviews: Girls Against Boys' The Ghost List EP
Reviews: Bottomless Pit's Shade Perennial
Reviews: Carton / Alpha Cop Split Single
Reviews: Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus
Reviews: Speedy Ortiz's Major Arcana
Reviews: Two Inch Astronaut's Bad Brother

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  BLOG ROLL

Albums That I Own
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Between Thought and Expression
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Built on a Weak Spot
By the Dream Power of the Trust Beast
Can't Stop the Bleeding
Clicky Clicky Music Blog
Discover a World of Sounds
Do You Compute
Dusty Altena
Fighting Tinnitus
First Order Historians
Gimme Tinnitus
Hardcore for Nerds
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Muzzle of Bees
Passion of the Weiss
The Power of Independent Trucking
Pretty Goes with Pretty
So Much Silence
Songs That Are Good
The Thinner the Air
Willfully Obscure

A Quick Explanation

I pulled a recent post because it caused a bit of an uproar with a band's label. I have no interest in seeing bands, however misguided they may be in how they promote themselves or respond to criticism, lose opportunities to publish their music. Since a good amount of time was put into the response, I'll try to edit the post and so that it raises my issues outside of the context of the band (who, to their credit, were far more gracious in an e-mail).

Is this caving to the whims of my subject matter? Perhaps. But I've never made an attempt to damage the livelihood of musicians and now doesn't seem like a good time to start.

Gracing My DVD Player...

I watched two recent films on Wednesday: Idiocracy, Mike Judge’s cultural satire, and Crank, a possible target of that satire. I’d heard widely different opinions about Idiocracy, ranging from those heralding its potential status as a mishandled masterpiece to cries over a monumental lack of laughs. I approached it with moderate expectations and felt rewarded, if not quite floored at this point. The nature of the film—that America in 2505 is populated by imbeciles—necessitates the repetition of many of the film’s gags. Whether it’ll age as well as Office Space or gain the same following is unclear, but it’s worth seeing. Related trivia I did not know until today: Maya Rudolph had P. T. Anderson’s baby.

When I first saw a commercial for Crank, I came up with the only conceivable pitch to studio executives: “Alright, check this one out. Let’s remake Speed, but have Jason Statham play the bus.” If nothing else, I had to see the film in order to test the accuracy of this claim. I’d hesitate to call it dead-on, since I think I had more fondness for the bus than for Statham’s character. Crank is effectively Grand Theft Auto the movie, minus the missions and set against a ticking clock. It’s absolutely bizarre when Statham’s character stumbles into ill-conceived character development midway through the film—he’s a jerk of a contract killer but awfully patient with his pothead girlfriend. It hardly compares to Domino in terms of horribly edited recent train wrecks, but I don’t think that the makers of Crank had any pretensions of greatness. It’s Speed III: The Dude. Don’t see it.

Nobody Likes a Quitter

After almost two years of frequently infuriating service, I finally quit on my Creative Zen Touch 40gb mp3 player. Both the hardware and software aspects of the player had become torturous in recent months.

The Zen Touch worked fairly well for its first year of existence, exhibiting only a few oddities—freezing, splicing bits of other songs into the current selection—that could be fixed by inserting a paper clip to hit the reset button. After an unfortunate drop last winter, such instances increased tenfold, while the booting up / shutting down process became treacherous. Slightly bent paper clips litter my apartment, car, bags, office, etc. I could tell the hard drive was on its way out, and I had ample evidence for this prognostication.

I had picked up a 5gb Creative Zen Micro for my wife a few months after I picked up my Zen Touch, and that player lasted even less time, first succumbing to a fairly common faulty headphone jack, a problem I was able to fix, and then capitulating to a dead hard drive. We hadn’t even dropped this one, but of course, the Zen Touch had the extended warranty and the Zen Micro’s warranty had just ran out.

Adding insult to injury, the Zen Touch had major issues with my old laptop (foremost: refusing to connect to it), so I made a huge mistake by updating the firmware to the PlaysForSure standard. This move caused issues with Notmad Manager, the excellent third-party software that I purchased to replace Creative’s wretched bundled software, thereby forcing me to sync new songs with, God forbid, Windows Media Player. I blame my wonky player, not Notmad in this case.

