Sunday, January 31, 2010


Roger Ebert calls it for Charlie Kaufman:

"Synecdoche, New York" is the best film of the decade. It intends no less than to evoke the strategies we use to live our lives. After beginning my first viewing in confusion, I began to glimpse its purpose and by the end was eager to see it again, then once again, and I am not finished. Charlie Kaufman understands how I live my life, and I suppose his own, and I suspect most of us. Faced with the bewildering demands of time, space, emotion, morality, lust, greed, hope, dreams, dreads and faiths, we build compartments in our minds. It is a way of seeming sane.
A controversial choice, to be sure. Even I, who withstood many upbraidings and accusations of snobbishness after defending the film, wouldn't have put it at number one. Nevertheless, Ebert makes me want to see it again, though it seems likely that I'll have a hard time finding anyone to watch it with me.

This and his other top moves of the naughties here. Many questionable choices here (Almost Famous? Crash?? Good god.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

People zappers

Remember tasers? They continue to get even scarier:

Later this year, Taser will start selling a civilian version of its three-shot people zapper. Unlike the law enforcement model, it will have a range of only 15 feet. Despite that limitation, the increased firepower may lead to some regrettable incidents. It’s anybody’s guess whether armed civilians will abuse their ability to shock people repeatedly, the way that cops do.
From Wired.

See also their Christopher-Hitchens-esque report on getting tazed, which is not graphic (I promise).

Mussolini calling

More popular than naked friends? Hard to believe:

An iPhone application containing 100 of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's speeches has become the second most downloaded item in Italy, it emerged today.

The application, called iMussolini, is available on Apple’s on line store for 79 euro cents (59p).

According to Italy' Apple iTunes store, it has been downloaded more than a hugely popular video game based on blockbuster film Avatar.

It is second only to an X-ray machine app that 'allows you to see your friends naked'.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Hole in It

Watching-the-state-of-the-Union links:

  • The NYT is all over the news that a woman accidentally knocked a hole in a Picasso at the Met, highlighting that shit like this happens and looks at how art actually gets fixed. Somehow I think it makes this de Chirico look even more awesome after the wrecking ball hit it.
  • I'm looking for any reason whatsoever to get to New Zealand. Cuddle class? Yes please.

If I tweeted ...

How depressing is it that our president even acknowledges holocaust global warming deniers in his State of the Union speech.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


More video of dolphins hunting in mudflats ...

as well as dolphins hydroplaning onto beaches to catch fish.

I don't know why I find this so fascinating, but I do. Enjoy.

Temporal lean

That's called science:

University of Aberdeen psychological scientists Lynden Miles, Louise Nind and Neil Macrae conducted a study to measure this in the lab. They fitted participants with a motion sensor while they imagined either future or past events. The researchers found that thinking about past or future events can literally move us: Engaging in mental time travel (a.k.a. chronesthesia) resulted in physical movements corresponding to the metaphorical direction of time. Those who thought of the past swayed backward while those who thought of the future moved forward.
Bonus points to anybody who can use "chronesthesia" in a conference paper. Via BB.

The Big Drink

In the past 50 years, the world's water use has tripled. More than a third of the western United States sits atop groundwater that is being consumed faster than it's replenished. Half of the world's wetlands are gone, killed off in part by irrigation and dams, which have destroyed habitats along 60 percent of the planet's largest river systems. Since 1970, the population of freshwater species has been halved; one-fifth of all freshwater fish vanished in the past century—an extinction rate nearly 50 times that of mammals. And consuming more water has concentrated pesticides and fertilizers in what's left over: It's unsafe to swim or fish in nearly 40 percent of US rivers and streams, and polluted water sickens nearly 3.5 million Americans a year
Mojo has a nice series of articles up on water and calculating our "water footprint." Here, to wet your appetite, is a graph showing how much water goes into a series of everyday items.
Microchip - 8 gallons

Apple - 18 gallons

Pint of beer - 20 gallons

4 oz. wine - 32 gallons

16 oz. Diet Coke - 33 gallons

4 oz. coffee - 37 gallons

7 oz. orange juice - 45 gallons

Diaper - 214 gallons

1 lb. chicken - 467 gallons

1 lb. cheese - 599 gallons

Hamburger - 634 gallons

Cotton T-shirt - 719 gallons

Ream of white paper - 1,321 gallons

1 lb. beef - 1,857 gallons

Pair of leather shoes - 2,113 gallons

Pair of jeans - 2,866 gallons

Midsize car - 39,090 gallons

As the former employee of a municipal water conservation program and a vegetarian, I sit in judgment of the rest of you. Consider this: "To produce 1 pound of feedlot beef requires about 2,400 gallons of water and 7 pounds of grain." If you couldn't do it for the sake of animal cuteness, do it for the pragmatic reason that it's killing the rest of us.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Maybe the best nature video I've ever seen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reatard documentary

"I don't like to hear the audience talking or clapping or anything. I don't feel like that's how music is supposed to be seen -- as like these individualized, compartmentalized little songs where people are supposed to feed your ego by clapping to approve or disapprove of the last thing that you did."

On a tip from one of the commenters, I googled this Jay Reatard documentary. Very cool! As I wrote a few months back, Jay actually had a very sophisticated sense of craft, and for me watching him talk about music is a really strong reminder of what a sophisticated artist he was. And I think that the quote above justifies my post on Jay from two days.

Waiting For Something - a short documentary about Jay Reatard

Jay Reatard | MySpace Music Videos

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pay News

It was inevitable: "The Times to Charge for Frequent Access to Its Web Site":

The New York Times announced Wednesday that it intended to charge frequent readers for access to its Web site, a step being debated across the industry that nearly every major newspaper has so far feared to take.

