27 November 2007

When I First Read The Title, I Thought It Was Going to Be About Larry Flynt


Today, and today only, Leonard Lopate interviews Craig Unger, author of The Fall of the House of Bush. Unger's prior tome about the Bush family and administration was called House of Bush, House of Saud; this guy's into concepts.

26 November 2007

It's "Manic Monday" Not "Maniac Monday"


"'We're not like the Bloods or the Crips,' said Stephen McAlister, 21, a Juggalo in Gaston County. 'We don't go out and sell drugs, shoot each other and pimp women.'

"They say they are better known for wearing makeup like clowns. They douse each other with a brand of soda pop called Faygo instead of spraying bullets."

20 November 2007

You Say Tomato, I Say Enhanced Interrogation Technique

Freedom on the march

Since the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, opponents of the Bush Administration have alleged that the United States government has engaged in a systematic program of physical and psychological coercion equivalent to torture; the Bush Administration responds "WHAT'S THAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER ALL THE SCREAMING!" Leonard Lopate interviews Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, authors of Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond.

You're Running For President? Of This Country?


Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, famous for a) losing like a bajillion pounds, b) creating a pointless "covenant marriage" statute that, like, totally means you really really really x infinity love your spouse and would never ever consider getting a divorce, and c) coming in second in the Iowa Republican Presidential Straw Poll and still being able to raise less money that a Planned Parenthood telethon on The 700 Club, has a new ad featuring his campaign's most prestigious endorser: Chuck Norris.

The ad plays on the oh-so-hilarious "Chuck Norris is insanely bad ass" internet meme, first exploited by the mainstream in 2004 comedy classic Dodgeball, and earlier this year in an admittedly amusing Mountain Dew commercial. You can watch it above (obv.), but basically it's Huckabee and Norris trading lines; Norris touting Huckabee's "authentic" conservative credentials (he evidently wants to put the IRS out of business - but who would collect the taxes? Oh, I see), while Huckabee spouts out stale Chuck Norris one-liners ("There's no chin behind Chuck Norris's beard; only another fist.")

Michael Scherer of Salon considers the spot, which he views as a sly jab at the GOP's macho image, something of a coup: not only does it manage to grab the viewer's attention via humor (Scherer characterizes the ad as "damn funny"), but it sets up Huckabee as a straight shooter - "the candidate equivalent of Jon Stewart." Scherer also sees the ad as somewhat unrebuttable, noting that Fred Thompson's counterattack - "Huckabee's position on immigration is closer to Ted Kennedy than to conservatives" - seems flaccid and overblown by comparison. (Of course, Fred Thompson himself seems flaccid and overblown these days, but that's another issue.)

I can see Scherer's point, and for Huckabee, who is at best a second tier candidate clearly staking everything on the Iowa caucuses, the Chuck Norris ad is a risk worth taking. Still, the spot underlines the Governor's predicament: in a Republican race characterized by the absence of a Reaganesque authority figure capable of steering the party back to its "conservative" roots and psychically divorcing the GOP from the excesses (and ever-decreasing popularity) of the Bush presidency, Huckabee is the candidate who can most convincingly lay claim to Reagan's substance - but not, most importantly, his style. Indeed, time and again he has shown the ability to connect with conservative voters unenthused at the prospect of picking over the Romney-Giuliani-Thompson-McCain pu pu platter; however, despite the fact that he is running strong in Iowa, there is no sense of national momentum to his candidacy, marked by its anemic fundraising and virtually non-existent media profile.

Part of Huckabee's problem is that he comes off more like Bill Clinton than Ronald Reagan: his signature public factoid, regarding his amazing weight loss and concurrent embrace of physical fitness while governor, is a classic "I feel your pain" anecdote - an Oprah story. Contrast that with Rudy Giuliani, who has managed to skirt the inconvenient gay-friendly, pro-choice, anti-welfare reform aspects of his mayoralty by playing up his law and order credentials and his Churchill-esque performance on 9/11. Or John McCain, who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. Or Fred Thompson, who plays Rudy Giuliani on Law & Order, as Giuliani himself has astutely pointed out. These are the Republican candidates of 2008: warchief-cum-father figures whose principal qualification is the amount of raw authority they evince. Huckabee, in many respects, is a throwback to the "compassionate conservatism" of the 2000 Bush campaign - itself largely an attempt to out-Clinton the then-inert, emotionless humanoid known as Al Gore.

