The tone of Sunday's Washington Post front page, despite military and drug cartel emphasis, was fun. Fun doesn't always win, but this weekend it does. I'll playfully mock the Times for being so maniacal about delivering serious news about BP and the sneaky dealings of the salt industry.
Here, a ruler is almost as important as a rifle. Everything must be in its place -- medals half an inch above the breast pocket, U.S. insignia one inch from the lapel edge, buckle two inches from the belt loop. Nothing in the constellation of the many decorations on Pata's uniform may be outside a one-sixteenth-of-an-inch margin of error -- two tiny tick marks on the inspector's ruler, about the width of this o. Anything more and Pata gets what the Old Guard calls a gig. Three gigs and you fail.
There is a saying about not messing with Texas, and the idea that criminals are preying on American anglers is raising already-high temperatures along the southwest border
The traffickers cross day and night, driving boats with bales of marijuana right into the backyards of homes along the lake. They rent cabins at the lakeside state park and stash dope there. The border agents point to a three-story house built like a watchtower on the Mexican shore. The officers frequently see observers with binoculars on the roof. Up and down the lake, netting boats are idled. Nobody waves.
I really like the visuals this story invokes. The Wild West imagery comes out pretty naturally, and the "local color" elements and the detail about the binoculars in the three-story Mexican-side tower really make me want to go see the situation for myself.
Some people fall on their heads and wake up with their memory wiped out. A few revive with their personality totally changed. Others die. Robin Jenks Vanderlip fell down a stairwell, smacked her head and woke up speaking with a Russian accent.
Reviewing the links that I've pulled from the Times reminds me to mention that they put out an important and fun paper as well. I've really taken a liking to the Week in Review and Sunday Styles sections. And the visual components of the Times are gaining my esteem as I select stories and photos and layouts that will later be used in some handmade books.
But the [salt] industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy “delay and divert” and say companies have a powerful incentive to fight back: they crave salt as a low-cost way to create tastes and textures. Doing without it risks losing customers, and replacing it with more expensive ingredients risks losing profits.
As a demonstration, Kellogg prepared some of its biggest sellers with most of the salt removed. The Cheez-It fell apart in surprising ways. The golden yellow hue faded. The crackers became sticky when chewed, and the mash packed onto the teeth. The taste was not merely bland but medicinal.
Schoenfeld is at his best when discussing this controversial genre — secrets whose disclosure would, in the view of the government, endanger national security, but whose disclosure, in the view of the press, might ultimately serve the national interest. The real issue is not whether such secrets should be published, [but] who should be entrusted to make this real-time decision.
“So” may be the new “well,” “um,” “oh” and “like.” No longer content to lurk in the middle of sentences, it has jumped to the beginning, where it can portend many things: transition, certitude, logic, attentiveness, a major insight.
At the risk of sounding like I'm 100 years old: I like this "new" video by Vampire Weekend. It makes me smile a lot and want to share it with friends. The song, which I hated on first listen, has also grown on me.
And as I may have mentioned before, I've really become a YouTube playlist nerd. This playlist of bands on the Letterman show is pretty sweet. Might come in handy if we ever get around to hosting that poll for best latenight TV performances.
The Letterman list also led me to an incredible THEN and NOW for Kings of Leon. I really really hate them and I like some of their songs. How can they be such tepid tapioca?
But what I really came to write about is The Airborne Toxic Event, recipients of one of the most scathing music reviews I've ever come across. More on that in a moment.
Like Kings of Leon and other fancy bastards, Toxic Event has a song that I shamefully like and for which I slightly turn up the volume in my car when it comes across those rad waves. I'm talking about "Sometime Around Midnight." Despite liking it, I also hate it.
Lately it's been fun for me (annoying for Katie) when I make a point to mock radio hits for their formulaic pandering. Like how XX is tapping into some car commercial, female-led indie synth thing. Or how anyone with some sparse piano, guitar, and "oohs" and "la la las" can make it big. And how Toxic Event efforts to convey the epic emotions of ... going to parties ... you know, what it's like to be 25 to 35 these days and wearing skinny black ties to work.
