Wednesday, July 23, 2008

3 Days in Chicago

ArtomaticI was in Chicago over the weekend for a multi-purpose trip. Thursday's Public Enemy panel was everything that panel conversations should be. Conversation was funny, free-wheeling, and took on a life of its own. And even though it ran substantially over schedule, no one left. Keeping in mind that I know nothing about hip-hop, I found it most interesting to hear them speak from the producer/engineer perspective on the history of Public Enemy and the making of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Needless to say, I left that evening with a crazy need to watch the panel again (soon to be online), then put on the uber-studio headphones and listen for all the things that they talked about.

Dinner conversation got very tech-heavy, but it was cool to talk shop - something I don't do very often. Interesting conversation on whether mastering is a necessary process these days given the switch to more of a singles-culture and the ubiquity of gadgets that fix tune and tone for you. This is a mind-boggling toy. You could literally take one note and make a whole album with it. It's really all a bit crazy-making to imagine how it could affect sampling culture and copyright law.

Friday was me catching up on work and visiting Old Town School of Folk Music where FMC is holding a day-long September event.

Saturday I got to hang with Alicia and Davide. Here's all the random photos from the weekend. We hung out, ate too much, saw The Dark Knight and then they introduced me to wii while we enjoyed margaritas. Verdict: I sucked pond water with the tennis, did OK with bowling, can't play drums to save my life, improved with the bass and singing and didn't finish most games of Mariocart since I kept running off the road. Fun was had, but what a time suck if I had one of those. So, no. Not going there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


McMurdo from aboveEscaping into the air-conditioned comfort of the E Street Cinema this past Sunday, I saw Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World. It was a fascinating look into Antarctica's McMurdo Station, which is the dedicated to scientific research and the only permanent "settlement" on the continent.

Herzog walks around the base talking to the people who work there, how they got there, what they do, why they do it. I enjoyed myself, but I felt like he was trying to get the audience to laugh at the people who work in Antarctica. Don't get me wrong, the folks who work at McMurdo seem like loners who've finally found their pack (and have the stories to go with their adventurer personalities), but I always wanted to be one of them - and applied numerous times to work at McMurdo - so I guess I took it a little personally on their behalf when they seemed to be played for laughs.

See lots of photos of McMurdo here and here.

Interestingly, the director was surprised that McMurdo looks like an Alaskan mining town. It's hardly pristine, it's filled with construction equipment and people running around in dirty white bunny boots. I think this disappointed the director since his conclusion at the end seemed to be that he wished we left blank spaces on the globe, wished humans allowed places to hold tight to their secrets rather than feel an insatiable need to uncover them. I see his point, but I think that we go to new places not only to learn more about them but to learn more about ourselves. I think of traveling more as allowing yourself to be changed by other experiences so I don't see discovery as a zero-sum proposal. And if someone else has been there first, that doesn't make the journey less significant for me.

Personal quibbles aside, go see this or at least put it on your netflix queue and be pleasantly surprised when it lands in your mailbox. After all, armchair traveling counts as journeying, too.

Friday, July 11, 2008


SunsetI have a problem. The problem is that I get stuck in the land of indie rock unless I make an effort to take another direction. So, I'm overhauling my ipod.

Shuffling is cool most of the time and gets me listening to the random corners of my collection, but it's not enough. So, my plan at this point is to get rid of all the single tracks and everything that falls into the category of indie rock. Exceptions: the indie rock I haven't listened to and the running playlist, because I can't just go running to whatever.

Of course, the new Girltalk album is like listening to a couple hundred different albums all by itself. There are so many samples, it's like playing "where's waldo?". It's a not-commercially-available-because-he-didn't-and-couldn't-have-cleared-the-samples, pay-what-you-like dealie available here.

Anyway, what's left on my ipod? Not a whole lot since I can't afford to legally buy a new music collection.

  • David Bowie - he talks here about writing the songs he still doesn't tire of playing live
  • She & Him's Volume 1 - an odd little summer album, but the deconstructed, off-kilter Smokey Robinson cover won me over
  • Goldfrapp - both 2003's Black Cherry and this year's Seventh Tree
  • My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges - Are they really the second coming of rock music?
  • The Meters' Fiyo at the Filmore Volume 1
  • Common Market's Black Patch War
  • RJD2's Deadringer
  • Air's Moon Safari - loved Talkie Walkie, just never quite made to this classic
  • The National's Boxer
  • Tom Waits' Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards
  • Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - it'd be nice to know what they're talking about
  • Etta James boxset
  • Girltalk's aforementioned Feed the Animals
  • Ratatat's LP3
  • The Campbell Brothers with John Medeski on Can You Feel It?

  • Yup, I could go dig up the links to all those albums, but you're smart and I'm lazy and you can google them yourself. Next dispatch from Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival next week.

    Friday, July 4, 2008


    Hotel D'Grub On this Independence Day 2008, I note that war and conflict seem to fill my entertainment these days. I've been watching Ken Burns' lovingly done documentary The Civil War which brings back to mind Doris Kearns Goodwin's extensive Lincoln biography Team of Rivals. I've also just finished war correspondent Scott Anderson's Moonlight Hotel and moved on to The Man Who Tried to Save the World, both of which tell of internecine warfare.

    Here's an interesting factoid to chew on: after the Civil War, Americans stopped saying "The United States are" and began to say "The United States is". Our country feels incredibly divided at times - and I'd guess most generations have felt that since there hasn't been a real uniting external cause since WWII - but that division doesn't extend so far anymore as to make the parts greater than the whole. And jokes about moving to Canada if x gets elected aside, I'm glad I live here. So, happy Independence Day, America.

    Speaking of war-mongering, Bob Lefsetz got cranky and posted a music industry "enemies list". Gotta say, there's no better way to make 'em than by calling 'em out.

    But then, people surprise you sometimes. For instance, blog comment threads normally devolve into "what do you mean, you like x band? They suck!". The readers of 17 dots - the emusic blog - have resisted the impulse and been discussing R.E.M., The National and their own music buying/listening habits in this post on the slow-building popularity of The National. Refreshing. Not as refreshing as my sangria, but no hangover either.

    Finally I raise my proverbial glass to my friend Buzz who's moving out of DC. I met him one Saturday night my first summer in DC at the Marx Cafe. We started chatting over beer and discovered that we were both from Boston, we were both more than casual music fans, and we'd both spent much of that month watching the Tour de France as a break from baseball. The next afternoon he helped me finish the project that brought electricity into my hallway and we were friends. I couldn't have hoped to meet a more generous guy....happy trails and keep in touch, babe.