February 28, 2008

You can probably see why I had to stop before the "shooting star" era

In case you got stuck on that New York Sun puzzle from a couple weeks ago, or you would just rather get to check out the fancy answer grid without having to actually do the puzzle, here's the solution.

Posted by Francis at 06:47 PM | Comments (1)

February 26, 2008

Sort of like "Harvey", if "Harvey" had been written by Beckett

How do you make one of the lamest comics in the world into one of the edgiest comics in the world? By simply removing the main character, it turns out. Here's my favorite.

(Thanks to Rose for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 12:42 AM | Comments (12)

February 25, 2008

Tilda Swinton can be the squiggly mark over my "n" anytime

So you may have noticed that Tilda Swinton won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, but you may not have noticed that before that she was getting a fair amount of press for her polyamorous relationship. (She has an older partner with whom she has two children, and a younger boyfriend who sometimes stays at their house.) Unsurprisingly, most of the coverage aims for the sensationalistic. For instance, comparing an open relationship with cheating on one's partner:

If Swinton is in an open relationship, she wouldn't be the only nonsingle star to break the bonds of monogamy and share her bed with someone other than her partner.

Jerry Hall put up with Mick Jagger's reportedly rampant infidelity throughout their nine-year marriage, until it was revealed that he had fathered a secret love child with Brazilian model Luciana Morad.

Vanessa Bryant stood by her NBA baller husband, Kobe, while he fought sexual assault charges, even after he admitted to having sexual relations with a young fan. (Of course, the $4 million, eight-carat, purple diamond ring he bought her might have helped.)

Just so we're clear, secretly fathering a child is not cool whether one is monogamous or polyamorous. Yeesh. And then this is ridiculous:

But in a town where back-stabbing is sometimes a business necessity and image is everything, [E! online columnist Ted] Casablanca predicts a thorny ending to Swinton's alleged three-pronged love story.

"It's like a threesome. Someone's not getting what they want," he said. "The person who is getting what they want is Tilda. And now that she's got her Oscar nomination, she's probably thinking about getting into foursomes."

That's...so offensive, I don't know where to start, exactly. Does Ted Casablanca also feel that Scott Rudin (gay award-winning producer of No Country for Old Man, who thanked his partner in his acceptance speech) will be automatically wanting new men to sleep with after winning Best Picture? Sigh. Maybe in a couple decades reporters will not behave like giggling schoolchildren when writing about people in nontraditional relationships.

Posted by Francis at 12:49 AM | Comments (13)

February 24, 2008

The world is full of many types of people

For instance: there is the type of person who goes to concerts in bars and gets really drunk; who makes a nuisance of himself to his friends throughout the entire concert by hugging them from behind, rocking them back and forth, and yelling in their ears despite their obvious discomfort with his behavior; who generally exhibits no sense of awareness that there is anyone in the room besides him; and who, when he is leaving (just at the moment the tip jar is getting close to him) and putting on his coat, and backing up and backing up some more until he is about to walk into you and your girlfriend (who are already squeezed up against the wall), or perhaps elbow her in the head while putting on said coat, and then you gently touch his back in the universal symbol of "hey, dude, careful, you're about to back into us", turns around, furious, and makes gestures that indicate that he is wondering if you want a piece of him, and continues to make such gestures until he leaves.

Did I mention that this type of person is, like, twice my size?

Sometimes I forget that even though I am a huge music snob, the bands I am a fan of are not solely liked by non-dickheads.

Posted by Francis at 12:08 AM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2008

Because "box of chocolate" doesn't fit in a 4x4 grid, I guess

In today's USA Today Quick Cross (a 4x4 word square), the second across entry is RAPE ("Pillage's partner). Way to stay classy, USA Today. Check out the puzzle yourself, if you don't believe me.

The really lame part is that they could have just changed the P in RAPE to an R to make RARE (crossing ERIC instead of EPIC).

(Thanks to Tyler for the tip.)

