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Sam
As the Colorado Senate campaign starts to hot up, GOP hopeful Bobblehead Shaffer has launched a new TV ad telling us how he's the change Colorado needs. It's a pretty spot, which features this scenic shot of Mt. McKinley towering majestically over ... ummm, hold the phone...


Sweet fancy Jesus, does this braying jackass even know what state he lives in? The staff at The Onion are probably sitting around right now wondering how they're going to top this one.

We need a change, all right. Specifically, we need to change to a candidate who can find Colorado on a map. Meanwhile, Alaska, you're welcome to him.

Thanks to Larry Huynh, Politics West, Mark Liddell and Weldon Kennedy.
 
 
Sam
There is nothing new under the sun, or so they say.

I'm not a big fan of groups that slavishly imitate their influences, but I do love bands with a sense of history and a desire to explore older styles in search of new angles. This obviously establishes a tricky standard - be true to the masters, but not ... too true. It's equally tricky for me as a listener and armchair critic, as well - I might like a contemporary band for the same reasons I liked the bands they're riffing on, but is there enough in the way of originality going on? As I've noted before, the CDs I like and those I think are great aren't always the same ones. (More...)
 
 
Now Playing: Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy
 
 
Sam
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends... You know, as any musician can tell you, instruments are expensive. So what to do if you love music but are running low on cash? Silly artiste - you make yourself instrument. Like this guy - got some empty soda bottles laying around the house? Cool - git yer Back on! (More...)
 
 
Sam
08 May 2008 @ 11:01 am
It's a totally new literary genre!

Well, sorta. You may have noticed that mobile is getting to be a really big deal, and you may have noticed that Them Danged Kids® are texting until their thumbs fall off. You probably didn't realize, though, the magnitude of mobile and the SMS phenomenon. There are now over 3 billion mobile phones in the world and nearly all of them have SMS capability. Telephia estimates that revenue from premium SMS entertainment services in the US topped $1B last year. And the stuff that people are paying for - $5/month for a joke of the day (and Yo Mama joke of the day!), horoscopes, music reviews, health tips, sports, and on and on. It's all a little hard for a guy like me to believe, but there it is.

Anyway, you have this new medium, so it was only a matter of time before it began sparking artistic innovation. (More...)
 
 
Sam
In case you missed it, Trent Reznor yesterday released the new Nine Inch Nails CD, The Slip, as a free download. I've only had time to listen to it once, and that was while I was working. So I'll let you know what I think once I've been able to give it a few minutes of real attention. In any case, it's free NIN, and what's not to love about that.

Industry watcher and pundit extraordinaire Bob Lefsetz predictably has some thoughts about the release. I'm a big Lefsetz fan, mainly because of his relentless assaults on music industry greed and stupidity, and if you're somebody who's disgusted, dismayed or confused by how bad the music biz has gotten in recent years, you need to be a Lefsetz Letter subscriber.

That said, Bob has his blind spots. (More...)
 
 
 
Sam
Howdy. And welcome back to Saturday Video Review. We've recently offered up some of the greatest videos in music history (part 1, part 2, part 3), and today, in the interests of fair and balanced coverage, we felt a hateful need to ruin your Saturday morning by inflicting an ethical obligation to present some of the worst music videos in history. So, let's get it on, shall we?

First, what in the world would possess Deathtöngue to record a song with these lyrics? "Middle of the road, man it stanks! Let's run over Lionel Richie with a tank!" Hmmm. Maybe it would be this 1984 video where an "acting teacher" stalks a blind chick. (More...)
 
 
Sam
If you're following America's electoral theater at all, you know that we have a candidate with a preacher problem. And that the candidate in question has been put in the uncomfortable position of having to repudiate some of said preacher's remarks (while not alienating those voters in the flock who actually, you know, agree with what the Reverend was saying). In case you haven't been paying attention, the controversial cleric has pronounced God's doom upon certain of the nation's citizens, and the backlash against him and his favorite for the White House has significantly damaged the candidate's chances.

Of course, I'm talking about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Errr, wait ... that's not right. That's not who I'm talking about at all.

No, I'm talking about the Rev. John Hagee and His Maverickness, John Dubya McCain. (More...)
 
 
Sam
29 April 2008 @ 10:42 am
One of my favorite musical sub-genres is sort of an off-shoot of trip-hop, a sultry urban electropop district where the downbeat influence of Portishead meets up with all kinds of interesting characters dressed like David Bowie in the '70s. California pure pop a la Burt Bacharach, for instance, which we find in the likes of Saint Etienne (and the solo work of singer Sarah Cracknell), Mono and Hooverphonic.

These groups are almost always fronted by female vocalists, and every year or two I trip across another one that just blows me away. In 2002 it was Frou Frou, and in 2005 the duo's singer, Imogen Heap, knocked us out with the brilliant Speak for Yourself. Black Box Recorder did two or three must-have CDs and singer Sarah Nixey's solo debut last year was one of my Gold LP winners. Hooverphonic has a great new release out this year that will likely be in the Gold LP category, as well.

