Sunday, December 30, 2007

Things That Happened in 2007 that did't suck (Happy New Year!):

Now that you're all hung over, kind of bleary eyed from a night of New Years festivities, crawling over to your computer to get your bearings on life via your favorite blog ever, here it is: the world in a nutshell, as it relates to me but first as it doesn't relate to me (the me stuff is the fun stuff at the end). Get your coffees--or for the more hard core out there, bloody marys--and wake up! Maybe after reading this you'll be inspired to come up with some better new years resolutions, but seriously, you should still work on on your Spanish, nobody knows what the hell you're talking about when you say "bwenoz noch'as."

It was a year characterized by republicans coming to terms with "global climate change"; first elections of female politicians into office (Nancy Pelosi, Pratibha Patil, Cristina Kirchner); young killers (rip); athletic doping scandals (Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Martina Hinges); and Harry Potter (first time a woman has been the most successful writer of all time). There were also other, less earth shattering things to happen in 2007:

Aquateen Hunger Force movie ads freaked out Bostonians cracked out on terror, mistaking LED mooninites for Improvised Explosive Devices.





Pat Robertson made false prophecies (it must have been the voices in his head)



We found out that, holy crap, Jimmy Page has white hair! (London, Dec 10, 2007)















The Writers Guild Of America went on strike, who's implications are best summarized in this xkcd strip.










And lastly, I may have overlooked one of the best albums of the year, but I might just feel that way because I am just now getting into it. Iron & Wine's 'The Shepherd's Dog' initially went under my radar because his previous music reminded me too much of the Garden State snuggle scene, but when I heard there was a full backing band I gave it a shot, and wow, I'm really glad I did. It makes me think of what Jack Johnson might sound like if I didn't hate Jack Johnson, going to Café Montmartre in Madison, and. . . the snuggle scene from Garden State.

Iron & Wine - The Boy With The Coin

Lastly (or firstly), from the only CD I've bought in Japan so far, is Auld Lang Syne. You may have heard it as a mambo, you may have heard Jimmy Hendrix play it on electric, but chances are you've never heard it sung by cats. Oh Yes.

Jingle Cats - Auld Lang Syne

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007-the year of books and travel, part five.

video

Finally, my last post about the books I've read this year. I read some really good ones towards the end there. So, I guess I'll just start then.

When I found Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You, among the free uncorrected proofs in the kitchen of the bookstore I actually said " Yessssssssss". I couldn't believe my luck, and ALL the other indie chicks were so jealous. Anyways. I listened to the soundtrack for Me You and Everyone We Know while reading it and it really felt like I was in an American indie movie, and that I was the quirky girl who struck up conversations about polar bears and lipstick, and the human soul, with complete strangers. I think its actually these alternations between shallow random stuff and super profound musings about life that make me so confused when I read this kind of book. I know I really loved it, but at the same time I'm pretty sure I hated it a little too. Bottom line is, if you liked Me You and Everyone.. then chances are you're going to love the book. It definitely had it's hilarious moments.

So... Some people say that Khaled Hosseinis new book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is even better than the Kite Runner. Oh yeah, there this whole debate going on about that. This time he tells the story of two Afghani women, married to the same abusive husband, doing their best to survive at home while Kabul is burning. This book is pretty much recommended by everyone who's ever read it, so I'm not going to talk too much about it. It's just a really great book and there's no other ways of looking at it. Also, it made me cry several times. (OhmygodImmike, you need to read it if you haven't already).

Next I read what is probably my new favorite book, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Satan and his friends come to Moscow and just screw up everybody's lives in the most hilarious, violent, frustrating and beautiful ways. Bulgakov's comment on the absurdity of the Soviet Regime is impossible not to love. Unless you're an idiot. Then anything is possible. Or maybe it's the other way around. Aida was reading this when we were by the Black Sea this summer and one night she woke us up by laughing in her sleep and saying "tick-tock tick-tock heheheh tick-tock tick-tock hehehehehe". Fred and I got so scared we actually had to wake her up. I'm quite sure it was Satan's doing.

