February 27, 2004

Call off the device squad

Gay marriage, shmay marriage -- I want to see a constitutional amendment that will outlaw putting antitheft devices inside see-through CD cases:


Not that I'm not obsessive enough to open up CD cases and peel the damn things off, but think of the combined man-hours lost to music obsessives across the country.

Posted by Francis at 05:32 PM

The Gunther Gebel-Williams of the living room

From Jim comes this website, about a man who has a way with cats (and talks like someone who has a way with the ladies). I believe Billy Bob Thornton is destined to play this man in a movie someday.

From his training tips: "We are very pleased to make people laugh with us by our cuckooness!"

I do sometimes think our cats would jump through hoops of fire if there was cheese on the other side.

Posted by Francis at 02:50 PM

February 26, 2004

Featuring the pole vault, among other events

If you work at home, feel free to click on this link, which will take you to a short advertisement you'll never, ever see on American television.

There are two others, both equally likely to get you fired. Enjoy.

(Thanks to David for the links.)

Posted by Francis at 06:54 AM

February 25, 2004

A perfect gift for your mother

Straight outta Redmond.

(Thanks to Columbine for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 05:19 PM | Comments (1)

And don't remix anything from "Buena Vista Social Club"

The embargo on Cuba (and Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Libya) apparently extends to editing any works authored in those nations. You can publish them; you just can't edit them, because that's a "service", and it's illegal to provide services to an embargoed nation. So...if someone in Cuba writes an article critical of Castro, can I still be prosecuted for editing it?


Posted by Francis at 05:14 PM | Comments (1)

How gay is your penguin, how loose is your caboose?

Debby pointed out a great article to me (by an acquaintance of mine, as it happens) about two gay penguins who have been in a committed relationship since 1998. They raised an adopted child, and aren't shunned by the general hetero penguin community, and it's all very sweet. Highly recommended.

There's also the Onion's typically sharp parody of the hoo-ha.

Posted by Francis at 02:02 PM

The not-see symbol

Lately the computer has been getting urgent messages from Microsoft to install a critical update. The update involves a font which was "found to contain unacceptable symbols."

So I wondered, what does that mean, unacceptable symbols? Like, symbols that the computer can't display properly? Oh, no. It means swastikas.

I'm of the position that if you don't want swastikas to appear in your documents...you could just not use the swastika. Most fonts also contain the letters S, W, A, T, I and K, and people don't seem too upset about that. But if it bothers you enough that you don't want the font on your system, then sure, remove the font.

Oh...but lots of people with computers don't know how to remove fonts, so Microsoft has to baby them all. (I can't wait for the day when everyone who owns a computer actually pretty much knows how to use it.) And Microsoft has to do that with an update whose description makes it sound like your computer will explode if you don't install it, without actually explaining the reason the update exists. Nice.

I guess I should say I don't begrudge people who are actively deciding, you know what, having the swastika symbol in this font kinda creeps me out, I want a version of the font that doesn't include it; what bugs me is Microsoft making the decision for everyone and not explaining it.

The Star of David also appeared in the font, and was removed. The logic behind this amuses me:

PC Magazine staffers ran a standard "diff" check on the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font pack, using Microsoft Word, before and after installing the update from Microsoft and found that in addition to the removal of the swastikas from the font set, the Star of David had also been removed.

Microsoft Office product manager Simon Marks also confirmed in an interview with PC Magazine that the Star of David was removed from the font set because, he says, the physical proximity of the Star of David to the swastikas in the font set upset some users.

"If you went in a font tool to look at how the font was laid out -- a character map -- the Star of David was within one or two characters of the swastikas," he says. "We already ship the Star of David within other fonts we make available so we didn't want to cause any more potential offense."

But...if you were taking the swastikas out, then there wouldn't be any swastikas for the Star of David to be near. So that's just silly.

Posted by Francis at 03:32 AM

February 24, 2004


David Denby proves you don't have to be a godless heathen like me to think Mel Gibson is full of it.