But what about Mitt Romney, you ask? Indeed, of the four (well, three, if you don't count Fred Thompson) GOP front-runners, Romney's the only one not positively oozing machismo. However, being ever the savvy business consultant, Mitt has managed to identify the substantive gaps in the Republican field and insert himself into them, regardless of how contrary these new policy contortions might seem to his previously espoused beliefs - indeed it seems the more Damascene the conversion, the better. By all rights, Romney is standing on Huckabee's rhetorical turf - actually, it's Mitt's turf because he bought it. Indeed, Romney has two enormous advantages Huckabee lacks: access to a tremendous amount of cash, and an extremely professional and efficient ground operation in Iowa and New Hampshire. Mitt has employed both to take significant, though far from immutable leads in both early battleground states.

Against this backdrop, Huckabee's Norris ad might be seen as a smart play; a good way to highlight the candidate's conservative credentials in the one state where he's got some traction. After all, if you consider Romney to be your primary competition for the "real conservative" vote, then why not showcase yourself as being at ease with your sincerely held positions - as opposed to Romney, whose authenticity is only second in line to his religion as liability. However, pairing up with Chuck Norris - the value of whose endorsement I question (I mean, that's like asking who Schwarzenegger is for...oh) - undercuts Huckabee's ability to appear, well, presidential. Norris is a kitsch celebrity, whose present cultural currency is completely bound up in his ability to laugh at himself - something he does with good humor and great aplomb. But is this really the guy you want to be standing next when you're trying to make your case to be the next leader of the free world? Walker, Texas Ranger?

Perhaps I am off-base; in the YouTube era, maybe every little bit does count - according to Huckabee's website, the spot has been viewed a hair over 450,000 times, making it the third most-watched news and politics video on the site. Yet, even if Chuck Norris' endorsement gives Huckabee a significant boost, he's still behind the 8 ball, even in Iowa, where the state's complicated caucus system requires significant organization in order to win - according to CNN, the Governor's staff recently doubled in size, from six to thirteen people. Well, perhaps professional wrestler Ric Flair's endorsement (no video, sadly) can get Huck over the top.

19 November 2007

Prepare For Tha Takeover

No shape found in nature

Congressman Mike Ferguson (R-NJ) today announced that he will not seek reelection in 2008, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. Ferguson, a resident of about 5 or 6 different municipalities (including Bethesda, MD, if his tax filings are to be believed) since carpetbagging his way into an open seat in 2000, barely survived a surprising challenge from Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender last year, retaining his seat by a single percentage point. Stender, who has since announced her intention to mount a second bid, was already pegged by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (D Trip to insidaz) as a top priority after '06's photo-finish; now that the seat is open, it is all but certain that a flood of national money from both sides will swamp the suburban district.

As a veteran of one and a half 7th District races, I am admittedly sad to see Ferguson go; it's like watching Jaws turn tail and swim out for open ocean right before Brody pops a cap in that compressed air tank blowing the shark to chum (a super crapful approximation). Could Stender have bested him in a rematch? Could [NAME REDACTED] have finally ousted the wily incumbent in a fourth consecutive try? Who knows? The question is, now with the seat open, can Stender finish the job? Who will the Republicans nominate to try and hold the GOP-leaning district - Assemblyman Jon Bramnick? Senator Leonard Lance? Newly-minted Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean II? Some guy named Finn Caspersen? Captain Longshot McShortodds?

Well, all I know is that I'm going to New Brunswick tonight to give Congressman Ferguson the type of Irish wake that his sadly brief (sarcasm alert) political career deserves.

16 November 2007

Fuck Hearing

From the inner sleeve of The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers:
A bit of advice from Jimmy M.: Maximum cycle characteristics and frequency response at high decibel level have been set according to standards suggested in the GUY STEVENS producer manual, chart R-357, in index, page 304. These recommended standards were compiled by the same authority having recently measured audible damage created by supersonic aircraft - if for any reason you do not agree with the standards - turn it up.
From the back of Sunn 0)))'s White1:

15 November 2007

"How Do We Beat the Bitch?"

To contribute to Hillary Clinton, click here.
To contribute to John Edwards, click here.
To contribute to Barack Obama, click here.

