Friday, December 21, 2012
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
Hammer - The Funky Headhunter
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Perfect
Lou Reed - The Blue Mask Interview Disc
George Segal - A Touch of Ragtime
Paul Horn - Inside the Great Pyramid
Sunday, October 14, 2012
|This play was front page news. Seriously.|
|Portrait of the artist as... well, something or other.|
|Arne and Ole. Seriously.|
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
John Carradine was a fine actor and the sire of a prodigious line of cinematic talent, but for fans of trash cinema his lasting legacy is his apparent willingness to appear in virtually any film so long as the check cleared. Z-grade directors looking to bolster their casts with some name recognition could always count on John. One would think that drive-in audiences would have eventually caught on that John Carradine’s name on a movie poster usually meant little more than three minutes’ worth of a gaunt old man putting forth the least possible effort, but somehow filmmakers considered this sneaky Carradinery a viable strategy for at least three decades.
Invisible Invaders (1959, directed by Edward L. Cahn)
Friday, August 24, 2012
Pictures of kids on Facebook, or POKOF, is a national epidemic, costing every American worker an average of several seconds a week of otherwise productive Facebook browsing. Browse any social media outlet and you’ll see the stories of trauma inflicted on innocent observers. According to no less an authority than Mashable, parents of small children are the number one source of annoyance on Facebook. Every day untold scores of childless Facebook users report mild psychological duress after being exposed to dozens of photos of babies who all look the same and are not nearly as special as the children’s parents believe them to be. Fortunately, most of these offenses are quickly reported to the authorities and/or the victims’ Twitter followers, but the problem continues to expand every day.
An innovative tech company recently tried to assist victims of POKOF by introducing UnBaby.Me, a Google Chrome extension that detects pictures of small children in your Facebook feed and replaces the offending images with photos of attractive women, dogs and other infinitely less scarring material. As beneficial as this app is, many Facebook users don’t realize that the social network already features a much more effective tool to end the suffering. Here’s a step by step solution to banish babies, toddlers and other undesirables from your feed.
- When a friend posts a kid pic, click on his or her name. This will take you to a profile page. Move quickly, as prolonged exposure to the offending material can have long-term side-effects.
- Hover your cursor over the “Friends” box underneath his or her banner photo.
- A menu will pop up. Scroll down to the option that reads “Unfriend.” Click it.
- Refresh your browser. The kid pictures should be gone, along with all other updates from and Facebook contact with that particular friend.
Some may think it harsh to ban a friend from your feed entirely, but it is a small price to pay for your peace of mind. Your friends are bearing daily witness to one of the most life-changing, awe-inspiring experiences existence has to offer. The care and upbringing of the children in those photos likely occupies 95% of their non-working hours, to the point that their kids are very nearly the only topic about which they can converse with any authority. Their sleep-deprived, monomaniacal thought processes may even assume that sharing an occasional glimpse into the joys and frustrations of their new lives might bring some happiness to their purported friends.
Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. It is your right and responsibility as an internet user to make sure that you are exposed only to images and experiences that are exactly tailored to your own tastes and interests. Remember that your friends’ children are in no way special. Only you are special, and it is your solemn duty to remind the internet of that at each and every opportunity.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Note before you click: This is not just a clip. This is the entire movie. You may not be able to extract yourself once you enter.
Special thanks to my man Joe Gibson for alerting me to that Nicolas Winding Refn article, and for putting up with my regular Milligan venting on Twitter.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
There are some downsides to palling
around primarily with artistic types – everyone’s broke, it’s hard to pull
together a pick-up basketball team, your social media streams are clogged with
Kickstarter requests, etc. – but there are plenty of positives as well. For
instance, when I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor last month, I was greeted
with a humbling outpouring of love and charity from my friends and family.
