Wednesday, November 28, 2007
M.I.A. w/ opening act The Cool Kids at First Avenue
You know, I'm not really much of an M.I.A. fan, but this was a really fun show. I think it stems from the fact that her music is dance music, and isn't really something you just plug in and sit there listening to. Because let's be frank; if you can tell the difference between any two M.I.A. songs you are either a shaman of some kind or a liar.
But live? Live is a whole different story. With incredible energy and dance moves that can only be described as nearly as confusing as her singing, it's a fun time. Plus, the Cool Kids turned out to be a quite pleasant surprise. I must admit I was pretty wary of a band I'd never heard of that also had such a stupid, stupid name, but they know how to rock the mic. Highly recommend them if you are a fan of rap from the years 1988-1992.
No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers are a rare pairing in that they barely ever make flops. Widda T likes to say the only reason they made The Ladykillers is because their new dog had bladder control issues and they couldn't afford a new carpet, which is the best explanation I've heard thus far.
Fortunately, this is no Ladykillers. No Country is probably the best serious Coen brothers movie since Fargo (I say serious because Lebowski is beyond reproach, but of a completely different style of brilliance). It's always pretty much impossible to sum up one of their movies, so I'll just say I highly recommend this. And the ending...I won't ruin it, but it was one of the most challenging and interesting movie endings I've seen since Gone, Baby Gone (a highly under-rated flick). Definitely should make your "Best Of" year-end list you've got kicking around in your head.
I'm Not There
I must admit I'm still torn on this one. I'll really need another viewing before I can say definitively how I feel about it, though I definitely lean toward the positive. I like the idea of having 6 different people play Dylan, with only one of them even attempting to look like him (Cate Blanchet, ironically). As Dad pointed out, even if that wasn't the best way to do it, it sure as hell beat whatever they could've done as a straight biopic (see: Walk The Line).
But some parts of it failed to impress. Possibly the worst decision was the attempt to integrate Dylan lyrics into the movie. At best, they thudded awkwardly into the conversation, but often they felt more like Scary Movie-style mentions of pop culture that reward even the stupidest viewer for having once heard a chart-topping Dylan song. But despite it's significant flaws, it's moments of brilliance kept me engaged. Any time a two-hour plus movie doesn't drag at all, you know something was done correctly.
Well, having experienced a pretty satisfying week of living, I turn back to my insular world devoid of meaning and free time...
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So it's back to drawing board again...sigh...always an academic bride's mate, never a published bride...
Friday, November 23, 2007
As I noted round abouts this time last year, I've never been successful in my attempts to leave the kiddie table.
But what a difference a year makes. After sustained complaints, my family (albeit quite sarcastically) finally let me move on up to that de-luxe dinning table in the dinning room, as it were. I didn't get to move up to a full bed this year, but at least I got to move onto a couch in the upstairs living room, which receives heat. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.
And let me tell you, the adult table is everything I thought it would be and more. Real chairs! Real table! Real words used in conversation!
Suddenly, the world is my playground. Food tastes better, the sky is bluer, the young ladies are more comely, and the slow-gripping desperation brought on by neo-liberal hegemony seems less overwhelming.
But more importantly, I feel as if I've finally crossed one of the great thresholds into the strange land of adult-hood. Today, I can stand in front of my God and my peoples and say unequivocally that I am indeed a Man, with a capital M, for that is now my right.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
In case the details escape you, it's a WTO-protest anarchist vs. cop playset. Hopefully Arise! will be carrying them soon, just in time for the holidays. Perfect for that anti-authoritarian on your list!
UPDATE: Arise! indeed does carry them now. Stop in and buy yours today--teach your children how to fight authority while simultaneously supporting collective bookstores! It's a win-win!
Monday, November 19, 2007
The best one I've found thus far--"Not the Daily Show" starring One of the Writers:
Thursday, November 15, 2007
First, the U.S. has fallen to 15th in average worker income.
And second, in what I can only hope is un-related news, the U.S. has been called a haven for war criminals.
It's fun to put news stries side-by-side and wonder about the state of this nation.
In a bit of slightly positive news, the Edwards campaign has said that if elected, he will introduce a bill that would strip Congress of their healthcare until they institute universal healhcare.
