Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Subjects for further review: "Protect Ya Neck" by Wu-Tang Clan

Before ODB went over the top (R.I.P.), before they had #1 albums, before most anyone cared, you know what they were? They were a grimy, undaground version of Leaders of the New School, only more than twice as big (in numbers), obsessed with chop-socky, and with a secret weapon: the best producer of the '90s.

Subjects for further review: "Through the Walls" by RJD2

Talk about being smacked upside the head - I was expecting good-to-great turntablism a la DJ Shadow based on what I'd heard, but this is the greatest unreleased Cars single of the past 20 years. Only it's a little off, featuring as it does some metalesque riffing (which is, I think, actually turntablism) and an angular, no wave-ish keyb figure. Have I mentioned that it's really fucking great? And has vocals?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Blog news: J.D. Considine is blogging (and has moved to Canada, though not because of the election). And lo and behold, rockcritics daily is back already. Sadly, looks like Nate's done blogging (for now, at least), but I can't bring myself to de-list him.

Fun links: a bunch of 1981 Smash Hits covers (check out Julian Cope almost looking pop-idol-ish!), and a collection of many, many complete Cashbox charts (that's 100 positions, folks) spanning from '73 to '89.

More movies.

The bf and I finally rented last year's Elf, despite my Will Ferrell issues, and I'm glad we did. Directed ably by Jon Favreau, it's largely sweet and light like a '60s claymated Christmas special. I was ready to fill myself with righteous indignation if Elf sneered at the holidays, but it doesn't. And refreshingly, it's suitable for all ages. Fitting, since I think this one'll be watched by all ages for many, many years ahead. Not great, but good, and sometimes that's enough. B

Jonathan Caouette's edited-on-an-iMac-made-for-$218 Tarnation is a fascinating film, in some ways more performance art than a traditional movie. This auto/biographical documentary look at Caouette's past, and specifically his mother's history of mental illness, is a difficult film to watch, and one with images which really will linger in your head. [Much has been said about the scene in which an 11-year-old Caouette plays an abused wife, and it is a gut-puncher of a scene.] Caouette's clearly a talent to watch, but I'm glad he's not a member of my family, sticking that videocam in my face. B+

It took a lot of chutzpah to make a film like Kinsey in 2004. Already the subject of great right-wing handwringing and bemoaning (it's about sex! And nothing else!, they say), Oscar-winner (for the Gods and Monsters screenplay) Bill Condon's directorial debut is a knockout, one of the year's finest. The cast should be showered with Oscar nods: for starters, Liam Neeson gives the performance of his career as Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the famed sex researcher; if not for Jamie Foxx in another biopic you may have heard of, the Oscar would be Neeson's to lose. Laura Linney's Mrs. Kinsey is quietly stunning; she doesn't have any big, showy scenes, but just provides exactly the backup needed exactly when it's needed. As Kinsey's father, John Lithgow returns from the planet of hammy actors to remind us that, yes, he really does have chops (his last scene in the film is heartbreaking in the best way). And playing Dr. Kinsey's right-hand man Clyde Martin, Peter Sarsgaard shows not only the full monty but his heart in an emotionally taxing, oh-so-good performance. One of the best biopics, not just of this year, but ever. That's right, ever. A+

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The version of "Oceania" by Bjork featuring Kelis is so magically odd, so unexpected, so never-heard-anything-quite-like-this, it can't miss (if, at least, you're a fan of either or both of these colossus singers). This take is simply the album version with Kelis taking over on half of the vocals, and it crackles with energy and weird tension. It's available on the UK import of "Who Is It," and I recommend it very, very highly. A

Did someone say MVP?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Guess who's back, back again. Well, which blog, I mean.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

You likely know about Band Aid 20, to be released 11/29 in the U.K. But did you realize that Dizzee Rascal's on it?? And more importantly, do you remember Band Aids 3 through 19?

I'm behind on my film reviews, way behind.

