Blogs

Go Home Productions: Everything Must Go!

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 8:45 PM EDT

Gone Home Productions
The Metallica of bootleggers, otherwise known as Mark Vidler, has posted basically every single thing he's ever made in a series of grouped "online compilations," over at his website. This is the guy who made the legendary Blondie-meets-The Doors combo "Rapture Riders," as well as like 90% of the top 100 best mashups ever made. Full disclosure: I'm a bit player in the, er, "mashup scene," or whatever, and we've had Mr. Productions over to DJ at our mashup club and stuff, but I promise my adoration is by no means logrolling—his astounding work stands on its own.

When you head over to his website, there's a couple options: first up, for those unfamiliar with Go Home, there's a link to grab a compilation he's calling This Was Pop (2002-2007), featuring 20 of his most appreciated and influential tracks. "Girl Wants (To Say Goodbye To) Rock & Roll," marrying Christina Aguilera to Velvet Underground, is a highlight: Vidler's work always makes the originals sound tangential, like the new mix is how the music was always supposed to be.

For completists, grab one or more of twelve (!) grouped collections of his work, featuring, in total, hundreds of bootlegs, remixes, and random tracks. It's all free, but the links are all to file-sharing sites like RapidShare, and demand is high; you might have to keep trying, but I assure you it's worth it.

Vidler is one of the few mashup artists to score legitimate, artist-approved releases, putting out the album Mashed this year, which featured both his and other producers' work. But as he seemed to acknowledge in an e-mail message to fans, the time it took for the album to wind its way through the approval process seemed to take its toll, and its release was greeted with little fanfare. The lack of appreciation (or financial reward) for even the brightest mashup artists seems to be taking its toll as well, as many (including Vidler) are making announcements of "leaving the scene;" French superstar DJ Zebra (again, full disclosure: I'm DJing some dates with him in France later this year) is moving on, and Australian Team9 (my partner in Dean Gray) has also made noises about "retiring" from bootlegs in 2008. What's up, mashups? It's easy to call the phenomenon "dead," but then I hear something new from some random guy in Stockholm and I think, "there's life left in this musical phenomenon yet." What do you think, oh Riffers: have reports of mashuppery's demise been greatly exaggerated, or should we go back to enjoying one song at a time like respectable music fans?

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Neato Viddys on the Intertubes: Music/Movie Mashups

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

So yes, mashups can be many things: two or more songs put together, and then you can make a video to accompany that; or they can be like a Google map with something else laid on top of it, or who knows what. Here we mean "a song set to the wrong (yet somehow so right) video, in this instance scenes from movies." We can get to the other mashup concepts later.

Soulya Boy - "Crank Dat" vs. Bambi
In which the steel drum-featuring megasmash is set to classic Disney animation, and the New York Times pays attention

Depeche Mode - "Suffer Well" vs. Tron
In which the melancholy UK synth-poppers provide an appropriate soundtrack to the 1982 film that I totally have to rent and watch again like right now.

Junior Boys - "In the Morning" vs. Bande a part
In which the melancholy US synth-poppers seem to inspire some coordinated dance steps in the classic Jean-Luc Godard film

Sunni Insurgents Launch Assassination Campaign

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 5:04 PM EDT

It began with the September 15 killing of Abu Risha, a Sunni tribal leader in Iraq's Anbar province who had been cooperating with U.S. troops against Al Qaeda in Iraq, and who had met with President Bush only a week before his death. Since then, Sunni insurgents have continued with targeted killings of other tribal leaders, police chiefs, police officers, and other Interior Ministry officials. The New York Times reports that in the last 48 hours alone, insurgents have staged 10 attacks, killing eight and wounding about 30 others. From the Times:

The latest outbreak of violence closely follows the concerted efforts of President Bush and Gen. David H. Petraeus to portray the American troop "surge" as having succeeded in bringing more stability to Iraq. Iraqi officials said Tuesday that the attacks might well have been intended to blunt that message.
"The main reason behind all these attacks are the signs of improvement of the security situation mentioned in the Crocker-Petraeus report," said Tahseen al-Sheikhly, the Iraqi spokesman for the security plan, in a reference to the recent Congressional testimony of General Petraeus and the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker. "The terrorist groups are just trying to say to the world that the report did not reflect the reality of the security situation in Iraq."
Mr. Sheikhly played down the recent violence, though, saying the groups were seeking publicity to compensate for their inability to conduct major offensive operations, which have been sharply curtailed by the surge.
Indeed, the enormous car and truck bombs that plagued Baghdad for so long have been absent in recent weeks. But the string of attacks this week served as a reminder of the insurgency's persistence, particularly in areas outside of Baghdad and its environs.
In addition to the attack on Monday in Diyala, insurgents struck in Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Falluja, Kut and Samarra. The strikes occurred primarily in mixed areas of Shiites and Sunni Arabs or in exclusively Sunni Arab areas where there is fighting between Sunni Arab tribes and extremist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Each attack on its own would hardly be notable, since almost every day in Iraq brings a few roadside bombings and shootings, but so many attacks singling out similar victims suggest a more concerted campaign.

