Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Endorsement - PC to TV Converter

This little gadget's great if you want to hook up an older VGA-output-only laptop (like my Gateway MX3560) to your TV. If your laptop's got an S-Video out, don't bother, of course (just hook it straight up). I use it for Hulu, Lost, Netflix streaming video and ZSNES emulation on a Zenith RB50M88W 50 in. rear-projection TV and it works perfectly. Just make sure your laptop's resolution is set at 800 x 600, and don't expect clear text. Full screen video (especially streaming HD), however, is near-DVD quality. Pair this with a wireless mouse with decent range to act as your remote, and you'll have no reason to leave your house, ever. I mean, who would even care or notice if you did come out of your little cave? Gregory? Ha! The shine got rubbed off that penny years ago, my friend. Let it go. The honeymoon's over, sweetheart, even if the little bedshitter never had the sac to propose. Technical specs:

  • Composite, S-video, YCbCr (component) and VGA-Ii and VGA-out for simultaneous TV/computer display
  • Inputs: VGA; Outputs: VGA, composite video, S-video, component video, RGB (separate cable req'd)
  • Powered by the USB port on your computer
  • No software necessary
  • Automatically saves your adjustment settings.
  • $99.99

Monday, November 3, 2008

At the National Park Service Christmas Party

MP3: Bonnie "Prince" Billy - So Everyone

Virginia is a whore tonight, and this pond is her soul

clean only to the catfish
who’ve yet to plug ‘clean’ into a search engine.

No cat eyes in the dark tonight,

only the eye of an expensive flashlight

ordered from a catalog with captions in Cyrillic

(lighting the air around

kidnapped professor’s wives

tied to the only cigar tree in Aurora County).

Until tonight, I knew the moon best
through the anecdotes of werewolves.

My spine is a spiral staircase.

I am an ATM repairman

drinking whiskey from a silly straw.

May 2005

[Photo via]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Silver Jews on Pitchfork.tv

I want to be David Berman when I grow up.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

10 Songs

Photo by shesaskeleton

10. Headlights: "Cherry Tulips" | First heard Headlights on WOXY while designing The Mule News like two years ago. Had them all wrong: heard "Put Us Back Together Right" and thought "a chilled-out Mates of State" but it's totally Yo La Tengo. So this would be their throwback song like YLT's "Mr. Tough."

09. Animal Collective: "Fireworks" | So this hasn't gotten old at all. Experimental psychedelia without the hippie couture and jam band dreck trappings.

08. Bonnie "Prince" Billy: "World's Greatest" | Oldham's R. Kelly obsession is endlessly fascinating to me. BONUS POINTS: (1) My wife thinks it's pretty. (2) HE SAYS 'AXE' FOR 'ASK'!

07. Buffalo Tom: "Kitchen Door" | Oh Buffalo Tom! I remembering using one of those terminals at Barnes & Noble in Independence, MO, searching for WHO THE FUCK sang that song, the song from "Self-Esteem," my favorite episode of My So-Called Life. It wasn't on the soundtrack, the name of the song ("Late at Night") isn't IN the song, and my junior high school wasn't online yet (must have been '96-'97). I don't think I was alone on this one, even though most people kind of slept on BT, and they went downhill pretty fast. NB: Chris Colbourn > Bill Janovitz; "Kitchen Door" is a fun throwaway song, but Colbourn's singing, so it's pretty great.

06. The Caribbean: "William of Orange" | Wow. Used to have this MP3 saved on my "P: Drive" at MWSC (the little bit of online storage space they gave us). Had a lot of stuff on there, actually. No Mp3 player, no home computer/ laptop, what do you do? I think I downloaded it b/c they were supposed to sound like Death Cab, but now I realize that was just lazy music journalism (is there any other kind?) and they really sound like The Sea & Cake meets, shit, I don't know -- Jim O'Rourke?