Support came in the form of food, flowers, cards, good vibes and, of course,
- I was initially diagnosed with a pituitary edenoma, which is a kind of benign tumor. Once the surgeons had me opened up, they discovered it was actually something called a Rathke’s cleft cyst, which has virtually the same symptoms and side-effects of its tumescent sibling but is both a little bit grosser and easier to recover from. I mention this because my friend Christopher “Patch” Conner’s immediate response to reading the phrase “pituitary edenoma” was to run it through an anagram generator. He came up with “a nude tiara poem.” A few hours later he wrote one. A few days later he recruited his guitarist friend Oren Rabinowitz to set it to music and record it. It’s a coffee shop head-bobber for sure.
- The multi-pronged creative force that is Oswald Hobbes also found a musical muse in my head, crafting an ambient soundscape called "Is Something on Your Mind, Ira." It kind of puts me in mind of Goblin’s soundtrack work from the ‘70s, which is of course a heck of a compliment.
- Oswald and his colleague/familiar Joe Gibson also invited me onto their delightful Audio Assault podcast, where we winnowed away an hour or so talking about brain tumors, Lou Reed and splatter movies. I also talk about what I wore to prom, the time I cut my toe half off and my personal bathing preferences. Must-hear stuff across the board, obviously.
- My godfather Jeff Wilcox – a working visual artist for four decades – is a reliable source of wonderful, weird imagery. He regularly posts photos from his Thrift Store Gallery series, in which he finds compelling objects at his local thrift store and juxtaposes them in intriguing ways. His latest was dedicated to me. It finds a young Justin Timberlake trouncing a circus clown and a hobo sailor in a creep-off for the ages. It is a thing of ineffable beauty.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
A few Thursdays ago I woke up feeling moderately hungover.
This struck me as odd, since I hadn’t even had my usual beer with dinner the
night before. When the feeling didn’t fade over the course of the day, I
presumed I was coming down with whatever dread malady my son had brought home
from day care this time.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
*I have been informed that the one with glasses is actually Harry, not Pete. This may invalidate my entire thesis. Apologies.
Friday, March 2, 2012
It's Lou Reed's birthday, and that means it's time for my annual birthday blog. This being his 70th, I've decided to skip the irreverence and go with some full-on fanboy gushing. In the nearly two decades that Lou's been a big part of my life I've developed a go-to roster of favorite songs that could easily stretch into the hundreds. For this blog, I've culled the field to a lean 25, presented more or less in the order of my preference. (Here's a Grooveshark playlist for easy consumption.)
A couple of caveats: I'm excluding Velvet Underground songs and covers in the interest of making this list as as Lou-ish as possible. Feel free to disagree with me or make your own additions in the comments. And happy birthday, Lou. May there be many more to come.
Romeo Had Juliette (from New York, 1989)
Most short story writers would kill to pen one perfect opening or closing line. Here Lou Reed pulls off both in less than four minutes. (Respectively, “Caught between the twisted stars, the plotted lines, the faulty map / That brought Columbus to New York” and “Something flickered for a minute / Then it vanished and was gone.”) This scuzzy-sweet story of young loves, street corner hoodlums and urban decay is the essence of Lou. His wit, his poetry, his vitality, his eye for finding beauty in ugliness – they’re all showcased in one perfectly crafted masterpiece.
Street Hassle (from Street Hassle, 1978)
It was the late ‘70s. Everybody was doing rock operas. Not everybody, however, was condensing them into a single, string-driven 11-minute song packed full of death, drugs, prostitution, misogyny and junkie philosophy, with a little space left over for a Bruce Springsteen cameo. The dealer’s shockingly callous spoken word set piece in the middle (called “Street Hassle” on the album sleeve, making it the titular movement of the record’s titular song) is the highlight for me, but this is genius from start to finish.
Kill Your Sons (from Sally Can’t Dance, 1974)
What do you do when your parents commit you to an electroshock ward at age 17 in an attempt to cure your homosexual tendencies? Write it all up into a searing, sardonic howl of nihilistic numbness, of course. Lou was never punker than he is here, nor were many others.