After that I got Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida, which was wonderful. It's about this girl who travels from the States to Lappland ( Northern Finland, Norway, Sweden) to find her biological father just days after burying the one who raised her. I love books about travel, people on a mission or people running away from something. I really like the language too, simple and beautiful. There's a pessimistic tone throughout the book but at the same time it's really funny and poetic. Of course Vendela Vida is co-editor of the Believer, so naturally her book will be good. It seems like the Believer-people are all pretty amazing. The last number was about art and I got a bunch of free fake tattoos that I'm not ever going to wear. But I appreciate the gesture. Those people are just so nice.

I have this list of books that my cousin and his girlfriend Audrey made for me when they were in Sweden. So whenever I don't know what to read I just pick something off it. So this time I picked The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. ( One of Audrey's top 5). I always feel a little retarded when I read classics this late, but I don't really have a choice now do I? I need to read them, because I love finally understanding why a classic is a classic. It doesn't always happen but when it does it's a great feeling. The Picture of Dorian has so many witty philosophical one-liners that it almost doesn't need a plot. The whole book could be all hearty intellectual banter, just because it's both great and super annoying at the same time. It does have a plot though, and a really good one at that. The picture of Dorian Gray, it's beauty and it's horrific changes are probably the kind that can only be imagined, because you can only create superlatives like that in your mind. That's why I have some doubts about the movie that I'm going to try renting pretty soon, I just don't see how they would ever be able to pull it off. I'm excited though.

Hey, the books finally caught up with me. After Dorian I read Rashomon ( and other stories) by Ryonosuka Akutagawa, just like Ohmygodimmike told me to. Haven't watched the movie yet though. Rashomon was really short, so I'm starting to wonder if it's the right one, I hope it was because I liked it a lot. Oh and I read Migraines for Dummies, ( thanks!) finally, after experiencing the craziest pre-migraine hallucinations ever, sometime last week. Literally everyone on the subway had completely deformed faces. Yeah, monsters everywhere. And all I could think was 'I can't believe how many deformed people are on the subway today'.

That's it. Migraines for Dummies was the last book of the year. It's almost over now. I'm convinced that great things await us in 2008. Hopefully.

ABBA- Happy New Year

"May we all have our hopes, our will to try, if we don't we might as well lay down and die"
ABBA

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

World Mix Tape #9 (Brazil via Taiwan)



Cangaceiro - Colorir

A Cidade Foi Construida - Colorir

rolo - Colorir

Went to a great experimental art and music festival a couple weeks ago called City Fables, The 5th City on the Move Art Festival. Held inside the industrial backlot of Taipei's living landmark, The Taiwan Beer Brewery, filmmakers and installation artists turned factory spaces into screening rooms as avant-guard electronic A/V artists and post-rock bands banged away on a stage outside. The musicians played in front of a large screen on which all manner of visual trickery was projected, often synched live to the performance.


Rad.


Stretching over two weekends, City Fables housed a number of stunning, bewildering and moving performances from international as well as Taiwanese arists, bands and DJs, including Japan's Ryoichi Kurokawa, Austria's Bernhard Gal and Christof Cargnelli, and Taipei's Weather Man and 8mm Sky. All awesome.



However, my personal favorite was Brazilian free-music duo, Colorir, who play long improvisational, winding, thought-bending noise jams. The syncopated beat and feed-back driven sound they let pour, oscillates between sparse but sweet soundscapes and a pounding, screeching urgency. Plenty of mp3s, videos and a thorough mission statement all at their myspace. The first two tracks above are from Os Humores Do Poeta which is, I believe, the score for a contemporary dance performance. This perhaps explains the greater (or more conventional) structure in them than in that of the long fuzz-out track that follows.

It's available along with lots of other way cool cds at both Open Field Records and Peligro Discos.

