30 November 2010
29 November 2010
I was looking up Mark Twain's birthday recently – he was born Samuel L. Clemens 175 years ago, today – and came across an altogether more interesting fact: G. Gordon Liddy – also born today, in 1930 – is an "American entertainer."
That's right: The man who headed up the Committee to Re-elect the President, who was later convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping on behalf of the Nixon administration, a man whose one true claim to fame is that he's a key player in the Watergate Scandal is an "American entertainer." He's a convicted criminal involved in the only political scandal to result in the resignation of an American President and he served over four years in prison for his crimes, but now he's an author, a public speaker, an actor, a celebrity.
And they say the American Dream is dead.
I've long been puzzled by how many of today's "stars" are famous for essentially nothing, but it's even more distressing that America is so fond of elevating even the most malignant blights on society to celebrity status. Especially in the age of "reality TV," there's this sick tendency to glorify our failings and prop up the kind of people we were taught as children to avoid, as "mavericks." As long as we're being entertained, who cares what someone has done in the past, right?
So, today is Mark Twain's birthday, a legendary American writer, who lived a life of genuine distinction, and on the same list of notable personalities born today, there is a convicted criminal, partially responsible for one of our country's greatest crises. And he's an "entertainer." The mind boggles at how readily we allow the media to manipulate history.
Happy birthday, Mark Twain.
Go fuck yrself, G. Gordon Liddy.
28 November 2010
My friend Chris Giarrusso is an incredibly talented (not to mention hilariously funny) writer and artist, probably best known for his work on Marvel Comics' Mini-Marvels, but at the peak of his considerable powers when working on his own series, G-Man. His work has also taken on another life as an inspiration to graffiti artists in the Bay Area. First there was a huge mural on 19th Street in San Francisco's Mission District, and now there's another on the corner of Shattuck and Vine in Berkeley.
27 November 2010
I haven't had to deal with death much in my adult life. Both my grandfathers died before I reached my teens, and since then I've lost an uncle, a good friend, and a beloved pet; mercifully, time was stretched long between each loss.
Every now and then, I'll write a few words to note the passing of a musician, actor or author who meant something to me, but that's more to acknowledge the work left behind, as I had no firsthand experience with the actual person. Today, though, I lost someone very dear to me, easily one of the most important people in my entire life, and it's about as different from reading about the passing of someone I admired from afar as witnessing a car wreck is from actually getting hit. I've battled with tears for hours, and everything I'd been planning or thinking about seems utterly insignificant.
I was going to write about shirts today, shirts and British pop.
I can't think of anything more meaningless at the moment.
Posted by e.s. at 3:21 PM
26 November 2010
Here's some more good TV: The endlessly adorable Aimée Ann Duffy on Later... with Jools Holland last month.
And not to take anything away from Duffy, but even though The Tube was huge during the '80s and Later... has been a BBC staple since 1992, I still find Jools Holland's continued success as a TV host somewhat remarkable. Before The Tube, he was the keyboard player in Squeeze – a fantastic band, perhaps, but definitely not a household name – and now that band is a footnote in the story of Holland's career.
The songs Duffy performed on Later... are all from her new album, Endlessly, which is due out next week. My first impression of the new material is that I like it all well enough, but that it suffers for Bernard Butler's absence. Your mileage may vary...
This has been a great year for The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman's Image Comics series has won multiple awards (Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series; Harvey Award for Best Continuing or Limited Series; Scream Award for Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel; Eagle Awards for Best American Comic (B&W) and Favorite Continued Story), and now Entertainment Weekly is proclaiming AMC's TV adaptation "the best new show on TV." The TV series has also been renewed for a second season, which seems rather amazing, given the show's gory subject matter. A television show based on a zombie survival epic seemed like a long shot to begin with; the fact it is actually a hit almost defies expectations. The comic book wasn't a sure thing, either, though, so it's been interesting to see the TV series follow a similar path to success.
As good as the show is, however, I think it's worth noting: The comics are much, much better.
25 November 2010
24 November 2010
21 November 2010
20 November 2010
When it was announced that The Beatles were finally coming to iTunes, many found the news a tad anti-climactic. Everybody has the albums, after all, either on CD or on vinyl, and the newly remastered albums have been available for download illegally for over a year at this point. Could there really be that many people willing to pay $1.29 per track to download the Fabs?
Looking at the Top 200 songs on iTunes today, The Beatles occupy 33 spots on the chart, ranging from "Here Comes the Sun" at number 34 to "The Long and Winding Road" at number 197. They hold 18 spots on the Top 200 albums chart, all but four of which are in the Top 40, and one of which is for the $149 "box set" that is essentially every Beatles album track, plus all the singles. (And that's at number 15 on the chart.) The top selling Beatles album on CD and vinyl for years, Abbey Road is currently at number four on the iTunes albums chart.