Posted by Francis at 06:16 PM

He also supports a constitutional amendment which states that people who disagree with him are going to Hell

In his statement in which he announces his support for a constitutional amendment discriminating against homosexuals, President Bush called marriage between a man and a woman "the most fundamental institution of civilization." And here I thought not killing people was the most fundamental institution of civilization.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone has an argument for why gay marriage is wrong that doesn't hinge on a religious argument. Because, you know...if you went into court and said, "God told me to chop those people up and put them in my freezer," that's not going to get you acquitted, and saying "God doesn't want gay people to get married" shouldn't carry any more weight when it comes to making law. Hey, people! It's a secular democracy! Love it or leave it!

Posted by Francis at 02:44 PM | Comments (2)

Dude. Seriously. Dude. Damn.

It looks like my two bootleg versions of the Beach Boys' "Smile" are finally going to become obsolete. Woo!

Interested as I am in hearing the original tapes finally compiled by the guy who knew how they were all supposed to go together in the first place, I kinda hope the whole thing is released as a two-CD set -- studio version on one CD, new live version on the other. But perhaps it is too much to ask that Brian Wilson do anything other than whatever the hell he wants.

Posted by Francis at 10:38 AM

February 23, 2004

And when all companies finally merge into one, they'll have the resources to do it

Questionable Content is pretty droll, if not the most laugh-out-loud webcomic in the world. However, I really want the poster in the background of this strip.

Posted by Francis at 06:36 AM

February 22, 2004

Running on enmity

There's an update to my recent Nader entry, now that someone besides Fox has reported on the matter.

Posted by Francis at 09:34 PM | Comments (1)

Judo master Schwarzenegger uses my liberalism against me

Hey, is anyone surprised that Arnold Schwarzenegger wants us to fix it so naturalized immigrants can run for president?

The worst thing about it is -- it's a perfectly reasonable idea. Why shouldn't immigrants be allowed to run for president? It's nationalistic in a way I don't like to insist that only Americans can run for the presidency. But not Arnold Schwarzenegger!

This bit of the article is awfully amusing, though:

Mr. Schwarzenegger, who immigrated to the United States from Austria 35 years ago, on Sunday endorsed an amendment to the Constitution to allow immigrants who have been citizens for at least 20 years to run for president. Mr. Schwarzenegger became a citizen in 1983.

Quite a coincidence, that.

Posted by Francis at 09:29 PM | Comments (1)

Waiting for McClellan

It must be a very frustrating job, being part of the White House press corps, what with asking so many questions that never get answered...over and over and over again. Say you're Helen Thomas, and you want to ask a question about a rumor that Dubya had to take time off from National Guard duty to perform community service. How blatantly evasive might you expect the president's press secretary to be?

Q: Was he forced to do community service at any time while he was on --

Scott McClellan: What's your interest in that question? I'm sorry, I just --

Q: Lots of rumors. I'm just trying to clear up something.

Scott McClellan: Rumors about what?

Q: Pardon?

Scott McClellan: Rumors about what?

Q: About the President having to do community service while he was in the National Guard, take time out for that.

Scott McClellan: I'm not aware of those rumors. But if you want to --

Q: Could you look it up? Would you mind asking him?

Scott McClellan: That's why I'm asking what's your interest in that? I just don't understand your interest in that.

Q: It's what everybody is interested in, whether we're getting the true story on his Guard duty.

Seriously, what does he think her interest is in asking a question about the rumor? I just don't understand his evasiveness. Either you know the rumor isn't true, and you say "that rumor is false"; or this is the first you're hearing about the rumor, so you say "I don't know, but I've certainly never heard anything about that, and it sounds rather unlikely"; or...you dance around the question endlessly, until other members of the press corps get into the act.

Q: But you still haven't answered Helen's question. She asked you a simple question.

Scott McClellan: There are people that want to replay the 2000 campaign all over again, Bill, and --

Q: You still haven't answered her question about community service.

Scott McClellan: -- there are too many important -- there are too many important policies and decisions that are being made that we need to discuss.

