Friday, July 30, 2010

Trampled By Turtles Makes Bluegrass Cool

Trampled By TurtlesWhen most people think of bluegrass, they tend to think of older tracks and country. But one Duluth, Minnesota-based band, Trampled by Turtles, has changed all that with the release of an album that some people categorize as bluegrass thrash.

Palomino, which is the band's newest release, takes a sweeping departure from being a sub-genre of country and toward something better described as post-punk folk music.

Even more surprising, what some bands are struggling to do this year, Trampled by Turtles seems to do so effortlessly (without the benefit of a drummer) — add ferocity to match the mood. And while some critics are hesitant to call it a departure, I can't help but attribute their call to one interview when the band said they were simply trying to capture their live performances.

While that may be true, introducing someone to the band with the hit bluegrass crossover Wait So Long will leave a very different impression than listening to their earlier work. The energy delivered by Dave Simonett (vocals, guitar), Tim Saxhung (bass), Dave Carroll (banjo) Erik Berry (mandolin), and Ryan Young (fiddle) in this and other songs excites.

Wait So Long isn't the only track to deliver. Victory, It's A War, Feet and Bones, and Gasoline all have plenty of appeal for a bigger audience while giving fans something to smile about with the balance. Those songs not mentioned are just as strong, with more traditional bluegrass and country undercurrents.

Perhaps the Minneapolis-area City Pages said it best when they wrote "one of very few bands in America that are hipster-approved but could heave a room of strangers into a hoedown at any time…”

Except it no longer needs to be a hoedown. They can headline anywhere or open for anyone. Since falling in together in 2003, they've opened for bands as diverse as Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, and Billy Joe Shaver without losing their taste for pizza on Fridays.

The credit belongs to their good nature, the songwriting stylings of Simonett, and the tenacious skill sets of a five-man string band. There is something here and it just keeps getting better.

Palomino by Trampled By Turtles Hits With A 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Do keep in mind the Liquid [Hip] scale is different, more akin to shaking ground than traditional score scales. Trampled By Turtles may find some mainstream movement with many of their laments and up-tempo ballads, but the bluegrass sound will be new enough to some people that it may take more of the same to shatter stereotypes.

What makes Palomino stand out is exactly what you'll find in some newly discovered fan reviews. You don't have to be a "one genre fan to appreciate the frantic pace that makes you want to play a bass, fiddle, banjo, or mandolin."

iTunes lists Palomino under rock and indie to broaden their horizons. On Amazon, you can find Palomino in country, folk, pop, and rock with a choice of CD or MP3s. And if you happen to do a quick search, you'll even find vinyl.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CitizenGulf Sets National Day Of Action

Gulf Coast Benefit"We survived Katrina. We survived Gustav. We've survived a lot of other things, too. ... I hope we'll make it." — Kevin Voisin

Much like hundreds of other fishing and oyster families in the Gulf Coast, there isn’t enough relief. For every family like Voisin's, many have folded as oil continued to slosh up on the coastal beaches and shut most of the fishing, shrimping, and oyster businesses down. Many may never fish again, despite skill sets handed down for generations.

And then what?

Citizen Effect CitizenGulf Sets National Day Of Action.

On Aug. 25, the Citizen Effect has slated a national day of action to help raise funds for educational programs designed to help fishing families impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Citizen Effect, together with several support partners and volunteers, is organizing several online and local event fundraising efforts across the U.S.

1. Local Events Around the United States On Aug. 25.

Jazz FundraiserWith the help of local chapters of the Social Media Club, members are volunteering to organize New Orleans-themed events with live jazz, blues, or Zydeco music along with speakers who will talk about the environmental consequences in the Gulf.

Event hosts are asked to suggest a $10 donation as a cover charge, with all proceeds being donated to Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. The benefactor was chosen because it is deeply entrenched in supporting afflicted communities and well suited to developing educational programs that benefit fishing families.

Event hosts do not have to be Social Media Club members. Anyone can fill out an online application to slate an Aug. 25 event, which will be promoted, in part, by the Gulf Coast Benefit. You can also host a private event to help raise funds if another event is already scheduled in your area.