So I had to Wikipedia these fellas to find out which record label created them out of thin air.
Boy was I surprised:
During a one-week period in March 2006 while working on a novel, [lead singer Mikel Jollett] learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer, experienced a break-up, and was diagnosed with a genetic autoimmune disease which led Jollett to develop two cosmetic conditions: Alopecia areata and Vitiligo. Spurred by these events in his personal life, Jollett turned from writing prose to writing songs as he realized he was composing an album instead of a novel.
Jollett met drummer Taylor in the summer of 2006 and the two established an immediate rapport.
The entry goes on. It's as epic as Jollett's lyrics. In fact, Katie and I think Jollett wrote the entry. Talk about rah rah. Anyone ever seen a "live performances" section like that of this 2-year-old band?
In a way, The Airborne Toxic Event is something of a landmark record: This represents a tipping point where you almost wish Funeral or Turn on the Bright Lights or Is This It? never happened as long as it spared you from horrible imitations like this one, often sounding more inspired by market research than actual inspiration. Congrats, Pitchfork reader -- the Airborne Toxic Event thinks you're a demographic.
In ode to M. Squints Palledorous of Sandlot fame, I've been sayin' that for years about indie sensations like Napoleon Dynamite and 500 Days of Summer (the latter of which I ended up liking).
I just get scared when things I consider genuine turn to formulas then get gobbled up. Um.
NEW PORNOGRAPHERS -- Your Hands (Together)" Because I am currently obsessed with Neko Case and her voice. Not as good or showy as "Letter From An Occupant" or anything but she's all over this new album with her lead vocals, which is a great thing.
CASIOTON FOR THE PAINFULLY ALONE -- "Oh Illinois" I've been itching to share Casiotone despite expectation that he'll divide the masses and probably come across as supremely underwhelming in this single dosage. But maybe by comparing him to Daniel Johnston and Mountain Goats I can convince you to give it a listen. When I'm feeling 20something years old I think this music is sort of the sound of our generation, even if I wouldn't want it to be. I like playing it while I write at work -- depending on the story -- and especially if I can let all the sad sounds and electricity blend together.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO -- "I'll Be Your Mirror" When I walked by a house on Port Republic Road Thursday afternoon, this song was playing out a second-story window. Don't know who lives there or what the people are like...but it's been in my head ever since.
APRIL SMITH & THE GREAT PICTURE SHOW -- "Colors" It's been a while since I've contributed. This is because I found an album, via A Prairie Home Companion Battle of the Bands Night, which took place about a month ago. The problem was I couldn't bring myself to choose one song to exhibit over any of the others. I'm quite taken with it. So I decided to go with the song that hooked me, the big "pop" hit on the album, the "common taste" song, the "this one's for the audience" song, the schmultz pick. But still, it's a wonderful song, I think.
"Colors," by April Smith and the Great Picture Show. The live performance is...nice. And this particular song doesn't fully account for Smith's vocal appeal. I greatly encourage everyone to listen to the album. She's a gem, with attitude, because she's from New Jersey. Her vocals defy neglect.
DESTROYER -- "Blue Flower, Blue Flame" "I gave you a flower because foxes travel light." What the fuck does that mean and why do I love it so much?
A simple Google search of "statistical odds of eating the same food as two other friends in different states" doesn't come up with much. But it certainly doesn't detract from the pleasure I felt when I learned that Econ, Jack and I each ate calzones for dinner tonight.
Our refrigerator is full of beer that I'm not allowed to drink.
In addition to joining a gym this year, I settled on an anti-gut rule: Beer only in social situations.
But recent local beer discoveries, a chance encounter with Bell's Oberon, and a trip to Asheville (Beer City) led to more and more beer buys.
In particular, I think I've found my beer style of choice: the Belgian Abbey (or dubbel). Exhibit A is the Evil 8 from Blue Mountain Brewery in nearby Nelson County. Oatess first tried this while visiting and I've since picked up two six-packs. Then we went to The Wedge in Asheville and discovered their Belgian Abbey. I know that in news three tends to make a trend, but these two experiences were enough to sell me on this beer style.