14 November 2007

Set The Controls For the Heart of The Ground

"Hey, don't worry Steph, it's not like it's my money"

Human history is pockmarked by catastrophically bad managerial decisions.

Napoleon's decision to invade Russia. Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union. The Big Three's decision to not compete with Japanese automakers on fuel economy. That guy's decision to drink from the wrong cup at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Brian Cashman's decision to give Carl Pavano a 4-year, $40 million deal. Scott Layden's decision to give Allan Houston a max contract. Jim Dolan's decision to hire Isiah Thomas as president and GM of the Knicks. Isiah's decision to trade for Stephon Marbury. Isiah's decision to trade non-lottery protected picks to the Bulls for Eddie Curry. Jim Dolan's decision to give Larry Brown a 5-year, $50 million deal. Isiah and Larry's decision to trade for Steve Francis. Isiah and Jim's decision to fire Larry Brown after one season. Jim's decision to give Isiah a contract extension following a 33 win season.

Whoops. Sort of got side tracked there.

Surely, one day there will be a three-day symposium at the Harvard School of Business dedicated solely to the ignominious collapse of the once-proud New York Knickerbockers franchise. Along with the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls, the Knicks are one of the crown jewels of the NBA - one of the teams that generate enough general interest in the league to keep the other 26 teams afloat. However, since notching a 14th consecutive playoff appearance following the 2000-2001 season, the Knicks have gone into free fall, putting up a collective 195-297 record (a putrid .396 winning percentage). Contending in an enfeebled Eastern Conference, the team has only managed to reach the playoffs once in that span, getting swept in the first round by the Nets in 2004.

Certainly, this decline did not begin under Isiah Thomas; in fact, he was brought on board in December of '03 to replace Scott Layden (who bid against himself to sign Allan Houston's bad knees to a 6-year, $100 M deal) as President and General Manager following 30 and 37 win seasons. The cupboard was bare, and Isiah promptly proceeded to fill it with bad contracts. His first major move was to acquire Coney Island native Stephon Marbury from the Phoenix Suns. "Starbury", as he liked to refer to himself, was and is a shoot-first point guard constitutionally incapable of making his teammates better, a la Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, and his me-first attitude quickly came to characterize the dysfunctional squad. Isiah then proceeded to build an Island of Misfit Toys, acquiring more point guards than he could possibly use (Jamal Crawford, Steve Francis), a soft center who can score and basically do little else (Eddie Curry - out-rebounded 20 to 3 by Dwight Howard last week), and a bunch of other teams' head cases, cast offs, and shiftless layabouts (Penny Hardaway, Malik Rose, Jerome James, Quentin Richardson, possibly Zach Randolph). The low point came after the 2005-06 season, when high priced coach Larry Brown (probably brought on at owner Jim Dolan's insistence) was fired following a 23-59 record, worst mark in franchise history. Larry walked away with a total of $28 million of Cablevision's money after coaching just one year in his so-called "dream job"; Isiah, who probably always wanted to coach the Knicks himself, got his wish, and was promptly awarded a contract extension during the following season - a season he completed with a 33-49 mark as the team dropped 15-of-19 down the stretch.

Unfortunately, this offseason, the disaster did not merely play out one the basketball court, but in New York State Supreme Court as well. Anucha Browne Sanders, senior VP for marketing with the Knicks, sued the team and Isiah Thomas for sexual harassment and discrimination, claiming that she was propositioned by Thomas and then fired for complaining about it. James Dolan refused to the settle the case out of court (Browne Sanders apparently asked for $6 million), instead alleging that she was fired for performance related reasons; this, of course, after awarding her a $76,000 bonus the year before. (Which, given the way the Knicks pay their players, might not be so unbelievable after all.) The trial was a major embarrassment for the Knicks: Isiah was portrayed as a sexist lout who frequently berated subordinates and casually tossed the word "bitch" around the office (he also allegedly declined Browne Sanders' request to personally sign season ticket renewal request letters by saying "Bitch, I don't give a fuck about those white people"); James Dolan came off as a dingbat fiddling while Rome burned; and it led to the greatest correction in the vaunted history of the New York Times:
An earlier version of this article misstated the location of a 2005 sexual encounter between Stephon Marbury of the Knicks and a team intern. Mr. Marbury testified that it took place in his truck, not in the trunk of his car.
In the end, Browne Sanders' won the case and an $11 million verdict again Madison Square Garden; appeals are pending.