05. Deer Tick: "Beautiful Girls (Sean Kingston Cover)" [MP3] | A work in progress:

04. Desaparecidos: "Greater Omaha" | Man this song is cathartic. Y'know, internet, I feel like I'm finally at a point in my life where I really don't care what others think about the music I like/love. I had a shitty phase there for a bit where this was like a "guilty pleasure." What the fuck? Why feel guilty about enjoying anything? (Within reason). [1] And as far as the negative reviews this got: "... pop music criticism, more than any other form of art critique, is sociologically unnecessary in the internet age. Where once (in best cases) critics protected us from bad bands and/or helped us get to the good ones (and/or enlivened and possibly directed the course of the medium), interested parties can, with but little digging, access and debate music in real time—long before critics, who have to wait for release dates, buzz schedules, and other synergistic complicities demanded by their advertisers." [via] So there. | [1] Now I'm not saying everything's relative, or there's no accounting for taste -- nope. There's good art and bad art, and good taste and bad taste -- I'm just saying you shouldn't feel guilty, internet, about what you like. Full stop.

03. Guided By Voices: "A Salty Salute" | Anyone remember "Off The Beaten Track"? On Kansas City's 107.3 FM, like ten years ago? No? This was the show's theme song, and fuck I feel old.

02. The Halo Benders: "Mercury Blues" [YouTube] | Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening and Doug Martsch of Built to Spill. Funny anecdote about Calvin Johnson: "After separating himself from the K Records scene, Kurt Cobain famously denounced Calvin and Olympia: 'I made about five million dollars last year and I'm not giving a red cent to that elitist little fuck Calvin Johnson. I'm not gonna donate a single fucking dollar to the fucking needy indie fascist regime. They can starve. Let them eat vinyl,' wrote Cobain in an unsent letter. He dubbed Calvin's followers 'Calvinists' and portrayed them as a gang of stuck-up hipsters." [via] Ha! "I made five million dollars last year! And you can't have it!" There's your punk rock messiah, kids.

01. Kathy McKarthy: "Living Life (Daniel Johnston Cover)" [YouTube] | Played over the closing credits of Before Sunrise. Got me into Daniel Johnston. I remember staying up until 3 o'clock in the morning just so I could watch BS for the second time on cable. Made quite an impact. I wanted to talk like Ethan Hawke. Now I want to talk like an unholy amalgamation of Christopher Hitchens and David Foster Wallace (I think).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Muddy the Joy

MP3: Titus Andronicus - No Future (Part One) "The problem with hype is that it transforms the use value of a would-be work of art into its exchange value. For in the middle (there’s no end) of the hype cycle, the important thing is no longer what a song, movie, or book does to you. The big question is its relationship to its reputation. So instead of abandoning yourself to the artifact, you try to exploit inefficiencies in the reputation market. You can get in on the IPO of a new artist, and trumpet the virtues of [Titus Andronicus] before anyone else has heard of them: this is hype. Or you issue a “sell” recommendation on the overhyped [Titus Andronicus]: this is backlash. But there are often steals to be found among recently unloaded assets: “Why’s everybody hatin’ on [Titus Andronicus]?” says the backlash-to-the-backlash. The sophisticated trader is buying, selling, and holding different reputations all at once; the trick in each case is to stay ahead of the market. And the rewards from this trade in reputations redound to your own reputation: even though the market (i.e., other people) dictates your every move, you seem to be a real individual thinking for yourself." [via]

Titus Andronicus - No Future (Part Two) "Because our taste in music is a widely and readily understood shorthand for identity, we often seek public ways to exhibit it, even though this betrays its origins in that private, inarticulate satisfaction. Why are we so quick to do this? To muddy the joy we derive in hearing music as it is, objectively, by mixing with it all the provisional, mediated characteristics that stem from how it is hyped, how other people regard it, how we’ll be regarded when we champion it? Could it be that without all that extraneous context, there isn’t much there to consume? Are we at some level secretly aware that the intrinsic qualities of the songs we profess to like for no reason other than to please ourselves are not all that deep and sophisticated?" [via]

MP3: Fourth of July - The Faint "You'll get along just fine with Brendan Hangauer. The frontman of Lawrence, Kan., septet Fourth of July, Hangauer knows what it's like to be an under-30, hopelessly romantic Midwestern kid who likes to party and address last night's regrets in fleet verses and big, grinning choruses lined with rock'n'roll guitars and handclap rhythms. After all, Hangauer is an under-30 white kid from the Midwest, and so-- on Fourth of July's endearing debut, Fourth of July on the Plains-- that's exactly how he writes, sings and arranges. Even if you don't identify with his demographic or his particular plight-- trying to balance a long-distance romance and his own vices-- you'll likely understand the feelings they bring." [via]