In the interest of conceivable longevity, I decided to give up on hard drive–based mp3 players for the time being and switch over to the highest capacity flash-based player, the new 8gb iPod Nano. My contentious relationship with the Zen Touch aside, I would greatly prefer to have a large capacity player, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea of owning another clicking brick in thirteen months.

I’ve heard my share of iPod-related grumbling, but I secretly hoped to avoid unwieldy hardware problems and frowning images of doom. Well. It took all of one day before I had to exchange said Nano at Best Buy. A high-pitched whine threatened to drive me slowly insane or, at the very least, give me a consistent headache. The exchange process was easy enough and I suppose I’d rather deal with this sort of issue now rather than in thirteen months.

The player itself—the new, quiet one—is admittedly a fairly astonishing piece of machinery. You’ve seen them. They’re tiny. Mine’s black. It has solitaire on it.

I had never installed iTunes before, hating the idea of a resource-hogging library system, but I succumbed to its wily charms in order to get music onto said player. Sorry Winamp. (If anyone has any experience with Anapod, Red Chair Software’s iPod equivalent of Notmad, please comment.) I enjoy the album artwork and the album-sorted view, but only 50% of the albums automatically downloaded the covers and two of the albums split their tracks into multiple album entries.

As for the actual music making it onto the player, cutting back on 24 gigs of music was a tricky task. I still have a few hundred megs to fill, but the primary casualty so far has been having multiple albums from a single artists. I already have a tendency to create best-of compilations for my favorite artists (so far: Mogwai, Archers of Loaf, Polvo, Silkworm, Pavement), so this situation could easily get out of hand.

So,

I'm considering eliminating this blog and switching over to a purely feature-based site. This move would mean the revival of the 1000 Songs project (and possibly a parallel 500 Albums project), the gradual reincorporation of my photography tree (an overdue endeavor by any means), and the elimination of the commentary for my summer reading list. Why? The typical topics of discussion—current records, recent shows, recent purchases—have been remarkably dry of late, and I enjoy reading books far more than summarizing the experience in a few trite sentences. I don’t remember intentionally shelving the 1000 Songs feature, rather, I wasn’t sure how to fit it into the new Textpattern arrangement. I’m far more comfortable writing about music I genuinely care about instead of records that might possibly hit my year-end list.

Of course, this diary-styled blog is far, far easier than actual content.

If you have any preference on this matter, if you happen to read this site at all, please comment so I can get some level of audience input.

Bulletin: There's a heat wave comin'

Dusty’s ExplodingNow! is my current must-read, particularly his ongoing top 500 albums project. Knowing something about assigning numerical values to massive amounts of music (and even more about not finishing such endeavors), I’m a bit surprised that he’s starting at the top of the list, but he’s still going strong and not looking back. I’ve always thought that we have fairly similar tastes in music, stemming not just from our formative years on the Hum mailing list and a slew of tangential alignments, but this project underscores some of our primary rifts. Naturally, I’m playing along at home to some extent, trying to merely come up with a list of my top 500 albums (in no particular order, although guessing the top spot would be a rather easy task). If I ever reach that number, maybe I’ll come up with a competing project, but at this point, sitting at 145 albums and having other projects in the queue (no, I haven’t forgotten about 1000 Songs), odds are against it, so perhaps you should enjoy ExplodingNow’s.

Of course, that won’t prevent me from discussing that hypothetical list. One of the most difficult artists to place on the list would be Silkworm, as I’m a fan of nearly their entire catalog and my preferences have shifted from year to year. Firewater, for instance, never clicked until this past year, when “Drag the River” opened up the album for me in a way that the first half never could. Since that point, Firewater has been my decided favorite of theirs, with Andy Cohen’s solos having a profound effect upon how I view the rest of their catalog. It’ll Be Cool remains in the upper echelon of their albums alongside Libertine and Lifestyle, but the a-side of Developer ranks among their finest moments as well. What about Italian Platinum, Blueblood, and In the West? I’m not sure if they’d make it as albums, but within a sampler of Silkworm, they could easily be heartily represented. Unlike Pavement (a early comparison made primarily because of the nod to “In the Mouth a Desert” in “Raised by Tigers”), whose catalog has settled in terms of my preferences (Crooked Rain a definite first, then Slanted followed closely by Wowee Zowee and the Watery, Domestic EP), I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the current second-tier Silkworm albums in a year or two. But this situation makes me appreciate them even more as a band, not less. (Silkworm’s final release, Chokes, is closer to an EP in execution and obviously not what the band intended to issue, but I await it nevertheless. Bottomless Pit, however, is Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett’s new band, and I hope I’ll be able to catch them in September.)