Q: Why does a "yes" or "no" elude you on this?

Scott McClellan: I didn't say that. I said that these were all issues addressed four years ago. If there's additional information --

Q: This issue quite obviously wasn't addressed four years ago.

Perhaps this is what the White House considers "staying on message", but I kinda don't think such unsubtle evasiveness in his press secretary makes the president seem more trustworthy.

Posted by Francis at 12:32 AM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2004

He's the Terminator...of gay marriages

So as you might expect from Governor Schwarzenegger, a man who has previously gone on record as saying "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman", he doesn't care for this whole thing where some people think homosexuals should have equal rights:

Schwarzenegger told a cheering crowd at the state GOP convention that "in San Francisco, the courts are dropping the soap."

Oh, sorry, I accidentally replaced the word "ball" in that quote with the word "soap". Sorry! That's why I'm a blogger and not a journalist.

Posted by Francis at 05:43 AM

Ralph Nader is an asswad

"I didn't fuck things up enough in 2000," Nader said, "so I thought I'd see how badly I could fuck things up this time. Also, I'm hoping to have people walk up to me in the street and slap me. I think that would be interesting. And just to clarify, I'm a big asshole. Thank you."

Update: Nader is still a self-centered shitbiting assclown.

Posted by Francis at 02:05 AM

February 20, 2004

Blogrolling in our time

My friend Eric Berlin has a very funny dissection of the song "Lonely Boy" up on his blog today. You might also be interested in his reports of the crappiest toys at the Toy Fair.

Posted by Francis at 07:28 PM

Don't be alarmed

So what do you do if you were big in the 80s, and now all these youngsters (The Strokes, Hot Hot Heat, etc.) are cashing in on the retro new wave sound, while you're another potential novelty candidate for VH1's "Bands Reunited"? You pretend to be teenagers.

Posted by Francis at 01:48 PM

February 19, 2004

Ingenious, but...

So, sure, it's kind of clever to invent a bicycle that allows you to ride sidesaddle, but how smart an idea is it to create a vehicle whose driver faces a different direction than the vehicle actually moves?

(Via Making Light.)

Posted by Francis at 05:13 PM | Comments (3)

(Come up with something funny for the header. And not something lame and self-referential.)

You know how you still have the theme to "The Jeffersons" taking up space in your head, but you've already forgotten the name of that person you were introduced to yesterday? Well, I wrote a song about that. (And a darn catchy one, if I do say so myself.) It's called "Tell My Brain".

Posted by Francis at 05:16 AM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2004

We love the randomness

I don't watch all that much TV -- or, at least, not without having videotaped it or bought it on DVD -- so I miss a lot of commercials. This is usually a perfectly acceptable arrangement, but I'm glad my friend Tom pointed out the latest Quizno's ads to me, because they are cray-zee. If you haven't seen them either, here's one, and here's the other.

(The second ad refers to a promotion at Quizno's where you can bring in a coupon -- any coupon, for anything -- for a dollar off a sub. They have a page on their site where you can print coupons for "$.05 off your next pack of gum" and "Buy one pencil, get two for free", for instance. Amusingly, the applet also tantalizes by making you think you're going to get a coupon featuring a scantily clad woman on it before you get a coupon for a discount on a toupee trim, say.)

Anyway, so you're probably wondering -- what's the deal with these furry singing thingamawhoosies? Fortunately, Drew's Blog-o-Rama has done the legwork for us already. They're the brainspawn of this guy, and originally appeared in a very similar but longer flash animation called "We Like the Moon". There's enough on his site to keep you busy for a while, so if you were here hoping to be distracted, I trust I have done my duty.

Posted by Francis at 05:07 PM

February 17, 2004

Screw Man Group

Today, something reminded me that I had once been told that Brian Dewan had a hand in composing the music for Blue Man Group's "Tubes" show...but later, when I bought Blue Man Group's "Audio" CD, Dewan's name was nowhere to be found. A little web research later, I found out why.