Below, to clear up any confusion is Bablefish's translation, completely out of context, of Open Field's blurb about the album:

In English:
I find that Colorir it chooses its challenges for elimination. It gives until pra to enxergar Peter Francis and Dom Peter seated in a square bank if asking what to make. A turn for Asia? Good. To use a generator pra to touch inside of a waterfall? Already it was. To make the joy of the piazada one of a primary school? Made. It must have been thus that they had fallen in the dance contemporary. The pair also presented its sonorous track to the living creature, in turnê with the Cia de Dança Mimese.


The beautiful fuzzy-mind fuck, rolo, mentioned above is from Beliche, and is totally awesome in pretty much every way.

Randomly finding myself sitting next to Colorir during a set the next day, I asked if I could post some stuff on this site. Being the extremely friendly, gracious, and humble noise-rock-stars that they are, they not only agreed but gave me a couple of other Brazilian noise cds by Abesta and pan&tone. Below are some choice cuts.

BINC-300 - Abesta

BFA-920 - Abesta

Untitled 1 - pan&tone

Untitled 5 - pan&tone

Untitled 10 - pan&tone

The duo Abesta plays hardcore noise, their abrasive thrasing sound wonderfully balanced by an inventiveness and rhymic/textural curiousity, which fuse together in a take no prisoners spirit of adventure.

When circuit bender pan&tone lost the music files on his computer, he attempted to run a recovery program. The results are delightful and have an unwitting poignancy akin to my new favorite topic, spam fiction.

Both these Brazilian supergroups have lots of good downloads, videos, and other stuff at their respective WEB SITES.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

2007- the year of books and travel, part four.

I just got back from watching my dear friend Victor's amazing performance in the play Woyzeck by Büchner. I knew it was going to be good but it really caught me off guard with its overwhelming greatness and hilarity, all I could do after was mumble incoherently something about being speechless. Teater Rolf have a blog for those who read Swedish, so check it out HERE. ( If you don't speak this language for some reason, you can look at the few but pretty pictures.)

Back to books. I realized that I actually missed one book in my last post, probably because I was busy bitching about The Boy Who Cried Freebird. That book was Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland. I read that one because my cousin got it for me and because it's about computer-people working in Silicone Valley. It just so happens that he is a computer-guy who works in Silicone Valley, and he actually frequents the same coffee shops as the people in that book. So I thought it was a good way to learn something about my mysterious cousin's life, sort of at least. I really enjoyed the book, but I have to admit that I didn't get a lot of the computer-lingo jokes. The sweet nerd-love made up for that though, because if there's one thing I can relate to it's nerdy love.

My cousin also got me into reading Richard P. Feynman's books, and I started with Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! , which is a collection ( of some) of his many stories as told to a friend. That's exactly the sort of feel you get when you read it too, like Feynman sat down on your couch and started talking about stuff. Working on the Manhattan Project, traveling and learning how to draw ( top-less waitresses). It was terrific! What I liked the most though, was just the was he seems to think so clearly and curiously. While you read his books, it's like you automatically gain some perspective in life. You'll find yourself thinking a shitty situation is fascinating. The only bad thing is that when you finish the book you go back to being and thinking like yourself again...but maybe not entirely.

I didn't know with what to fill the void after this book so I picked up a copy of Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem. A book I've been trying to push on people ( DJ) for years. Never recommend a book you haven't read, because it's a really silly thing to do. I didn't think the plot was all that good, but some of the characters were brilliant. They sort of had to be when dealing with a future world where you have evolved animals living with people, like hit man-kangaroos and...I don't know, kittens. Doing human things (!). And gross Baby Heads, who are basically evolved babies. Drinking in their Baby Head-bars. Those guys saved the entire book, because I honestly could not have cared less about what happened to the protagonist- detective.

Well, after this I got Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, only because Perry at work convinced me the cover was really funny and pretty. I'm usually not intimidated by a 760 page book, and this one didn't scare me either. But I couldn't finish it. Even though it's a really funny satire about dictatorship in a fictive African country. It was just too long. Or maybe I just wasn't patient enough with all the parallel stories. It just didn't work out. So the next book I read was sort of a safe bet, The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. It was a great autumn book, and Paul Auster is sort of my guilty pleasure. Because he is pretty pretentious, but being a hipster bookstore clerk I can't help liking it. It's my job to like his books. And I really really liked this one.