Not bad for a band that officially broke up 40 years ago.
The Beatles weren't perfect, though, so to celebrate their current success on iTunes, here's a list of my top 10 least favorite Beatles songs:
1. "Love Me Do," (single A-side, "Love Me Do," 1962)
2. "Matchbox," (US single A-side, "Matchbox," 1964)
3. "The Fool on the Hill," (Magical Mystery Tour EP, 1967)
4. "Wild Honey Pie," (The Beatles, 1968)
5. "Act Naturally," (Help! 1965)
6. "I've Got a Feeling," (Let it Be, 1970)
7. "Honey Pie," (The Beatles, 1968)
8. "Yellow Submarine," (Revolver, 1966)
9. "I Call Your Name," (US single B-side, "Long Tall Sally," 1964)
10. "The Long and Winding Road," (Let it Be, 1970)
18 November 2010
Well, somebody's questions, anyway, in the first of a series of short interviews based on questions from the readers at Bleeding Cool. If you're a comics fan and have questions of your own, feel free to either email Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post a question in the comments section for the Q&A.
17 November 2010
16 November 2010
Before Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, there was Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music.
Bryan Ferry is now 65. His current girlfriend is 28.
I was initially somewhat cool on his new album, Olympia, but it has grown on me after a few listens. As one of my friends noted, it's more or less "Avalon light," and in the absence of a real Roxy Music album, and with the involvement of Ferry's Roxy musos Brian Eno, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera, I suppose I'll take what I can get...
Everywhere I go there are more tears
With someone crying on a wall
Sobbing over beers
I'm waiting for a call to dispel old fears
We're all waiting for that call
Until the only thing to do is learn to live
Surrounded by the tears
Everywhere I go there are more tears.
Talk about pessimism and pain
I know that you feel sad
It's why you take cocaine
Believe depression is a fad
Enjoyed by the vain
And when you can't find the vein
Then you'll think the only thing to do is learn to live
Overwhelmed by pain
Talk about pessimism and pain.
I'm here to show you how to get home free
You throw away your key wrapped in the poetry
And all the faces your mom and dad will never see
But will you ever see?
That you will never find a home until you learn to live
A thousand miles from home
I'm here to show you how to get home.
I want to say something, some words to you
I know you saved my life, but how about you?
I know you saved my life, but what did you save?
Just an early grave
And now I spend almost every minute wishing
I could say anything to you
I want to say something, anything to you.
Everywhere I go there are more tears.
15 November 2010
14 November 2010
Once upon a time, way back in the '90s when I was a young man, I was very much a Blur fan. I liked Suede, I liked Oasis – I liked quite a lot of the music coming out of Britain at the time – but Blur was the band of the moment for me, and it was through Blur that I first discovered Pulp.
Or rather, finally gave Pulp a chance.
I'd been aware of Pulp for years, through the various British music weeklies I poured over on a regular basis, but for a variety of reasons, I was never inclined to actually give their records a listen. Then I went to see see Blur for the first time, at the Palace (now the Avalon, down there around Hollywood and Vine) in Los Angeles, in what I suppose would have been Fall, 1994.
I'm not sure I even knew Pulp were opening, but when we arrived at the venue, they were already playing. I caught the end of "Lipgloss," which I instantly realized I'd heard before, and then they were doing "Joyriders," and then... Well, then I was transfixed. And kicking myself that I hadn't caught their set from the beginning. Everybody always talks about what an amazing performer Jarvis is, but the whole band were completely mesmerizing that night. I'd never seen anything quite like them before, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Blur afterwards, it is the memory of that all-too-brief Pulp set that has managed to stick with me, some 16 years on.
And while I occasionally listen to Blur these days, every single Pulp album is on my iPhone and though I can't claim to listen to them daily, I do listen to Pulp often.
More often than usual, this week: After announcing an "extended hiatus" at the end of 2002, Pulp are returning for a handful of live dates in 2011. With that in mind, I give you my top 10 favorite Pulp tracks.
(And you can find more info about the upcoming live shows at pulppeople.com.)
1. "Pencil Skirt," (Different Class, 1995)
"If you look under the bed, then you can see my house from here,
So just lie against the wall, and watch my conscience disappear now, baby."
2. "Underwear," (Different Class, 1995)
"If fashion is your trade,
Then when you're naked,
I guess you must be unemployed, yeah?"