In non–obsessive list making news, I sense another redesign afoot, since the current layout utilizes approximately 40% of my new laptop’s screen resolution. I should also have far more time to actually use my site now that I won’t have to hover over the screen reset button anticipating my backlight flickering off.

Stanley Cup Finals

The NHL season is over and, to the dismay of most purists, the Carolina Hurricanes have won their first Stanley Cup. Yet I’m pleased by this result. Given that I watched three of the finals games with die-hard Edmonton fans, one might think that I was cheering against the Oil to be contrarian, but I went into the series not leaning heavily in either direction, since my team (the Detroit Red Wings) and my surrogate team (the Buffalo Sabres) were out of the running. But within the first five minutes of game one, however, I recalled and embraced my ire against Edmonton for knocking out the Wings in the first round. I’d cheered against them when they went on to play San Jose and then Anaheim, so why stop now? All I could think about in game one was how much I hated Fernando Pisani for choosing the Red Wings series to emerge out of his third-line grinder role, how Dwayne Roloson shouldn’t have been the latest in a long series of goaltenders to stand on his head to beat the Wings, and how Mike Peca gets away with more game-changing would-be infractions than almost any other player in the playoffs. So Carolina got the huge boost of my tepid support and took it all the way to the Cup.

Unlike the 2004 playoffs when I had a clear-cut preference, having followed Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis since his electrifying college days at Vermont and having loathed Calgary’s Ville Nieminen from his first cheap-shot antics on the Avalanche, I didn’t have any clear-cut favorite players in this series. I certainly like watching Erik Cole play (a remnant of the Hurricanes’ previous finals appearance against the Wings in 2002) and have nothing but respect for Glen Wesley and Ron Brind’Amour, but it’s hardly the same situation. Cole didn’t even dress until game six, but the stunner of his return—a return that team officials insisted would not occur—was worth the wait. The Oilers dominated that game, a home game in front of their boisterous crowd, but the Hurricanes rebounded well for game seven. Who knows what would have happened if Roloson could have played the entire series, but I’m quite impressed that Edmonton pushed the series to seven and made the wise decision not to start Ty Conklin in game two. It was an exciting, if frequently sloppy series (games two and six were blowouts), and a nice way to end a semi-triumphant return for the NHL.

Back to the braying purists, I’m primarily sick of this “Tampa Bay, now Carolina! Guh! Boo!” rhetoric of the Cup needing and deserving to be in Canada or an American city with a history of success. Gary Bettman is too committed to his (admittedly overblown) ’90s relocation and expansion project to contract every team south of the Washington Capitals, so these people might as well face the facts. There are six Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary) and not counting Californian teams, there are seven teams from Southern, typically non-hockey locales (Phoenix, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas). If the new NHL is a level playing field, we’re bound to see those Southern teams in the finals slightly more often than Canadian teams. And thanks to the salary cap, those Canadian teams can no longer gripe about the burden of small market budgets. Would the Oilers have made it to the playoffs (let alone the finals) without the acquisitions of Pronger and Peca? Rather unlikely, given the team’s goaltending difficulties prior to the acquisition of Roloson.

As for the specifically Canadian complaints about their country deserving the Cup, I hold no sympathy pains for the Edmonton Oilers aside from Roloson’s untimely game one injury. They’ve won five Cups in the twenty-six years since moving over from the WHA. They’re the only team from the WHA to win a Stanley Cup in their original location and not to relocate during the 1990s (sorry Hartford, Winnipeg, and Quebec). During their dynasty, they had the single greatest player in NHL history (Gretzky), one of the greatest leaders in NHL history (Messier), the greatest European goal scorers in NHL history (Kurri), the second-highest scoring defenseman (Coffey), and a Hall-of-Fame goaltender (Fuhr). Let’s put that in contrast with the largely ignored prior history of the Hurricanes as the Hartford Whalers. Growing up with the Whalers as my number two team behind the Red Wings, I know all too well the deficits of both their history and roster. Ron Francis is one of the NHL’s all-time highest scorers, but remarkable consistency is hardly synonymous with electrifying energy. Gordie Howe’s father-son tour hardly compares to the finest years of Gretzky’s career. Pat Verbeek, Brendan Shanahan, and Kevin Dineen are all fine players, but the Whalers only won a single playoff series in their history. Compound this with having an owner set on moving the team (Peter Karmanos) and being a comparative small-market team within driving distance of the major New York and Boston franchises. So I should feel sorry for the team with five Cups, Gretzky, and the lone unmoved survivor of the WHA? Good luck with that one.