Taylor Hackford's Ray is a simply great biopic. Except for one brief moment, you simply don't realize that Jamie Foxx is playing Ray Charles. He is Ray Charles, period. This film plays much more like a documentary (albeit one ever-so-slightly sensationalist) than a biopic. Hackford's direction isn't perfect; it's a bit heavy-handed at moments, but is largely effective. The performances, however, make the film. Kerry Washington smolders as Ray's wife, and Regina King, as a Raelette Ray has an affair with (which ends badly), continues to evolve as a dramatic actress (remember her major start, in a supporting role on 227?). But here's the thing: for all of the glowing reviews, for all of hype Foxx has received, you will still be stunned by the power and glory of his performance. That in and of itself makes Ray a must-see. A-

Sideways is a week in the life of two guys travelling through California wine country, one of whom will be married at the end of the week. Director and cowriter Alexander Payne just goes from strength to strength - I didn't think he could top About Schmidt, but he clearly has, in not just the script, but the tone and feel of the film. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church shine in the lead roles, but the film's true revelation is Virginia Madsen, heretofore known largely for starring in b-movie after b-movie. As a divorced waitress, she's electrifying, giving a performance of quiet intensity. It's difficult to explain in words what makes Sideways so sterling, in large part I think because this is the whole package. Sideways is 2004's best film by far, touching, witty, biting, and heartbreaking. A+

Pixar has made great films before, as everyone knows, Toy Story and Finding Nemo foremost among them. But until now, they'd never made a film about humans. In The Incredibles, however, they've done more than they ever have previously, in terms of story. I was reminded of classic Hollywood while watching Incredibles, in that it's got everything: humor, romance, action. And in direct contrast to most recent animated films, it's refreshingly not larded down with popcult references. Brad Bird should have assured himself of the Best Animated Feature Oscar with this achievement. A

Still on my to-see list: Fade to Black, Birth, Tarnation, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and Kinsey.

rockcritics daily is dead, long live sm woods.

"Rebellious Republicans Derail 9/11 Reform," the headline says. Do I really need to say any more? Okay, I'll bite.

Republicans: making America less safe.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Subjects for further review: "Don't Be Afraid (from Juice)" by Aaron Hall

If I were you, I wouldn't believe him when he says it's his first time. But I'd still get down.

Subjects for further review: "IT IS ON!" by United State of Electronica

Daft Punk's "One More Time" done as live indie-rock, and taken to its logical conclusion.

Subjects for further review: "Clarity" by John Mayer

Not smarmy, not so self-involved, pretty actually, with a lovely arrangement. Think early Lloyd Cole - really! Mayer may have something to him yet, Bruce Hornsby impulses perhaps? I mean, the previous model's getting a bit old, could use a fresh one.

Many people will tell you that the Oscar-endorsed "Lose Yourself" - or lately, the brand-new "Mosh" - is Eminem's crowning, definitive moment. They'd be wrong. "Lose" is Em in, whaddaya know, battle-rap mode, firing off serious, to-the-bone rhymes. It's sincere, joke-free, and sensational, don't misunderstand me. But it's only one side of Slim Shady's coin. "Kim" and "Stan" are the other, non-cartoon side ("The Real Slim Shady" and "My Name Is..." might as well be novelty records, though "Without Me" is more like it), his darker personage (not persona, yes there's a difference) - and his most vital. "Kim" especially. "Kim" is a tough listen, rally, vulgar and truly obscene, violent and horrific. It's also surprisingly funny at times. Not to mention very primal scream, John and Yoko-esque primal scream, hardcore Jung primal scream. Acting out revenge fantasies (on your wife, no less) is not so often the stuff of pop landmarks, but Eminem was, it would seem, born to bust every mold - the Elvis comparisons make more sense with each passing year, recording, benchmark. [And as is the case with the rightfully much-maligned "Just Lose It," it's wise to remember that Presley released some utter crap, too.] What kills the most, though, is an almost tossed-off line in "Kim"'s midsection, where Em says "Kim! Kim! Why don't you like me?" He sounds laughable and pathetic, as in pathetically sad, at that moment, which leads the way to his screamed "I loved you!"s later on; those are nothing but raw pain, the bride truly stripped bare.