Posted by Francis at 02:39 AM

Can You Read What I Hear?

Neil Gaiman has discovered that the government considers deaf people to have such delicate sensibilities, they need to be protected from "Courage the Cowardly Dog". No, really.

Posted by Francis at 01:14 AM | Comments (3)

February 16, 2004

Adhere today, gone tomorrow

I'm not quite done with the new song I've been working on, so, instead, here's a song from a never-released recording session I did at Shimmy Disc many years ago. It was recorded and mixed by Kramer (of Bongwater), who also plays bass on the track; the clarinet is played by my friend Kyle Lapidus, through whose auspices the recording session took place (Kramer owed him money, and offered him studio time as barter, if I recall correctly). It's an ode to a mostly forgotten adhesive of yesteryear: "Mucilage".

I'll post more songs from that recording session now and then, perhaps with some drum parts added. (If this is your first time here and you'd like to download more free music that the RIAA can't touch you for, see the MP3 list in the column to the left.)

Posted by Francis at 12:25 AM

February 15, 2004

Honey pie, you are making me Jay-Z

As someone who is only periodically a fan of rap music (a list of the rap albums I listen to with any regularity: Beastie Boys, "Paul's Boutique"; Public Enemy, "Fear of a Black Planet"; Outkast, "Speakerboxxx"), I can say I've been enjoying the illicit "Grey Album", mixed by DJ Danger Mouse.

For those of you not in the loop on this, DJ Danger Mouse took the vocal tracks to Jay-Z's "The Black Album", and mixed them all with samples from the Beatles' White Album. It was briefly available for sale in some out-of-the-way venues, but EMI put the kibosh on that noise, and it's been pulled. However, this has actually made it easier for you to get your hands on a copy, because now the whole album is being hosted at the Illegal Art website.

I particularly recommend "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" (mixed with "Julia", using a very satisfying cut-up technique) and "99 Problems" (mixed with "Helter Skelter"). Go on and get ur recontextualization on.

Posted by Francis at 12:58 PM

February 14, 2004

I received an honorable discharge, so I must have served. Also, I'm president, so I must have won the election. See?

The Boston Globe continues to ride Bush about Slackergate. The bit of this article that amuses me is:

At yesterday's press briefing, McClellan accused those who continue to question the president's National Guard service of "gutter politics" and "trolling for trash" in a political campaign season.

Asked if the same was true in 1992 when Bush's father criticized Governor Bill Clinton for not releasing his military records, stoking the controversy around Clinton's active avoidance of the Vietnam War draft by calling him "Slick Willie," McLellan replied, "I think that you expect the garbage can to be thrown at you in the 11th hour of a campaign, but not nine months before Election Day."

Okay...so it's better to accuse somebody of something right before an election, instead of giving them plenty of time to clear it up? Oh...but Bush has no apparent interest in clearing it up. I guess I see why that could be a problem.

Posted by Francis at 10:49 PM

February 13, 2004

Pipe dreams

Today I realized that I need some pipe cleaners, so naturally I went to Amazon to see if they had any good deals, and now I'm frustrated, because the fjdksfj pipe cleaners are much better reviewed than the asdfasdfg pipe cleaners, but the fjdksfj pipe cleaners are out of stock. It's a quandary.

Posted by Francis at 05:34 AM | Comments (6)

February 12, 2004

In Dio We Trust

Thanks to Debby for pointing me to the website for Ronnie James Dio's presidential campaign. I mean, seriously -- do you want a president who played in this band:


Or this band:


Kerry's also been getting wishy-washy about his support for gay marriage, but Dio faces the subject head on:

"Rob Halford wants it, so it's cool with me."

Posted by Francis at 02:05 AM | Comments (2)

February 11, 2004

And for heaven's sake, don't play your "Kilroy Was Here" LP backwards without first anointing yourself with holy water

So apparently there's this new game (I use "game" loosely to mean something with a board that comes in a box) that's a total ripoff of a Ouija board, but with the letters laid out differently, which makes it totally original, you know.