Then there's our band of the week, Goldfrapp, a British outfit fronted by singer/keyboardist Alison Goldfrapp. 2003's Black Cherry was a tour de force of slinky, hooky technofascism and last year's Supernature showed us what happens when post-Portishead trip meets ... T. Rex? Gods, Marc Bolan must be dry-humping in his grave. (More...)
 
 
Now Playing: Goldfrapp - Crystalline Green
 
 
Sam
Don't tell me you haven't fantasized about it. HilRod. BaRock. John Dubya McCain (one-half of the Double Talk Express). Three-way dance inside a STEEL CAGE for the USA Heavyweight Title. Yeah, I'm feeling ya. We're getting there, too. This past Monday night on WWE Raw, all three candidates ran some lame smack for the national cable audience. In case you missed it... (More...)
 
 
Sam
22 April 2008 @ 10:12 am
Luke Haines isn't very well known in America, and that's a damned shame. He got a little attention here back in the early '90s when his first band, The Auteurs, released their fantastic debut, New Wave. And then - it was like he never existed. Maybe this is because his music is so quintessentially English - after all, he was arguably a significant influence on the Britpop movement, and even the most popular of those bands - Blur, Oasis, Supergrass - never made much noise on this side of the Atlantic.

Nonetheless, he's made a living for himself Over There, and has done so in a number of incarnations: The Auteurs, Baader-Meinhof, Black Box Recorder, and now simply as Luke Haines. (More...)
 
 
 
Sam
In previous Best of Music Video posts (part 1 and part 2) we've looked at everything from Johnny Cash to Prodigy to Death in Vegas to NIN and then some - and if you noticed a certain ... heaviness ... five points to Gryffindor. Today, in honor of the beautiful weather outside, we're going to look at some of great rock video's comparatively lighter moments.

We'll start with one of the cleverest narratives I've ever seen in the video genre, Blues Traveler's retelling of the Wizard of Oz fable from "Run Around." Cynical, anyone? (And by the way, what did Adam Duritz ever do to John Popper?) (More...)
 
 
Sam
I missed last night's "debate" between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. From what I can tell this morning, that was the smartest thing I did all day. I've read a good bit about it and seen some video and it looks like what transpired in Philadelphia may have been a new low-water mark in American journalism.

Let's see what people are saying.

  • We'll start at Crooks & Liars, which has video of the debacle.

  • Next let's check in at the ABC "News" Web site, where the network's viewers are still engaging in one of the bloodiest nard-stompings I've ever seen. Nearly 16,000 comments as I write, and the consensus is not a happy one.
  • (More...)
 
 
Now Playing: Bob Mould - Stop Your Crying
 
 
Sam
Give me one last dance
We'll slide down the surface of things

You're the real thing
Yeah the real thing
You're the real thing
Even better than the real thing
I figured out a long time ago, even before I began encountering grad-level feminist critiques, that our media's stylized construction and portrayal of female beauty was problematic. It's bad enough that unattractive people don't appear in movies, on TV or in magazines unless the narrative expressly requires someone unattractive, and sometimes even that isn't enough. I mean, the star of Ugly Betty isn't really ugly.

But it goes beyond this. It's not just that we're only shown pretty people. It's not just that we fetishize youth and beauty in all things. It's that we have now passed the point when natural beauty suffices. Jean Baudrillard talks about the simulacrum, the hyperreal, the artificial representation that has no real-world referent. If that's a little too academic for you, think about a couple popular rock songs you've probably encountered.

The first is U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing," quoted above, which pays cynical homage to "the surface of things." (More...)
 
 
Now Playing: Lush - Superblast!
 
 
Sam
15 April 2008 @ 11:26 am
Springtime has come to Colorado. Which means it'll be in the 70s today and they say it could snow tomorrow. But let's enjoy the nice weather, shall we?

I took the dog over to the open space at Davidson Mesa this morning and snapped a couple shots from the overlook at the west end of the park. This first shot is of the Boulder Valley, and that cluster of buildings in the distance at the foot of the mountains is the University of Colorado campus.



Then I swung the camera north a bit for this shot of Long's Peak, the 14er closest to us here.



It'll start greening up here in the next week, I imagine. Meanwhile, hope the Spring Fever doesn't hit you too hard (or, if it does, that you aren't trapped inside all day). Feel free to link us to pictures of what it looks like at your place...
 
 
Now Playing: Juliette and the Licks - Get Up
 
 
Sam
I was born and raised in the South, a region that's often misunderstood and mischaracterized by those who've never been there. When I moved to the Midwest for grad school I encountered people whose knowledge of the South was pretty much confined to The Andy Griffith Show, The Dukes of Hazzard and Hee-Haw. And they called us stupid.

Anyway, I have tried to live my life in a way that dispelled bad stereotypes about my home. Sadly, not everyone below the Mason-Dixon Line got the memo. Take this guy, the Pride of Kentucky, for instance. (More...)
 
 
 
Sam
The header on the story reads this way: CU's Campus Press Fights for Independence.

The subhead is equally on-point: A contentious faculty meeting points to independence for CU-Boulder's student newspaper — but at what cost?