Which is alarming, and which is also tremendous pop.

Speed round:

Thanks for the goodies, you and you (the goodies I'm referring to are this and this, and they're both damned fine).

Is it wrong that I actually like Falco's cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"?

There's an obvious joke to be made here - so obvious that I'll abstain.

Unhappy Dems (and those friendly, etc.) really should read this rather immediately (link from Matos again).

FYI, Andy and Jess, both of whom you should be reading regularly anyway, have been on posting tears. The weekend would be a good time to catch up.

If I was asked, I'd gladly endorse this fast-food salad, which is really pretty great. I recommend the Creamy Garlic Caesar dressing.

Any UK pals want to get me this, seeing as how my birthday's coming up? A Deluxe Edition of The Lexicon of Love? Wow. I've been waiting years for this, and didn't even realize it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

We all have those uncool albums in the backs of our closets, the ones that we inexplicably love, no matter what the critics, or our friends, say/think about them. Some may eventually be saved by critical re-evaluation (many non-rockists, for example, are starting to come around on Shania Twain), and some fairly clearly never will (Rush, please pick up the white courtesy phone). I’ve got one of the latter lurking behind the outdated clothes in my wardrobe, and I’m coming out of the closet about it.

I L-O-V-E love Sting’s Bring on the Night, his double live album released in 1986. This was a document of his Dream of the Blue Turtles tour, when he befuddled many, many of his fans by embarking on a solo career which essentially involved him fronting a jazz-fusion combo led by Branford Marsalis. Night is nearly never obvious; alongside a handful of Turtles tracks (none of which were singles), he takes on a number of unheard gems from the Police catalog. The best-known track prior to its inclusion here is likely "Demolition Man" (here medleyed with "The Dream of the Blue Turtles") – and that may be due more to the fact that Grace Jones covered it than by any recording involving Sting.

Some critics at the time loved it, especially the rockists who got to look broad-minded, and pretend to care about jazz, thanks to der Stingle. [I think Parke Puterbaugh reviewed it for Rolling Stone.] But especially since its initial release was Europe-only, it was largely ignored in the U.S. And for every critic who liked the set, there was another who went back to the "Sting’s a pretentious twat" well, generally suggesting "now he thinks he’s a jazzbo? Fuck that, man. When’s the new Ornette coming out?" [Conversely/perversely, I seem to recall the folks at Down Beat loving it, if only for the attention it brought to jazz (and Branford in particular, at the time one of the brightest new stars of jazz in nigh on 2 decades, alongside his brother Wynton).] I mean, c’mon – Night was at least as jazz-cred-deserving as anything Miles was releasing at the time (which largely consisted of covers of Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper songs; if you don’t recall, let’s just say that it was a somewhat fallow period for Mr. Davis).

Frankly, it’s just not cool to express love for Sting’s work these days. He’s seen as the epitome of yuppie music, making pop records just world music-touched enough to seem "exotic" to 30- and 40-something professional couples. His tour this year with Annie Lennox was a boring Caucasian wet dream. And also frankly, Sting’s work these days isn’t worth much expression of love; by and large, it’s tepid by-the-numbers songcraft he’s already done so much better, decades ago. While I liked parts of Brand New Day (particularly the ambient pop of "A Thousand Years," made even better by an astounding ambient-dubby remix done by Bill Laswell - hunt it down), his last great album was, what? The Soul Cages, maybe, well over 10 years ago? So it may be hard to recall that in the ‘80s, honestly, Sting was largely unstoppable.