Anyway, that's mildly interesting. The thing that makes it worth blogging about is one of the user reviews, since, as you know, you start selling Ouija board or their clones, and some nutjob is going to turn up and start talking about God. The first paragraph will give you some idea:

Yes bad (evil) spirits can be summoned, as well as the good spirits, as well as spirits who are mischevious and therefor arent neccesarily evil, they just like to have fun in ways u might not appreciate. For example, they move your desk a few inches and rearange the desk, no matter how many times you move it back. (I know somebody who this happens to).

His closing remarks are also choice:

I hope this helps. Be carefull!! Oh, and I dont believe in satan, and if you do then you should realize that if there is a satan, you are just giving it power by doing so.

Oh, and to 'A Toy enthusiast from NJ', dont capitalize the word 'satan' like you would 'God'. I wouldnt think you, who has such surprisingly offensive insults to that which you do not know of, would give enough privilage to capitalize the word satan as that you would do when writing about Him, God.

Unfortunately he undermines his incoherent argument somewhat by having capitalized the word "Satan" earlier in his review. You can read the rest of his ramblings here (scroll down to "Some important things you should know..." by SirThomas).

Posted by Francis at 01:11 AM | Comments (3)

February 09, 2004

Gray days

In case you're not feeling sad enough, here's New York magazine's article about the hopefully-not-but-probably last days of Spalding Gray. I started getting choked up around the bottom of the first page and it didn't get much better after that.

(Thanks to Incoming Signals for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 03:52 PM

Correction: Howard Dean is not insane. We regret the error.

Some people in the media are finally admitting, way too late, that maybe...just maybe...they gave Howard Dean a royal reaming with a rake over that Iowa concession speech business.

Posted by Francis at 02:01 PM

KISS and make-up

Man, I missed out on a lot by being born a couple years too late to be a fan of KISS. (When they were at the height of their popularity, I was a Beatles-loving second grader who had no idea why anyone would want to listen to a band like KISS, who we kids had it on good authority would stomp puppies to death onstage with their enormous spiked boots.) Like, I just found out that the make-up worn by KISS had actual symbolic intent! Who knew? According to the Information Please almanac, each member of KISS was meant to be a specific character:

Gene Simmons, the bat lizard; Paul Stanley, the star child; Ace Frehley, the spaceman; and Peter Criss, the cat.

Here's a picture from "KISSONLINE: The site that clicks ass" for easy reference:


I just want to say -- wearing make-up to make you look like a cat? I think that's actually more sexually ambiguous than the Village People were. (Well...the Village People were pretty much only ambiguous if you were too young to know better, but still.)

Posted by Francis at 01:34 PM

February 08, 2004

Even physicists get the blues

I finally cobbled enough free time together to finish the song I've been working on for the past couple weeks, a sort of Led Zeppelin-sounding number about the twin paradox. (I know, another song about the twin paradox.) It's called "Last Train to Pluto". Hope you enjoy it.

(Since previous song postings have resulted in requests for lyrics, I'm skipping a step and posting the lyrics in the comments now.)

Posted by Francis at 01:04 AM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2004

Let's do the time warp again

You should all be reading Boing Boing every day (whence the forthcoming link is culled), but for those of you who aren't, you need to check out these two pages of "age-maps", photos of the same person at different ages merged into one image. Remarkable.

Posted by Francis at 02:54 PM

Is their crappy search programming meant to make you want to pay for an actual dictionary?

The list of words Merriam-Webster gives you as potential alternatives if you search for "hairline fracture":

1. ethnocentricity
2. ethnocentrisms
3. wienerwursts
4. harmonicists
5. half-worlds
6. hornlessnesses
7. ethnocentrism
8. homeomorphisms
9. homomorphisms
10. harmlessnesses

"Hairline" is, of course, nowhere to be seen.