2. Donate Direct To Citizen Effect CitizenGulf.

Citizen Effect has created a donation page, with a goal to raise at least $10,000 by Aug. 25. These funds, which will also be donated to Catholic Charities of New Orleans to help fund educational programs and provide hope for the future, will directly touch more than 10,000 lives.

3. Vote For Gulf Coast Solutions On Pepsi Refresh.

Currently, the Pepsi Refresh Project is committing an additional $1.3 million toward ideas that specifically benefit the Gulf Coast. These ideas will be open for voting on Aug. 2. Votes will be tallied through Aug. 31.

Pepsi RefreshUp to 32 projects will receive funding, ranging from $5,000 grants to $250,000. Pepsi opened this specific project recognizing that the Gulf oil spill is an economic and cultural crisis in addition to being an environmental one. Event organizers ask that you watch for the Gulf Coast Benefit.

Citizen Effect CitizenGulf Is A Liquid Hip Goodwill Pick.

At least once a month, Liquid [Hip] highlights one goodwill effort being undertaken by courageous people with big hearts. We don’t score such efforts. That task belongs to you.

If you want to take a positive action that will leave an immeasurable impact on the lives of fishing families in the Gulf Coast, please participate. Even the smallest action has the potential to change hundreds and thousands of lives. And that's cool.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Triumph Is Timelessness In Your Own Way

TriumphWhen you hear the name Triumph in the United Kingdom, it inspires a certain vibe. Classic, iconic, unique, and cool.

The UK-based Triumph has been making motorcycles since the early 1900s, and today it’s the largest surviving British motorcycle manufacturer (second oldest in the world behind Royal Enfield). And in the United States, theirs are always the bikes people like to go head-to-head with Harley-Davidson.

Where Triumph has earned an edge recently is that it instills a sense of retro cool. Triumphs are ridden by celebrities and stars, ranging from Steve McQueen to Brad Pitt. Performance and design are what makes the bikes still feel special.

If You Can't Own The Bike, Wear The Accessories.

Since Triumph inspires loyalty and longevity, the company smartly began making a line of high quality clothing and accessories, including punched leather coats and the Triumph McQueen Special Edition jacket, inspired by its namesake movie legend.

3036-01 Retrograde WatchMcQueen famously took part in 1964’s International Six Days Enduro (ISDT), which was held in East Germany, and in which he rode a Triumph. The clothes are very cool. But it’s Triumph’s line of watches that has really caught my attention.

The styles are classic yet retro, and they have a very masculine feel. In choosing a gift, I went for the Triumph Motorcycles Men's 3036-01 Retrograde Collection Stainless Steel Watch because I found the combination of black and stainless steel (black/silvertone) striking.

The watch has a sturdy black leather strap with a buckle clasp, silver dial and subdial with black numerals and luminous hour and minute hands, date feature, and mineral crystal window. Swiss quartz movement and stainless steel case round out the particulars. It’s also water resistant to a depth of 165 feet.

Gift givers will appreciate the nice Triumph box that accompanies this timepiece, complete with warranty information and instructions. Add a black leather jacket and any biker or buyer with fashion sense will appreciate the adaptive quality of the leather.

Triumph Men’s 3036-01 Retrograde Roars To An 8.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The 3036-01 Retrograde is a quality timepiece. It delivers what Triumph has done so well since the 1900s. Just be careful: beware of knock-offs and replicas, which are cropping up on various watch-selling Websites and on eBay. They’re not worth the time of day, pun intended.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Retro-Fab Unlocks The Like With Release Me

The LikeThere have been a few shakeups over the years for The Like, an alternative Los Angeles darling band started in 2001. But all of those recent changes are easy to forget now with the release of Release Me, a retro-fab album laced with irresistible hits.

The new sound is a huge departure from early The Like, with its one standout hit June Gloom. These gals make you want to live in the 1960s on the other side of the pond, where they have been touring this summer.

"We love the UK, we spent so much time there touring our last record that it really feels like a second home," Z Berg told Glide magazine. "We just love to travel and play music every night, and I'm excited to get to do that again."