How long can this possibly continue? How long can NBA Commissioner (and closet Knicks fan) David Stern continue to watch one of the league's marquee franchises pull face plant after face plant? The Knicks, picked by many to make the playoffs this season (not exactly a bold statement, considering that 16 out of 30 teams secure a berth, a few with sub-.500 records), have started off 2-4, showing occasional flashes of...goodness, but look mostly lost and lackadaisical under Isiah's tutelage. Following an evidently contentious flight for a west coast road trip, wherein Isiah told Stephon "What's that about a fence? Oh, defense, right right" Marbury that his playing time was going to be reduced, the petulant star reportedly responded by saying "Isiah has to start me. I've got so much [stuff] on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can [get] me. But I'll [get] him first. You have no idea what I know." (For those keeping score at home, I think that's "shit","fuck","fuck" in the brackets there.) Starbury then went AWOL, grabbing a flight back to New York, claiming in a bizarre text message to the media that Isiah had given him permission (read: "You don't like it you can get the fuck out of here!") to leave the team; the Knicks are now reportedly looking to buy Marbury out of the two-years , $42 million left on his deal.

Calling the Knicks' present situation an embarrassment is akin to calling Pearl Harbor a surprise; perhaps the Dolans would be better off from a PR standpoint just shoveling their money directly into a furnace. New York is a basketball town, rich with avid, knowledgeable fans, and Madison Square Garden is a Mecca: last year when Kobe Bryant was suspended for the Lakers' only MSG appearance of the season, he was palpably disappointed in a way that he probably wouldn't have been if the game was at, say the Izod Center. Waking up to this team each morning is probably driving these people to drink, or worse. So why won't Jim Dolan fire Isiah? Or put the team in a blind trust? God only knows, but following last year's unbelievable contract extension - for turning in the same record the team had two years ago when they brought in Larry Brown to turn things around - I can only speculate that Isiah Thomas has some sort of Rasputin-like hold on the Dolan family. Either that, or Jim Dolan subscribes to the same managerial philosophy as Rudy Giuliani and President Bush.

13 November 2007

You Look At Me Like This Shit Right Here Is Something New

No Age are for the children

No Age, along with fellow noise terroir-ists HEALTH, are defining a new avant-punk/hardcore scene out in Los Angeles; not only are they defining it, but unlike a great many of their uncharitable/too-cool-for-school East Coast (code for: Brooklyn) brethren, they're embracing it. The actual music is a gooey low-fi racket, bouncing between recognizable, if de-tuned, pop-punk and shoegazey electronic distortion: Weirdo Rippers, their debut album (really a compilation of vinyl-only EPs), is virtually schizophrenic in this regard, often within the same song (see opener "Every Artist Needs a Tragedy" and cover "Dead Plane"). Their work holds great promise; God knows the world could use another Zen Arcade.

"Let It Rip", Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker, 11/19
No Age MySpace
No Age Blog

Black Gold

Cash money hustle

Oil. The Russians have it; we want it. Leonard gets to the bottom of it: how come Frank Lucas is a gangster while the CEOs of Exxon and Chevron are considered pillars of polite society?

12 November 2007

Caught the Last Lifeboat Out of Town

"Scuse me while I put that scik beat on hold to check ma e-mailz...good newz everyonez!"

Apparently long running Stylus column/blog Beatz By The Pound will be continuing operations at a disclosed location - bbtp.net. You can bookmark it (yeah right I know) or you can occasionally click over from my un-unwieldy blogroll on your right hand side. Beatz remains one of the best (and few) places on the internet dedicated exclusively to new "electronic music", which mainly means techno. Please reward their dedication with some page views.

11 November 2007

I Dub Thee

The sound of 'girl next door'

Listening to Burial's music is like standing outside of a club while having a smoke: you can discern snatches of muffled lyrics and melody here and there, and the bass frequencies are so low that they are often more palpable than audible. His (or her; Burial has been extremely circumspect regarding any details pertaining to his/her actual identity) sophomore record, Untrue, is a logical expansion of the shadowy dubstep soundscapes on his eponymous 2006 debut, pushing forward the aesthetic that he and the Hyperdub label (run by genre patriarch Kode9) have helped define. The individual tracks are brighter and more varied, noticeably borrowing from Massive Attack's 1998 masterpiece, Mezzanine; they cohere more as songs than sketches, transforming the vaguely sinister atmospheres of the first album into distinctive moods. On tracks such as "Archangel" and the title number, Burial foregrounds more melodic elements than before, particularly the vocals, lending the compositions greater top-to-bottom depth and aural richness. Untrue is warmer music (Burial's preferred term of art is "glowy"), moving away from the bleak urban brutalism of Burial, and focusing instead on the inward self; there's nothing this records sounds like so much as a memory.

