February 23, 2006

Fun stuff

I will be taking a temporary hiatus (don't worry, it's just for the weekend) from this blog as I travel to Iowa State to visit some friends. When I get back, I'll hopefully get time to finally wrap up my thoughts on Steve Kelley and Becky Lourey in time for the caucuses. I'll hopefully also do a post or two on the gubernatorial debate-- which, BTW, is happening next Tuesday, Feb. 28th, from 8-10 PM in the President's Room in Coffman. Steve Kelley, Becky Lourey, and Kelly Doran will be there. (Random side note: I had a weird dream last night in which Mike Hatch was a long-haired hippie. It didn't look like him at all, either, yet it was completely believable. WTF?)

Anyway, I figured I'd make this a fun post, highlighting some great (and not-so-great) things I've found on the internet. If you're bored, here ya go.

*Check this out: William Shatner's take on Hamlet
*Continuing the Star Trek theme, here's Leonard Nimoy's hobbit-themed music video.
*Horrible, but extremely funny, TV show concept. I do not condone the graveyard scene at all.
*I just have to throw something political in here, for old times' sake. Wonder if Abramoff's feelings are hurt?
*Support Max and Monica for MSA Prez/VP
*Watch the new video from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Gold Lion"... I predict this song will be big. Karen looks completely insane in this video-- she reminds me of the robot girl from Metropolis, if anyone's ever seen that. [Try watching it here if you want better sound quality.]

Have a great weekend.

Posted by smit2174 at 4:59 PM

February 21, 2006

Devin Davis

The internet is great. I discovered Devin Davis after hearing his "Cannons at the Courthouse" played on KEXP, the great public radio station in Seattle. As soon as I got home from work, I looked him up on Rhapsody, and after hearing only a few of his songs I knew I had to buy his record. It's called Lonely People of the World, Unite!, and it has quickly become one of my favorite albums.

Davis is an artist from Chicago who recorded this short (under 40 minutes) but amazing collection in his basement over the course of a couple of years. He plays nearly all of the instruments himself (from the album liner: "vocals, guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, organ, piano, percussion, theremin, trumpet, trombone, giant gong [ed.: (!)]"). And these aren't wussy Sufjan banjos or strings, either (not that those are bad!)-- Mr. Davis really rocks out on this album. Case in point: as the instant classic "Iron Woman" builds to its climax, a blistering tenor solo gives way to a mean electric guitar lick and a trumpet/trombone/sax outro.

No song on this record is bad, but since "brevity is the soul of wit," I'll just point out some of my favorites. The aforementioned "Iron Woman" is an great, high-energy opener, telling the story of a modern-day "caveman" who is heartbroken when his "Viking girl" ditches him for some "high-society friends" and a "General's shiny stars": "Iron Woman, / Wrestle off all the rivets around your heart. / Iron Woman, / I can still draw your picture in the dark."

When I first heard "Cannons at the Courthouse," it reminded me of Neutral Milk Hotel's "Holland, 1945," with its fuzzy guitar-and-piano stomp and absurdist lyrics. The track packs so many twists and reverses into its 4:11 playing time, though, that it can't be accused of being a counterfeit. "Sandie" is similarly hard to classify, but it's basically a country-tinged power-pop ballad that builds to its climax with an "After the Gold Rush"-style French horn solo.

The album really hits its stride with the last three tracks. "Giant Spiders" combines a nuclear doomsday scenario ("If we're curled up into a little ball / Behind some thick lead walls / We should be fine, if we can survive the giant spiders") with an insanely catchy, cheerful chorus: "No, I won't sit still / 'til I'm upside-down in the back of your eyes." "The Choir Invisible" begins with simple acoustic guitar and organ, layers on an "invisible choir" of ooohs and sensitive power-ballad electric guitar, and fades out in a burst of fireworks. "Deserted Eyeland" similarly builds to a full, horn-laden arrangement reminiscent of the Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper, and closes the album on a note of hopeful melancholy. The speaker realizes that "We all live on a deserted island," finding community in his loneliness and echoing the imperative from "Giant Spiders" that gives the album its title: "Lonely people of the world, unite!"

In conclusion: get this album! Support Devin Davis by buying it through his own label, Mousse Records, here. It only costs a bit more than Amazon ($12 plus shipping in the U.S.), and you'll rest sounder knowing you supported a great independent voice in music. You might even get a personal note: my package contained a little, signed thank-you note from Mr. Davis that made me feel all warm and tingly inside. Who knows-- maybe it'll be worth something someday.