Local breweries and vineyards have definitely helped us settle into life here in the Shenandoah Valley. We recently enjoyed a five-course wine dinner at our favorite vineyard, Pollak, as a belated Christmas gift from the Garners. We met some really neat people -- a man with a super eco home that generates more energy than it consumes -- and got to buy up the vineyard's Pinot Gris (we'd been waiting months).
And likely by July, little ole Waynesboro will have a beer club at River City Art & Wine. The preliminary plan is this: $10 per month gets you into two tasting nights where you're entitled to a cold beer and other samplings. Then the club rates the beers for an information board that shoppers can consult. Pretty sweet. Super social. Unlikely in the 'boro.
“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly ... Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
If I have one positive thing to say about people like Zuckerberg and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's that I commend their frankness.
“If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.”
Contrary to what Zuckerberg and Schmidt appear to believe, the idea of separating certain private activities, interests, and social relationships from one's public persona is not a new vice enabled by the Internet. It's a long-observed social habit. Ethics guru Michael Zimmer nails it:
Individuals are constantly managing and restricting flows of information based on the context they are in, switching between identities and persona. I present myself differently when I’m lecturing in the classroom compared to when I’m have a beer with friends. I might present a slightly different identity when I’m at a church meeting compared to when I’m at a football game. This is how we navigate the multiple and increasingly complex spheres of our lives. It is not that you pretend to be someone that you are not; rather, you turn the volume up on some aspects of your identity, and tone down others, all based on the particular context you find yourself.
Zuckerberg may wish to challenge that paradigm. But whether or not this social behavior should be encouraged or discouraged merits a fair discussion, not an blanket accusation of duplicitous intent.
A weekly sampler of what we're listening to (new and old), and what we think you might like, too.
If you couldn't tell, last week we presented you with songs based around a theme. That time, it was waking up. We didn't explain it well. This week, we're continuing this idea of songs around a theme. With that this week, our theme is: Driving songs. No explanation needed, really. Just some songs we like to hear while driving around and doing stuff.
MY MORNING JACKET -- "One Big Holiday" "If we holler loud and make our way/ We’d all live one big holiday..." You can chug along as this song as it plays in the early November morning amidst Iowa cornfields, or in the late January afternoon as you hug the Missouri side of the Missisippi River with temperatures howling at 15 below. Or try the more pedestrian back roads of Missouri Highway 28 from Jefferson City on a warm night, through the Ozark foothills with the windows rolled down. This song has accompanied me on road trips large and small. It's liberating. Tap the pedal ever so softly to the slow building guitars until 2:47 when hell breaks loose. There's no TIME to lift off the pedal. "Shakin' and record playin'", all the way down the highway and off into the horizon.
MODEST MOUSE -- "Polar Opposites" (LIVE) Come desert, dark forest or lunar surface, Modest Mouse will be there singing drivers into restrained rock 'n' roll fits. "Polar Opposites" is just one of their songs about cars and driving and parking lots (or some combination therein). I'd never personally need to "drink away the part of the day that I can not sleep away," but what a line, right? Modest Mouse is among the best bands when it comes to the auto, alongside Cake and P.U.S.A., and this song about "cars low / to the ground" is probably my favorite of theirs to include on mixes. Lately I've been listening to a throwback mix that crescendos to it.
BEIRUT -- "Scenic World" This song is pretty simple, kind of like driving. I kind of like this version (found on Beirut's EP Lon Gisland) a little more than the one on the album -- sounds a little more lazy, which makes for great driving on summer nights at dusk.
NEW ORDER -- "Age of Consent" The foundation of any good driving song is a driving bass line.
I read comic books only intermittently as a child, but for some reason I love superhero stories— be they in novels, TV shows, movies or whatever.
This is why I jumped at the chance to see Iron Man 2. No real reason— I never read Iron Man comics and whenever I came across him in other ones he always seemed lame. But Iron Man 2? Other SadBear associates might have dissenting opinions (I'm not sure what Drew thinks, actually... I know he loves Wolverine), but to me it was unambiguously awesome. Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson? Check. Mickey Rourke speaking Russian? Double Check. Soundtrack that's heavy on AC/DC, the Clash and Daft Punk? Triple check.