Posted by Francis at 05:26 PM | Comments (7)

February 13, 2008

O, I am fortune's fool

Last night, Rose and I had dinner at Red Bamboo (a yummy vegetarian restaurant which is also frequented by Nellie McKay, if my celebrity spotting is correct), and this was the fortune Rose got in her fortune cookie:


She was underwhelmed by this fortune, partly because it is an aphorism and not a fortune, and partly because it utterly thwarts the cookie eater who wishes to indulge in appending the traditional "in bed" to their fortune. Anyway, I also thought it was a pretty lame fortune, until I opened my cookie, which contained this fortune:


...at which point it became the best fortune ever. Anyway, the really interesting part (by which I mean "interesting to me and maybe four other people in the world") is that the fortune slips are not identical: the line breaks are different and the lottery numbers change. The Chinese vocabulary lesson on the back is different too, for all the use a fortune-cookie vocabulary lesson can be with a tonal language. Anyway, it made me curious: do the cookie makers routinely mix and match fortunes, lottery numbers, and vocabulary words to make it seem like their fortunes have more variety than they actually have, or did someone accidentally write the same fortune twice in two different bouts of fortune cookie manufacturing? I guess we'll never know, or even really give the question a second thought ten minutes from now. Which is, of course, the canonical requirement for a blog post.

Posted by Francis at 01:38 AM | Comments (10)

February 07, 2008

Best of 2007, #9

#9: Dirty Projectors, "Rise Above"

This is another weird one. I can tell you the basic sound bite about it, which is that it's songwriter David Songstreth's attempt to record an album-length cover version of Black Flag's "Damaged" album, a punk album that he loved in middle school. And to do so from memory, without consulting lyric sheets or listening to the album. In many ways this is not information you really need to appreciate the album -- I'd never heard "Damaged" before listening to "Rise Above", though I've since listened to some of it and appreciated it in a removed fashion which is probably somewhat inappropriate for a hardcore punk album ("Hmm, that's some innovatively atonal guitar work there, yeees." [Sips tea]). Anyway, the songs have mutated to the point of being, essentially, new compositions, and those new compositions are completely removed from any normal expectations about song structure. Basically, this sounds like an album of alien pop music. (Kind of like the Harry Partch opera Rose and I saw was like alien classical music.) My friend Brendan says it reminds him of the Shaggs, a band famous for its freedom from traditional harmonies, time signatures, melodies, rhythm, synchronization, or musical ability of any sort. If you've never heard their most famous song, "My Pal Foot Foot", you should take this opportunity to do that.

The Shaggs are so bad they go straight past bad into genius. Dirty Projectors are musically gifted but just about as idiosyncratic as that, and the result is beautiful. Call and response parts come out of nowhere, on top of African highlife-sounding guitars, with strings and winds drifting in and out, in dense harmonies, with sudden abrasive jolts here and there...it's disorienting in the best way possible. There are no reference points, but it's not like being lost, it's like having infinite possibilities. Listening to it right this second, I feel like I should have ranked it higher. Why didn't I? Maybe it's that I have to be in a particular mood to want to listen to it. It's certainly an album I can't guarantee with any measure of certainty that you're going to like, despite my swooniness about it.

But hey, give it a shot. Here's "No More" and "Police Story". And here's the song that first got me hooked on Dirty Projectors, a live recording of a song from an earlier EP: "Imagine It".

Update: Here's the original (one-third as long) version of "Police Story" by Black Flag, so you can compare and contrast.

(Clicky spendy linky for the aforementioned.)

Posted by Francis at 11:11 PM | Comments (2)

February 06, 2008

Double cross

Busy crossword week for me -- I've got today's puzzle in the Onion AV Club and Friday's puzzle in the New York Sun (though you don't have to wait until Friday to solve the Sun if you feel like tackling it now...I recommend you print it out first though). Both of them are a bit on the ambitious side, in terms of the amount of theme I tried to cram in. Pretty happy with how they came out, though.

(Download the free Across Lite crossword program to read the puzzle files.)