Not only were the Police firing on all cylinders at the decade’s outset (and yes, I do think their swansong, 1983’s Synchronicity, is also their artistic peak), but Sting’s first two solo albums, were widely and justifiably praised. 1987’s ...Nothing Like the Sun was artsy without seeming arty, intelligent, mature pop/rock which effortlessly blended literary drop-ins and Hendrix covers alongside Sting’s masterful pop instincts ("We’ll Be Together") to craft a superb whole. But that came after this Night; what preceded it was 1985’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles, a record which caught almost everyone off guard upon its release. Jazzy where Police records had been reggae-influenced, Turtles was a natural extension of his songwriting in the Police, but much more explicit in its geopolitical worldview ("Children’s Crusade," "Russians") than Sting had been before. And while it was jazzy, and while Sting's band was jazzy, it was jazz via Steely Dan, not Coltrane.

And what of this Night? It swings, man. Even Police songs like "When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around" and "Another Day" swing in the hands of Sting and this band - so different from the Police, but in so many ways, not. Just as tight, but able to get looser than Sting's former trio-mates, they imbue Sting's songs with a lightness that you don't expect to hear. And Sting himself has got a certain joie de vivre going on, so thrilled is he to be playing with this bunch of new turks. It was recorded mostly in Paris, and you can tell; the crowds are much more receptive to these (relatively) new sounds (for Sting) than they would've been in the UK or US at the time.

There are only 13 tracks here spread across two discs, including an 11-minute-plus opener on each one, and no song clocks in under 4 minutes. There's also not a single clunker here. The most expansive, most free album Sting ever made is also his best, ever. A

I've added my top 5 films of the year to submeat '04, and revised the singles and albums lists, as well (including a new #1 single). You know, in case you're curious.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Holy shit. Rest in peace, ODB. Headz will never forget your crazy, genius ass.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ray and Sideways are the two of the best films of 2004, so go see 'em.

It's not just the Middle East fighting a holy war - it's the U.S., too. Any questions?

Hot new college hoops blog, y'all, appropriately just called College Basketball. Check it.

He was by no means a perfect leader, and he certainly could have done more to help achieve peace in Israel and Palestine - but regardless, I had quite a bit of respect for Yasser Arafat, who has just died in Paris (1929-2004). I firmly believe Israel to be a terrorist state, systematically murdering Palestinians year after year. It's called ethnic cleansing, folks. Ariel Sharon has blood on his hands just like President Bush does (regarding Iraq), and continued U.S. unequivocable support of Israel continually disgusts me. Hopefully, some day, there will be peace in the Middle East. God bless Yasser Arafat. R.I.P.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Blogging the 38th Annual CMA Awards (while wondering if I'm the only P&J voter who does such a thing):

8:08PM PST: Shania presents Song of the Year right off the bat (after a great opening perf by Tim McGraw of "How Bad Do You Want It?") - and yup, it goes to Tim's "Live Like You Were Dying," which only a pigfucker could argue with. What a great, classic, CMA-winning-sounding song to follow in the fine tradition. Wow, and the songwriters get a standing "O." Oh, no he di'n't! One of the winners (both Nashville men) just said "I wanna have Tim McGraw's baby."

8:14PM: Gretchen Wilson performs "When I Think About Cheatin'," her new single, which proves definitively that she's got the goods. Not only does she sing superbly, but this song is stone country: it could've been a single 30 years ago. It's always been one of the standouts on the album, and I'm so glad it's a single now.

8:20PM: Whoa! This new version of "Mockingbird" by Toby Keith and his daughter Krystal (who's got some pipes on her, good-not-great but still good) is radically, well, Toby. Sure's hell don't sound like James Taylor, that's for sure. It's all bluesy an' shit, and I like it enough to make it tip the scales on whether or not I should get his Greatest Hits 2, and the answer's "hell yeah." Plus it's got "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This," one of the best tough-guy ballads evah.

8:27PM: Nice, succinct tribute to Ray Charles from - hell, either Brooks or Dunn, I don't know - nicely reminding people that Ray was country, too.

8:31PM: Martina McBride can do these set pieces in her sleep, can't she? And you wonder why she's the reigning Female Vocalist?

8:35PM: Vocal Event goes to Brad [Paisley] and Alison [Krauss]! Woo HOO! I do so love that the CMAs award real country music.