They are doing it again, but this time it's different. Z Berg and and Tennessee Thomas aren't on a comeback with The Like as much as they are running with a new band. The addition of Annie Monroe and Laena Geronimo works and so do the modern lyrics tucked up inside a British-infused 60s sound. Check it out.

This has left some critics confused as usual. Some even say buy it if you like The Bangles and the Ronettes. Nothing against either of those girl bands, but the critics must be tone deaf or brain dead or both.

Own it if you like the swinging sixties, British style, where any skirt longer than 7 inches above the knee was too decent. Yeah, baby. Own it if you want a little slice of Austin Powers and in an era where everybody wants a ride.

Just steer clear from the slower tracks and The Like will remain irresistible. Release Me is the hottest track for a reason, but Wishing He Was Dead, He's Not A Boy, I Can See It In Your Eyes all touch on grooviness. They put swing back in your vocabulary.

Release Me by The Like Grooves With A 6.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

I wish I could give them higher marks, but a 6.6 is still solid. The Like's Release Me won't start another revolution but it does celebrate the day and preserves a modern version of the sound some of us born after the sixties missed. What it does do is give The Like another lease on life.

A few uptempo tracks on Release Me from iTunes is all you need to get your fix in small doses. Release Me is also on Amazon for downloads. Or, if you want to go with what's becoming retro, order the CD.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Let The Book Thief Steal A Few Hours This Summer

The Book ThiefEver since 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in 2006, fans have been patiently waiting for any news. It remains stuck in development, with a 2010 release date that is increasingly unlikely to be met.

Next year seems plausible, but without any casting announcements, any news about a movie is speculative at best. What isn't speculative is that the Australian author is busy working on a long-awaited third book. "It's about a boy. His name is Clay. He's building a bridge."

In the meantime, The Book Thief continues to embed itself into our collective subconscious. For evidence, look no further than the news stories about William Jacques, a real book thief. Almost every paper has bent the headlines to capitalize on both The Book Thief and Tomb Reader (changing it to Tome Raider).

What Is It About The Book Thief That Enchants?

Zusak tells the story about Nazi Germany similar to those I was told by my grandmother. And in hearing those stories, one cannot help but to appreciate that the story seldom told is the division between the people and the state.

For me, those stories brushed up images of citizens being forced to clean up the streets after Allied bombings. For Zusak, it was the story of an old man who handed a piece of bread to a procession of Jews being paraded through town. For both of us, it was the pressure from the party to steal away the the most athletic or brightest children and rob them of their youth.

In The Book Thief, one character narrowly escapes being so conscripted. For my grandmother's family, they weren't.

Originally, The Book Thief captured the attention of critics because Zusak had uncloaked an unapologetic narrator in Death. But once engrossed in the story of Liesel Meminger, a 9-yeard-old girl ushered off to live with a foster family in Molching, Germany, something else happens. We begin to follow a heroine as she collects outcast books and people in her quest to learn to read after discovering how she might lose herself in words that might otherwise be burned.

Reading banned books is not the only secret her foster family keeps in the basement. Bound by his word to a friend who saved his life in World War I, Liesel's foster family keeps a Jewish refugee there as long as they can. Everything ends. Sooner or later.

I don't consider that detail a spoiler, as there is something else unconventional in Zusak's writing. Our narrator is often unwilling to foreshadow. Death frequently tells us someone's fate ahead of time, only leaving out the circumstances.

Here is a small fact. You are going to die.

Here is another small fact. In 2008, a fan successfully cobbled together scenes from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Pan's Labyrinth, The Pianist, and perhaps others to create the illusion of what a trailer might look like. It's surprisingly good.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak Earns A 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Book Thief is a rare and precious gem of a book that sweeps up readers shortly after the first more confusing pages. It's not perfect, but there are so many brilliant moments that Zusak will one day be cited as some yet-to-be-born writer's inspiration.

The Book Thief is available on Amazon in print and on Kindle. With iTunes, Allan Corduner offers up an excellent audio adaption to The Book Thief or you can find it as an iPhone app.

