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Archive for September 2008

>This is what 1996-2008 sounds like

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>Sasha-Frere Jones has this piece about Timbaland called The Timbaland Era which rightfully lays out just how much Timbaland has owned soulful music. He’s sort’ve been a one-man Motown, really dominating the way we hear rhythm and blues, and churning out songs that are recognizably Timbaland yet continue to change and adapt. And I agree with Frere-Jones when he says that those two Aaliyah songs are the most significant R&B songs of the 1990’s. I’d say those two songs turned the page on American R&B music in ways no other songs or artists did, only rivaled in the 90’s by a few New Jack Swing songs like JADE’s “Don’t Walk Away” or Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love”:

“…but since 1996, when Mosley showed up on the charts with a young singer named Aaliyah, the sound of pop music has drifted toward Timbaland. When you hear a rhythm that is being played by an instrument you can’t identify but wish you owned, when you hear a song that refuses to make up its mind about its genre but compels you to move, or when you hear noises that you thought couldn’t find a comfortable place in a pop song, you are hearing Timbaland, or school thereof.

Timbaland started out by changing the beat of R. & B. What had swung before began to stutter and syncopate in ways that felt both ancient and completely new. Listen to the hi-hat in a song like Aaliyah’s “One in a Million”—the patterns pause, and come back doubled and tripled, closer to tap dancing than to any dull timekeeping. Then the innovations began to bloom in size and style. Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” is among the most significant singles of the nineties: the beat refuses to fully engage, using more dead space than you would have thought possible in a hit. And it wasn’t just because Timbaland performed a cross-rhythm of mouth noises—pops and clicks. (Oh, and there’s a baby gurgling.) He was obviously heading somewhere else.”

This is now what the world sounds like.

Written by alexgfrank

September 30, 2008 at 5:46 pm

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>I would’ve told Tyra to relax

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>Yesterday I was an extra on the Tyra Banks show. The bitches from America’s Next Top Model did spoken word poetry. It brought a tear to my eye. Mostly because there was so much acrylic hair in the room and I’m slightly allergic.

This was the feminist one who spoke a feminist anthem!

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September 30, 2008 at 2:12 pm

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>tri-coastal: i’ll try anything once

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September 30, 2008 at 3:03 am

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>investment tanking

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>Sometimes I think the capitalism of America doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Where is innovation and gung-ho ambition (the iPhone is not enough). Basically my point is that if capitalism is going to be an oppressive domineering sack of shit, can’t it leave some interesting stains? Our latest capitalism encouraged poverty, racism, sexism, militarism, hostility, unhappiness, depression, suicide, george bush, global warming, and all we got was this lousy presidential campaign! Thomas Friedman’s brilliant point is that there have always been greedy, capitalist sons of bitches, but that greed, as bad as it was with Henry Ford, Mellon, etc., spurred so many things that changed the world. American greed is now circulcar, just spores of money that keep reproducing for their host. If only this economic crisis had occurred because we overspent on light-speed airplanes, gasoline-free automoblies, or blanketing the nation with wireless internet, at least we’d have a sci-fi living and I could go to the moon or some shit! My mom once said investment bankers were the lowest scum of the universe because all they did was move money around and never created or contributed a god damn thing to the world except dividends. This crisis proves she is correct:

“Many things make me weep about the current economic crisis, but none more than this brief economic history: In the 19th century, America had a railroad boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many lost money. But even when that bubble burst, it left America with an infrastructure of railroads that made transcontinental travel and shipping dramatically easier and cheaper.

The late 20th century saw an Internet boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many people lost money, but that dot-com bubble left us with an Internet highway system that helped Microsoft, I.B.M. and Google to spearhead the I.T. revolution.

The early 21st century saw a boom, bubble and now a bust around financial services. But I fear all it will leave behind are a bunch of empty Florida condos that never should have been built, used private jets that the wealthy can no longer afford and dead derivative contracts that no one can understand.”

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September 29, 2008 at 4:50 am

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>we’re pissed, but happy

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September 28, 2008 at 9:54 pm

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>DAYYY_glo misa Daaaay-glo day glo comes and me wants go home

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September 28, 2008 at 4:55 pm

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>uh oh

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>When Sarah Palin was nominated, the very first scenario I imagined related to that book I read in 10th grade “The Handmaid’s Tale” about a theorcratic state that forces women into social slavery. Dude where is Alan Moore when I need him?? A graphic novel about Palin as dictator! SWEET! In Palin’s theocracy, which would be a perfect, gradual non-threatening coup, of course, because who in Ohio would imagine that cute girl in the friendly glasses and the out-of-style beehive would turn NYC into a quarantine for faggots, set up a day pass system for unwed women, and turn Alaska into a giant frigid refugee camp for immigrants, setting up a wall that divides the state from Canada. The theocrats could use American misogyny against America: just keep grrling out Sarah Palin all over television, just put a television everywhere and have her talking to katie couric about lipstick and shit, and then no one would suspect her of fascism. This would be all sped up if there were a security alert, like a terrorist attack or a disease outbreak or some shit. Well the NYTimes must have been thinking the same thing, because they interviewed Margaret Atwood, the author of the book, and while she makes no allusions to my scenario, they make sure to ask some Palin questions:

In 1985, you published “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a much-discussed classic set in a future in which the U.S. government has come to be controlled by right-wing fundamentalists. Do you feel you anticipated the likes of Sarah Palin? Ha. You can order action figures of her now.