New Music: Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature / Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 4:46 PM EDT

No phrase can make the heart sink quite like "singer-songwriter." Patchouli seems to waft out from between the words along with all the most hippie-tastic implications of "folk music," and a cue to set your self-indulgence force fields on maximum. While both Iron and Wine (aka Florida-based Sam Beam) and Argentinian-Swedish José González are beardy guys with guitars, they've transcended the stereotypes in very different ways: the former bringing in his buddies and aiming for an aural maximalism, the latter isolated in a kind of monkish self-denial. But both have made spectacular albums.

Iron and WineThe Shepherd's Dog, Iron and Wine's third album, will immediately surprise anyone familiar only with Beam's whispery cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights;" the first track, "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car," with its jaunty beat and multi-part harmony, is already more New Pornographers than Nick Drake, although, like Drake, Beam's delicate voice softens these songs, even when there's a lot going on. It doesn't take long for more musical influences to pop up: "Wolves" has a roots reggae feel that's just this side of jam-band, again held in check by Beam's soft-as-silk vocals.

mojo-photo-josegonzalezlg.jpgCritics talk about the Argentinian influence in Swedish-born José González' work, but I'm not sure: his precise, almost repetitive guitar work and James Taylor- reminiscent voice express such a bleak world-view, it seems unfair to foist that on a whole country. In Our Nature, expressly concerned with, well, man's inhumanity to man, doesn't always avoid the pratfalls of political folk music: "How Low"'s line, "invasion after invasion," makes you cringe a little with its awkwardness. But at other times, the restrictive palette, enhanced by a stomp on the down-beat or a bongo slap, seems to explode into a thundering storm of emotion, made all the more powerful by its humble origins.

Both Iron & Wine and González owe debts to Nick Drake, who despite the lovely 2000 Volkswagen ad featuring "Pink Moon" remains criminally below the radar. While González aims towards a melancholy, electronica-covering update of Drake's folky style, his barely-30-minute-long album seems more a collection of songs; Iron and Wine's album (over 50% longer!) succeeds as such partially because of its surprising stylistic turns. In any event, after listening to both, I'm getting out Drake's Bryter Layter for afternoon happy time coffee break listening. After all this tear-jerky music, somebody might want to just check on me later.

Stream all of Jose Gonzalez' In Our Nature at his MySpace, ditto Iron and Wine's The Shepherd's Dog at his MySpace.

El Pais Publishes Transcript of 2003 Bush/Aznar Discussion: Invade Iraq

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 3:27 PM EDT

El Pais, the major Spanish daily newspaper, just published what it professes to be a transcript of a private discussion between George W. Bush and Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar that took place on February 22, 2003 at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. El Pais says that the transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States, Javier Ruperez.

In their alleged conversation, Bush states that "if there was a United Nations Security Council resolution or not....We have to get rid of Saddam. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March." He also said that the takeover of Iraq would occur "without widespread destruction," and that he was willing to play "good cop" to then-British prime minister Tony Blair's "bad cop" (some of us may have trouble sorting that one out).

Throughout the conversation, Aznar calls for caution, but Bush tells him "My patience is exhausted."

Notable quotes:

"We can win without destruction."

"I am the one [who] has to console the mothers and the widows of [the dead]."

And one I will leave as translated by the Spanish translator because it actually sounds like Bush himself:

"We are developing a package of humanitarian aid very hard."

A Million More Marches

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 3:23 PM EDT

Abner Louima, Rodney King, Amadou Diallo. Now the Jena 6, black people speaking truth to the power of undisguised racism, the good old proveable, Movement-y kind.

They came together as one as they like to do once a decade or so, then got back on their long haul buses and went home. No doubt, the kente cloth and waist-lengths 'locks were glorious to behold as they rode home in triumph. To dangerous neighborhoods, underperforming schools, and obese kinfolk praised for prefering prayer to prescription meds. Or, perhaps, to continue being an "only;" only black in the neighborhood, only black in management, only black in the Philosophy Department. The only black who's sick of one-shot wonder marches, rallies and protests? Sick of preformatted analyses which gloss over black quiescence or perfidy (OJ, anyone?) and unerringly conflate the forest with the trees?