Now it's not a very good plan in that it still allows for insurance companies to rape and pillage, but it is a serious attempt from a recognized candidate to force the issue of single payer healthcare, which is a pretty big sea change from only a decade ago.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
And while I excitedly checked to see what book was being refferenced in the text, I stopped myself and wondered aloud how I had gotten to this moment. Here I was, nerdily flipping to the back of the book to find out what was cited. Not only that, but I was actually interested. I had followed the author's aside and honestly wanted to know where this information was coming from.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being excited about learning. Being a grad student, I would pretty much have to be a nerd who's excited about learning, or I never would have made it this far. But even I have limits. Even I have sighed loudly with relief upon noticing that the last 20 pages of the chapter I've been assigned are actually the end notes, meaning it's 20 pages less of reading. I've always pondered the very existance of such notes, knowing, just knowing deep down in my heart that no one but no one actually reads these things.
I mean, what the hell could be back there that would be worth searching through all of those notes, tucked away between the index (useful) and research design(whaa?!?)? The cure for cancer? The recipie for a low-fat brownie that doesn't let you down in the flavor department? What Meatloaf wouldn't do for love? I had always figured they were just a way to pad page numbers, built on the flawless assumption that you get paid more for writing a bigger book (though I still think that might be true).
But now here I am. Here I sit before God and all of you, my faithful reader(s), and admit that I have read an end note. But not only read it; I have seriously considered going out and finding the book refferenced.
How the hell did I get to this point? Man, graduate school is a weird process.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Congratulations. If you have ever read and understood my blog, you are apparently smart enough to graduate from high school. Or, conversely, I'm smart enough to write things that sound like I graduated from high school. I think the both of us should be notably proud of our collective accomplishment.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Oh, and one of every four homeless people is a veteran. That pretty well sums up our collective level of commitment to them.
And I'm the one who doesn't support our troops...
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Probably the most interesting was that civil-rights protests reduce both public support for and the number of executions, and are the most important factor in doing so. As a person who's had to answer the "why do you bother protesting? it's not going to change anything" qustion/annoyance several thousand times, that's a pretty comforting finding.
Another major finding in these two articles was that the death penalty is applied in an inherently racist way (surprise, surprise), but that it probably works differently than you think. While the race of the person convicted definitely matters, the race of the victim is the much bigger factor. Not surprisingly, those convicted of killing a white victim are far, far likelier to actually be executed than those sentenced to death for killing a black person.
Anyway, sometimes it's hard to write posts like this because if you still believe the death penalty isn't a racist form of state-sponsored murder, then you most likely live in a gumdrop house at the end of lollipop lane and frolic all day in the sugar cane forests with magic elves and pixies, and therefore scientific findings don't mean anything to you. But nonetheless, I think it's pretty interesting.
If you're a huge nerd and would like to find out more, check out these articles at your local library:
--Jacobs, David and Stephanie L. Kent. 2007. The Determinants of Executions since 1951: How Politics, Protests, Public Opinion, and Social Divisions Shape Capital Punishment. Social Problems 54 (3): 297-318
--Jacobs, David, Zhenchao Qian, Jason T. Carmichael, and Steaphnie L. Kent. 2007. Who Survives on Death Row? An Individual and Contextual Analysis American Sociological Review 72: 610-632
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Unfortunately, this past sunday, the Patriots beat the Colts 24-20, keeping their perfect season alive and allowing everyone at ESPN to open up a little bit wider and take the Patriots collective cock a bit further down their throat. Recently there was a good critique at the A/V Club about the problem with ESPN is that while it used to be a sympathetic yet good and critical outsider approach to sports (a la the New York Times) it has become a sycophantic sports-worship machine with posts filled by former athletes who will never question the game (a la the Wall Street Journal).
The current Patriots are a good case in point. The NFL is the un-disputed king of major league sports in America, but it jealously gaurds its place atop the sports mountain and is always clawing for new markets. And let us not forget the spectacular failure that has been their attempt to branch out into foreign markets, especially when compared with the success of baseball and basektball internationally. As such, the NFL, and it's underling ESPN, needs the Patriots. They need a team that's dominant, fun to watch, and yet ever-so-humble.
The problem is, the cracks are starting to show. For example, the Patriots are the most class-less team in all of professional sports, constantly running up the score. Two weeks ago, they even went for it on 4th and 1 with a 28 point lead in the 4th quarter, jsut to run up the score. What has the response been from the commentators at the major sports network? The consensus seems to be that if other teams have a problem with it, they should stop them. Much like the way I'm sure they would look at their mother getting raped on the street and say that if she has a problem with it, she should stop the guy, but that's fodder for a whole different post on the conservtaive individualism of sports broadcasting.