8:39PM: Thanks to Big & Rich's perf of "Rollin'," the word "crunk" was just heard for the first time at a country awards show. God bless America. Or at least Big & Rich.

8:51PM: It was just an aside, but whoa, "Whiskey Lullaby" took Video of the Year! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you CMA Award winner, Rick Schroeder. [He directed.] But why the fuck wasn't "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" even nominated?! Single, btw, went to Tim. I'm starting to sense a sweep... could this be his year to win Entertainer?

8:56PM: Billy Currington looks so much like a sexy '70s gay porn star - but did you hear the news in today's USA Today? Shania originally asked Toby to sing "Party for Two" with her - and he said yes! But, unfortunately, their schedules didn't sync up. Doing "Party for Two" as a reworking of the video was NOT such a good idea, however. But I guess with a song as gloriously cheesy as this, there's not much alternative.

9:12PM: First sighting of leather pants, on a guitarist in Kenny Chesney's band. Are they from International Male?

9:15PM: Lord, Reba's "He Gets That From Me" is a gut-punch of a song - and have you seen the video? It's so Reba, and it's so great.

9:17PM: Second sighting of leather pants, on a member of Lonestar. Thank goodness they're not performing, just giving out Vocal Duo. To, whaddaya know, Brooks & Dunn, for the 13th of the last 14 years. Excuse me while I stifle a yawn.

9:25PM: It's Action Jackson (that's Alan), doing his new single, "Monday Morning Church," with the incomparable Patty Loveless on backing vocals. Damn, their voices sound good together. Patty's one of the finest performer's I've ever had the privilege of seeing live, on 2002's Down from the Mountain tour. Hearing her harmonize with Ralph Stanley was truly chill-inducing, in a good way. And re: "Church," if it's the big hit I assume it'll bee, wanna bet it'll be up for some of these trophies same time next year?

9:29PM: Randy Travis won Album of the Year back in '87 with Always and Forever, and now he's presenting it - just like the Grammys like to do (have previous winners present Album, I mean). And oh. My. Gosh. It goes to Kenny's When the Sun Goes Down, who's not only seated in the front row next to Reba, but gets a standing "O" - not so surprising, in that it's his first-ever CMA Award. I think, however, that this is the first major misstep of the CMAs tonight: i.e., 10 years from now, no one's going to think, "yeah, that Kenny Chesney album sure is/was a classic!" But you can't get 'em all, I guess.

9:44PM: Terri Clark's performing with an all-girl band (which led the bf to ask, "Are they all-lesbian?" I replied, "Well, they're from Canada." Brickbats to the usual address). Shame about the live version of "Girls Lie Too" being so damned limp, even if the studio version does feature one of '04's funniest lines: "Yeah, that looks good! Comb it over like that. *Growl!*"

9:48PM: Is it just me, or do Pat Green and Phil Vassar look a little alike?

9:56PM: Hall of Fame: Willie, of course, inducts Kris Kristofferson, singing the hook from "For the Good Times." And - oh, wow, this makes sense - Faith Hill singing the 1971 Single of the Year, written by Kris, Sammi Smith's "Help Me Make It Through the Night." As much as I love Randy Travis, though, something feels a little off about hearing him sing part of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" - maybe 'cause I don't buy that he's ever "wish[ed] to Lord that [he] was stoned." How much do you love that all four of the Highwaymen are finally in the Hall of Fame?

10:10PM: I "heart" Keith Urban.

10:12PM: Is it just me, or do Dierks Bentley and Billy Currington look a little alike? Of course, the major difference between them is that Dierks is gonna be around for a while, I think, and makes great singles like "How Am I Doin'."

10:15PM: Male Vocalist is Keith Urban! This is by far the night's biggest upset, and Nashville is thrilled - another standing "O." I love his self-deprecating-ness: "I thought I was just rounding out the category." Welcome to the big leagues, Keith - and damned if you don't deserve it.

10:18PM: My home state's WFMS is the only station to win both Air Personality and Station of the Year in its class (Large Market), so congrats to them.

