I know, I know: don't jinx it. But seriously, have you seen the latest polls? With a 14-point lead, I think a little creative visualization is allowed. So, a Democratic president takes over from an unpopular Bush-led administration after an Iraq war doesn't quite turn out as hoped, as the economy goes spiraling into the pooper. Sound familiar? An eerily similar set of circumstances was at play 16 years ago, and at the same time, an edgy, independent new genre of punk-inflected rock came to dominate American culture and redefine the notion of "alternative" music. Grunge was both idiosyncratically local and an inevitable product of its time, an expression of anguish and frustration at the world: the failing economy, monolithic pop culture, an out-of-touch government. Granted, Nirvana's Nevermind hit #1 on the Billboard album charts in January, 1992, just as candidate Bill Clinton was fighting off the now-almost-quaint-seeming Gennifer Flowers scandal, and clearly, the Northwest grunge scene had been bubbling under for a few years before that. But right now, rock, as such, seems primed for a revival: charts are dominated by hip-hop and American Idol winners, and the underground is all electro, all the time. Could a generation of kids be about to lose their jobs and pick up guitars?
Over the last few days, quite a few articles about women have been messing with my mind. In a good way. With all the gloom and doom out there, it's crucial to be reminded that we chicks are still in the trenches making art, fighting the power, and refusing to shut the 'f' up.
First, Bitch magazine. Sadly, and to my chagrin, this is a mag I've never read, though I keep reminding myself to. Running after two kids and living the vida loca freelance life, I pretty much only read print mags I'm comp'd for (meaning: They send it to me free either because I've written for them or because they hope I'll reference them in my own work). My beloved New Yorker is the only magazine I remember to pay for anymore. I actually sigh with pleasure when it arrives, carve out precious time to read it in peace, and feel sad when I get to the cartoon contest at the back. (More is another must read. I love it so much, I spoofed it. I've written for them, so when my comp runs out I'll move my keister to subscribe. There's also MoJo, of course, which goes without saying). Pre-munchkins, I subscribed to 12 mags, read books galore, and saw every indecipherable foreign movie, too. Damn, where'd my life go? I can't wait to get old and be a burden to those two life-drainers. Maybe I'll fake early onset...something.
50-year-old singer Madonna kicked off her latest tour last week in New Jersey, and made headlines for mentioning everybody's second-favorite Vice Presidential candidate. I mean Palin. Madonna apparently shouted to the crowd that the Alaska governor "can't come to my party! Sarah Palin can't come to my show!" Later, Madge even performed what appeared to be an impromptu, albeit non-rhyming, rap of some sort (see video above) in which she threatened to "kick [Palin's] ass." Perhaps more troublingly, during the song "Get Stupid," a video screen features a montage of bad guys like Hitler and Robert Mugabe, and Senator McCain pops up as well; Obama is included in the "good guys" section along with John Lennon and Gandhi. I'm not sure that's the equivalent of a consistent pattern of whipping up xenophobic, racist hatred at your political rallies until the assembled wingnuts demand the beheading of your opponent, but it has ruffled a few feathers, and the singer was asked about the comments at the premier of, uh, a movie she directed. Madonna directed a movie? Wow. Anyway, she said the "trash talk" was just "a metaphor," since Palin's "in the Republican Party, I'm in the Democratic Party." See a video of those comments (and more!) after the jump.
"Palinizing is above all the art of distraction, with the goal of diverting attention away from a fault (in Palin's case, ignorance) and towards the glittering veneer of hollow talking points which dazzle but do nothing in terms of answering the question presented."
Casanova's first orgasm, Hitler's famous mustache, Bob Hope's last jokes: for every thing, there is a season. Herewith a compilation of great moments in precocity, endurance, and procrastination, organized instructively by age.
Researchers in Israel have come up with a mathematical formula to answer the question. Using a computer program called the "beautification engine," you can basically feed a picture of yourself into the machine, and it will pop out the new and improved you. (I, for one, would rather not know how much better I could look. I can't see that being any help to my self confidence. But I digress...) The formula is based on 68 responses from men and women in Germany and Israel who were asked to rate the beauty of a set of facial images. Now, this is not the kind of science that will win anyone a Nobel Prize, but at least one revelation seems to have come out of it: James Franco is apparently the most perfect male specimen on the planet. His agent must be busy this morning...
In this edition, Kanye reacts to a broken heart by putting tarps on all his furniture, Pitbull steals an Italian techno track and makes it even better, Chad Vangaalen lets his freak-folk flag fly, The Streets returns with a delicate ballad, and Brightblack Morning Light whisper something about the spirit of the Buffalo, or something.
1. Kanye West "Love Lockdown"
I'm not immediately loving this song like I (and everybody else) did with "Stronger" and "Good Life," for instance, but I'm definitely fascinated by it. Musically, this is about as minimal as possible, just three tuned bass drum noises, joined later by simple piano chords and what sounds like African percussion. It's nowhere near as leftfield as M.I.A.'s triple-time African drum tribute, "Boyz," but it's still pretty crazy, and the video's dreamlike imagery only adds to the strangeness.
2. Pitbull "Krazy"
Didn't I write a while back about how dance beats are taking over hip-hop? Well, this is the most extreme example yet: a few years back, Italian producer Frederico Franchi put out a storming track called "Cream," whose simple, wobbling melody and thudding breakbeat made it totally infectious. (It was one of the first tracks featured in an epic Simian Mobile Disco DJ set I wrote about last year.) Along comes Miami rapper Pitbull to put some raise-the-roof lyrics over the top, and you've got one of the most fun (and unlikeliest) hits of 2008.
After the jump: Canadians croon, Mikey Skinner hits the skids, and hippies hypnotize me.
Lots of people have mentioned the loveliness of the Obama campaign logo, with its stripey field, rising sun, and handy reminder of the first letter of the candidate's name. While I've already spent some time analyzing and mocking the McCain campaign's terrible design work, something occurred to me watching another one of his angry mobs rallies on TV yesterday: his "logo," a shaded 5-pointed star, is nothing but a Zapf Dingbat. Zapf Dingbats, for the un-font-obsessed, was one of the original "symbol" fonts; instead of letters, typing on your keyboard gets you various shapes and doodads to spice up your PowerPoint presentation--snowflakes, squares, check-marks, and yes, stars. So, which letter do you think one must type while using the Zapf Dingbats font to create McCain's star, my friends? That's right: his crack team of designers came across this patriotic symbol by typing shift-O.
After the jump, the Zapf Dingbats character map, just as proof.
I've been doing pretty well this election season, emotional-stability-wise, but today, I'm starting to get really pissed. With the tacit encouragement of the candidates, McCain-Palin rallies are turning into lynch mobs, astonishing examples of the real consequences of pushing Rovian campaign tactics that far. Whether or not Obama is dominating in the polls, this kind of stuff makes me furious and terrified, and I'm not sure I'll be able to watch the debate tonight without being physically restrained, or my TV might end up out on the sidewalk.
Oakdale, California's Brett Dennen understands. His new album, Hope for the Hopeless (hey, that's me!) comes out October 21st; his label, Downtown, has a free mp3 of the first single, "Make You Crazy" (that's also me!), whose lyrics acknowledge that the "lies just to get you/spies just to get you" are "enough to make you go crazy." Thankfully, its sunny samba rhythms have the calming properties of a nice caipirinhanot too sweet, but tasty enough to help you forget why you were about to blow your top over some planted pseudo-redneck at a Palin rally. And is that Femi Kuti in the background? Why yes it is. Ahhh, that's better.