Do you own any?No, I am afraid of what the actions would be. Read the book by Antonia Fraser called “The Warrior Queens .” You will see that no woman ruler has been successful if she has been an advocate for women at large. Not one, ever. It’s the Thatcher model, which is, “All women should stay home and take care of their babies except me.”

On the other hand, Palin is tapping into Madonna iconography by appearing in public with her infant. The Virgin Mary was known for being modest and demure. She is not a gun-toting mama. I’m sorry.

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September 28, 2008 at 4:42 pm

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>summers over

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September 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm

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>Didion

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>Joan Didion has such a strong literary voice that its troubling when what she says isn’t that good. She’s usually rather good – she is best when writing non-fiction. And so I won’t write too much about my disappointment in “A Book of Common Prayer” because I am so enthralled by so many things she writes that its probably not worth it to focus on that which I do not prefer. I feel motivated, though, to at least my mention that Didion is not one of those writers who I find perfect, and it is because of my lapses in literary admiration for Didion, I think, that I like her even more than everyone else.
I was captured by Didion before I even read her – when I was just described the contents of her non-fiction works “Slouching Towards Bethleham” and “The White Album”, I felt like I was hearing about a writer that I should’ve read before I had read anything else, before I was polluted by writers who wrote beautifully about subjects I didn’t care too much about, so intwined were my interests with hers. The late 1960’s, the absurdity and seriousness of American politics, cultural chaos, estrangement and detachment – all of these subjects, I was told, were in Didion, and so I would finally be able to read a book that said things I wanted to say and told stories I wanted to hear. I don’t think I waited a day before I picked up a copy of “Slouching Towards Bethleham”.
The book overwhelmed my expectations. Where I had expected liberal and conservative bias or emotional and political pandering, Didion sifted through the politics of my parents’ generation with objectivity and intent (a hard dichotomy to achieve). Where most writers would create ornate masks of opinion, Didion provides a window, a stained glass one that has her indelible markings and colorings, but a book that exposes truths instead of stylishly painting over them. Didion has something to say, yes, but she’s sure that her reader does as well, and so she never panders to an audience that would lap up ideology.
Each chapter is a neighborhood of American culture, each section a peek into our neighbors’ living room. These are the insanities of the normal person next door, the logic of those distinctly American freaks that populate our media landscape. There are no judgements, no grand proclamations, no tears shed for worlds lost or revolutions posited, there is just Joan Didion and America and the vocabulary of their conversation.
And a discussion of the iconographies that invade every American television set, every American cinema, every home in the United States. Her exploration of John Wayne’s masculinity, as a woman in the midst of 1960’s feminism, is iconoclastic and perfect. She writes about Wayne as touchingly as she would an old friend, because Wayne is an old friend, of course, an American friend to so many American people, and so a tribute to him that exhonerates his character (I mean character in a cinematic way) and lampoons him all the same is personal and welcoming, with just the right amount of modern, post-JFK irony.
Joan Didion is a writer of chaos – her books have hardly any room for nostalgia. She stands up and says “This is the world”, eschewing the romance and sentimentality of many lesser writers. I wouldn’t imagine doo-wop on the stereo at Didion’s home – she would seem to have no room for a music, or any art, that harkens back, comforts, warms, whitewashes, or smoothes.
She’s the writer I want to be – no schlock or grandness, no pretension or sentiment. She’s the writer of my ideals, not always my preferences (I instinctively love shlock), but the one I admire above all other living writers, the woman who takes overwrought emotion and personal chaos and political instability and irony and filters it through the pen of a real writer. When I fall back so easily on all of the trappings of bad writing, Didion stays cool, calm, and collected. There is this strange disconnect I experience with Didion – she’s a person and writer I could never be, her instincts are opposite mine in almost every way. Were I intimately aware of the Manson murders, for example, I’m sure I would’ve written some grand manifesto on the insanity and paranoia of 1960’s America. She restrains herself, and yet we get this point anyway. That is a writer – she knows what to say, but also what not to say.
And so how does a writer like Joan Didion confront death, a subject so scripted and sentimentalized in American life its almost become just another plot point of some American movie. How does honesty confront the tears and blubberings of American death? In “The Year of Magical Thinking”, Didion explores the experience of losing her son and daughter within a short span of time. I’m on page 35. She hasn’t shed a tear yet, and true to form, I’m slightly embarassed to say I’ve shed one or two.

Written by alexgfrank

September 23, 2008 at 4:32 am

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September 21, 2008 at 7:48 pm

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