10:24PM: Damn if Julie Roberts doesn't sound like a career artist, even if she won't win the Horizon Award. Because of course Gretchen does; fortunately, she also sounds like a career artist.

10:31PM: Proof that the bf is not a country fan, or even listener: he's kinda-sorta freaking out over Montgomery Gentry's outfits, i.e. "they're strange, and jump around strange[ly] ... and [Eddie Montgomery]'s mike stand is chain-link!" Third sighting of leather pants on Montgomery, btw. And their performance was really half-assed.

10:39PM: Hall of Fame: Reba classily reads the Teleprompter and inducts the man who signed her, Tanya Tucker, George Strait, and Garth Brooks, among many others: Jim Fogelsong.

10:41PM: Rascal Flatts are the male, country version of Wilson Phillips, without the lineage. That's not meant as a compliment.

10:51PM: I like this take on "Hey Good Lookin'" - the Jimmy Buffet and friends version - because it feels like a lot of fun. And frankly, it works better live, when it's a little ragged and rough around the edges. [I'm still glad this lost Vocal Event, though.]

10:55PM: Where would country music be without Dolly Parton? She's here to hand out Entertainer to... Kenny Chesney?! Stunning. Yeah, he had a big year (another #1 album on both the country and pop charts, more #1 country singles, and a huge tour), but I'm still shocked; he just doesn't seem to have the gravity for this award. And will Toby ever win this? [Oh, and CMA? You do NOT play the Entertainer of the Year off the stage just so that CBS affiliates can make their late news right on time.]

10:58PM: David Wild wrote the show?? David friggin' Wild?!?! Good night, indeed.

Oh, by the way, still on the political tip: if last week's U.S. elections have caused you to decide that you're moving to Canada/France/the Netherlands/et.al., go right ahead and go, you whining bitches. 'Cause you know what? Those of us determined to make this a better nation don't fucking need or want you. If you're leaving, you're quitting, you're giving up, and you're a waste of my time. Have fun, and don't forget to leave your U.S. citizenship at the border.

Tonight's the 38th annual CMA Awards, and hell yeah, I'm excited. This is the biggest night of the year in country music; there may be other awards in the genre, but these are the most serious - it's the Country Music Association which awards these, who's in charge of the Hall of Fame (Kris Kristofferson gets inducted tonight). Plus, no awards show has more performances, pound-for-pound; there are about 30 performers slated for tonight. So, who's gonna win? [Here's a list of the nominees.]

Single: Reaction record of the year x the biggest Nashville breakout since the Dixie Chicks = a nearly unbeatable "Redneck Woman." If Alan Jackson wins this, the CMAs are officially his bitch.

Song: A tough call. Jackson and Brad Paisley have emotional entries here, as does newbie Josh Turner (Gretchen Wilson's likely a non-factor here), but I've got a sneaking suspicion that Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying," released just after his own father passed away, takes the trophy.

Musical Event: Paisley's duet with Alison Krauss just killed, plus it was a top 5 hit, plus you can rely on every traditionalist in the CMA to vote for it. The Jimmy Buffet-and-friends "Hey Good Lookin'" is the dark horse here, only because it's got 4/5 of the nominees for Male Vocalist on it.

Album: Kenny Chesney still isn't seen as a serious enough artist, and Paisley and show hosts Brooks & Dunn just don't have enough support this year, which makes this a showdown between Wilson and Toby Keith. Because she's the only woman in this category, and such a hugely new star, give Wilson an edge, but only just.

Speed round:
Male: Toby, though never count out Alan. But it feels like Toby's year.
Female: When in doubt, go for the safe CMA bet, 2-time reigning champ Martina McBride.
Group: Rascal Flatts, duh.
Duo: In a close vote over Big & Rich and Montgomery Gentry (coming off a career year including their first-ever #1 single), it's Brooks & Dunn again.
Horizon: Hmm, who ever could win this new artist trophy? Gretchen Wilson, just maybe?