Hyperdub MySpace
Burial MySpace

08 November 2007

Perhaps There Exists an Alternate Explanation

Please don't go to the Hype Machine noooo

Re: this , specifically:
Let me explain. I work for Plan B, an independently published music magazine. In our November issue, our editor Frances Morgan interviews Jonathan Galkin, label manager for DFA Records - the New York-based label that's played home to the Rapture and DFA co-owner James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem, as well as a string of other acts. Galkin has a gripe: "MP3 blogs have greatly decreased the sale of our singles," he writes. "They didn't exist when we released [the Rapture's] House of Jealous Lovers and we sold 20,000 copies quickly. Now there are thousands of blogs and we sell, on average, 2,000 to 5,000 copies of a 12-inch single. I think that is a true reflection of hearing something and rushing out to buy the real deal version versus hearing something and just searching on Hype Machine for a quick lo-fi fix."
I leave it to you to decide: why doesn't this

sell nearly as many copies as this?

I Move Coke Like...Budweiser Select?

American Gangster >>>>>>>> Kingdom Come

Nick Sylvester hit upon it first re: American Gangster, but surrously: as much as I love this record, there is something a bit bizarro about H.O.V.A. using Ridley Scott's Frank Lucas biopic (trailer) has an excuse to pull the ol' chin scratch-flashback wavies "oh yeah, now I remember" and reminisce about his hardscrabble youth as a dope dealer back in Bed-Stuy's Marcy housing projects. Because of the movie tie-in aspect, AG is being pitched as some kind of concept album; a what-if if Jay had remained in the drug trade instead of, well, becoming Jay. How this would be thematically different than say, Reasonable Doubt, or pretty much any coke rap album ever is attributable to the fact that AG is being pitched as deliberately hindsight; we all know that nowadays Hov is a corporate honcho, not a businessman but a "business, man" pitching for Bud, HP, Rocawear and, synergistically enough, American Gangster: The Movie. Still, unless you think that shareholder meetings and brand strategy development are interesting fodder for rap music, the man needed a window into a world that used to be his and isn't any longer in order to remain relevant - in hip hop, form dictates function more often than not. AG: The Album is meta beyond meta: drug dealer turned rapper turned C.E.O. creating a record based on a movie about a drug dealer. The audience is being bought and sold on levels they don't even know about; Jay-Z remains the hustle.

06 November 2007

Day of Wrath


Listening to new Grizzly Bear Friend EP (now streaming at their MySpace), and methinks that it is better when they actually make songs and not amorphous "arrangements." I don't know why their reading of Spector-Goffin-King's bizarre Crystals curio "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)" is somehow exempt from filing in the postmodern "haw haw how very ironically droll of you" bin . Frankly, I don't care what you say about "He Hit Me", even Spector-Goffin-King knew when the record came out (and resoundingly flopped) in '62 that whatever statement it was trying to make, it wasn't making it loudly and clearly enough to avoid coming off like a creepy paean to domestic violence as domestic bliss - which wasn't their intention, nor is it Grizzly Bear's in resurrecting the tune. Pitchfork honcho Ryan Schreiber - who has a review byline for what must be the first time in ages, at least that I've noticed - countenances this, dismissing the song as having "been retread to death as an ironic staple of anyone trying way too hard to be subversive." He then goes on to say
Fortunately, I was able to work past my biases and hear how Grizzly Bear reshape the Goffin/King flop as liberally as they do their own material: Writing in their own psych-drenched passages, the band reimagines the song's bouffant-haired innocence as a baroque-pop experiment redolent of the Zombies, the Hollies, or the Left Banke.
Frankly, I've never heard the "bouffant-haired innocence" in the Crystals' original; perhaps that's just because the song's lyrical content seems to augur producer Phil Spector's impending slide into control-obsessed megalomania. However, I also don't hear where Grizzly Bear are deviating from Spector's original altogether too much - certainly not enough to coin their version a re-imagining - yeah, there's a slight psych freak-out (particularly slight when you consider the nature of a real psych freak-out), but it's certainly not any more baroque than the original. If anything it's Spector's version of the song that's way left-field, at least if you consider the fact that he was angling to get his record into the Top 40; all Grizzly Bear's done is put it on a (remarkably well done) stop-gap EP that, in the grand scheme of things, nobody's going to hear.

