Sunday, July 31, 2005

Playing online poker, I just got my first royal flush. Clubs.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Missy be the name and y'all should already know

My new Chicago Reader piece on Missy Elliott's The Cookbook hits newstands today. For interested souls who do not reside in Daleyville, I will provide a link as soon as the Reader's .pdf scans hit the internets.

...As good as my word: link.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Good article in The Nation about Oprah & Faulkner:
Once again, she has proved she is a more serious reader than many people--that is, anybody besides her millions of fans--reckoned.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jay-Z's Fade to Black is a concert movie on par with Stop Making Sense and Gimme Shelter. Move it to the top of your Netflix queue immediately! My favorite moment: Timbaland plays three potential beats for Jay-Z, one of which later became "The Potion" by Ludacris, one that is still unreleased as far as I know and the one that was Jay-Z's choice for The Black Album's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." It is apparently the first time Jay-Z has ever heard that beat, and you can see him feeling it, grooving on it. Timbaland tells Jay-Z that he can have his choice of the three, then laughs and says to the camera, "I'm the best there is." Anyone care to argue?

He big in nothing important in good elephant

Fun with retranslations: English subtitles from the Chinese version of Revenge of the Sith.
Sasha Frere-Jones has a Pop Note about R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet"; worth reading and not very long!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Kelefa Sanneh does an in-studio profile of Kanye West. How long until Late Registration?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Jessica Hopper's review of Sufjan Stevens' Illinois in this week's Reader (available as a .pdf file) is of the "I liked this" school of music writing and doesn't really do the album justice. But Monica Kendrick's review of a new Charlie Poole box set (scroll down from the Stevens review) is great, providing historical/biographical background and doing real thinking about the nostalgic oversimplification of traditional country and folk music:

Poole himself was very much a man of the present...a voracious listener, picking up gestures, inflections and sometimes whole tunes not just from jazz and blues but from vaudeville, black gospel, square-dance music [and] ancient English folk.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Here's a fine example of the sort of conservative button-pushing that will most benefit Democrats. The Bull Moose blog writes:
Smart conservatives who aren't shills for the Bushies have every reason to be concerned about Roberts. He may very well be a right-to-lifer. His wife is and that is significant in pro-life circles. But if Roberts agrees with his wife, why is he afraid to say it? If asked by Senators, he would readily answer whether he was against child abuse or slavery. Why not mass murder (if you accept that premise about abortion)?

Dept. of Credit Where Credit's Due

Excellent write-up of Kano's debut album over at Pitchfork.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I know the same things you know about John Roberts, and we probably both agree that Dems do not have a serious chance of blocking the nomination: too vanilla, not enough paper trail, etc. So I think the thing for Dems to do is to paint him as a strictly pro-business, non-ideological "principled conservative," basically a guy we disagree with but not a scary guy. This seems to be the current CW and may represent an opening. The best political strategy for Dems (though not for left wing fundraisers, unfortunately) may be to downplay the likelihood that Roberts will be an anti-Roe guy.

So far, the right wing seems fairly happy. That's bad. And we know that the more the left seems outraged, the more the right circles the wagons. But the truth is that the "religious right" is a powderkeg right now, entitled and emboldened but also needy, very demanding and totally whiny. So we should play the devils on their shoulders, saying "Gee, Bush's choice will help his pro-business pals, but what track record does this guy have on the issues that you care so much about? None to speak of! Are you sure this guy will help your cause?"

The more they doubt that Roberts is one of them, the more the political fallout harms Republicans in '06. So let's hear much more repetition of the Roberts quote stating that Roe is "settled law" (yes, it's potentially a misleading quotation...what's your point?). Deepen the fissures in Bush's governing coalition. Then back to bringing down Karl Rove!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Bear Can't Rap

Words from a writer friend of mine who spent much of the summer in St. Petersburg:
There are four black guys in Russia and all of them rap in English. With each of them, it's as if Ice T has gone into exile and wearily gone back into the music biz, with a few extra tats and a dull-eyed misunderstanding of the contemporary youth culture.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Great first lines. We got your "Call me Ishmael"s and your "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"s and your "A screaming comes across the sky"s. Needs "I am an American, Chicago-born..." and probably others, too. First lines are fun.
The New Republic's &c. blog is running a series of posts this week on the Darfur genocide that should serve as a useful primer on the subject for those of us whose understanding of the subject is limited to broad strokes (genocide bad, Bush administration useless).

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Typically overheated and indie-snobbish anti-radio rant at Radio Free Chicago. Someone send this guy a radio that goes to 107.5! Brad K. complains about middle-of-the-road rock radio but completely ignores commercial hip-hop and R&B station WGCI, perhaps because the Clear Channel-owned station is actually broadcasting good radio.