I finished it when I got to Bucharest for the second time this year. Again a big crazy Romanian storm was raging outside my window, and I listened to Bulgarian love-songs on the radio when I started my second Feynman book, called What do you care what other people think? I had gotten it in the Amsterdam airport bookshop during my 4-hour layover, right after a little girl with pigtails asked me if I was a boy or a girl in the women's bathroom. I had a splitting headache and already felt like ripping my brain out, when she fixed her doubtful eyes on me. I asked her if she was a boy or a girl (aha!), which she promptly ignored, probably because it was too absurd for her. (She had pigtails, so who was I to doubt her?) I told her I'm a girl, and asked her what made her think I was a boy. After thinking about it for a while she said " The shoes". So yeah. What do I care what other people think? Probably more than I should, but it is quite interesting that kids being completely perplexed when trying to figure out if I'm a boy or a girl, is now an international phenomenon. The book was great of course, and now I know more about the Challenger disaster than I ever expected to.

When I got back from Romania the new Michael Chabon book was waiting for me at work. Beautifully illustrated, Arabian Nights-inspired Gentlemen of the Road. It wasn't quite what I had expected, but I still enjoyed it. Especially when I read that it was originally going to be called " Jews with Swords". But he couldn't name it that because people thought it was a big joke, even though Jews definitely wielded swords in the olden days. Everybody did. It is a damn catchy title though, so even though I understand why he didn't use it, I still think it would have been worth it.

Right now I'm listening to WHAM's " Last Christmas" on the radio, and I wish I could post a song or two. But I can't because my hard drive crashed last week, and the computer I'm using now is completely empty. Awwww... If anyone of my cobloggers feel like posting an incredible song with this post, go for it.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Random Post #5

First.



Two days ago, someone jumped off Taipei 101, the tallest completed building in the world. That someone was an Austrian named Felix Baumgartner. He then turned to the camera and said "Fuckin' A, I did it!" and made a reference to his being "number 1." Then he got in a cab with his parachute on and left the country. He was in Hong Kong about two hours later according to sources. Now, footage of the fall edited to bad punk rock music is available on the intra-net. He is banned from ever entering the country of Taiwan again. Probably because of the bad punk rock. I of course had no idea any of this was going on.

HERE's his site. It's pretty extreme, so exercise caution. This quote from the site about sums it all up; "The renowned extreme sports star had to first overcome a number of hurdles with stylish moves that would have made James Bond proud."

Second.

I've seen some great local bands around the city lately. Below are the mice paces for two exceptionally baddass examples.

The White Eyes myspace

Sugar Plum Ferry myspace

The White Eyes were one of the best bands I'd seen in a long time. Thrashing around the stage as they scratched out their sloppy garage dance punk, they tore up the small smoky Underworld in Shida. Despite the messy riffs and spazzy digressions, they were absolutly in control of their whole cyclone at all times with a compulsive attention to detail befitting post-punk or progrock. Below is a video of them playing in a Taipei parking lot. And HERE is some weird live montage.



Sugar Plum Ferry is a 3 man post-rock shoegazer outfit from Taipei. Think Godspeed in a grungy garage or a no thrills, emo-ier ELP. Live, they hammer out their expansive riff rock with a beautiful intensity, slowly building to a shimmering pulsing peak.

Sugar Plum Ferry has a new album out on White Wabbit Records called Thanks For Reminding Me. The White Eyes supposedly have a new album coming out this spring.

HERE are a bunch of videos of Sugar Plum Ferry staring at the ground as they shred it up on stage.

Third.

San Francisco's Numbers have a new album out on Kill Rock Stars called You Are Now This. You can buy it HERE if you think they are awesome like me. You can also to listen to some tracks off it HERE. This album seems to find them a bit more subdued, and perhaps a bit less jagged around the edges. The abrasive tweaks now lovingly blurred in a general fuzzy far-out kinda way. Pretty and dreamy, but still rough and direct.