Posted by Francis at 01:13 AM | Comments (5)

February 05, 2008

The things that should not be

I thought Pirates of the Caribbean Scrabble was the most unnecessary movie + board game tie-in ever...until I saw Shrek Othello.

I can tell you more about Pirates of the Caribbean Scrabble because that one I've seen in person. It has some extra rules -- for instance, you score lots of extra points for certain words that are related to piracy or for names of major characters in the films. Some of them appear in this picture of an illegal board position. I can't remember if all of those words score bonus points, but probably, and I know ELIZABETH was one of them for sure...for all the use that is, since I'm pretty sure no one will ever get to play it. It's nine letters long! So not only do you need the right letters, but you need at least two of the letters already on the board in the correct positions! And you need to be a good enough Scrabble player to spot it! And you need to be a good enough Scrabble player who is playing Pirates of the Caribbean Scrabble in the first place. Seems just a tad unlikely.

Also, there's a rule about making your opponent lose a turn by playing a special tile on any of the squares on the edge of the board. (At least, I think it's a special tile. If you could do it by playing any tile there, that would be insane. Normally you avoid playing out to the board's edge because it sets up your opponent for a triple word score, but if they lost a turn any time you played there -- chaos!)

Update: Of course there is also Shrek Scrabble. Board shape is different (which is actually kind of interesting), and words earning bonus points are SHREK, FIONA, and DONKEY. I suggest "There Will Be Scrabble" with bonus points for BLOOD, OIL, and MILKSHAKE.

Posted by Francis at 09:25 AM | Comments (11)

Best of 2007, #7 and #8

#7: Georgie James, "Places"

Here's a band I first heard on the radio, I mean internet. Their fast songs remind me a lot of early New Pornographers, although there are clearly other influences in there. (Rose hears a lot of Paul McCartney and XTC, for instance, and I hear some Todd Rundgren in "Hard Feelings".) I guess I should point out that half the songwriting team in this band is a guy formerly from another, noisier band that broke up, Q And Not U, since that's the sort of thing that people point out, except I'm not especially into Q And Not U. So, good job, leaving that band to co-found a band I like better! (Watch as now I end up retroactively becoming a Q And Not U fan and buying their entire back catalog, as punishment for my hubristic scoffing.) Anyway, to sum up: they're as catchy as hell and wooo yeah, I'm ready to hear some of their songs right now!!

Click through for download links for "Look Me Up" and "Long Week". Also, special bonus! This song's not on the album, it's not even a B-side (though perhaps it will be eventually), and it's great. It seems like it was from an early version of the album tracklisting but got cut...but I'm glad it got leaked, since apparently the band was only too happy to say, "Ooh, what a great song we just wrote and recorded, why don't we NOT RELEASE IT?" Here it is: "Simplify".

#8: The Bees, "Octopus"

Or, as they are known in the U.S., A Band of Bees, since there's another band in these parts called the Bees. My friend Todd turned me on to this band; they're sort of retro-60s-psychedelic-pop. (So, not psychedelic like Iron Butterfly. Psychedelic like Strawberry Alarm Clock.) I like all their albums, just as I like so many albums that are faithful yet original recreations of songwriting styles that few if any other people are currently working in, but this might be my favorite so far of theirs.

Get your groove on with "Listening Man" and "End of the Street". (And Todd, I don't know if you've kept up with the Bees yourself, but if you haven't, you really should listen to "End of the Street"; I think it's just your sort of novelty song.)

(Buy "Places" and/or "Octopus".)

Posted by Francis at 02:03 AM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2008

Heaneyland on tour

On other websites. See? At least I don't neglect other people's blogs the way I neglect my own. Anyway, I've got the Comment of the Week at the Comics Curmudgeon (my first! I'm so proud. Anyway, it refers to this entry) and one of the runner-up anti-captions in radosh.net's New Yorker Anti-Caption Contest. Perhaps the associated blog posts for those comments will amuse you until I post the next set of mp3s.

Posted by Francis at 12:07 PM | Comments (2)