There's not even that much action in the movie. Maybe three real fight scenes. The rest of it is filled with Robert Downey Jr. being a quick-witted asshole. (So basically, it's Robert Downey Jr. playing the same character he always plays. I'm fine with that.)
I'll probably never read many more superhero comics. Not because they're juvenile or anything, but because I just don't have time. But you can bet that as soon as the next superhero movie comes out in theatres, I will be there. (Which means that I am totally going to splurge and see Thor when it comes out next year. I don't even care.)
I've been sitting here reading with the door propped open all afternoon. Some kids are across the street playing, putting their outside voices to good use. One kid sounds like he's getting kicked in the stomach or tackled every 30 seconds. Another blows a train whistle again and again. They rave and holler after knocking over a plastic basketball hoop stand. These kids have no idea what a thrill they’ve made for themselves out of a Sunday afternoon in Hillsdale, and I take comfort in that.
Before I hint at analysis, feast your eyes on a photo I'll likely be long obsessed with: Andrees Letif in Thailand for Reuters. Startling and rich, buried there in black-and-white on page A5 (or so) of the Times today.
So I'm back to trying to read the Times, Post, and Journal each Sunday. From now on I'll be writing new posts for each week, and just carrying along the chart that follows below.
The Times thoroughly won the day today, with a front page that took me 30 minutes+ to read. Stories ranged from a deep profile on the Times Square bomber, to exposing continued US spying and controversy over girls' flag football.
Then things got really good inside, where reporter Elissa Gootman embedded herself into New York City's 311 call center. Not an Iraqi embed, no, but she wrote one hell of a feature story about the "questions, concerns, fears, suspicions, frustrations and gripes of city residents" that come into its 311 information call center. Great blend of fact and feature in the story.
Garcia drank in the pretty hats and the sports coats that dotted the grandstand at historic Pimlico. He took in the raucous infield, with its bleary-eyed revelers lifting their plastic mugs.
Behind him, Calvin Borel was stone-faced, crouched over Super Saver, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, and looking as if the weight of his Triple Crown aspirations had caved him in.
Not Garcia, 25.
You can look back at a well crafted Derby story here (and a great photo here). The AP wrote of the Derby:
Calvin Borel deftly tucked Super Saver along the rail Saturday on a track turned into creamy peanut butter by heavy rain. Once again, he was in his favorite spot, getting a clear path all the way through the goo.
That’s why they call him “Bo-rail” and, for the third time in four years, he took the shortest path to the winner’s circle.
Borel found only one horse in his way, and once he steered Super Saver around front-running Conveyance, another Run for the Roses was his.
The most wide-open Derby in years ended with a sure thing — Borel crossing the finish line and punching the air with this right fist, this time raising it toward a leaden sky.
Times reporters are adept at telling even-handed, fair stories that include shocking information and records that must have taken great effort to obtain -- personal e-mails of the Times Square bomber, for example -- and rarely fall into the trap of sounding stuffy or oblivious when writing about "real people" type topics. All media has failed at writing about Facebook in a relevant way (except for recently about privacy), but the Times fails least on topics of that sort.
I wonder a bit what it's like to have such great "cherry picking" power as the Times. They dispatch a reporter to Nevada to write about contractors building new neighborhoods alongside totally vacant, unsold neighborhoods, because "consumers want new." They send another to Colorado to learn about sophisticated copper thieves. Not easy stories to get, I suppose, but you know before you go that those topics will bear fruit. What a treat it must be to travel for the Times.
Each Friday Every so often, we share our Web discoveries, mostly pulled from our RSS feeds and Twitter accounts. If there's something we should know about, please write to thesadbear [at] gmail [dot] com.
It's been a couple weeks since we shared links. These are pretty damn good ... perhaps a little media heavy, which is specifically my influence. But I tried to pluck from RSS feeds.