What no one seems to be pointing out (possibly because they've gotten a bit too cozy with each other) is the reason why the Patriots are so good:
Because they cheat.
They were caught illegally filming other team's practices to know their plays ahead of time. When they were caught, the league issued a fine and tried to bury the story, because as we've covered, they need the Patriots. But this does complicate the "if you don't like, play better" response: maybe the other teams (like the Colts) are playing well, but they aren't cheating.
And maybe we could cut out the praise of Bill Belicheck, the asshole who everyone thinks is a genius but already been proven to be nothing but a cheater with a bunch of good players. I think any coach could look like a genius if they knew what plays the other team was going to run.
For example, look at the coaches who have left. Remember how Charlie Weiss was an offensive genius? Well, now he's in charge of some of the greatest college football players in the nation, and yet cant score points to save his life, while the Fightin' Irish are en route to their worst season ever. Maybe it turns out that he's not so much as genius as it's really easy to look like one when you have the other guy's plays ahead of time.
All of which you think would make fodder for a great story, but not when the media needs this to go away just as much as the league does. Then there is no story. But the bigger problem is that when this happens with sports, it's annoying at worst. But the exact same process is going on with things that really matter (such as the impending war with Iran), and nobody's getting upset about that either. I guess it just goes to show that no one ever wants to question the motives of a Patriot, even when they're clearly lying.
UPDATE: Turns out Don Shula agrees with me.
Monday, November 05, 2007
On this day 402 years ago, a group of Catholics in London, assisted by explosives expert Guy Fawkes (pictured above as he may have looked if he were a bad-ass super hero) were foiled in their plot to blow up Parliament and thereby assassinate the king and most members of the protestant aristocracy. Check out the pretty good wikipedia entry here.
The move triggered some increased freedom for Catholics, although it would be another 200 years before Catholic emanciaption was finally brought to the United Kingdom. While it's still mostly celebrated as an English day of rememberance, it marks an important international turning point for the freedom of Catholics.
Guy Fawkes has over time become a sort of cult hero amongst some, especially after the release of Alan Moore's superb graphic novel and later not-so-superb movie V for Vandetta.
So mark the day today, for it's a nice day to remember. Suggested activities include fireworks (as they do in Britain, Canada, and a few other paces in the British Isles) or acts of terrorism against oppresive governments. They're both pretty, but require varying degrees of commitment.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
If you did not watch the Vikings game today (possibly doing work that desperately needs to be done, unlike me) then you are a grade A sucka. Adrian Peterson just put on possibly the best game of football I've ever seen, and I've watched a fair amount of football for a chap my age.
For crying out loud, the man just set the NFL single-game ruching record as a rookie. I know the Vikes are not looking dood at all this season (hey, it's touch plyaing without a quarterback or reciving corps), but this paints a rather rosy picture for the franchise. I personally would argue they should call this a practice season, tank the rest of their games, and then pick up one of tha half-dozen really good QBs that are going to be in next year's draft. And before you laught at the suggestion, just note that fact that tanking last year and getting a top-10 pick has seemed to work out pretty damn well thus far.
Anyway, without getting too excited off a caffeine-buzz/home-team win, you've got to admit Peterson clearly has the potential to be one of the greatest, possibly even better than that LT guy on the other team who had a pretty lackluster day. It really makes me want to wax poetic about the beauty of the savage ballet that is football, but I just spent three hours loving every minute of it and am now painfully behind for the day.
But then again, the Colts/Pats game is just starting, and that could prove to be fairly entertaining as well...
Thursday, November 01, 2007
But anyway, back to the eve in question. As we hopped on the train after a little pre-partying, we ended up sitting next to the polite panhandler. You know they type--he sits next to you and makes awkward casual conversation for several minutes. You both know what's coming, yet you must complete the dance of this being a completely knew and un-rehearsed situation. This particular gent's story surrounded just moving into town that morning at 5 a.m. (a story partially complicated by the fact that I've had extended conversations with this gent on several previous occasions, though previously he was a wounded war vet).
I always struggle with how to respond in such situations. I don't have much money, but I definately have more than people who ride public transportation to beg for money. but I also understand that the few measly bucks I can give him are going to do nothing, and that I should (and do) try to make systemic changes that will elminate poverty as a concept, not in individuals. Further complicating the decision is that I've worked with the homeless is a variety of previous jobs and/or volunteer work, and know that many of them are looking for drug money, not food money. And this guys eyes were so bloodshot it hurt just to look at them. I mean, we gave him a few bucks, but I always walk away from such encounters feeling so confused as to what the right action is.