"He Hit Me" is a bit like Disney's controversial Song of the South in that, though it may be compromised content-wise, it's still such an important artifact, both technically and culturally, that it can never quite be banished from the popular consciousness. For his part, Spector, whose genius and accomplishments (as well as those of Gerry Goffin and Carole King) are what keep the record vital, has shown no inclination to disavow the song or withdraw it from the market. I suppose that Grizzly Bear's recontextualization does make the song more enjoyable and less discomfiting - ironic distance and all of that - but it's also worthless. I don't mean that as a criticism; given the strange and powerful singularity of the original article, it's merely a statement of fact.

0 Days Until Election Day 2007!

Look, NJ Republicans: a victory you can partake in

05 November 2007

"Carter and I Talked About This...He Had His Own Encounter"

For realz?

Shirley MacLaine is LenLo's guest this week, and he's pleased that her book Sage-ing While Age-ing brings her to his show. She talks about Bob Fosse and UFOs and other intricately interrelated subjects. Listen:

Only 365 Days Until Election Day 2008!

"More political discourse"

And now we have a Hillary Clinton YouTube spot, "The Politics of Pile On", which condenses last week's Democratic presidential debate into Sen. Clinton's opponents saying "Senator Clinton" over and over again. My challenge to you: name the white male Democratic presidential candidates in the clip who are not John Edwards.

04 November 2007

Only 366 Days Until Election Day 2008!

"Political discourse"

So I give you the laziest excuse for...journalism? Content? Actually, I'm not exactly sure what this is, but it's not exactly a credit to Slate's editorial staff that it's the lead item on the site this weekend. You could click play on the embedded video doodad above and be subjected to a Prius ad or something, or I could just tell you that it's Republican fringe presidential candidate Ron Paul's latest New Hampshire ad, followed by negative comments from the ad's YouTube page allegedly made by Paul supporters. That's all.

Perhaps this feature would be amusing or informative if it had anything particularly revelatory to say about Paul's supporters, who have garnered a bit of a reputation for their general orneriness during the campaign. However, their comments, as excerpted by Slate, basically amount to "this ad sucks." Which it does. It does suck. It's corny, cheesy, and there's no way that I believe that longhaired college students are going to start registering Republican to vote for Paul in the primary because of it. The most that any of the anonymous pro-Paul YouTubers quoted in the piece deviate from that line is to note that Ron is apparently trying to corner the "chubby men with beards" market.

So, congratulations to Slate for basically producing one of the most utterly useless, inane things ever put out on a for-profit website. Perhaps next week we can get a feature on how Obama supporters don't like his yard signs "just because", or how Giuliani backers approve of his "toughness." Coincidently, this zero calorie treat appears precisely one year ('08 is a leap year - mail out those Happy February 29th party invites early!) ahead of The Second Most Important Election of Your Lifetime. So, uh, hooray.

Patriots 24, Colts 20

"I never lose. Never really." - Jef Costello, Le Samourai

Prediction: Pain

There will be blood

New England Patriots (8-0) at Indianapolis Colts (7-0); 4 pm, CBS

The last time an NFL regular season game generated this much anticipation, I was in second grade. It was 1989, and the San Francisco 49ers (10-1) defeated the New York Giants (10-1) 7-3 in a November Monday Night match-up at Candlestick Park; the Giants and 49ers would later meet in the NFC Championship game, with New York coming out on top, 15-13, on the back of a last-second Matt Bahr field goal.

Eighteen years later, we have Indy and New England, the two most dominant franchises of this decade, facing each other in the latest meeting of two undefeated teams in a season in NFL history. Between 2001 and 2005, the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady owned the Colts, winning six consecutive contests and racking up three Super Bowl titles; since then Peyton Manning and Co. have held a 3-0 advantage, including a miraculous come from behind 38-34 win in last season's AFC Championship game en route to winning Super Bowl XLI.