By elevator, it takes about a minute to get to the top of the historic Guardian Building, the new headquarters for Wayne County’s administrative offices that taxpayers recently paid 47 million dollars to buy and renovate. If you’re Channel 7, it’ll take you much longer: about 27 days. It would have taken even more time, but after the county put off our many requests for a tour of the public building, we decided we’d just show up.
XTC -- "Senses Working Overtime" Due to my crazy work schedule, I don't wake up at 7 am anymore. When I drive to work in the late morning hours the sun is already up. In the spring and summer, this means the birds are chirping and you can smell that distinctly Midwestern musk that seems to be tied directly to how humid it is. The car is usually too hot to touch if I didn't leave a window down the night before. I smoke a cigarette, have a few sips of coffee and watch the carved-out plateau surround my drive to work. XTC, like a more pastoral English Talking Heads, are a perfect late-morning companion.
BETA BAND -- "Dog's Gotta Bone" Each night I go to the iHome to prep a selection for the next day. And each time, I find the volume turned down to 1 or 2, a remnant from the previous morning's snoozes. Recent months' snoozes have been set to Wilco, Spoon, Talking Heads, Grandaddy, and especially Beta Band, and "Dog's Got a Bone." Surprisingly, a lot of Beta Band songs begin a bit less-than-mellow, so this one has gained a special place. Its tone is generally promising; I picture the sun rising.
MGMT -- "Time to Pretend" I feel like this is cheating, but I've been blasting this while showering almost every morning for the past week.
THE ROLLING STONES -- "2000 Man" You can't go wrong with early Stones in the early morning.
J.S. BACH -- "Suite 1 for Cello in G major" Since it's approaching the back end of the quarter, and I'm tired enough with thought about space and time, or science and values, that five minutes thinking about nothing discursive feels like a nap, Bach's Cello suites work well. The link is Rostropovich playing the first movement.
BOBBY CAPRI feat. the late Danny Brown -- "She's a Killer" Danny Brown was pronounced dead at 1:45 a.m. Sunday after rescuers tried for 40 minutes to save him. I was sitting in my car, next to the ambulance but listening over the scanner as the medical helicopter doctors asked for permission to call off their effort. I'd rushed to the field where the helicopter landed. I later saw the truck that rolled over with Brown in the back bed. I didn't get to sleep until 6 a.m. -- and by 6 p.m. I'd learned more about Brown and this single, the first he'd ever be featured on. I keep on listening.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE -- "I Only Said" Not sure why anyone went through the trouble of actually trying to transpose the lyrics to this one, seeing as how a) My Bloody Valentine lyrics are nearly indecipherable under those glorious guitars, b) even if you did know the words, My Bloody Valentine lyrics are insignificant compared to that damn beautiful noise and c) did I mention those beautiful loud sounds? It's what I imagine aliens listen to when they mate on the mothership. (You know, like the mysterious bighead Star Trek aliens, not Aliens aliens... I'm not about to imagine that thing mating.) That riff, though. That riff will mesmerize you.
BEACH HOUSE -- "Norway" This is the first song on a mix someone gave me recently. It fits perfectly for driving through a post-drizzling West Virginia mountain-scape.
KALEIDOSCOPE -- "Flight from Ashiya" This is from Tangerine Dream by the European (not American) Kaleidoscope. They later changed their name to "Fairfield Parlour" and released the phenomenal English psych-pop album From Home to Home in 1970. One critic described it thus: "A bit Summer-67y, but it's summer again anyway so what's wrong with that?"
Also, check out my new From Home to Home Wikipedia stub. There's remarkably little information about the band on the web, but I hope I to find enough offline resources to make a more substantial article. I credit J. Dunn with the discovery of this obscure treasure in 2005.
SPOON -- "Trouble Comes Runing" I just bought the new album yesterday and am still trying to get used to it. But I like this song initially.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Chris Stewart Chris work as an actor, director, playwright and teacher for two Cincinnati theatres— most recently as Tom Sawyer. And in case you didn't think he loved Mark Twain enough, he's creating a one-man show based on the more popular works by Mark Twain, "a la Hal Holbrook", and is performing in a dance piece based on the bestselling children's book Giraffes Can't Dance (he plays the rhino who rocks, the chimp who cha-chas, and the encouraging little cricket). He's a busy guy. He has recently acquired interests in Puccini operas, The Wire episodes and Kentucky bourbons.