The print version, right now, is the best value. As for the film, all I can suggest is a few simple things. Cover your mouth with your hand. Make a wish. Close your hand around it. And hold it to your heart for five seconds. My son is reading it this summer.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crooked Sets The Tone For A New Hersh Chapter

Kristin Hersh"I had a seizure one night, when I was a teenager, on the front step of Store 24 on Thayer Street in Providence." — Kristin With An Eye.

So starts a recent June post written by Kristin Hersh, founder of the alternative rock band Throwing Muses, before linking a story to the song Lazy Eye. The post is powerful, thoughtful, and ends on the note that no matter how cool we might want to be that our friends, lovers, and well-wishers always seem to catch us when our weirdness shines through our eye holes.

Her newest album, Crooked, was released July 19 in advance of her new Penguin published memoir, Rat Girl (aka Paradoxical Undressing in the U.K.), due out in August. Even more remarkable, Crooked: The Album was also released as a "book" eleven days prior in the U.K Both Crooked: The Album, which is slated for a U.S. release in September and Rat Girl will likely deserve their own reviews.

Crooked Discovers Kristin Hersh As Strong As Ever.

Crooked can stand on its own without any other niceties. Crooked, the song, will be the obvious fan favorite as it could easily fit on Learn to Sing Like a Star (especially since it was performed like Cats and Mice). Other standouts include Glass, Bliss, Static, and Krait (once it builds into the full instrumental).

As an album, there aren't any throwaways. Mississippi Kite is the hottest up tempo track while Moan and Flooding balance out everything beautifully with some disconnect and broodiness. It's strong, but not for some of the reviews you'll read online.

Squid Woman from Kristin HershCertainly acupuncture has been an amazing treatment that seem to be easing the pain of her bipolar disorder, but some of the songs on Crooked have been floating around on her CASH Music experiment for some time.

For those who don't know, it's one of many reasons Hersh has continued to be unique. Her most loyal supporters have been funding her solo projects, ranging from Strange Angels ($30 per quarter) to Executive Producers (who even receive executive producer credit on her next CD).

Even more remarkable, Hersh releases everything on the site under a Creative Commons license, allowing fans to remix and create new non-commercial content using the songs. If the fans resubmit them, she posts them in an amazing remix thread. It's one of the ways Hersh has found a home in the new world of music.

"My songs are literally auditory hallucinations," she said in a recent interview. "Sure, I've experienced visual hallucinations while manic but the songs are completely independent of my bipolar disorder."

Kristin Hersh Captures A 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

You can wait for the Crooked: An Album to be released in the United States (Strange Angels can find Crooked streamed here) or you can download Crooked on iTunes. You can also find a flurry of other tracks on CASH Music, including Lazy Eye, a new Throwing Muses demo.

No matter how you support this talented artist who barely broke into the mainstream, she continues to dazzle a handful of supportive fans, some of whom have been with her for decades. It almost always packs the stark and surreal writing that has defined her for most of her career.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Puzzling Promos Don't Dull AMC's Rubicon

James Badge DaleCan AMC continue its original series-winning streak with a third original series after Mad Men and Breaking Bad? It's still a mystery. Or maybe it's a conspiracy.

To date, Rubicon seems to have almost everything going for it: a smart story, solid casting, and the beginning of an anxious fan base. The only miss in the equation is that not a single promo packed the same intelligence of the pilot. I passed the free download several times on iTunes.

The only other possible hangnail is the length of time between the initial run and the series, which is slated as a two-hour special set for Aug. 1. Networks want early excited fans, but not early annoyed fans. And some of them are annoyed, waiting since June to see the first installment.

A Fast Snapshot Of The AMC Series: Rubicon

The show itself appears smartly cast in the first episode, "Gone in the Teeth," with James Badge Dale playing Will Travers, a code breaker who works for a New York City think tank called the American Policy Institute. When Travers discovers what seems to be an encrypted pattern across several major newspapers, he shows his obsessively superstitious father-in-law and supervisor, David Hadas (Peter Gerety).