This year, Pats coach Bill Belichick has set his re-loaded (uh, Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker) team on the warpath, humiliating opponents by an average score of 41 to 16. Burned in the "Spy-gate" videotaping/signal stealing scandal that followed the Week 1 win over the hapless Jets (curses), he has decided to take it out on the rest of the league, blatantly running up the score to prove his point that the Pats don't need video to destroy your team. Brady has thrown 30 touchdowns (and only 2 interceptions) through eight games, setting him up to obliterate the single season TD mark of 48...set by none other than Peyton Manning. The Colts have set about running the table thus far much more quietly, but in doing so have become the first team since the 1930s to start three consecutive seasons off 7-0 or better.

Frankly put, I see this game as analogous to the first Balboa-Lang fight in Rocky III, with the champ, fat and happy off a diet of patsies, running into a hungry assassin in whose copy of the dictionary the definition of "mercy" is suspiciously absent. The Patriots, who have never had the compliment of offensive weapons Manning has enjoyed during his run, are now more stocked than a Branch Davidian compound; they have played this season not merely to win but to impose a Carthaginian peace on the vanquished - one blanches to imagine Belichick as a feudal warlord.

For in-depth analysis you can go elsewhere: I'm telling you now, don't be shocked if it's Pats 41, Colts 7 when the final gun sounds.

La Nouvelle Nouvelle Vague

France (1982): Romance/Crime

An up-to-the-minute glittering toy of a movie, a romantic thriller from France, made by a new director, Jean-Jacques Beineix, who has a fabulous camera technique and understands the pleasures to be had from a picture that doesn't take itself too seriously-the whole high-tech incandescence of the film is played for humor. The diva is an awesomely beautiful black American soprano (Wilhelmenia Fernandez) who refuses to make recordings. Frederic Andrei is the wide-eyed 18-year-old postal messenger who adores her; he sneaks his Nagra tape machine into her concert in Paris so he'll be able to listen to her at home-and all hell breaks loose around him. He's pursued by two baroque thugs: one is tall and Latin and chews gum with the jaws of a hippopotamus; the other (Dominique Pinon) is small, with spiky blond hair and sunglasses, and an earplug so he can listen to a transistor radio while he's on his murderous errands-he's so dissociated he's practically a mutant. The unfazable heroine (the 14-year-old Thuy An Luu) is a post-Godardian tootsie-in her short-short skirts and transparent plastic coat, she's a lollipop wrapped in cellophane. A man named Gorodish (Richard Bohringer), a Mr. Cool in a white suit and a white Citroen, comes to the aid of the besieged messenger. The film may remind you of Welles' "Touch of Evil"; it's Welles romanticized, packaged. It's a mixture of style and chic hanky-panky, but it's genuinely sparkling. The screenplay by Beineix and Jean Van Hamme is based on a novel by Delacorta (a pseudonym for Daniel Odier, who also writes under his own name); the cinematography is by Philippe Rousselot; the art direction is by Hilton McConnico. In French. - Pauline Kael

Playing at Film Forum through November 20th.

02 November 2007

I Can Haz Second Opinion Pls?

"Rock and roll is dead. Rock and roll is a museum piece. It has no viability anymore. There are great rock bands today--I love the White Stripes, I love the Raconteurs. But it’s a museum piece. You’re watching the History Channel when you go to these clubs. They’re just reenacting an old sentiment. They’re channeling the ghosts of that era--the Who, punk rock, the Sex Pistols, whatever. It’s been done. The rebellion’s over.” ~ Sufjan Stevens in New York Magazine

"I'm So Motherfucking High, I Could Eat a Star"

Also eats rappers, and if you don't have any rappers, beats will do

Note: I wrote this back in August, I think, and I have no clue why I didn't post it then. Enjoy!