Starting in early 2011, visitors to will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access.
I can't say for sure how this will impact my consumption of the The Times, but if the price is right I would definitely pay for a certain amount of access. Then again, I can always hope that institutions of higher learning will provide their students free access.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Jay Reatard Mattered

I've spent a fair amount of time over the course of the last few days reading about Jay Reatard and watching videos of him. There's a lot of great stuff out there of both sorts, but I find the videos especially great largely because performance is the medium of punk music in way that is distinct from even the most performative musical genres, like jazz. A live jazz record is far better than a live punk record for the simple reason that the experience of the musicians themselves, while nice, is not essential to the jazz experience. This is not the case for punk music, which has always been about the relationship between performer and audience. And it's also why when punk goes mainstream it always fails to retain its punk-quality -- in the arena, everything that matters is lost, no matter how good the music itself may be.

I feel pretty lucky to have seen Jay Reatard perform a couple of times, and as recently as six weeks ago. Part of his appeal was his distinctive attitude on stage. He didn't bullshit around talking to the crowd and trying make friends with the audience. He came out and played his set all the way through, only taking breaks to hydrate, or breathe, or take a shot. There wasn't a moment of silence coming from his amp at any point during any of the shows I saw. In that, he employed a kind of Ramones aesthetic that manufactured energy out of the sheer relentlessness of the performance. But this performative style was something more than just a desire to keep things simple or to impress the audience through a show of stamina. There was a kind of hostility toward the audience in the way Jay played, and I think that is actually a very important part of how I understand his music.

As I've read the obituaries over the last couple of days, I've realized that one of the common things that people say about Jay is that he was intense in a way that implies that he was out of control. Many of Jay's fans, oh course, base this on the fact that his shows on occasion featured violence on his part or violence directed at him. Alijca Trout, one of his band mates from The Lost Sounds, told Rolling Stone that he “was very erratic and volatile with his own life. You never knew what was going to happen next.” He was, on these counts, naturally accused of being a jerk or an asshole, and this is certainly a justifiable thing to say of him. But not just because he punched this or that kid at a show; it's justifiable because his stage presence itself, while not openly hostile, was of a take-it-or-leave-it variety. It was a sort of intensity that didn't beg for your adoration. He just didn't care about what we thought nearly as much as we might want to think he did. That's not how it worked with him, and that's not how it works with punk music in general.

Between these two forms stridency (the physical and performative), we have Jay Reatard in a nutshell. And I would not have it that he had been a nicer guy as a performer (whatever he was as a private person). Say whatever you will about whether or not he was likable; if he had been more likable, he wouldn't have been Jay Reatard, and there would be no high-profile obituaries, no inevitable Elvis comparisons, no cause for grief. It's a hard thing to say that you are mourning for an asshole, but there would be no reason to mourn if Jay Reatard hadn't been an asshole. He'd just be some other indie guy.

But I don't think Jay was "indie," whatever you take that to mean. In his unrelenting, strident tone, we see his punk genius. And while this quality may seem relatively simple, it is the least replicable punk rock gesture--and its most essential. What does punk rock really have left? How many artists can we name that approach their music in the same way? To play songs one after the other is one thing; to release records one after the other--around 100 in 14 years--is another. It requires both a sort of abandonment to the creative process and the inability to give a shit about how a particular project is received (or if it is received at all). It's a kind of hostility toward us, but it is one that we crave because it is the signal of artistic integrity in the face of an all-too-worshipful audience. That is what Jay Reatard offered us a musician, and that is why his death is, above all, a terrible loss for punk rock, which finds itself currently devoid of committed artists of Jay's caliber. That is why Jay Reatard mattered.

I drink it up.

I think it's time that the US start heavily funding NASA again. This might be the only way to end this recession:

Oceans of liquid diamond, filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus, according to a recent article in the journal Nature Physics.
Paging Scrooge McDuck. (Via HuffPo)

Monday, January 18, 2010

History of the Senses

My partner and I hosted a large birthday brunch yesterday, and some kind visitor left us with a large bag of oranges. Today as we were doing our best to eat the leftovers, we got into a conversation about oranges. I asked K. if she thought they were an Old World fruit or indigenous to the New World. Since neither of us knew the answer, we consulted wikipedia, and made a very interesting discovery.

Oranges are indigenous to Southeast Asia, but what's really interesting is that they were not introduced into Europe until the early Renaissance. So, if Europeans didn't eat oranges until the 16th century, what about the color "orange"? Where does that come from?

According to wikipedia (which provides an awesome etymology through its many successions), the word "orange" denoting a color didn't appear until 1512 (or 1542, depending on which page you consult). Prior to the 16th century, the color "orange" was called geoluhread, which wiki tells us translates to "yellow-red."

K. speculates that perhaps this is why we have no rhyme for the word orange.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Out of Time

“I’m just trying to get the idea out before the inspiration is gone,” he said. “Everything I do is motivated by the fear of running out of time.”
NYT has a nice, short obit for Jay Reatard up. Consider this: he was 29, and he made 22 records. And almost everyone one of them is great.

According to wikipedia, his death is now being investigated as a homicide.

*Update*: The wikipedia article has been updated to clarify Jay's case as a homicide. It now reads as follows:

"An investigation was opened by the Memphis police homicide bureau, which is normal procedure in determining a cause of death. MyFox Memphis reported that police had begun a homicide investigation and were actively looking for a possible suspect. The report was later removed from the TV station's website, likely because the news of an active homicide investigation was incorrect."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

oh no

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, and staunch critic of the long-telegraphed war in Iraq, has been indicted in child-sex sting.

Can this week get any worse?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

RIP Jay Reatard

One of my favorite punk rock gems, dead at 29.