Entertainer: This is the big prize of the night, and yet again this year, it's an all-male crop of nominees. Again, I would never entirely count out Alan Jackson (the reigning champ), but I think this year it comes down to the two kings, Toby and Tim. And after a year like he's had - controversy-free, no less - can you vote against Toby? I think not; he finally nabs the big one.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Regarding last week's election and my comments thereon, I got an email from my old pal Gaz:

What up, ace? Seriously wishing you still had comment action on your blog, because your recent political posts would've been great fodder for more public dialogue. Sounds like you and I have been in similar bubbles the last few days. Are we surprised? Sadly, not really. Befuddled? A bit. As in "how can *this* be the current state of the union?" People, by and large, are fucking nuts. Especially in this country.

Like you noted, I was most surprised of all that "moral issues" would be the most-cited concern among voters. Given the shitstorm in Iraq, the (as we would be led to believe) constant threat of terrorism, and the state of the U.S economy, this is truly a mind fuck.

My approach? Be steadfast and ride this out. This is admittedly a fallible assumption, but I can't help but hope that the current wave is still forged in morality honed in the 20th century, and it'll get better. What're today's geriatrics complaining about, the profanity-tattooed skinhead two doors down in the nursing home? Right. It's the skaters on the corner. The kids. The kids that are doing and thinking all the things that "we didn't do in back in my day." Sure, there are plenty (scarily so) of young republicans out there, but by and large you see the cultural shift slowly going in the right...sorry...correct direction. Yes, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in reaction to reader response, is forced to print and apology for printing a photo of Britney and Madonna kissing, that's bad. When fines are levied against broadcasters for a breast-baring Super Bowl halftime show, that's bad. But living in a time when such a show can even be choreographed for live TV is getting is there.

I say: sit tight, love who you want to love, be who you want to be, and wait for the chronically uptight to die off. Thanks to the current lack of appropriate public funding for embryonic stem cell research, today's 80-year-olds won't see 100. But you and I will. In a marry-the-fuck-whover-we-want-to-marry marrying, legally dope smoking, hydrogen car driving, pro-choicing, gun-disowning nation we can finally be proud to be a part of, where the NEA and military budgets are reversed from today and finally make fucking sense.

Peace, my brother.


He's been one of my closest friends for over 20 years, now. And if you can't figure out why after reading what's above, then you don't know me very well at all.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Subjects for further review: "If Only You Knew" by Patti LaBelle

An anomaly in Patti’s catalog, and not just because it’s, believe it or not, her only solo R&B #1. No, the real reason is because it’s so subtle. LaBelle is a superlative singer who often lets her natural gifts get in the way of her songs, oversinging beyond belief: "Over the Rainbow," indeed. But on this gem of a single, she tones it down and takes a gentle approach; "If Only" isn’t bombastic, it’s delicate, which is certainly not something commonly associated with Patti LaBelle singles (why d’you think she’s so popular with drag queens?). There’s even a woodwind solo – no, really, a woodwind solo. Less is more, and this proves it.

Subjects for further review: "December 4th" by Jay-Z

Is there a better storyteller in hip hop? Nope. Hove can even include his Mom on the track and not get it all schmaltzy. Jigga’s backstory in under 5 minutes – how you love that?

Subjects for further review: “And the Beat Goes On v.2” by LoudBomb v Whispers

He slices! He dices! Bob Mould, under his electro-happy LoudBomb guise - yes, that Bob Mould – takes his musical ginsu knife to a fair-to-middling Whispers track from 1980 and makes it zing, pumping it full of caffeine and Yank filter-disco chop-shop vibes. It’s light-years away from "See A Little Light," but if it doesn’t move your ass, yours is clearly full of lead.

Subjects for further review: "Stacy’s Mom" by Fountains of Wayne

Sure, it’s the best Cars single of the past 15 years, but that’s not the key to its greatness. It’s the sadness hidden inside: "Since your Dad walked out, your Mom could use a guy like me" isn’t smarmy nor snarky, it’s a heartfelt "I’m sorry" to Stacy, and it gets me every time.

