Wednesday, June 27, 2007

King of Some World You Never Heard Of

I remember Kermit from the TV show Muppet Babies I watched in a block of Saturday morning cartoon shows on when I was maybe 8 years old. Other people might remember him from earlier. I also vaguely remember him replacing the MGM lion in movie intros, I may have made that up though.
The '90s gave us Nirvana, Pavement, Weezer, Phish and My Bloody Valentine, but they also gave us Tom Smith. Swinging low like the Blue Fairy who turns Pinocchio into a real boy, Smith finally sets Kermit free. Who ever knew a song about a green marionette with googly eyes could make you cry? He knew, he knew.

Tom Smith - A Boy And His Frog

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Julie Mehretu

I got back from Denmark a few days ago and now I need to write about my new favorite artist; Julie Mehretu. She's born in Ethiopia, but has lived mostly in the States. At the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, they were showing some of her latest works, in an exhibition called The Black City. It's been quite a while since I got this blown away by an artist. Which is actually mainly because I rarely go to museums even though I know I should.

What I absolutely love about her paintings is that they have and are everything at the same time. There's speed and sleep, chaos and perfectly balanced order. Most of the paintings are really big and you can take a few steps back and watch the whole epic truth of the world and humanity unravel in front of you, past future and present! It's all there, nonsensical architectural plans and maps of airports and cities, visions of a better future, layered with the mingling symbols of countries, roadblocks, tattoos, graffiti and comic books. All the multi-faceted building blocks that construct our individual and national identities scattered and floating i mid-air. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, and people are never going to do exactly what you expect them to.

However, if seeing everything, the grand scheme of things, the chaotic truth of life itself, is too much for you, you can just go right up to the paintings and get lost in the extremely skilled, minute details of her work. You could actually just break every one of her paintings down into tiny squares, magnify them and they would totally be able to stand on their own. But instead we get the closest thing I've ever seen to a true illustration of the world.

I've been working hard on finding some good covers to post, but the best one I know is going to have to wait. Because it's so rare and cool...just kidding. I might actually have to buy the much for the information super highway.

Plastic Bertrand- Tout Petite la Planete ( the original)

bob hund- Vår lilla Planet( live) ( the cover)

Nina Hagen- Good Vibrations

(I don't know why I'm posting this one. It's not very good, but it is weird. At least that's something)


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Just Doing Our Job #2

As ohmygodimmike made clear in his first addition to Transmissions From Wintermute’s series Just Doing Our Job, there’s more to being a famous music blogger than tons of free sex and drugs. Underneath the decadent allure of meth-fueled late-night hot-tub trysts with indie rock idols and superstar bloggers, there is a great responsibility, a sacred promise if you will. And that is to post excellent smaller bands who are on the verge of blowing up, because, obviously, exposure in our tiny and insignificant corner of le blogosphere (to borrow a phrase from Tom Sutpen) will be the deciding factor in their now certain rise to massive international fame. And they don‘t even have to thank us...because we’re just doing our job.

Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and the Pons
are, with maybe one exception, my favorite band in the great city of Madison Wisconsin. I recently ran into their lead singer, Shane O’Neil, at a local roller rink, for the Mad Rollin’ Dolls championship roller derby bout. He was wearing suspenders (not dressed in drag as he often is on stage) and I was buying fried cheese sticks. No one knew that he was a famous rock star except me, and no one knew that I was a famous blogger, because I am not. But at the end of our conversation, he told me that we could post as many of his songs on our site as we wanted. So that’s what I’m going to do right now.

Here are three tracks off their newest release, Screamin Target Heart Rate and my all-time favorite 8th Grade, off their most excellent debut Babysit.

Slumber Party

Garbage Day

Jimmy & Darlene

8th Grade

The new album is great, buy it HERE from Crustacean Records. You can listen to more tracks here at their myspace.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Everything I Know About '70s Slavic Funk

Ok, what I do know is next to nothing. I don't even really know what the lyrics are about. They could be socialist propaganda. Everything I have learned, I learned from Wikipedia, and it's sparse.
To avoid sweeping generalizations, I'll only talk about this song in question and a brief intro for the singer. She is Aleksandra "Alya" Nikolayevna Pakhmutova and has a lot of songs for free online. Not all of it is funk, and to be honest this one sounds like a mainstream interpretation, but really what in the way of non-mainstream funk did they have back then? If you know the answer, holy crap, let me know.

The song itself sounds like something from the end of a Bruce Lee movie, or a similar type of crossover Kung-Fu movie from that era.
Imagine a lone Kung-Fu master in search of his brother who has emigrated to the country northwards for mysterious reasons. He wanders the land in search of his long lost kin and finds himself lost in a strange, foreign land where people speak in unfamiliar harsh sounds and write in redundant, simplistic letters.
During his travels he does good where he can. Never using a gun, his only weapons are his body, and the martial arts that he has studied his whole life under the tutelage of his strict and venerable grandfather.
The final scene of the movie takes place after a grueling battle pitting Chinese Kung-Fu against Russian Sambo, in which he defeats the head bodyguard of a ruthless KGB leader, the leader himself committing suicide when he realizes that his fate is sealed.
Still, our hero remains without what he was looking for. No brother to be found. No trace of him or any reason for his sudden disappearance. The pretty young girl that he saved, her family, and the rest of their remote village of herdsmen want him to stay and beg him to give up his impossible quest . . . but no. He must go on. He must find what happened to his estranged brother.
And so, he walks into the sunset to continue his search, until he finds the truth, or until his quest kills him.