Baton Rouge (from Ecstasy, 2000)
I count this as one of the saddest, loveliest songs I’ve ever heard. Lou fills this disarmingly honest reminiscence of a failed marriage with quickly sketched images both wistful and painful. Perhaps the most affecting element is the narrator’s not-quite regret upon seeing photos from his ex’s daughter’s wedding. As he momentarily loses himself in a fantasy of the all-American family he’ll never have (nor honestly want), the bittersweetness becomes almost unbearable. Maybe the most underrated song in Lou’s entire canon.
Magic and Loss (from Magic and Loss, 1993)
I hold Magic and Loss as the finest album about death anyone’s ever made. Whenever someone close to me dies, I make a point of sitting down and listening to it front-to-back as soon as I have the chance. The album as a whole, and this closing track in particular, goes a long way toward easing the pain. In my hour of darkness, I can’t tell you how reassuring it is for me to hear Lou repeating his gentle reminder that “there’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out.”
Caroline Says II (from Berlin, 1973)
I rank Berlin as one of the three greatest records Lou ever made, but the album is such an organic whole that it’s tough to single out any one song. This heartbreaker stands out as a severely damaged woman’s deceptively pretty send-off to the abusive husband she can’t abide any longer. “You can hit me all you want to / But I don’t love you any more.” Just devastating.
Like a Possum (from Ecstasy, 2000)
I can understand why some people might find 18-minutes of Lou Reed bellowing about possums over a droning, repetitive guitar riff unappealing. Those people are dead wrong, of course, but I can understand where they’re coming from. Personally, I can’t get enough of it. I have a pet theory that Lou’s much-maligned Metallica collaboration Lulu (which I’m on record as kind of liking) was his attempt at expanding the magic of “Like a Possum” across an entire album. Sadly, it didn’t quite work.
New Sensations (from New Sensations, 1984)
At its core, this is just an amiable ramble about this one time when Lou had a really fun day riding his motorcycle. Somewhere along the line, though, “New Sensations” becomes a whole lot more than that. Maybe it’s the production, the imagery or just the relative contentment in Lou’s delivery, but it winds up being an exhilarating anthem of feeling good and being free.
Sword of Damocles (from Magic and Loss, 1992)
It takes guts to face down the powerlessness of watching a loved one dying slowly. To do so as honestly and unflinchingly as Lou does here is just plain remarkable. “I’ve seen a lot of people die from car crashes and drugs / Last night on 33rd Street I saw a kid get hit by a bus / But this drawn out torture over which part of you lives is very hard to take.”
Walk on the Wild Side (from Transformer, 1972)
At this point it’s almost enough of a cliché to turn me off, but it’s not for nothing that this remains Lou’s defining song after all these years. The lulling bass line, the skittering guitar, the almost-whispered vocals and of course the Colored Girls and their “doot-d-doot-d-doots” make it every bit the classic it’s cracked up to be. Unlike “Perfect Day,” whose ubiquity has finally made me weary of a song I once loved, this one will never wear out its welcome.
Dirt (from Street Hassle, 1978)
Street Hassle is hands-down Lou’s grimiest album (as well as my personal favorite). Aside from the title track, this is probably the nastiest offering on the record, a spiteful takedown of some unknown poseur. There’s something about Lou inexplicably quoting Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law” in the middle of his tirade that sends chills down my spine every time.
Waves of Fear (from The Blue Mask, 1982)
A harrowing portrait of self-loathing, withdrawal and general misery set to a big, burly guitar riff that eventually devolves into spastic squalling. “I cringe at my tremors / I hate my own smell / I know where I must be / I must be in Hell.” What’s not to love?
Doin’ the Things that We Want To (from New Sensations, 1984)
A celebration of Martin Scorcese, Sam Shepard and the artists who make life worth living, this is an endlessly exhilarating tribute to creative genius. The opening verse, where Lou describes his reaction to watching a live performance of Shepard’s A Fool for Love, is a miracle of minute observation.