[Photo by Miet Van Hee]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Place Exchanging Shame

  • MP3: The Hold Steady - Constructive Summer "The use of 'um' and 'uh' is a tactic of speakers who are speaking self-consciously ... They observed drinkers in bars and found that drinking alcohol reduced 'um,' though the method is somewhat impractical for everyday use: to become fully 'umless,' a drinker would need to drink nineteen beers." (via)
  • MP3: Hot Chip - Wrestlers "The idea that 50% of marriages end in divorce is just an oft-repeated myth. It's a statistical flub that comes from comparing the number of marriages in a given year to the number of divorces in a given year. However, since the marriages and divorces aren't occurring in the same year, this doesn't give an accurate picture of how many marriages are failing and is notoriously susceptible to population dynamics. Your actual chances of a failed marriage are about one in four, and the 50% figure is considered to be statistical nonsense." (via)
  • "People see each other all the time
    and they can't always figure out how to act,
    so it sometimes seems as if the dandelions
    growing silently behind the high school
    are the only truly outstanding reaction
    to existence,
    and perhaps because I thought
    I had no argument with the world
    until the backyard mosquitoes
    started penalizing my hands
    and Wayne of Wayne's Hair Systems
    and Jimmy Food Hill combined
    to not let me near you,
    it came as such a horrible shock to notice
    you looked so damn beautiful
    beneath Bob's silver maples
    that I about shit my heart out." (via)
  • MP3: The Books - That Right Ain't Shit "Stop whining and start finding something to do about the men who’re dragging your ass in the mud. And y’know what’d be a great start on that? Stop letting your buddies slide when they say things that make you wince on the inside. Yeah, you know you do it. I do too. It’s a bad habit either way. Cut it out. Oh, what, you’re not willing to do that? You’re afraid you’ll lose friends over it, and you don’t feel you should have to pay that price, and it doesn’t occur to you that maybe a friend who doesn’t really see women as human isn’t really anyone you’d want to call a friend, after all?" (via)
  • MP3: Japanther - Fuk Tha Prince a Pull Iz Dum "One time when I had an office job right after college a co-worker asked me if I wanted to go to a strip club for lunch one Friday, because the woman with the Guinness Book of World Records' largest breasts would be performing. I said yes, because, well, how often do you get asked that question? So we went, and I had a cheeseburger (not bad), a Budweiser and watched a woman with breasts like oblong beach balls dance to AC/DC. I won an extra bucket of beer for answering a trivia question, and I remember quite clearly sitting in the smoke and Angus Young vibrations, eating my burger and drinking my Budweiser and watching the giant breasts bounce and thinking to myself, 'goddamn it, I live in America.'" (via)

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Tastemaker

Drawing by Eden Veaudry

Cupcake - Vacation The review came out, a week earlier than expected. "Whatsitsay?" says Brewer, talking and lighting his cigarette at the same time. "She doesn't taste it," I say. "What?" says Brewer. "Well, she's the Tastemaker," I say, snapping the newspaper crisp, "and she doesn't taste it. Says she's 'had her finger on the pulse of the scene so hard for so long she's forgotten she's touching a corpse.'" Brewer scratches an eyebrow, ashes on a leaf in the swimming pool. "We have a scene?" he says.

My wife had a journalism class with the Tastemaker a few semesters ago, and said she would keep her headphones on the entire period, without a rebuke from the instructor, who would slip demo tapes into her graded portfolios. "Bitch," my wife explained.

We're considering -- my wife, Brewer, Brewer's girlfriend May and I -- a public tarring and feathering of the Tastemaker, if only we can get enough signatures and, of course, the Mayor's approval (Brewer's dad's in the tar business, and feathers aren't hard to come by -- our park is full of nervous swans and pigeons).

We all know the Tastemaker is wrong; we know this like we know our SSNs and PINs and what the cover charge will be. Like we know those black Xs they put on May's hands won't be gone until Monday. Brewer suggests duct-taping PBR cans to the Tastemaker's hands so she won't pick at the feathers. "Empty cans," I add. "Empties and I'm in," says my wife, who (bless her heart) hates to let things go to waste.