Meanwhile, check out the vitriol directed at the barely-worth-the-effort Jack FM:
This station represents everything that is wrong with commercial radio today. No personality, cliched music and tons of commercials. Jack FM is nothing but a homogonized [sic] and automated juke box that serves as a giant cash cow for corporate radio owners.
Cliched music? Jack FM may be boring radio, automated, lite to the core and burdened with an outrageous commercial load. But behind the anticorporate sanctimony, one detects a whiff of contempt not just for the dread corporate owners but also for the listeners, those poor saps whose musical tastes aren't sufficiently sophisticated for the author.
If music is going to be a communal experience on any level, it has to be shared, meaning widely popular, widely recognizable. To the (diminishing) extent that broadcast radio still influences the popular taste, its primary function is surely no longer to educate listeners about new artists and new genres. That's what the internet is for! Radio is at its best when it plays great singles, which are as close to a shared experience as modern music gets. Jack FM may reek of Muzak, but it plays Prince, R.E.M. and the Clash, so I don't see exactly what the offense is. And particularly in consideration of "urban" radio's vibrancy, blaming corporate bosses for mechanistically controlling the popular taste from above begins to sound suspiciously like an excuse to retreat back to one's own super-specialized niche listening habits. Jack FM may not be great radio, but Radio Free Chicago is lousy media criticism.

Wedding tux

red tux
Originally uploaded by amillionmonkeys.
For a stylish gentleman such as myself, the choice of wedding tuxedo is of the utmost importance.

Luckily, I have found the perfect tux for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Couplet-of-the-moment comes from Sufjan Stevens' Illinois:

Stephen A. Douglas was a great debater/ But Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator

Monday, July 11, 2005

Check out the redesign by publicprivate, aka Ms. Amillionmonkeys; her blog is now almost as lovely as the woman herself.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Miss Timbaland?

Me too. It's not that Missy Elliott's new album isn't hot because it so is. But Timbo has been in a quiet stage for the past couple of years: he's released a marquee track here and there for Jay-Z or The Game and he worked with Brandy and LL Cooly J last year, but overall he's put out markedly fewer tracks in the past couple of years than he did in the early 00s, an epoch he owned.

The release of Missy's "Get Ur Freak On" in 2001--its stop-start rhythms, the hypnotic string-plucking that dotted the track--was one of those punctuated equlibium events in musical evolution, the pop-music end of the 90s/beginning of the 00s marker. Timbaland also proceeded to release pop singles that doubled as huge, enveloping electronic music sculpture-pieces, for artists like Aaliyah ("We Need a Resolution"), Justin Timberlake and the underrated Bubba Sparxxx.

The string of dynamite Missy/Timbaland collaborations is the highest achievement, though: tracks for megasingles "Get Ur Freak On," "Work It" and "Pass that Dutch" are elaborately weird in structure and contain some of the most avant garde sounds ever played on the radio. "Pass That Dutch" in particular was a little underpraised, I thought; built around three bass notes and a sort of schoolyard click-rhythm, it is brutally minimalist and totally immersive. The LL Cool J and the Brandy records, no disrespect, do not represent Timbaland stretching himself, and his two tracks on the new Missy record are not even album highlights.

So for anyone glum at Tim Mosely's lower profile of late, I offer you free downloads!

"Poppin" -- New mixtape track, hard Southern rap, thickly drawled by Rich Boy and Pit Bull over a mesmerizing Eastern vocal-sample that at times openly competes with the rappers' vocals.

Super-bonus download track: "Pass That Dutch," since I mention it above.
I hereby second Macky Ole's praise of Sufjan Stevens' new Illinois-themed album Illinois, and I point you to the 1.21 Gigawatts blog, where several mp3s are available for download!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"If it's not a pleasure, it's not a poem."
-- William Carlos Williams
My essay Tape Heads: Post-analog Musings on Our Pre-fascist Youth is up at Stop Smiling. It is partly a review of the Thurston Moore-edited collage book Mix Tape and partly a reflection of the subject of mix tapes generally. Plus it features liberal use of the personal pronoun "I"!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

So is everyone ready with talking points for whatever crazy Supreme Court nominee Bush picks? Let's review:

  • The nomination of a candidate so far outside of the judicial mainstream constitutes a truly extraordinary circumstance.
  • Democrats will use all available constitutional options to block this nominee. Nothing is off the table.
  • The American people have a right to know the truth about Bush's nominee.
The first move is to threaten to filibuster without using the word "filibuster." And no, it doesn't really matter who is nominated.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

So how was everybody's weekend?
...Yeah mine too.