Wild Child (from Lou Reed, 1972)
Throughout the early ‘70s, Lou had a weird penchant for songs that strung together a jumble of grotesque character sketches and half-realized puns. (See also: “Andy’s Chest,” “Oh, Sweet Nuthin,” “She’s My Best Friend.” Heck, even “Walk on the Wild Side” could fall under that umbrella.) This is my favorite of the bunch, a darkly cheerful display of wordplay for its own sake. I’m especially fond of “I was talking to Ed, who’d been reported dead by a mutual friend / He thought it was funny that I had no money to spend on him.”
Last Great American Whale (from New York, 1989)
There are a lot of undeniably weird entries in the Lou Reed song book, and this might be the weirdest of all. It’s just your standard story of a story of an endangered, sentient, possibly amphibious whale who seems to moonlight as some sort of anti-racist superhero. Hearing this song for the first time when I was 15 confirmed for me that this Lou Reed cat was somebody I could really get into.
The Power of Positive Drinking (from Growing Up in Public, 1980)
This playful tribute to all things alcoholic is probably the straight-up funniest song in Lou’s repertoire. His snide portraits of various breeds of barfly are as universal as they are well-observed. Drunken self-justification doesn’t come much better than “Some say liquor kills the cells in your head / But for that matter so does getting out of bed.”
I Believe (from Songs for Drella, 1990)
The climax of Lou and John Cale’s brilliant, operatic remembrance of Andy Warhol is this furious piano ballad tracking Valerie Solanis’ botched assassination attempt. Lou’s decades-old indignation is palpable as he takes us inside multiple heads – Valerie’s, Andy’s and his own – in a plainspoken but complex pastiche of the day the Factory dream died.
The Last Shot (from Legendary Hearts, 1983)
Lou’s songs about his long and varied history with substance abuse are always winners for me. The casual matter-of-factness of this one sets it apart from most songs about kicking an addiction. Lou sounds almost blasé delivering theoretically horrific lines like “I shot a vein in my neck and I coughed up a Quaalude.” As the chorus goes, “When you quit, you quit,” and you can almost believe that it’s just that easy.
What’s Good (from Magic and Loss, 1992)
This preamble to what’s arguably Lou’s most powerful album sets the stage for all the confusion and soul-searching to follow, and still allows a little shimmer of hope to seep through all the cynicism. “What’s good? Life’s good (but not fair at all)” pretty much sums up the human experience as I see it.
Egg Cream (from Set the Twilight Reeling, 1996, though I prefer the version from the Blue in the Face soundtrack)
Childhood remembrances in Lou Reed songs are seldom positive things, but this salute to the quintessential New York beverage of his youth is buoyantly infectious.
Growing Up in Public (from Growing Up in Public, 1980)
The title track of an excellent album that’s often unfairly derided, this one features my all-time favorite pseudo-pretentious Lou Reed lyric: “They’re quasi-effeminate characters in love with oral gratification / They edify their integrities so they can prey on your fears.” Who else would have the temerity to slip that onto a major label rock album in the mid-1980s?
Temporary Thing (from Rock and Roll Heart, 1976)
Maybe the best of Lou’s numerous ‘70s “I’m Mr. Big Stuff” songs, this one is all swagger and sneer propelled by a sinister, insistent combination of piano and percussion.
The Heroine (from The Blue Mask, 1982)
This one is an anomaly in the Lou Reed catalog, and especially in the context of The Blue Mask. On an album that veers unpredictably between domesticity and depravity, the last thing one expects to find is Lou murmuring a murky seafaring metaphor accompanied only by a laconic guitar strum. But damned if it isn’t all the more effective for its incongruity.
Riptide (from Set the Twilight Reeling, 1996)
A grim, primal howl of guitar and macabre imagery churning along over Fernando Saunders’ perennially underrated bass work. It’s pretty cool that Lou’s gotten more and more metal as he’s grown older.
Lisa Says (from Lou Reed, 1971)
Lou’s cycle of “__ Says” songs are beloved for good reason, and this is the best of the pre-Berlin bunch. There’s not a whole lot to it, just a character sketch of a lonely young lady, but it’s one of the prettiest little songs Lou ever put together.