Here are three tracks off of their last lp We're Animals:

Beast Life - Numbers

Solid Pleasure - Numbers

I Love You Til' I Don't - Numbers

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2007-the year of books and travel, part three.

Wow, I can't believe it's Monday or Tuesday again already. It's time for another book post. Now last week I left off with telling you about how I failed at reading The Tale of Genji. I met my very cool smart cousin for the first time ever right about that time last summer. He's the only one I know who's ever tried reading it, and he stopped because it was "boring". I'm going to ignore that, and carry on with my plans no matter what.

Anyways, before leaving for Romania, I found a free copy of Marina Lewynca's Two Caravans, among the uncorrected proofs we have in the kitchen at work. Usually there's never anything good, but I took a chance with this one because her other book A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was kind of popular. I think the thought was also to get into the eastern European mood, if there is such a thing. Two Caravans is told from three points of view. One is the young Ukrainian orange revolution girl, then there's the young Ukrainian miner-guy, and lastly, my favorite; Dog. He only talks in caps, and all his chapters start with I AM DOG I RUN. It's great. The story begins in a strawberry field in England, where a bunch of random eastern Europeans and two Chinese girls work for the shady Vulk. The characters, including their various accents are amazing, and the story gets pretty damn exciting towards the end. Such a great book.

By the time I finished it I was already in Romania I think, and that's where I started The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby that my cousin wanted me to read. This whole series of book posts is very much inspired by the Spree ( as I like to call it ), which is a compilation of 2 years worth of the " Stuff I've been Reading" column(?) he writes for the Believer. Even though I'm not a huge fan of Nick Hornby's novels, I really enjoyed reading about reading like this. It's definitely a book-nerd-book. You'll read it when there's no turning back and you will like it. Next I read True Tales of American Life, edited by Paul Auster. It's some 40 of the best stories from the radio show he did for the NPR, where he asked Americans to send in their true stories, an idea that he credits his wife for. The tales where so amazing, and sad and hilarious. While waiting out a storm by the Black Sea, I read them out loud to my friends, in our dingy little room, by cellphone light when the power went out. Or while slowly passing scorched sunflower fields on the slow train ride back to Bucharest, which took 7 hours because the tracks were dilated from the heat.

And what do you know, speaking of post apocalyptic burnt landscapes, I started reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy right after that one. ( Hey they are making into a movie..) It had been recommended to me by DJ and Oprah, and I couldn't resist buying it. Because the cover was so black and glossy. The story about this father and son who stubbornly refuse to die, in a world where that would by far be the easiest thing to do, really pulled me in. It was like jumping down a black hole every time I opened it. Leaving the noisy, sweaty Bucharest nights for a quiet, evil America where ashes fill the air. Pretty intense huh? It was. That's why it won the Pulitzer Prize.

So I thought I should read something fun and cheery after that, something about music. When I got back to Stockholm I picked out a new free book from the kitchen, called The Boy Who Cried Freebird by Mitch Myers. The first story was really funny, about this guy who always yells Freebird at every show he goes to, because it's his thing. And I thought the other stories would be good too because most of them were about bands I like. But guess what? They were just cool " rock n' roll fables" that Mitch Myers made up! Oh, I forget, some them were true but he won't tell us which ones! This is too crazy for me. Slowly I began to understand why the introduction was sort of defensive...he ends it with saying that his book asks the musical question " Do You Believe in Magic?", and if you do, his stories will speak to you. I guess Magic didn't free this young girl's heart, but maybe that's because I'm a child of the 80's and not of the 70's, I want the facts. ( I do like that song though. I'm not made of stone, jeez....)

Enraged by this complete nonsense ( I might be exaggerating, but if you believe in magic you'll enjoy it), I got the most reliable, down to earth book I could find, Woody Guthrie's autobiography Bound for Glory. And after I got into the colloquial southern way they talk in that book, which took a few pages, I really loved it. Woody Guthrie led an incredible life, and reading about it made me realize that autobiographies are something else entirely. It's just a completely different kind of reading, because you learn so much from them if they are as good like this one.