Aleksandra "Alya" Nikolayevna Pakhmutova - Beloruss

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Discovered Uncovered #2 (Turn Me On Dead Man)

Wild Honey Pie - The Pixies

Eleanor Rigby - Aretha Franklin

Tomorrow Never Knows - Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston

Happiness Is A Warm Gun - The Breeders

The theme of this second installment of Transmissions From Wintermute’s cover series is Beatles songs. In their short eight years of active time on the pop landscape, The Fab Four released 12 albums and 12 Eps, and numerous volumes of repackeged material. All this adds up to a fuckload of songs for the past, present and future musical world to covet, cover and cannibalize until eternity. But other than just sheer volume, what’s the appeal of covering Beatles songs? The instant recognition? The communion or confrontation with a legacy? The multiple haircuts and facial hair stylings? What sticks out to me most is the malleability of their brilliant pop structures, the hooks that lend themselves to endless reinterpretations without loosing their catchiness. Of course they’re not always easy to pull off.

The above artists, though, definitely do so with these strange and divergent covers which hold on to the original songs’ inescapable pop awesomeness.

Any suggestions for other good Beatle covers out there?


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Interview With Benjamin Rosenbaum

Up next in our interview "series" is the Hugo and Nebula nominated spec fiction writer Benjamin Rosenbaum on things like which TV shows he doesn't watch, and why it's okay to watch operatic porn with girls.

What is the first thing you think about in the morning?

Waking up and going to sleep seem to be times that I have a lot of dread about death. During the day I'm engaged in things and distracted. On waking I am often full of mortal dread. Also profound gratitude, which usually accompanies mortal dread with me.
Also often "why is there a small boy lying on my head?", since my son Noah has a habit of coming into our room in the early ours of the morning and parking himself on us.

The first thing that I think about is how sweet giant space amoeba are but I don't know why. Have you seen that episode of Voyager where they fight the gigantic space amoeba? Yeah. I was hoping you could help me figure that one out.

Nope. I have never seen Voyager. Or Deep Space 9. Or Buffy. Or Lost. Or Six Feet Under. Or American Idol. I got rid of my TV years ago (the last show I followed with any regularity was Babylon 5). It has helped with writing productivity, but I do feel a little alienated. Mostly when trying to make small talk with non-geek, non-parents with whom I am already mildly acquainted.

What do you think of when you hear the following names: Slipstream, Bizarro, New Wave Fabulist, Mythpunk, New Weird, Magical Realism?

Slipstream is a word I hate, though I clearly love hating it, and it makes me think of John Kessel & Jim Kelly's excellent anthology "Feeling Very Strange", which I was very excited to be in. Also of the original Sterling essay, and thus of Kobo Abe and William Kotzwinkle. Bizarro makes me think, of course, of the pathos of Superman's silver-skinned alter ego. New Wave Fabulist makes me think of that Conjunctions issue I probably should have gotten my act together and submitted to. Mythpunk makes me think of the odd habit of adding the suffix -punk to any literary movement, regardless of how much or how little it shares with Siouxsie, Iggy, Sid, and their ilk. When did that happen? New Weird makes me think of Mieville, Duncan, Moorcock (or is he Old Weird?), etc., writers I like, interestingly all British; it seems like a mildly adequate term, though the swagger implied in "New" sets my teeth on edge slightly, but maybe that's the point of a literary movement? At least New Weird tends to actually be both (while Mythpunk, like the Holy Roman Empire, is none of the above). Magical Realism makes me think of watching Like Water For Chocolate in high school, and also we went to see Aria with the same group of friends, or an overlapping group, and it (Aria) was like operatic porn, very high concept, so high concept that you could go watch it with girls, and that was pretty cool, considering.

It seems sometimes that you are two different writers, do you intentionally set out to write serious or funny stories or do you let them develop as they please?


Optional question (choose one): If you could create your own reality TV show what would it be like?

You would get a disparate group of candidates for mayor of a middle-sized city, esp. people who usually couldn't afford to run, and agree to fund one of them in exchange for the right to film them 24/7 up to the general election. Then you would have American Idol-style elimination rounds based on logrolling, drumming up support, dealing with lobbyists, etc., with audience voting. The two interesting things would be 1) transparency (all the backroom deals would have to be televised) and 2) shakeup, since you'd have an unusual candidate with an exterior source of funding and name recognition coming in to shake up the game. (The show might be forced by election laws to give airtime to opposing candidates, but that's ok.)

or What is the secret of life? Please elaborate.

Why can't I answer this too? Fine. Never mind. But now you're not going to know the secret of life! No, no, too late now.