Posted by Francis at 02:31 AM


So, I'm not a vegetarian, though I am to vegetarians what metrosexuals are to homosexuals: I share many of their traits. I actually enjoy meat substitutes. (Why doesn't every restaurant serve seitan, especially made the way they make it at Zen Palate? Mmmmmmmmm.) And I get a little squicked the more my food resembles the animal it came from. Which is why the title of this USDA report (oh, don't bother clicking on it, it's boring) triggers my "ick" reflex:

United States Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef

At least they don't call them cadavers.

Posted by Francis at 02:05 AM

February 06, 2004

No bunny for you

Beck's bunny-for-grammatical-sentences contest has been cancelled, and replaced with a who-can-get-to-the-Pasadena-Humane-Society-first contest. You may also have to figure out which bunny it is yourself when you get there.

Beck promises a new contest that doesn't involve trafficking in living things, so I guess he won't be auctioning off the ex-girlfriend that inspired the Sea Change mope-a-thon.

Posted by Francis at 01:48 PM

February 05, 2004

Spot the subtext

From the latest EW:


How about that tag line, eh? I guess they rejected "Meg Ryan takes all her clothes off in this movie. Won't you consider renting it?"

They're probably also wishing Richard Roeper had actually said "Ryan's performance is absolutely flawless...and shirtless!"

(Apologies in advance to any people just arriving on our planet who thought that clicking on a link labeled "takes all her clothes off" would be safe for work. Please enjoy your stay.)

Posted by Francis at 06:45 AM | Comments (1)

Spin the tale of the donkey

Republicans are reacting predictably to murmurs about how Dubya might not quite have been all that he could be back when he was in the National Guard:

White House officials lashed back Tuesday at Democrats who have accused President Bush of going AWOL from his Vietnam-era service in the National Guard, decrying the allegation as "outrageous and baseless."

Yeah! I mean, all he did was fail to show up for a year! You people are animals. Here's some more stupid rhetoric:

"It is really shameful that this was brought up four years ago, and it's shameful that some are trying to bring it up again," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Translation: "Hey, we successfully avoided talking about this once! No fair bringing it up again!"

"The president was honorably discharged," McClellan said. "He fulfilled his duties. It is really sad that people are now stooping to this level once again. And people should condemn this."

Or: "Hey, if the military happened to whitewash the record of a powerful politician's son, what business is that of yours? They know best. And besides...they didn't do that. So there's no reason to ask them if they did. Because they didn't. (Pause.) Free candy for everyone!"

Posted by Francis at 01:32 AM | Comments (1)

February 04, 2004


If you visit the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, you'll see an oddly addictive new feature: "Merriam-Webster's Real Time Word". It's "a live, random sampling of words looked up in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, displayed exactly as they are entered by thousands of visitors."

In the couple of minutes I watched, someone looked up "is", two people looked up "homosexual" (thinking, no doubt, "I've been hearing a lot about homosexuals lately. How can I learn more about these mysterious creatures?"), and one person wanted a definition of "porns". Perhaps we can refer that last guy to the person looking up "dense".

Posted by Francis at 09:00 PM | Comments (3)

Mockery, actually

As a member of the Writers Guild, I receive a lot of scripts in the mail come awards season. One that arrived recently was Love Actually. As Rose was flipping through it, she came across this display of how the Love Actually logo looked in different countries:


Whatever. The thing to notice is the phrase "the curiously similar logos for Love Actually from around the world." Uh...curiously similar? Like, what, Working Title told people overseas, "Hey, design the logo however you like; you guys speak some crazy other language anyway," and then they all just happened to look the same?

So that's pretty lame, but wait -- also appended to the end of the book were some rejected posters for the movie. You'll see that this one features various questions reminiscent of one of the best moments in Moulin Rouge, like "What makes the world go round?" and "What makes your heart jump for joy?"


...but hopefully they would have caught this mistake if that had actually ended up being the poster:


"A many splendid thing"? Sigh.

Posted by Francis at 01:20 AM | Comments (4)

February 03, 2004

If music be the food of love, here are my 20 favorite foods. Of love.