Hadas dismisses the pattern, promising to look into it. But as soon as Travers leaves, Hadas shows the discovery to the director, the spindly Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard). Ingram's reaction provides enough of an augur to know Hadas should have never shared it.

Rubicon"Rubicon is an incredible story about trust and power born out of the desire to find a way to capture the intensity and mystery of the best conspiracy thrillers in a series," said Joel Stillerman, SVP of original programming, production and digital content for AMC. "It is a show that appeals to everyone who has some skepticism about the relationship between big business and our government, which we think is pretty much everybody."

Dale is the perfect match in this detached, one-off role. It's reminiscent of his work as PFC Robert Leckie on the hit HBO miniseries The Pacific. (By the way, Dale will also be appearing in a William Hamilton post-Civil War film, The Conspirator, directed by Robert Redford. In the movie, he plays William Hamilton.)

The rest of the cast includes Oscar®-nominated actress Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow), Dallas Roberts (Walk the Line, Flicka, The L Word), Jessica Collins (The Nine, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Christopher Evan Welch (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Lauren Hodges (Law & Order), and Howard (Full Metal Jacket, Natural Born Killers, The Sandlot).

Rubicon Episode 1 Earns A 6.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The series is certainly worth checking out. The pace seems to create a slow burning sense of paranoia not all that dissimilar to The Prisoner miniseries, released last November. Other than that, this is a different kind of creepy, well-grounded in reality. It's a good show that could be a great success if the rest of the installments stay the course and provide intense payoffs that nobody saw in the first episode.

Rubicon is available on iTunes. You can also find Rubicon Sneak Preview on Amazon. Since the release of the pilot on June 14, AMC has also added two shorts that provide a deeper look inside the world of Will Travers and the American Policy Institute.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Serj Tankian Is Left of Center With A Bonus

When the alternative metal band System of a Down went on what turned out to be a semi-permanent hiatus in 2006, I was mighty disappointed. The band had released several albums full of outstanding material, with songs like Lonely Day, B.Y.O.B, and the Rock Band favorite, Chop Suey.

Since, the four band members have gone to work on various solo projects. And ever since, there are rumors that this might be the year that SOAD will reunite.

"Every few months I am honored to hear interesting rumors about whether the band is going to tour or break up permanently," said Serj Tankian in a 2009 interview. "I find them all to be very entertaining."

Tankian had already been doing well on his own. He played most of the instruments (with a little help from his friends) in his first solo album, the brilliant Elect the Dead. As of late, Tankian has been busy recording, producing and mixing his next solo outing, Imperfect Harmonies, which is slated for release on his own Serjical Strike label in September of this year.

The big news for SOAD and Tankian fans is that the first single from Imperfect Harmonies, called Left of Center, is already out. It's a powerful song filled with the political, philosophical, and social concerns that have always characterized Tankian’s work alone and with SOAD.

Urgency? Check. Frustration? Check. Heartbreak? Check.

His voice here is anything but imperfect — it’s strong, booming, pleading, and striking. Tankian just gets better and better.

While this review is focused dead center on Left of Center, Tankian is still being gracious to his fans. In addition to Left of Center, he is treating fans to a lyric video of his second song from Imperfect Harmonies to be released in September. So don't stop with Left of Center.

His YouTube channel tells you how to download this song for free. If you like Borders Are, all you have to do is sign up to be on his mailing list. Then, click the download link in the confirmation email you'll receive.

There is some great buzz about Imperfect Harmonies already, and this could very well be Tankian’s strongest work to date. Expect more soon. He is embarking on a summer tour of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Canada and then lands in the U.S. for the American leg of his journey, starting in San Francisco on Sept. 17.

Serj Tankian's Left Of Center Rings Loud With A 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

With two songs out, there isn't much to second guess about Imperfect Harmonies and I'm already looking to give the entire album a listen soon. Never mind the more critical customer reviews about Left of Center on iTunes. There is some concern that the longer SOAD members see success on their own, the more difficult it will be to get back together.