Johnny Cash- Further On Up The Road

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Monday, December 03, 2007

2007-the year of books and travel, part two.


Well, a week has almost passed so it's time for another book post. Last time I left off by rambling about Michael Chabon and how great he is. There's more of that coming up.

Summer started. And my friend Hedvig brought some of us along to her family's cabin on the most tick-infested island in the Stockholm archipelago. There the ticks attacked us, they crawled all over our bodies and sucked our blood, both in reality and in our minds. We all read a lot there ( all my friends are nerds Mazur). My book was The Best American Non-Required Reading 2006. It made me feel hip and with it. There was a lot of random stuff in there, like 'The best American New Band Names', (and I'm glad to inform you all that yes, God Damn Doo Wop Band was among them.) It really was a great mix, it was quite a luxury to be able to read The Iraqi Constitution, part of the script for Me You and Everyone We Know, Naguib Mahfouz, Haruki Murakami and ' Here is a lesson in Creative Writing' by Kurt Vonnegut all in the same book. Good job Americans! But hey...wait a second. Maybe I'm just a crazy racist, but aren't Mr. Mahfouz and Mr. Murakami...not American....per se? Actually Murakami probably lives in California, but Mahfouz doesn't. I saw his house in Cairo. People told me he lives there and that he's really really old.

So, whilst reading this, I left the Swedish island, with the cold water and the ticks for another island with palm trees and beaches. And really strange pornographic souvenirs. Banana-figurines making sweet love in the shade of colorful inflatable sharks and reindeer. I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut ( for the first time) by the perfect pool or at the beach. Every time I glanced up I saw hundreds of bodies all different shades of brown and red and pink. I loved the book more than I had expected, and I appreciated the strangeness of reading about the bombings in Dresden and Billy Pilgrim's time-travel in a place like the Canary Islands. It gave me a good perspective on life or something.

On my way back to Sweden I was reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the book Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer prize for back in 2001( I think). Even though the language wasn't, in my opinion, quite as good as in the Yiddish... it was a wonderful book about two cousins who create a comic book superhero called the Escapist ( originally it was a Golem) that fights Hitler during WWII. And I think that those three days I spent only reading this book when I got back were the best reading-days of my life. I mean it. I only read and ate sandwiches. And listened to some strange radio program that only plays very old blues all through the bright Swedish summer night. Good times.(I wish I could go back, because now it's the other way around. Imagine constant darkness, illuminated by pathetic Christmas lights here and there.) After that book, I really should have taken a break, but no, I started reading Adrift on the Nile by Naguib Mahfouz. I really liked his short story that I read earlier, so I was pretty pumped. But this book was pretty much only about some Cairo-intellectuals who smoke pot on a houseboat. I liked it at first, but just like with real pot, it can become boring or annoying after a while. So I stopped reading it, and I hate giving up like that but I just wasn't getting anywhere. I'm definitely going to try reading something else by him, he is, after all, a Noble Prize Winner, and I have seen his house. So after that disaster, I went straight back to Michael Chabon and read Wonderboys. I liked it OK. Everybody except me has seen the movie with Michael Douglas so I won't bother telling you the plot. (Should I see the movie? Or is it stupid?)

Next up, wow, the biggest failure of the year. I'm almost ashamed to talk about this, but I started A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf...and didn't finish it. Because I'm a bad woman. It's not even that I didn't like it, I just sort of put it on hold until I had time to read it in one sitting. For some reason that seemed important. And I still haven't read it. Somewhere around this time I also found The Tale of Genji staring back at me from one of the shelves at the bookstore where I work. 1100 something pages, coincidently also written back in 1100 something something. They say it's the first real novel, but there is a big debate going on so we can't be sure. It was a challenge, probably the biggest challenge I would ever have to face. So you know, I bought it. I started it. I bragged about reading it. But then I stopped because it was really heavy and it hurt to read it in bed. I swear that I will read it before I die though. I swear on the Tale of Genji itself.

Bad Luck Dice- Clifford Gibson


Lose Big- Eef Barzelay

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