THE SEEDY SEEDS -- "Dandelion" I knew my contribution would have to be a song by The Seedy Seeds, but I wasn't sure which one. Even now I'm not 100% sure this is the one for the list. How could I not submit "The Push," "Rise to Receive" or "Winter 04"? Or what about their version of "My Roots Go Down," which got me hooked on them in the first place?
I finally settled on "Dandelion" because it's fairly representative--this is their sound.
I'm assuming most folks haven't heard of TSS, probably because most folks don't live in Cincinnati and it's a local trio. If you have listened to them and don't like them, I imagine it's because you find their music repetitive and their folk-electronica fusion formulaic: a banjo plucking and an accordion moaning, energized by a synthesized, almost techno beat. I would agree that many of their songs sound similar, but that doesn't stop me from liking each one. If you asked me why, I'd probably smile and shrug. I love the vocals, especially Margaret's voice, and I guess I'm just a sucker for banjos.
More than Over the Rhine (overrated), TSS best represents the feeling I get when I'm enjoying this city: drinking local lagers, driving across bridges, running on the banks of the Ohio. (Come to think of it, their "Oh, Cincinnati" is my favorite song about this place.) Their new album Roll Deep just came out on vinyl, but I haven't listened to it yet.
As I moved to Michigan circa 2000, I only heard two of the seasons before he retired. The Tigers were awful in those days, and I didn't listen on the radio as much as I really should have. But I still get chocked up watching all these retrospectives (the DetNews has a cool interactive one; I like the Freep Tigers beat writer's obit above, however). He's got that effect. This video, however, is all happiness.
Getting there in time for the helicopter landing did not matter and I knew it. And later, with the hours tallied up and the beer cans and wrappers and one black shoe scooped back into the cracked maroon pickup truck, the whirling of those blades fit in the story only by shoehorn.
But when the pilot's voice delivered her estimate of "six minutes to arrival," I didn't want to do the math. Eight miles out, country roads to navigate, and my willingness to "rush" only at 7 over the speed limit didn't bode well.
The medical helicopter was late. Must have been. Because I saw its light beam circling the sky as I entered the rural portion of the pursuit.
254 ... left on 7-0- ... 8? 708 Miss Phillips Lane ... Right on 703. [map]
Less than a mile away; the pilot asking again about wires and structures. My brights show me a steep green embankment to my left and a farm field dropping to the right.
"Final approach," came her voice one last time (I thought), and without a crackle. Then the blades were above me. It didn't sound like a helicopter would sound. Just pounding wind, I thought.
Then I stopped behind a firetruck, near tall grass and a wire fence and jumped from the car to catch the chopper coming down. An ambulance pulled forward. Doctors dismounted the chopper knee-deep in green. They rolled a stretcher to the ambulance and everyone waited.
Without all those other reporters around I felt mean and invasive with the camera around my neck. I wore jeans and yellow T-shirt from when I was 12. Nervous about the darkness and all the whirling reds, I pulled the camera to my eye often to take pictures of the stretcher just sitting there. When a woman in plain shorts and a tank top was handed a reflective vest and stood near to the ambulance I got back in my car, still felt too visible while the interior light remained on, and hoped I wouldn't miss whatever it was that might happen.
Twenty minutes or more and then "requesting permission to cease efforts" came across the scanner.
I drove onward, two miles to find trucks of all sizes and the one that mattered: the one with big wheels flipped to its side. Firefighters in casual T-shirts and dull overalls shared what they could.
I watched misty lines of drizzle sparkle in the sky, yellow white red, snapshots from all the rotating lights and mirrors.
A wrecker driver later jump-started my car, long drained dead by my hazard lights. Home by 4, story by 6, and sleep.
I wondered later that day, at 10 and 12 and 2: If a car crashes and only one reporter covers it, did it happen? But soon others had and we all knew about Danny Alphonso Brown. He sang so well on "She's a Killer," a song with an unfair word in its title.