*Devin Davis' website
*Devin Davis on MySpace - there is a media player here that will let you stream album standouts "Giant Spiders," "Iron Woman," and "Cannons at the Courthouse." There are some mp3s available at his website.
*Pitchfork gave the album a 7.2 rating (out of 10)
*cokemachineglow's rave review

Thanks for listening.

Posted by smit2174 at 8:18 PM

February 16, 2006

Chuck Norris, you let me down

When did Chuck Norris ascent to his current title as the king of ironic hipness begin? I'm not a devout student of this history, but I'd guess it started with his cameo in Dodgeball-- who can forget the classic, inspirational thumbs-up and Stiller's immortal line, "F***in' Chuck Norris"? Now, it seems, Mr. Norris is more popular than ever, mostly due to the Chuck Norris facts site. I'm sure you've seen it by now, as it's been the most quoted thing on the internet for quite some time. The quotes have grown stale through overuse, but you have to admit it was funny for a time. (One of my favorites: "Chuck Norris uses all seven letters in Scrabble... Every turn.") The "Walker lever" on Conan O'Brien's (mostly unfunny) show (you suck, Conan!) probably also helped raise his image in the public consciousness. This article in the Washington Post does a good job of summing up more reasons for Norris' popularity.

Now, I enjoy myself a good episode of Walker (and especially the theme song) as much as the next guy, but I don't know if I can hold Chuck Norris up as a sterling hero any longer. I read today that Mr. Norris celebrated Valentine's Day at the White House with George and Laura (for the record, so did Joe Lieberman, D?-CT), and it piqued my interest. I did some googling, and it turns out that Chuck and George are pretty tight:

Here is a picture of the good ol' boys in the good ol' days (before Enron, 9/11, Iraq, Social Security, Katrina, Plamegate, and Shotgun Dick), taken in 1997. Further research reveals that Mr. Norris has maxed out in his contributions to Bush a few times, and has given at least $32,225 in political donations since 1989-- all to Republicans. He must be close with the family; Chuck accompanied H.W. on his infamous sky-diving trip, and in this official WH press release from a 2004 campaign rally, G-Dubs gives a shout-out to "my friend Chuck Norris." I guess I don't begrudge Mr. Norris his right to have an opinion, and to exercise his quasi-constitutional right to corrupt the political process with vast sums of money, but it somehow hurts deep inside that a man who had seemed so good, so pure, and so invincible, could be so wrong on everything that is so important.

Remember that Walker episode where a high-school teacher is thrown off of a roof by a shop teacher/drug lord because he uncovers the guy's drug ring, and Walker steps in as principal to uncover the devastating truth (and deliver some devastating roundhouse kicks?) To encourage the kids to break their addiction to drugs and to identify the perpetrator of this horrific crime, Chuck brings in a few extremely muscular friends, the Power Team, members of an body-building/inspirational speaking squad, who perform amazing feats of strength involving fists, foreheads and piles of bricks. There is an inspirational moment where a man snaps a pair of handcuffs in two, and the crowd erupts in cheers. Chuck Norris, this could be you. Stand up and break the manacles of oppression, and you will be revered as much more than a washed-up martial arts star: you, too, can be a True American Hero.

*An all-time classic video: two legends collide as Norris meets Danza on Danza's show. Danza reads Norris some quotes from the "facts" website.
*Chuck speaks out about the "facts":

“I’m aware of the made up declarations about me that have recently begun to appear on the Internet and in emails as “Chuck Norris facts.? I’ve seen some of them. Some are funny. Some are pretty far out. Being more a student of the Wild West than the wild world of the Internet, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It’s quite surprising. I do know that boys will be boys, and I neither take offense nor take these things too seriously. Who knows, maybe these made up one-liners will prompt young people to seek out the real facts as found in my recent autobiographical book, “Against All Odds?? They may even be interested enough to check out my novels set in the Old West, “The Justice Riders,? released this month. I’m very proud of these literary efforts.?

I'll put 'em on my reading list, Chuck.

Posted by smit2174 at 12:05 AM

January 29, 2006

Our first comic

Melissa and I made our first comic for shiftyeyes comics. Check it out here.

Posted by smit2174 at 11:30 PM