3. "Razzmatazz," (single a-side, "Razzmatazz," 1993)
"Am I talking to fast,
Or are you just plain dumb?"
4. "Joyriders," (His 'n' Hers, 1994)
"We can't help it, we're so thick we can't think,
Can't think of anything but shit, sleep and drink."
5. "The Birds in Your Garden," (We Love Life, 2001)
"Hold her and kiss her and tell her you care,
If you wait 'til tomorrow, she'll no longer be there."
6. "The Fear," (This is Hardcore, 1998)
"This is the sound of someone losing the plot,
Making out that they're okay when they're not,
You're gonna like it, but not a lot."
7. "Dishes," (This is Hardcore, 1998)
"I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials."
8. "Bad Cover Version," (We Love Life, 2001)
"I heard an old girlfriend has turned to the church,
She's trying to replace me, but it'll never work."
9. "Monday Morning," (Different Class, 1995)
"Oh, I know that it's stupid,
But I just can't seem to spend a night at home."
10. "Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down)," (We Love Life, 2001)
"You want someone to screw your brains out,
"I'd say they're running out of time."
13 November 2010
10 November 2010
09 November 2010
08 November 2010
The official video for this track isn't available for viewing here in the States, but here's Ian McCulloch and the Manics performing the majestic "Some Kind of Nothingness" on Later... in September. The single is due out early next month.
07 November 2010
Years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles and worked in Santa Monica, I used to cut through Beverly Hills and pop out in West Hollywood in attempt to outsmart the traffic on my way home. I'd emerge on Doheny and after a couple blocks, I'd see this wonderful textile block house that for a long time I assumed was built by Frank Lloyd Wright. No matter how frustrated I was with my drive, just the simple fact this place existed always seemed to cheer me up. After doing a little research, though, I discovered that while it was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, it wasn't the Frank Lloyd Wright, but rather, his son, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr., or as he was more commonly known, Lloyd Wright. The younger Wright built over 30 houses, mostly in Southern California, and this one, the Lloyd Wright Studio House, was built in 1927; the ground floor was his workspace, the second floor was his residence. There's not much information about this structure (or Lloyd Wright himself) online, and my photos hardly do it justice, so if you're in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend checking it out. Unassumingly tucked away between Sunset and Santa Monica on Doheny Drive in West Hollywood, it's one of the LA area's hidden gems.
1. Paul Heaton - "Even a Palm Tree"
2. Thelma Jones - "The House That Jack Built"
3. Big Maybelle - "96 Tears"
4. Duffy - "Well, Well, Well"
5. Howard Tate - "Night Owl"
6. Belle and Sebastian - "Calculating Bimbo"
7. Jimmy McCracklin - "How You Like Your Love"
8. 100 Proof Aged in Soul - "Never My Love"
9. Bryan Ferry - "You Can Dance"
10. Morrissey - "Oh Phoney"
05 November 2010
Aimee Mann. Top 10 favorite songs.
1. "Phoenix," (@#%&*! Smilers, 2008)
"You love me like a dollar bill,
You roll me up and trade me in."
2. "How am I Different?" (Bachelor No. 2, 1999)
"Just one question before I pack,
When you fuck it up later, do I get my money back?"
3. "Momentum," (Magnolia, 1999)
"I'm condemning the future to death,
So it will match the past."
4. "King of the Jailhouse," (The Forgotten Arm, 2005)
"I'll tell you a secret I don't even know."
5. "It's Not Safe," (I'm With Stupid, 1995)
"All you want to do is something good,
So get ready to be ridiculed and misunderstood."
6. "Humpty Dumpty," (Lost in Space, 2002)
"Get out while you can, baby, I'm pouring quicksand
And sinking is all I have planned."
7. "(Believed You Were) Lucky," ('Til Tuesday, Everything's Different Now, 1988)
"There must be some other door that they're saving
Behind which my happiness lies.
8. "Ghost World," (Bachelor No. 2, 1999)
"All that I need now is someone with the brains and the know-how
To tell me what I want..."
9. "I Can't Help You Anymore," (The Forgotten Arm, 2005)
"Was I the bullet or the gun or just a target drawn upon
A wall you decided wasn't worth defending?
10. "True Believer," (@#%&*! Smilers, 2008)
"I want you, but you're a poltergeist."
03 November 2010
I didn't get a decent photo of a single member of the team, but it wasn't hard to get shot after shot of the thousands of Giants fans that showed up for the parade celebrating their victory over the Texas Rangers in the World Series. The amount of positive energy coursing through the streets of San Francisco today was truly amazing and somewhat humbling. Don't stop believing, indeed.