Let's get this out of the way: what happened to the Jena 6 was heinous, non-blacks should be reexamining their hearts, and heads should be rolling Nifong-style. I'm as happy as the next Negro to stick it to the man (I'm on record as saying I'd have thrown a rock, just one and into a bush--more of a tossing if you will--after the Rodney King verdict had I been an Angeleno), but this wasn't exactly Selma and these brothers weren't exactly the Scottsboro Boys. Folks should go to jail for stomping a random (and lone) person into the ER, white or not, nooses or not. Not for attempted murder, of course not, but aggravated battery sounds about right, especially when you factor in that the stompee was not, as far as we know, one of the noose hangers. And when we have it on good authority that Jena High also boasts "black bleachers" where honkies fear not tread. Racism, and its effects on the ground, is rarely simple.

If you didn't know about the bleachers, you probably don't know this either: the names of the true inheritors of the Civil Rights Movement, the brave students who sat under the "white tree". Note that they first asked, and received, permission to do so. Something tells me that there would have been no march last week, no year of unrelenting "Afro-sphere" agitation , had the school refused them permission and no black took it on himself to kill whitey in revenge. Anti-black racists aren't the "only" ones who have a use for black oppression, the same oppression to which the black community continues to apply anachronistic, gotcha!, 60s-style tactics.

Sorry, but if Jena doesn't lead to a re-embrace of non-violence when confronting racism and inequality, it's not what Rev. Sharpton deemed the "beginning of the 21st-century civil rights movement;" it's vigilantism. If it doesn't lead to a sustained re-focus on non-symbolic tactics aimed not at white guilt but at black uplift, it'll have to be written off as mere masturbation: feels good but doesn't produce life. We dont need another movement, not if it's focused on the doings of outsiders. Instead, we need to hunker down for a community-wide soul searching of the Chinese re-education camp variety designed to help us figure out what our role in America's racial morass is and what our response to the continuing existence of systemic racism should be. I remember when the untalented Jackson sister LaToya made news for having multiple plastic surgeries to "improve her career." Arsenio Hall mused, "I'm thinking: why not singing lessons? I'm with Arsenio.
Slate put it best: wrong poster children, sorry analysis of the problem.

I made no effort to get to Jena. Instead, I spent that time reading worthy analyses of the proveable, addressable, effects of racism in the criminal justice system. These bespectacled economists and sociologists are downright radical. They already knew that racism filled our prisons; now they're proving how it affects America at large. They're doing more good on Capitol Hill making these "tough on crime" politicians change gears than all the buses in Jena.

The 1960s Civil Rights Movement had to be about what whites were doing to us. Any modern movement needs to be focused inward, on what blacks are doing to themselves or what we're failing to pragmatically respond to.

If you want to stick it to the man, let's police our own neighborhoods. Let's snitch. A lot. Let's make our schools so good they're suing us to get in. Let's take care of ourselves and outlive the bastards. Let's stop using corporal punishment as our primary means of child discipline, limit their TV time and read to them every night. Any one of these will do more for us than a thousand Jenas.

Too bad they don't involve TV crews and tussling with white folks. Then it would be done with a quickness.

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If a Gay Musician Has a Picture of Naked Underage Girls, Can He Still Be Arrested?

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 3:19 PM EDT

Elton JohnIt's a zen koan for the 21st century. Elton John is being faced with a child pornography investigation after a Nan Goldin portrait he owns of two naked girls was about to be included in a gallery show. The photograph, called "Klara and Edda Belly-dancing," was to be part of an exhibit at the Baltic gallery in Gateshead, UK, but managers there apparently called the police the day before its scheduled opening. That's right, the gallery called the police. Were they just suddenly wracked with paroxysms of guilt or something? "All this time we thought it was art, but we were wrong, officers, so wrong! Take it from us!" So the police have seized the photograph and are apparently still assessing its worthiness as art. A statement on Elton John's website pointed out that the photograph has been exhibited around the world with no previous kerfuffle. Besides, if they were going to seize something, why not seize this Donald Duck photo?

Terror Overhaul at the FBI

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 2:49 PM EDT

From this morning's Washington Post:

The FBI has begun the most comprehensive realignments of its counterterrorism division in six years so it can better detect the growing global collaborations by terrorists and dismantle larger terrorist enterprises, according to senior bureau officials.
The bureau will merge its two international terrorism units -- one for Osama bin Laden's followers and the other for more established groups such as Hezbollah -- into a new structure that borrows both from Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the bureau's own successful efforts against organized-crime families, Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview.
The new approach is meant to channel raw intelligence and threat information through "desk officers" with expertise on specific world regions or terrorist groups, allowing those experts to spot trends and set investigative strategies for field agents and joint terrorism task forces that collaborate with local law enforcement, Billy said...
Borrowing from its mob-busting strategies in the 1980s, the bureau will encourage counterterrorism agents to forgo immediate arrests when an imminent threat is not present, allowing the surveillance of terrorism suspects to last longer. The aim is to identify collaborators, facilitators and sympathizers who increasingly span across multiple groups and countries, Billy said.