Left Of Center is also available on Amazon. Tankian's Website is currently being developed to include dozens of improvements and an expansive community section.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jeff Garlin Leaves A Big Footprint

Most people know Jeff Garlin. He plays Jeff Greene on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, he's the voice of the captain on WALL-E, and he's also a hilarious standup comedian. I've always seen him as an extremely funny guy, not a funny fat guy.

Jeff is a big guy. But what I never knew is that he has struggled with this for many years. Maybe he doesn’t want to end up like other funny big guys who have found themselves pigeonholed (and ultimately doomed) by their weight.

Think Chris Farley. John Candy.

Usually, overeating and reducing one’s carbon footprint do not go hand in hand, but Garlin knows this and it is this irony that makes his story all the more interesting. In My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World, Garlin provides a funny, honest, and insightful look into his struggle to lose weight along with his long-time efforts to go green.

This is not a memoir. It's a glimpse into a brief portion of his life — an experiment as he tries to reconcile one compulsion with another. He tells of his daily struggles, eco-friendly home improvement projects that drive his wife to distraction, overcoming or giving in to temptations, a compulsion to eat, and regular pilgrimages to the Pritkin Longevity Center (a weight-loss resort in Florida). At points Garlin’s desperation is laid bare. At other times it is cast aside.

What really resonates about his story is that most people can relate. It might be a compulsion to overeat or gamble or drink. It doesn't really matter. Fighting a compulsion is a journey and even if Garlin never reaches his goal, I know he will never give up.

Maybe that has been his point all along.

If you're looking for a laugh-a-minute satire from an executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm, this book is probably not for you. But if you want an occasional laugh from an inspirational and thoughtful guy or if you might relate to his struggle, make sure you pick it up. Maybe we can all do the world some good together.

My Footprint Steps Out With A 7.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World is an easy and likable read. If you are already a fan of Garlin, you’ll like him all the more. I liked the book enough to write to Garlin to tell him so and he was kind enough to autograph my book. He's a very cool guy.

You can also find My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World on iTunes as an audiobook. With Garlin reading it himself, you'll discover a whole new dimension to the story told in his own words. And you might even find more than a few chuckles with his inflection.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shoot It Out Shows Promise For 10 Years

The new single Shoot It Out by alternative metal band 10 Years took some fans by surprise when Sirius/XM Radio spun it in June. It's heavier. It's louder. It's an intro to the new "experimental" promised for Feeding The Wolves, the next album due out in August.

For vocalist Jesse Hasek, Ryan "Tater" Johnson (guitar), Lewis "Big Lew" Cosby (bass), and Brian Vodinh (drums), it's also a big change. Big enough that the transitions between hits from their album The Autumn Effect (2005) and safely played Division (2008) aren't completely seamless at live performances. However, the band says the song has become a crowd favorite.

"We’ve been trying to write a heavier record for years and years," Cosby told Alternative Addiction in one of the first interviews talking about the new album. "This time we stood up for ourselves. We’re tired of misrepresenting ourselves to people. On the last record we released two frigid power ballad-type songs for the radio and that’s what people think we are.”

The two power ballads Cosby refers to are Beautiful and So Long, Good-bye on Division. They are among the most popular songs that the band has produced to date, along with Wasteland from their Autumn Effect album. Wasteland and Beautiful are still prominently covered on the 10 Years Website, with links to Universal Republic.

I agree with Cosby. Beautiful is good, but the power ballads don't match the band's potential.

Shoot It Out feels raw. The simple lyrics are a dialogue between the wolves who demand production against the strained harmony of the suffocating artist. Why don't the critics get this? It's not a shootout. It's a cry out.

It makes me wonder what happened between 2007 and 2010. Consider this interview with Hasek in 2005 when they were still working with Josh Abraham...

"I think that the reason we chose to go with Josh Abraham is because we noticed that every project he's worked on, the bands all sound different," said Hasek. "They don't sound the same like the producer made it sound like their spin on their music, you know?"

10 Years - Shoot It Out Reaches A 7.3 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The 7.3 is conditional. I love the song and if Shoot It Out is what we can expect in August, then 10 Years will break away from the shadow of bigger nu metal bands. If not, well, you know, they'll forever think Sevendust makes it look easy. Shoot It Out is also on Amazon.