No, it's not just a ploy to get a prominent link in A List a Day, it's my usual end-of-the-year best of list. It's just that this year, I have a blog. I'd been holding off on the list because I'd been slow about picking up some 2003 releases (Fire Theft, Belle & Sebastian), and figured they'd make the cut when I finally got them. They did. There are other CDs in the same position, but I'm impatient.

So, then, here are my 20 favorite CDs of the year (although the positions of CDs in near proximity to each other are pretty fungible depending on my mood). Comments on individual CDs and endless other music-related reflections on the year past await you beyond the "continue" link.

1. Fountains of Wayne -- Welcome Interstate Managers
2. Cafe Tacuba -- Cuatro Caminos
3. Broken Social Scene -- You Forgot It in People
4. The Shins -- Chutes Too Narrow
5. Belle and Sebastian -- Dear Catastrophe Waitress
6. The Postal Service -- Give Up
7. Imitation Electric Piano -- Trinity Neon
8. Stephen Malkmus -- Pig Lib
9. Regina Spektor -- Soviet Kitsch
10. Jonathan Coulton -- Smoking Monkey
11. Manitoba -- Up in Flames
12. Paul Weller -- Fly on the Wall (b-side compilation)
13. Menomena -- I Am the Fun Blame Monster
14. The Fire Theft -- The Fire Theft
15. David Byrne -- Lead Us Not Into Temptation
16. Bill Frisell -- The Intercontinentals
17. Radiohead -- Hail to the Thief
18. Yo La Tengo -- Summer Sun
19. Liz Phair -- Liz Phair
20. The Rapture -- Echoes

Comments on the CDs I felt like commenting on:

1. CDs that inspire obsessive listening are the ones that make it to the top 20, and this year Fountains of Wayne put out the CD that we cannot stop playing.
2. If you like fucked up experimental shit in other languages, but you like it to be really really catchy, this album is for you. (As is "Team Rock" by Quruli, but this one is sure as hell easier to find.)
4. Also the best graphic design of the year.
5. Belle and Sebastian made me happy by finally following up their string of tepid albums with a really good one (only one song, "Lord Anthony", made my attention wander).
7. Imitation Electric Piano is a side project by Stereolab's Simon Johns. Similar in execution to your average Stereolab album, but much more memorable than any of the Lab's recent output. They should let him co-write some songs.
9/10. Regina Spektor and Jonathan Coulton are local artists (though Regina is going to be huge within a year or two).
12. The Paul Weller selection is a 3-CD set that collects his b-sides and rarities. If you recall that anecdote about scoring the new Cure set, you'll already know I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.
14. The Fire Theft consists of people who used to be in Sunny Day Real Estate, although never all of them at the same time. Their debut is by no means far removed from the last SDRE album...which is fine with me.
16. Bill Frisell finally put out an album that doesn't consist solely of slow, melancholy American folk music, yay!
19. I did put Liz Phair's album at #19, and you can just shut up about it. Like if a pop album this good was released by someone else, you wouldn't be all over it in that hip contrarian way.
20. The Rapture might've finished higher except their otherwise fine album contains the worst song I've heard in years, "Open Up Your Heart", which plays right into Luke Jenner's weaknesses -- an inability to stay on pitch, and an ability to write crappy lyrics. Those traits somehow work fine on their Gang-of-Four-style dance numbers, but you put them on top of an interminable piano ballad and suddenly the wavering pitch and the repetitive verses become too much for any man to bear.

But wait, there's more!