Could it be that the FBI is finally learning to play this game? It's going to funnel information to people who actually know what they're talking about and who can help make informed decisions about how to proceed? They're going to wait longer to bust people to see if they can catch more and bigger fish? I don't know what was going on there until now, but this has got to be progress.

India Outsourcing Its Outsourcing

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 2:27 PM EDT

India is, and has been for years, the Third World answer to our First World economy and has fulfilled all of our outsourcing "needs." It is especially known for its call-centers, which as an American you encounter when you call, well, just about anywhere. Currently, India accounts for 60 percent of international back-office services.

Although, recently, there is a new twist in the world of outsourcing. According to the New York Times, Indian firms such as Tata Consultancy Service and Infosys, India's second largest software services outsourcing firm, have set up shops in places like Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and the Czech Republic. Another Indian IT services firm, Wipro, is contemplating opening up centers in places like Idaho, Virginia, and Georgia, U.S. "states which are less developed," claims the firm's chairman. Well, isn't this ironic? The New York Times article goes on to say that an American company will outsource Indians to "supply it with Mexican engineers working 150 miles south of the United States border."

Isn't globalization efficient?

—Neha Inamdar

Hilarious Website of the Week: Cops Bitching About Other Cops

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 1:52 PM EDT

Hey, have you heard of copswritingcops.com? If not, you have a new favorite website.

Copswritingcops.com is a forum where cops who have been written (i.e. given a ticket) by other cops bitch and moan about being held to the laws that they are paid to enforce. Just to take the first example off the site:

On June 20, 2007, I was heading to Springfield, Illinois from Chicago on Interstate 55 (I-55) to give a training seminar on LAW ENFORCEMENT defensive tactics . As I am driving, I'm really not paying attention to where I am at or how fast I was going. I was pretty much keeping up with the cars in front of me and next to. Most of the time I had my cruise set at 77-79 in a 65. Up ahead, I saw a few state police units (4 or 5, when you you work in the city a bunch would be 15-20) with people pulled over. Being the cop that I am (and what we all should be), I slowed and then made sure none of them were in any danger or getting their ass kicked.
As I passed a state trooper, she kept her lights on and pulled back onto the highway and got behind me. I pulled over and had my license out when she approached. I figured that she saw the FOP badge on my plate... It's not something that any ordinary person can buy. They're numbered and you have to be the police to get one.
Once she got to my window, she took my license and told me that I was clocked by airspeed doing 84.9 miles per hour. That seemed a little high, but we know not to argue. She asked why the hurry. I told her I wasn't in a hurry and that I was en route to give a LAW ENFORCEMENT defensive tactics training seminar in Springfield. I actually gave her the business card of my contact at the Police Academy. The same academy that trains the state police! I then mentioned that I have been law enforcement for almost 15 years and would appreciate a break. She then told me that she couldn't do that because she was the "catch car". I then rattled off a couple names of who might be flying the plane that was above (Butler, Galvan). I worked with a couple during a DEA detail once and I KNOW they would give me the nod. That didn't even phase her. I then realized that I was getting a ticket. After stopping hundreds of cops on Lake Shore Drive, some state, I was getting a ticket. I have friends in state police districts 2, 5 and of course Chicago. This troop, Trpr Schroder #3512, from district 6 is the only officer to ever give me a ticket while I have been a police officer. Congrats to you. [emphasis in original]

So the guy is ticketed going 85 in a 65 zone, and is pissed because (1) he thought he was only going 77-79 in a 65 zone, and (2) his attempts to name-drop his way out of the ticket didn't work. Consider me, a guy who has gotten more than one bullsh*t ticket in his life, surprisingly unsympathetic.

You can check out a whole bunch of stories like this at the site. The story in which a cop was most aggrieved by his fellow man in uniform wins the coveted "Dick of the Month" award, which Boing Boing thinks should be renamed "Cops Who Actually Do Their Jobs."

Now that I've written this, I'm going to have cops across the country running my name to see if I have any unpaid tickets. Jonathan Steins from California to Maine shall pay for my cheekiness.

Oh, and PS — The banner on the website is "Cops Writing Cops - Where's the Professional Courtesy? Law Enforcement and Polcie Officers help each other." That's right, a website by cops for cops misspells the word "police."

More stories after the jump.