Mixed Media

Top 5: Pavement

| Wed Aug. 13, 2008 8:30 PM EDT

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At the moment, I'm working on a bit of a secret mixtape project, and the set suddenly seemed to require some classic indie-rock. But what, exactly? Over to my vinyl shelves I went, and suddenly, Slanted and Enchanted popped out at me like an ace from a magic deck. What an album; a cassette with that on one side and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless on the other basically didn't leave my Walkman the entire summer of 1993, and when I moved to the Bay Area a few years later, I took a drive to Stockton just to see where they'd come from. Nerd.

All five of Pavement's studio albums (released between 1992 and 1999) are pretty great for different reasons, so the task of whittling down my five favorite songs could be futile, but let's give it a try. To make it easier on me, I'll restrict the list to one song per album, why not.

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What's Up With That Tropic Thunder Controversy?

| Wed Aug. 13, 2008 6:00 PM EDT

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I have to admit a slightly wary interest in the upcoming Ben Stiller war/Hollywood/Tom Cruise spoof Tropic Thunder. I still get giggly over Zoolander, and Stiller's deadpan exaggeration of Tinseltown egomania on Extras was pretty hilarious. Moreover, the buzz about Robert Downey Jr.'s edgy portrayal of an over-eager actor putting on blackface for his part has me intrigued: how will he walk that high-wire? But the biggest controversy to emerge before the film's release turned out to be something else: its use of the term "retard." A little context: Ben Stiller plays a bumbling action star, and part of the film's viral marketing is a whole history for his character, including fake trailers for (hilariously terrible) earlier films. One of those was "Simple Jack," a clear jab at Forrest Gump (and Hollywood's other mentally challenged characters). Simple Jack's tagline, "Once upon a time… there was a retard," caused an uproar among disability rights groups, and DreamWorks pulled the viral web site last week. Tropic Thunder includes clips and references to "Jack," which caused more trouble: A representative of the National Down Syndrome Congress emerged from Thunder's Monday premier saying, "I came out feeling like I had been assaulted," and the chairman of the Special Olympics has appeared on various media outlets assailing the "humiliation" of "good and decent human beings."

Rolling Stone Shrinks to Normal Magazine Size

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 7:25 PM EDT

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Rolling Stone magazine unveiled plans on Monday for a major design overhaul, scaling down its signature large-format pages to a standard magazine size in a bid to bolster advertising and sagging newsstand sales. The U.S. pop culture magazine will end the oversized look that for more than 30 years has distinguished it from rival publications starting with an issue set to hit newsstands on October 17.
Reuters

TrackMasterz, an 8-track tape distributor, has unveiled plans for miniature 8-tracks, only 1 1/2 by 2 inches wide, which the company "thinks probably" will work on iPods. "You should be able to just, like, stick it in there somewhere, right?" asked a spokesman, clad in a burlap sack and pointing a small REO Speedwagon cartridge at an iPod Touch. He added, "Spare some change?"

DRK Music, the leading manufacturer of player piano rolls, has announced a new, double-speed roll, in a bid to compete with rival player piano roll manufacturers. "Think of all the notes," screamed a spokesman over the horrific clatter of hundreds of upright pianos seemingly playing themselves at twice normal speed. "'Michigan Rag' will no longer sound so turgid and morose!"

Tablets-R-Us, the premier producer of engraved stone tablets, has revealed a design overhaul of its rock slabs, featuring a revolutionary new "Thin-sonite" material which allows tablets of less than 200 pounds each for the first time. "Advertisers and religious leaders will flock to this new, convenient format," claimed a spokesman from the bottom of a giant strip mine. "Imagine a day when reading Zac Efron features or reminding yourself of tricky commandments will only require the assistance of 10 Egyptian slaves, instead of 20!" Competitor Rolling Stones, whose new circular format caused thousands of accidental crushing deaths last year, was unavailable for comment.

Liam Gallagher Thinks Liking Radiohead Makes Me Ugly

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 5:25 PM EDT

mojo-photo-liamgallagherblue.jpgWrong, Liam: I was ugly way before I'd even heard of Radiohead. The notoriously blabbermouthed Oasis frontman gave a freewheeling interview to the Times over the weekend in which he went after not only the "mellow" music of Coldplay and Radiohead, but also the physical attractiveness of the fans who love it:

"I've mellowed, but not in the sense of liking Radiohead or Coldplay. I don't hate them. I don't wish they had accidents. I think their fans are boring and ugly and they don't look like they're having a good time." Liam doesn't like any contemporary bands. "Not interested. I play the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, Neil Young, the Pistols. Maybe a bit of the Roses. Don't like modern bands."

He doesn't wish they had accidents? Boy, he has mellowed! Although I will say that someone with a mug like that one (above right) shouldn't, you know, throw stones.