Subjects for further review: "Ryde or Die Bitch" by The LOX featuring Eve and Timbaland

"Fuck diamonds, all [bitches] really want is rough-ass sex." And that pretty much sums up this masterstroke from the LOX – a/k/a Jadakiss, Styles, and Sheik, thanks to ace production from Timbo (centering around an acoustic guitar lick that almost sounds like a ukelele), a lovely chorus lacing from their compadre Eve (at her nastiest, which for her often means best), and raw, raw lyrics from the Ruff Ryders trio.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

11:12AM EST: Word’s just in that Senator Kerry has made the traditional "congrats" call to Bush, and is going to concede shortly. I am befuddled and dumbfounded. How did this happen?! The economy is not great. There was a net loss of jobs under Bush’s watch. The war in Iraq is fast looking more and more Vietnam-esque. Bush’s approval ratings are below 50% - yet he won the popular vote by a good 4 million votes. I really don’t understand how 51% of the electorate determined that Bush was the best guy to be – in this case, remain – president. This means that our foreign policy quagmire will get worse in the next four years, the cultural war gripping the U.S. will get even more fierce, and in some ways most importantly, the Supreme Court will get tipped to the right for the next 25 years, minimum. With Bush in the White Office and Republicans controlling the Senate, Dubya can push through just about anyone he wants to the nation’s highest court. Is America, by and large, really becoming increasingly conservative? Do I live in some sort of political bubble? I just don’t know.

12:20PM EST: Of course, after the "what happened?" in the post-mortem, the next stage is "what next?" And specifically, what’s next for the Dems? They failed all around, losing more seats in both the House and Senate, and losing the presidency. Bush became the first presidential candidate to get more than 50% of the popular vote since his Daddy back in ’88. So were the Dems too liberal? Not liberal enough? Too wishy-washy? And who runs in ’08 against we-don’t-know-yet? The results of this election say to me that there’s no way Senator Clinton could win as the Democratic candidate in 4 years; the implication from the exit polling is that the Dem candidate needs to be more center-right, as the "most important" issue cited by voters was "moral values." Besides the "WTF?!" factor, it’s worth recognizing that this, by and large, means conservative values: anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, et.al. So, how do liberals get a candidate in the White House? Do we have to run a social moderate-to-conservative/fiscal moderate as the Dem candidate? Shit, I’d argue that we just did, and his name was Kerry.

12:57PM EST: Ballot initiatives were a big deal across the country, the majority of them regarding gay marriage and civil unions – and ‘mos lost all 11 of those. Even in Oregon, where it appeared we’d maybe-just-maybe get a "no" vote, we lost. The country as a whole seems to definitely not be ready for gay marriage, which leaves it to the courts – which is precisely what proponents of these measures fear. I’ve said for a number of years that the Supreme Court will eventually legalize same-sex marriage, knocking down DOMA and its children, but now I’m not so sure, since Dubya will get to nominate, likely, multiple judges to become Supremes. Have we pushed too hard, too fast? Something to think about.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

2:38AM EST: CNN - which is about the only network which has not called Ohio for Bush - now has the electoral vote at Bush 249, Kerry 242, with Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Mexico as yet uncalled and Iowa and Ohio out of play until at least Wednesday.

2:00AM EST: when the 2004 election really started to get interesting. Iowa announces that due to "fatigue" and some broken-down vote-counting machines, there won't be a vote tally there until Wednesday, at least. CNN calls Ohio "too close to call," and makes it a green state. And Dem insiders tell CNN that the owner of the Red Sox has readied his private plane to ferry Dem lawyers "wherever" they're needed for recount measures. Not to mention that there are myriad provisional ballots out there, there are absentee and military ballots yet to be counted... the fat lady hasn't even begun her warmups yet, folks.

I certainly hope, if you're a U.S. citizen, that you voted today. If you didn't, frankly, I really don't know what your fucking problem is. How could anyone be apathetic about this election?! It's gonna be a very late night, folks... More thoughts once we know more.

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