CDs that would probably be on my top 20 if I had bought them yet:
The Decemberists -- Her Majesty the Decemberists
The Fall -- The Real New Fall LP
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists -- Hearts of Oak
David Sylvian -- Blemish
Robert Wyatt -- Cuckooland

CDs I liked quite a bit but that didn?t make the top 20 (what we in the biz* call "honorable mention"):
The Bad Plus -- These Are the Vistas
Andrew Bird -- Weather Systems
Blur -- Think Tank
David Bowie -- Reality
Brave Combo -- Box of Ghosts
Terry Hall & Mushtaq -- The Hour of Two Lights
Paddy McAloon -- I Trawl the Megahertz
The New Pornographers -- The Electric Version
Rufus Wainwright -- Want One
Warren Zevon -- The Wind

Album that might have made the list if the spoken-word interludes didn't make listening to it such an incredibly painful experience...worse than the Rapture, because the problem is not confined to one track only:
Outkast -- The Love Below/Speakerboxxx

Best CDs I bought last year that were released kind of a while ago:
Badfinger -- Wish You Were Here
The Colour Field -- Virgins and Philistines
Crowsdell -- Dreamette
Neil Finn -- Try Whistling This
Scritti Politti -- Songs to Remember
Slapp Happy -- Ca Va

CD I could have skipped:
Elvis Costello -- North

Oh my god, don't even get me started on this. It's like Elvis went back to "Painted From Memory" (one of my favorite albums) and removed everything that was good about it. The only song I actively like from the "North" sessions is the UK bonus track, "Impatience". God forbid he should've put a song with a melody on the album proper.

Best concerts:
1. Regina Spektor/The Dismemberment Plan
2. Stephen Malkmus

Regina Spektor was not actually supposed to be the opening act for concert #1; there was another act (Miss Spice and the Malenium Band) about which the D-Plan had made a special point of saying "These guys are incredibly awesome, they don't play outside DC very often, you have to see them." So naturally that band cancelled. Even though we'd never heard Miss Spice, the hype had gotten to us, so we were a little tepid about this random woman playing instead. But as it happened, within minutes of her spacy "I lost my set list in the bathroom" intro, she had the entire audience's full attention. We're hooked now. Hooked enough that I can feel glad for her that she got to open for the Strokes, instead of jealous. (The D-Plan part of the show was also excellent...but that wasn't a surprise.)

Stephen Malkmus put on a terrific show (for free, in Prospect Park), but the thing that made it especially memorable was that there was a torrential downpour during his entire set. We decided our umbrellas were doing us no good and just decided to give up on them. Cathartic. The only drawback was the Shakespeare script I had in my so-incredibly-not-waterproof bag, which got so drenched that, when I squeezed it, huge gouts of water came pouring out of it.


*That is to say, the business of "people who know a lot of two-word phrases".

Posted by Francis at 06:18 AM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2004

Very, very belated topical humor

The New York Daily News reports in its gossip column about a new book which reveals how Katharine Hepburn apparently liked the ladies. Besides getting busy with Greta Garbo, July Garland, and others:

Hepburn also allegedly had a sexual attachment to her close friend Irene Selznick, the daughter of Louis B. Mayer and wife of producer David O. Selznick. It is said that the two enjoyed breaking into Hollywood mansions as a lark - and were once caught by silent-screen star Ramon Novarro (later the murder victim of a pair of burglars).

Anyone else think those last two events are related? Picture the chain of events: You come home. You find two hot women having sex in your house. Maybe you start being a little lax about locking all the doors and windows after that? Lighting's never going to strike twice if you don't put up a lightning rod, after all.

Posted by Francis at 02:00 PM | Comments (3)

That's Miss Jackson to you, Justin...because you are nasty

So, you know...I don't care about sports. I spent my Super Bowl Sunday proofreading crosswords. And then what happens? It turns out Justin Timberlake accidentally exposed Janet Jackson's breast during the halftime show! And I missed it! Well, thank goodness for the Internet.

MTV claims it was an accident, but why even have a tear-away breastplate on your costume if it's not going to get ripped off at some point? That's like showing a gun in act one and never firing it. I doubt CBS approved it, though, as Matt Drudge claims.

Many more pictures of the event can be found here. But that wasn't the only nudity at the Super Bowl. Goodness, no. (And hey -- wait a minute! That's Janet's tit on the Yahoo News slideshow, for crying out loud! Let's hear it for moral laxity in the media.)

Posted by Francis at 08:13 AM