June 19, 2012

Lex Hives: new Hives record howls Swedish wisdom

Just before buying the new Hives record, Lex Hives, we had a moment of hesitation. Staring at it on the best-seller shelves, Katie asked, "Do you think we'll still like The Hives as much as we used to?"

It's been five years since their last effort. Would their thrash wisdom still hold sway?

You see, I've learned a lot from The Hives and Howlin' Pelle Almqvist. For example:
:: "You wanna cut a piece of cake you gotto have a bit of blade"
:: "You dress up for Armageddon / I dress up for summer"
:: "You searched the globe for them perfect looks / And you searched for answers in all your books / And finally by diabolic ascent here I am / Said it's just a diabolic / Diabolic scheme
:: "This time you've really got something, it's such a clever idea / But it doesn't mean it's good 'cause you found it at the library / Yes, they were smart but they are dead / And you're repeating all that they said"
The new record carries on with songs against all those stuffed shirts and cautions against materialism. Being skeptical seems to be the howl of the Hives.

The record rocks, with a strong back half that really never lets up. They've included some small departures, including a heavier sound on "I Want More," that reminds me a bit of Jack White, some moments of looser production and thumping drums, and a little more clapping and grooving. Also of note, they've avoided one staple of every other Hives record: the experimental dud. There are two "ballads" (played Hives-style), but I think they work better than "Find Another Girl" from back on Vendi Vidi Vicious. But I guess that's not tough.

The record is too new for most lyrics websites to have all the songs cataloged right now, but I've pulled some of the latest advice, handed down on high from the Hives:
:: "I've got a thousand answers, one's gotta be right / Give me a thousand chances, and I'll get it right"
:: "When I speed through life like biblical locusts on a laser beam / Ain't gonna deserve nothing, no I just gotta have / I am a man of much importance to me, I'm a much important man"
:: "You say – "These kids they're all insane / that 'they got drugs instead of brains' / They drink blood at night, yes they do, not every one of them, but a few"
:: "When you don't wake up for nothin / Then nothing's all you get"
All told, I think they portray an enviable life outlook. Try hard. Don't be fooled.

Above: A crazy medley of covers includes "Hey Ya!"

Also, I've set up a link directly to a really magical moment from a recent live show. From what I can gather, Howlin' Pelle went out into the crowd, got everyone to sit down, and then, well, get up! Check it out: here.

We've written about the Hives before. Here.

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June 12, 2012

Map Porn (and Our Constructed Reality)

Naturally this made me think of the Sad Bear. I suspect the particular collection shared by @pourmecoffee runs a bit ancient for sad bear tastes, but I love this stuff.

Some folks will look at these maps and see "how far we've come." For these people the collection tells the story of progress. The insufficiencies and inaccuracies of the map serve to solidify our superior reality--our more accurate, informed, and scientific sense of the world. I am not so interested in the shortcomings or imprecision of the ancient maps. Instead, I try to appreciate the different ways of imagining at work in mapmaking.

To be clear, I am not so much stressing how impressive the maps are within their various historical contexts. That's true enough, and it's a point I constantly make to my middle schoolers: you have to examine things, so far as possible, in their own historical contexts rather than your own. Judging an action or assumption "stupid" simply because the actor did not have access to the same information as you is, well, stupid. True as that is, it is not what I find most compelling here.

These ancient and early modern maps can and should upend our assumptions about the way things are. They have the potential to expose our own models of reality for just that--models. We construct these models to explain the world to ourselves, but we often forget that our models are not reality itself. They often become synonymous in our thinking with the reality they attempt to portray, such that we forget and sometimes simply deny the creative and constructive activity required to form the models. We look at the model and see it as reality itself.

The world, however, is not a map or even a globe, no matter how accurate, precise, and detailed it may be. Maps--just like models of atoms and molecules, just like mathematical formulas, just like grammatical schemes, just like historical works--fundamentally rely on the constructive power of human imagination. Alternative imaginings like those found in some of these maps can expose the invisible bonds between model and reality, can show us how clearly our imagination is at work shaping reality into something intelligible and legible.

Consider Anaximander's map (on the top left). I'm not interested in accuracy or inaccuracy but in the work of imagination evident here. It seems to my eyes as though Anaximander has twisted or stretched our map 45º clockwise (besides leaving out the Western Hemisphere, of course). Asia has migrated down and right. And then compare this to the T and O map (bottom right), which inverts that motion to my thinking.

While we might be tempted to scoff at the rudimentary imprecision and obvious failures of "realism" in both of these maps, we should also note how arbitrary our assumptions about maps are. Why is north always up, east always right? Given that question, I am actually surprised by how many of the maps reflect those assumptions about orientation.

My Google search for "world map upside down" led me to wonder, of course: what makes this map upside down at all?

June 1, 2012

Joe Pesci research

There's a bit in the new Aziz Ansari standup special (which, BTW, is fantastic) where he refers to meaningless Wikipedia surfing as "Joe Pesci research." I can't find the bit online yet, but here's the gist at the end of this Letterman clip:

That got me thinking about my own meaningless internet searches. I went back into my history for the past couple days just to see what sort of dumb stuff I search for. Here's a slightly abridged history, starting with the most recent:

aziz ansari youtube
aziz ansari joe pesci
joe pesci research
russel westbrook (sic)
waterloo blackhawks
bemidji state beavers
wauxobda bulldogs
big pimpin
iso sensitivity
conan on letterman
maggie q
baseball night in america
bemidji pioneer iphone
bemidji pioneer app
bemidji pioneer
grandmas boy
james lipton

As you can clearly see, the Internet was created by Satan for the sole purpose of making us waste time looking up dumb stuff.

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