Insofar as major music critics go, few ring my bell with less frequency and fervor than Sasha Frere-Jones, resident pop ambassador to the readership of The New Yorker. I can't pinpoint exactly why; it's not that Mr. Frere-Jones is deficient in any obvious manner, unlike, say Rob Harvilla over at the Village Voice (wonder if Rob caught the chestnut about criticism vs. enthusiasm in Chris Ott's infamous Pazz & Jop piece), or that our tastes are too divergent (some of my favorite writers, like Philip Sherburne or Brandon Stosuy, chiefly proselytize for genres still mostly alien to me). My indifference is probably a result of when he writes about things, which is certainly a function of the editorial demands of writing a column for New Yorker readers that gets published roughly once a month and probably demands a significant amount of lead time. To someone who avidly follows pop music, his work can seem dated even when his sensibilities and observations peg him as ahead of the curve, and when he misses, well, he has to wait another month for his next at-bat.

But, believe it or not, I come not to bury Sasha Frere-Jones, but to praise him; more to the point, I come to praise Lil Wayne. For once, in the pages of The New Yorker, at least, Sasha Frere-Jones meets the zeitgeist at the station. You see, Lil Wayne (born Dwayne Carter) has spent much of 2007 solidifying his status as the self-appointed Greatest Rapper Alive. That would be unremarkable in and of itself (Last Year's Model: T.I.; Year Before That: Young Jeezy), save for the fact that Wayne has primarily done so by delivering, through a highly unlikely method of distribution, what may be the greatest double LP since Sign O' the Times.

That LP is not an official release at all, but a mix tape: a method more often employed for boosting a rapper's hype (and avoiding sample clearance issues) than making a sweeping artistic statement. Yet that's undeniably what Da Drought 3 is, whether it was intended as such or not. Superficially, the record has a tossed off vibe to it that is endemic to most mix tapes; this would be consistent with Weezy's recent claims that he is basically churning out three or four tracks a night. It doesn't take a close listen, however, to determine that this feel is not the product of carelessness. Rather, it's that Wayne makes it look easy, treating the game like a game. His flytrap lilt, one of the most malleable instruments in hip hop, melts around his words, its hard Deep South edges dissolving into an almost Jamaican patois. His verses are effortlessly complex, rewarding close listens with new revelations while retaining their function as the core component of immediately gratifying pop music. Some rappers have to climb up a mountain to get to the top; Lil Wayne seems to have landed at the summit in a spaceship.

When Frere-Jones refers to Wayne's guest verse on DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over" as "thirty seconds of uncontrolled id," he might be onto something greater than he realizes. After all the id is our animal unconscious, the storehouse of our most base desires, most, if not all, of which have to do with acts of consumption. Where other rappers focus on their weight-moving proficiencies or their possessions, Wayne is primarily fixated on ingestion: weed, cough syrup, beats, other rappers, and even stars (the celestial kind). "Feed me feed me feed me," he demands at the beginning of one track, echoing, as Julianne Shepherd points out, the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. He even refers to himself as "The Rapper Eater," evoking either Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Children" or Unicron, the planet-eating robot from the animated Transformers movie. Wayne's appetite fixation deviates from the acquisitive nature of other rappers in that, for him, satisfying it implies is more a means than an end; he eats rappers, beats, etc. because his continued forward momentum demands it.

One of the names most connected with Lil Wayne lately is that of fellow hip hop superstar Kanye West; Wayne has claimed West as a sort of spirit guide for his (supposedly) upcoming official album, Tha Carter III, and just yesterday it was announced that a collaboration between the two, suggestively titled "Barry Bonds", would be a late addition to Kanye's new Graduation album. The pairing is fascinating: West literally worked his way to the top, supplying rap high rollers such as Jay-Z with beats while basically having to beg for a shot at the mic, whereas Wayne has been rapping since he got his first contract with Cash Money at age 11. Wayne could rap out of the phone book over the sound of a coffee bean grinder; Kanye
has had to overcome his obvious limitations both as a vocalist and a writer with his equally obvious talents as a beatsmith. What both artists have in common is that they share the same aspirations to pop success - Kanye, in part because he can never be the Greatest Rapper Alive but could well be the next King of Pop, and Wayne because, well, he's already the Greatest Rapper Alive, and hasn't even released his next actual album.

One more note about Da Drought 3: it's free. In fact, no fewer than three times throughout the course of the tape, Wayne makes a point of saying "I hope you got this for free."

01 November 2007

I Think I've Talked to This Guy

So now at work whenever something pisses me or my Co-Worker Who Shall Remain Nameless to Protect His Identity off, we scream "MEXICAN FUCKING TRUCK DRIVERS! ARE YOU SHITTING ME?" Needless to say, this guy has my vote.