New Music From Around the Blogs: Franz Ferdinand, Joanna Newsom, Saul Williams, DJ Excel

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 5:04 PM EDT

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Franz Ferdinand finally have a complete song for us to listen to at their website, although they want your e-mail address for the privelige. "Lucid Dreams" hums along pleasantly enough, at the tempo of "Take Me Out" but without the brain-seizing hooks. Hey, I think I can embed their player, so you don't have to go here. (For fans of: Gang of Four, Buzzcocks, songs that mention Ithaca)

Via No Words comes good news for everyone into harps and stuff: a new Joanna Newsom song! Granted, in this working version of "Heart to Task," the recording is terrible and I think you can actually hear someone sneeze. Unfortunately, proving the rabid intensity of Newsom fandom, the bandwidth limit has already been reached for the mp3, but you can still stream it here. (For fans of: Björk, CocoRosie, Narnia)

After the jump: Niggy Tardust puts feathers in his hair, and DJ Excel makes Baltimore mellow out.

Video: Proposed Quantum of Solace Theme Song

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 10:21 PM EDT

Bruce Falconer has already noted the head-slapping meaninglessness of the new Bond film title, and it looks like somebody took his idea and ran with it. Via Cinematical, it's UK comedian Joe Cornish, who has put together a theme song he's offering to the producers of the upcoming Quantum of Solace, although they may be put off by the opening line's reference to star Daniel Craig's "great big man tits." Is that hyphenated? Best of all, it's in the style of David Bowie. Hilarious, although Cinematical points out the real QoS theme will be handled by Jack White and Alicia Keys, which could end up being even funnier.

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R.I.P. Isaac Hayes

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 7:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hayes.jpgSome commentators are saying it's a shame that young people know Isaac Hayes only as the voice of South Park's "Chef," but I don't know, at the very least it might be a way for Comedy Central-watching tweens to discover the soul legend. Hayes, who passed away yesterday in Memphis at the age of 65, was able to dabble in self-parody on South Park only because he had such a profound influence on music, almost single-handedly creating an entire genre of sexy, edgy funk. Entertainment Weekly's piece on Hayes rightly calls the theme from Shaft the "hippest track ever to win the Academy Award for best song," and NME points out the album was the first by a solo black artist to top both the R&B and pop charts. To date, it's estimated his music has been sampled in over 200 songs, by artists from Snoop Dogg to Portishead; blog Hip 2 Da Game has a partial listing. [Edit: The Fader's blog has a link to a mix from DJ Wonder including original Hayes material and tracks that sampled his work, check that out here]. I've included a few videos from artists who sampled Hayes and the source tracks after the jump.

Honestly, looking around for these YouTube links, I've had Hayes' music on all day, and I'm wondering why I haven't been listening to it all the time: the extended instrumental jams are groovy and hypnotic, incredibly forward-looking. "Look of Love," after its long central instrumental section, breaks down to a beautiful flute solo, and finally features Hayes singing "don't go" under a majestic echo, his voice seeming to move off to a great distance, until it finally disappears.

Segments of Olympics Opening Ceremony "Faked"?

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 6:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-olympics.jpgSorry, the incredibly awkward shots of President Bush getting to his seat were all too real. However, it turns out that a climactic moment of the elaborate, 15,000-person-employing Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday was a clever bit of CGI. The jaw-dropping shot of sequentially-launched fireworks in the shape of footsteps heading towards the "bird's nest" stadium was "a 3-D graphics sequence that took almost a year to produce," conceived as an antidote to the smoggy skies which would have obscured actual footage. Not to act all smart or anything, but while watching the ceremony I noticed that not only did that segment have the slightly-hyperreal look of a Pixar film, but also, who could be filming it? Apparently that was also a concern: the Olympic committee was worried about the safety of a helicopter pilot who would have been forced to follow the route of the fireworks.

Various news organizations are reporting the footage was "faked," although that seems a little harsh, since the committee came clean rather quickly. The segment in question was just so well done (and perfectly timed) that most people were taken in, and from what I can tell, they actually did launch those foot-shaped fireworks, so the CGI bit was more like a diagram of something really happening, which seems less sinful, somehow.

After the jump: but I thought I was immune to Olympics Fever!!

Top Four: Music (Not) to Skate To

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 7:55 PM EDT

badly-drawn-boy-250x200.jpgOk, I admit it: yes, I'm in my 30s, and yes, I still skateboard. Whether this makes me incredibly brave, incredibly stupid, hopelessly juvenile, or the coolest old dude on the block is completely debatable.

Skating is an aggressive sport that can be brutal on your body, so I've always thought that it lends itself to fun, aggressive, loud, or energetic music. But I'm amazed at some of the sad, dreary music I hear being played at skateparks. Here's a sampling of what I've heard:

Who's the Closed Country Now: NBC Withholds Olympics Until It's Damn Well Ready

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 6:55 PM EDT

mojo-photo-olympicslogo.jpgFirst revelation: it turns out the whole world doesn't arrange stuff according to America's prime time TV schedule! Who knew? The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing kicked off at 8 a.m. Eastern Time, and one would imagine that NBC, understanding the demand for immediacy in the decentralized internet age, would broadcast it live, right? Nope. At the time of the ceremony, NBC was broadcasting a cooking segment on the Today show. For the billions of dollars they paid for the rights, they're going to get their money's worth, and that means the opening ceremony will be delayed 12 hours so American audiences can watch it after dinner, with what I can only assume will be a whole lot of commercials.

After the jump: your desire for immediate access to information makes you a criminal!