We have a meeting downtown, open to the public, where the Cub Scouts typically have their meetings. Pennants on the wall, a few walking sticks in a bucket by the door. Fifty or so in attendance. "I agree the Tastemaker must be stopped," says the Mayor, fidgeting with his many rings. "So why don't we just ride her out of town on a rail?" Someone in the back coughs. "No rail," Brewer says. "Tar and feathers we got. No rail, though." The Mayor knocks arrhythmically on the table, half-heartedly, like he's about to name that tune. "Your dad still in tar?"

Cupcake plays that night, after the meeting, at a pub down the street. The Mayor, busy with preparations, does not attend. The Tastemaker, however, to everyone's surprise, is there, and she takes notes with a little flashlight pen during "Vacation," Cupcake's opening number. "The nerve," says my wife. A steel bucket of tar sits, slowly cooling, inside Jeff's bass drum. My wife and May wear feathers in their hair like politically incorrect Cherokee princesses.

I daydream the chorus to "Vacation" literally melts the Tastemaker's face off, like Linda Hamilton in T2, or those Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and we're all too busy smiling and yelling and clapping and relieved by our good fortune to check for a pulse. I snap out of it, clap like my palms are on fire, and see, in my periphery, May and my wife dancing behind the Tastemaker, PBR cans clutched tightly in each hand, clucking and pecking at her shoulders.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Cyclops Hates Blues Rock

Odilon Redon - The Cyclops

Destroyer - I Want this Cyclops We've taken in a stray Cyclops, my wife and I. Our landlord said "nothing in a cage, nothing in a tank" but The Cyclops came to our door with beer and cigarettes, told us he knew a friend of ours, was told we might have a spare bed to crash on. So we let him in.

The Cyclops is an affable creature. He's well read, clean. Said where he came from he wasn't wanted. Said Cyclops like him aren't wanted much anywhere. My wife and I are sympathetic. We don't ask questions unless we feel prompted. We want The Cyclops above all to feel comfortable, at home.

Are we afraid of The Cyclops? No, we are not. Despite what you may have heard, they're gentle giants, grossly misrepresented in the media. There was tension at first -- The Cyclops stuck in our guest room's narrow walk-in closet; The Cyclops' stubborn libertarianism -- but we were soon relieved to discover The Cyclops, too, hates blues rock. We had a few hearty laughs at the expense of the bloated genre and its irritating excesses, and all was soon well. The Cyclops aping Stevie Ray Vaughn, his giant eye closed tight in mock concentration, his ape-like fingers strumming the air. Ha! My wife's new favorite thing.

The Cyclops will soon return home for Christmas (we do not inquire further). I dreamed last night The Cyclops left us, as tokens of his appreciation, a few hastily wrapped presents on our mantle. For my wife, he leaves a knotty war club with a giant bent nail through the center. She smashes our coffee table and smiles. "We don't even drink coffee!" For me, he leaves what appears to be circular serving tray, or maybe a mirror. I scratch at the fault line of clear tape and peel away the gold paper. Hysterics. "What?" says my wife.

"A monocle!"

Monday, November 26, 2007

MP3 Cakewalk

  • MP3: Jets to Brazil - Sweet Avenue Finn's second favorite lyricist, supposedly. I bought this when it was new, but sold it. The only song from Orange Rhyming Dictionary that doesn't make me cringe.
  • MP3: The Rogers - Backpack Live at The Rendezvous, December 1, 2007. Wait -- really? Cupcake, Pompous Pilot, Holy Mother Exhaust and The Rogers are so incestuous and sporadic with their live appearances they should just merge into a local collective called Ma'am (a terrific name for a band, b/t/w) and play one huge show every month.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Abiding a Frost

Photo by the amazing Jay Huster.