But at that point the journalism train jumps the tracks, because the first couple grafs eschew any consideration of the alleged story itself in favor of a gratuitous drive-by snarking by reporter Michael Roberts.
University of Colorado at Boulder journalism professor Michael Tracey has never previously suffered from camera shyness. Indeed, back in August 2006, when bogus confessor John Mark Karr was arrested as a suspect in the JonBenét Ramsey murder due largely to comments he made in correspondence with Tracey, the prof practically vaulted into a media horde gathered at the Boulder Justice Center.

But after spotting a flash during a journalism-department faculty meeting about the future of the Campus Press, an online student publication, Tracey went into high-dudgeon mode. "Ask permission before you take a photograph," he snapped at me, like a male diva upset that the paparazzi hadn't given him a chance to pose first.
This is what real reporters might call a hit job. (More...)
 
 
Sam
One of my top CDs for 2007 was Walking With Strangers by The Birthday Massacre. And one of the top CDs of 2005 was Violet, also by TBM. About the harshest criticism I could muster for last year's effort was that it wasn't appreciably better than the 2005 release, but given how great Violet was, that's hardly a damning critique.

If you've never encountered The Birthday Massacre before, let me see if I can describe them for you. The '80s post-punk influences are evident and the haunted dollhouse goth edge to their aesthetic owes plenty to the likes of the late great Switchblade Symphony. Add an occasional flash of metal to lend the proceedings some aural gravity and you're almost there. (More...)
 
 
Sam
05 April 2008 @ 08:19 am
I pity da fool!

And so do we. We pity da fool who fails to grasp the spiritual enlightenment freely available to all in the teachings of Mr. T. For starters, Mr. T has an important lesson about family. Specifically, he's got something to say about yo mama your mother.(More...)
 
 
Sam
03 April 2008 @ 11:12 am
One of the great debates in the field of ethics centers around the thinking of Emmanuel Kant vs. the Utilitarians - most notably John Stuart Mill. To simplify, Kant's philosophy suggests that the means justify the ends: we should always do the right thing and trust the results to work out for themselves. Mill, on the other hand, argued that we should do what produced the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, and that the ends justified the means.

I've always tried to do the right and moral thing, of course, but when push comes to shove I've been an unapologetic utilitarian. I might, in my brasher moments, have put it this way: what matters is the outcome, the result, and doing the noble thing when it leads to a tragic result isn't ethical, it's both immoral and stupid. In a sense, this might be seen as privileging pragmatism over idealism, although those things have long been at war in my soul and I can't say which will eventually win. (I'll go ahead and apologize now to any real philosophers reading this for the hash I'm probably making of their field's great minds.)

Last night I had a thought that may change all this. (More...)
 
 
Sam
Walt Whitman once said, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." You could look it up. - Annie Savoy

I'll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They're too much fun. - Babe Ruth

Today is Opening Day for America's Pastime, and to mark the occasion S&R honors our newest Scrogue, George Herman Ruth. The Bambino. The Sultan of Swat.

The Babe. (More...)
 
 
Now Playing: Dark Trance - Various Artists - En Parazov - Delobbo
 
 
 
Sam
25 March 2008 @ 11:39 am
My old friend Adam Marsland has just released Daylight Kissing Night: Adam Marsland's Greatest Hits, a greatest hits collection that draws from the best of both his solo and Cockeyed Ghost efforts, and boy howdy, am I jacked. If you don't already know Adam's music, let's go ahead and get the triangulation out of the way. He's kinda like a modern-day cross between Elton John, Brian Wilson, KISS and Todd Rundgren, with a dash of Elvis Costello, Raspberries, Big Star and Foo Fighters sprinked in for good measure.

And now, for my favorite Adam Marsland moment. (More...)
 
 
Sam
I guess there's probably nothing Earth-shattering about revelations that FOX News "journalist" Sean Hannity was BFFs with a white supremacist. I mean, even if you don't expect it, it's not the sort of information that's going to turn your whole worldview upside-down, you know?

But the latest screed from Pat Buchanan almost buckles the knees. We don't exactly look to Pat for enlightened thinking on race or, well, on anything. But even by his standards these March 21 comments are barely to be believed.
Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
(More...)
 
 
Now Playing: Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone
 
 
Sam
The 2007 YouTube Video Award winners have been announced (see all the nominees here), and they certainly provide fodder for debate. Not that I think the criteria were necessarily about critical standards, of course, but still.

For instance, have a look at the human tetris performance, which won the Creative category, and explain to me how it beats this. (More...)
 
 
Sam
Item: Citizens are concerned about online privacy and security. According to a new report from USC's Center for the Digital Future, "Sixty-one percent of adult Americans said they were very or extremely concerned about the privacy of personal information when buying online, an increase from 47 percent in 2006. Before last year, that figure had largely been dropping since 2001." These fears are well-founded.
The study, to be released Thursday, comes as privacy and security groups report that an increasing number of personal records are being compromised because of data breaches at online retailers, banks, government agencies and corporations. (More...)
 
 
Sam
In today's special edition of SVR, S&R asks a critical question: what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Let's start here. While we watch, will somebody get Drs. Phil and Laura on the line? (More...)