For all of those fans decrying how Carolina will forget about this victory once their team is awful and isn’t making the playoffs, I direct you to the Oilers’ mid-’90s attendance figures, which were in the bottom five for the league from ’93–’94 until ’96–’97, when they once again made the playoffs. Fans anywhere will be excited about their team making it to the finals and disappointed when their team has an abysmal season. The New York Knicks, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Green Bay Packers have suffered through horrible seasons without wavering fan support, but these are aberrations. For expansion/relocated franchises, a brief taste of success, like the Florida Panthers’ surprising appearance in the ’96 finals, isn’t enough to convince fans that ownership is capable of putting a competitive product on the ice. Carolina making the finals in 2002 and winning the Cup in 2006 should establish a foundation for a long-term fan base. Look what it did for the Oilers when they won the Cup in their fifth season in the NHL. Cam Ward, Erik Cole, Eric Staal, Andrew Ladd, and the third overall pick from last year, Jack Johnson, are all young enough to form a fine core of players, obviously not the same talent level as the ’80s Oilers’ core, but substantial enough to insist that this team won’t fall apart like the hodge-podge expansion make-up of those ’96 Panthers.

The current Canes fans, fronted by Mac from Superchunk/Portastatic (in the indie rock world, at least), may embrace the “redneck hockey” tagline, but ironically, they were the team in the finals who never dressed an enforcer during the regular season or playoffs. Carolina played with speed and physicality, never resorted to the neutral zone trap (even stealing the Wings’ left-wing lock system), made the right moves near the trade deadline, and have bona fide up-and-coming stars for the NHL to bank on (sorry Fernando Pisani). My biggest knock against them, besides lucking out of series with the Canadiens (Koivu eye-gouging) and the Sabres (blueline massacre), is that they continue to have a tone-deaf cheerleader sing the anthems. I may not have cared either way when the series begin, but for an adopted team that ended up going on to win the Stanley Cup, I’d wager that one could do a lot worse than the Hurricanes. So hockey purists, please stop crying yourself to bed over the Cup residing in a warm-weather city. Again.

Madagascarred for Life!

It may lack the cultural cachet of Netflix, but I’ve been an on-and-off member of Blockbuster Online since last fall, and I can’t complain too much about their service or selection. (Granted, it’s not Rentertainment, but if I’ve learned anything from my time in Boston, it’s that I was completely spoiled by having Parasol Records and That’s Rentertainment in Champaign.) And though my current mix-up is the first major issue I’ve had, it’s more amusing than frustrating.

I received The Maltese Falcon late last week, opened it up a day later in anticipation of watching it, and then saw the colorful animals of Madagascar staring up at me as I pulled the DVD from its sleeve. If I’m frustrated with anything, it’s that Blockbuster didn’t send me a DVD I would ever watch, so I immediately put it back in the mail, told them that it was the wrong disc, and said I’d like to receive the film I wanted. A few days pass by (I received an additional movie in this time span) before I receive The Maltese Falcon again. It doesn’t take long for me to notice that the same sleeve typo is there (The The Maltese Falcon) and even less time for me to see those zany creatures smiling up at me from the disc. This time, understandably, I said that I would like this film removed from my queue.

Perhaps the reason why I’m more amused than frustrated by this switch is the possibility (beyond boring old human error) it suggests. Even if the studios are secretly conspiring to get everyone in America to see Madagascar, they certainly wouldn’t profit from such a ruse unless everyone runs out and purchases a new copy. Instead, it makes me think that this movie is somehow a cultural necessity like Schindler’s List, a necessary part of our national character. I could do a textual reading of the film in this capacity, but again, I have not and will not see it. Am I making a horrible error in avoiding it so thoroughly? I sure hope so!