  • In ultra-local music news, Cupcake posted a new track on their MySpace (their best recorded effort yet, but Marc's voice is all Robo-Bowie and deep fried -- which is cool, but his voice deserves to be prominent in the mix -- and, of course, nothing compares to their live act): MP3: Cupcake - Autobahn 14 Todd Ward from Steel Wool Mill brings his distinctive voice (think a higher-strung Jay Farrar or Michael Gira) to a new project called The Beat Common. For the Sound's new EP is called The Saddle Maker's Son (thusly named using the patented "Iron & Wine Song Title Generator 3000").
  • MP3: Why? - The Hollows Yoni Wolf from Why? is probably the gutsiest lyricist in indie rock: "In Berlin I saw two men fuck in a dark corner of a basketball court/ Just a slight jingle of pocket change pulsing." "The Hollows" is from their latest, Alopecia (click here for tracks from Elephant Eyelash, my favorite album of 2005).

Monday, October 29, 2007

You Gotta Know


Gowns - Cherylee I find myself listening mainly to "singles" lately, and that's not to say "Top 40" singles or actual singles w/ b-sides purchased in some brick-and-mortar record store. I mean MP3 blog "singles," and if you've ever spent any time using The Hype Machine or Skreemr you know what I mean. MP3 blogs traffic in singles, pushing the best tracks from an album (regardless of whether or not they're legal to post or actual "singles"). It's not that "THE ALBUM IS DEAD," of course, it's just that it's far easier to share one song that destroys you with your friends than it is a 64-minute opus. And, often, you're eager to share the music of a band you know nothing about, and it's easier to post a single track and focus on it than it is to go into detail about how you really don't know anything about the band but the song made your work-week tolerable and your wife or boyfriend or whatever is singing along, too, and you find yourself inventing errands just so you can drive and play the song way louder than usual b/c your apartment has paper-thin walls.

I don't know why this song is called "Cherylee" or what it's really about; I also know pretty much nothing about the band except Status Ain't Hood had a nice write-up about them, so much so that I had to track down an MP3. What's the hype? Well, vocally, Gowns' Erika Anderson sounds sort of like Amanda from The Dresden Dolls w/o the anachronistic histrionics, and the music is moody Low-level slowcore. There's no real song structure here; it's all just wiry, noisy tension and a piano coming from the basement of some house party you've been at for too long sounding oddly poignant even though it's just some underage kid trying to play "Imagine" while the "grown-ups" upstairs talk about socialism and car insurance. When Ms. Anderson sings "You gotta know" it's like

etc.; the point being that they could just be reciting the names of Negro League outfielders the rest of the song as long as that line remains intact, selling it and making it feel like an incantation.


*From "Late at Night," a beautiful song every indie-rock band here to Jens Lekman's doormat should be revisiting and triumphantly covering (St. Joseph, MO's The Mistresses [my wife's band] have taken on the task, and proven it's pretty much a perfect pop song).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Bars of St. Joseph, MO - #1

619 Felix St., St. Joseph, MO

Commonly known as "The 'Vous" and often misspelled as "The Rendesvous" or "The Rendesvouz" or "The Raconteurs" on show flyers, The Rendezvous is St. Joseph, MO's premier dive bar.

  • It's the best place in town for live music, unless you're a Blueshammer fan, and then it's Magoon's (an otherwise incredible bar/deli).
  • There's no lock on the men's room door, so guys have to kick their foot back against the door for privacy.
  • The house DJ plays mainly shitty "alternative metal" when there's not live music, but DJ Sumo spins on Tuesdays, and he'll play Europe's "The Final Countdown" if you ask him nicely.
  • Only moderately threatening. Fights break out often, especially when it's getting late on a Friday or Saturday night and the mouth-breathers from Shooter's pool hall wander over and argue the $3 cover charge.
  • Only one tiny television in the whole bar! If you were deaf, it could be 1981! (Related: "When did banks of muted televisions become the popular design choice at every restaurant in the country?")
  • $1.50 PBR cans; Guinness on tap and Stella in bottles.
  • Used to have a "BYOCD" night (Wednesday, I think) where they'd play at least two tracks worth of pretty much any CD you brought in. It was up to the bartender's discretion when to cut it off, though, and they'd stop your CD mid-song if they felt like it. I brought in cLOUDDEAD's Ten one night and it got yanked b/c the bartender thought "Rifle Eyes" (MP3) sounded like "two songs playing at the same time."
  • The latrinalia in the men's room updates more than most blogs. One of the oldest "tags," in black marker on the condom machine, says "PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO PUNK ROCK SUCK DICK EVERY DAY."