So as we're walking to the show and debating the merits of various courses of action in such situations, out of nowhere we run right into my uncle Paul. For most people, seeing a relative on the street is not such a big deal, but Paul's a bit different that your usual uncle. Long story short, he's a former child prodigy who finished grades 4-6 in 2 months and came to the U at the age of 15. After the concomitant isolation and alienation that inevitably accompany such meteoric rises in academia, he sort of withdrew from society. He now splits his time between a cabin up North that he built himself, and an apartment in the cities he keeps for when he works (he does freelance software programming and general computer wizardry). Anyway, he's the kind of guy you don't just run into. In fact, he's the kind of guy that you don't really ever see (I've spoken to him once in about the past 5 or 6 years, and he's my father's only living sibling). More or less the very last person you'd ever expect to run into on the way to an under-ground hip-hop show.
Then there was the show itself. I'm not entirely sure who put the bill together (or why), but I can only guess it was a drunken, blind chimpanzee with some sort of learning disorder. The show opened with the newest Hieroglyphics signee KnowName, who delivered a fairly good set. It would be the last for a long while.
He was followed by two terrible "college" acts from Brooklyn, Iller Than Theirs and Junk Science. Look, I'm all about breaking down racial barriers and I'm all for white people rapping, if they can. But you know what we don't need? A song about how hard it is for nerdy white kids to break into the rap business. You know, post-Eminem and the thousand other white rappers who have followed him, it's lost a little bit of its topical relevance. Also, if you have talent, it's probably easier to get respect. And as a performance note, if you have to angrily yell at those booing you as you exit the stage, it's probably a sign you didn't do that well, not a sign that you should stand on the stage yelling at people. For some reason, it doesn't make you look any better.
Then, of course, there was the obligatory hour-long pause between groups, which is understandable, since they were all using the same turn tables and mics and therefore no equipment had to be moved. I'm sorry Hieroglyphics crew; you're going to need to sell about 500,000 more albums apiece before you get to be that cocky and disrespectful of the audience. After wading through 17 more opening acts, we began to ponder how a musical form that develop solely out of live performances has become the worst genre to see live. I get it, you've made it semi-big and want to give back, but you know what? Not every relative you've ever had needs to be on stage. A lot of them are not good.
The final "opening" act (opening in quotes, because their horrendous set was about twice as long as Del's) was a terrible, terrible group called the Coughee Brothaz. Get it? Coughee? It's funny because they smoke weed, which makes you cough. Ha! What brilliance!
These cats were about the worst rappers I've seen in a long damn time, and I'm from Iowa. After an hour and a half of songs either about weed, pussy, or both simultaneously, even my brother who rarely comments on greater social constructs had to wonder aloud how the women in the audience could comfortably dance to such degrading music. Highlight lyrics--"It don't matter if she's black or white. Why not? Because they're all pink inside" at which point all of them would kneel down and make a pretend vagina with their hands that they could stare up into. Yep, that was about the level of intelligence.
Now, don't get me wrong, I understand the appeal of both, but you can only write so much about weed and sex. And sometimes I can be a bit more forgiving with people like Ludacris, who are terribly misogynistic but at least clever about it. These guys had none of the sort. Just ignorant rhymes delivered terribly with all sorts of latenly homoerotic posturing.
Finally Del got on stage, decked out in full Kool Mo Dee style. But our breif moment of hope and excitement was soon tempered as he gave up about half his set to friend A Plus, because we apparently hadn't had enough opening acts. Don't get me wrong, I like A Plus fine and all, but I did pay to see Del, not to see Del stand next to the DJ while this guy raps.
After about a 30 minute set, Del capped it off with fan-favorite Clint Eastwood, a questionable non-solo song choice for a guy who's worked with some of the greatest names in hip-hop. Normally, I'd be inclined to complain about such a short set form the headliner, especially when he's clearly drunk, but at this point I was just happy to get out and go home.
So at 2 in the morning, out 20 bucks and 6 hours of my life, I had learned two things: a) Del does not give the elctrifying live performance you'd expect form a performer of that caliber, and 2) the current state of hip-hop may actually be as deplorable as the nay-sayers make it out to be.
But at least I got one of the most surreal nights of my life, so I guess that's a positive...