Most fans on iTunes are looking for a hit, even if the studio seems uncertain. Right now, you can download the song for free if you buy a "merch" item on tour. They don't mean online merch. There is nothing new in the 10 Years merch store as of today. Come on, Universal Republic, get behind the band.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spinal Tap Heads To The Magic Place: Stonehenge

Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful. — Ian Faith

There are more memorable lines from This Is Spinal Tap that is someone tied to catalog them all, they would find themselves with a complete transcript. So it didn't take much more than a second thought to download Stonehenge: Tis A Magic Place featuring Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).

With a short run just under eight minutes, you might as well be warned that the short will leave you wanting more just like the original film. Released in August 2009, it doesn't seem likely anyone will see the band back yet again. But fans can hope.

A Quick Primer For Spinal Tap Newbies.

Spinal Tap is a stylistic parody of a 1980s rock band filmed and directed by the fictional Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner). Except, documentaries don't always go as planned. For Spinal Tap, most concerts are cancelled; the cover art is scrapped for being sexist; and in staging a "Stonehenge" megalith, a mistake is made, producing a stage prop only 18 inches high.

After a shaky start in theaters, the film captured a cult following that caught the attention of critics and the genre it parodied. Pete Townshend's 1985 White City: A Novel album included a quote from the movie; Metallica's black album was inspired by the film; and Aerosmith's Rock in a Hard Place prominently depict's Stonehenge. In 2002, the little film that could was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. Here is an outtake from the original.

A Few Notes About Stonehenge: Tis A Magic Place.

It's hard to say whether someone who hasn't seen Spinal Tap will find this short funny. Regardless, it is a great 25-year anniversary gift for anyone who grew up with Spinal Tap. It's also amazing to think the short hasn't made it onto the Wikipedia page given the original release's proximity to the 25th anniversary campaign launched around the same time.

Stonehenge: Tis A Magic Place opens with Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins arriving in a shuttle bus to pick up Derek Smalls. The scene helps set up exactly why the characters were so enduring.

Tufnel: "Well, he's always inside fighting with the missus."

Hubbins: "He's an angry little man."

Tufnel: "And so is she."

The short then follows Spinal Tap on their journey to see the "real" Stonehenge. During the ride, they offer up their theories about Stonehenge, including that is was the first amplification system or a scale model of apartment buildings for Druids. Hubbins concludes that is what makes Stonehenge great.

Even if you have read scientific journals, it can be anything you want. When they finally do arrive at their destination, Spinal Tap discovers that Legoland has been built up around the sacred site. While confused, they immediate benefit from the convenience of taking a little Lego train to Stonehenge.

Stonehenge: Tis A Magic Place Rocks An 8.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

You won't find Stonehenge: Tis A Magic Place anywhere or everywhere. It was exclusively it on iTunes and not currently available. However, you can still find black album and Back From The Dead album.

Stonehenge! 'Tis a magic place … Where the moon doth rise with a dragon's face … Stonehenge! Where the virgins lie … And the prayers of devils fill the midnight sky.

NonStopErotik Is Dirty, But Not In The Way You Think

Black Francis (aka Frank Black, aka Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) has never been afraid to let his freak flag fly. If you’re already a fan, NonStopErotik, his most recent solo outing, will not disappoint.

Whether he’s working it as the ferocious Pixies front man or as a lovable oddball doing with his own gig, the man knows how to pen lyrics. His voice, from thoughtfully subdued to wildly wailing, is in a class by itself. In NonStopErotik, you'll find it to be melodic, chaotic, and, as its title would suggest, with strong sexual overtones (and undertones).

It's equal parts love and lust, raw and subtle.

The characteristic Black Francis themes of sex, science and religion are interwoven throughout songs such as Lake of Sin, O My Tidy Sum, and When I Go Down On You. But the latter song is not half as vulgar as Francis would lead us to believe. It’s a quirky love song written with somebody special in mind.

There are a few other standouts too. Corrina is a strong rocker. Dead Man’s Curve gives his amazing vocals a workout. For me, it's easily the strongest song of the lot. All of them are original, with exception to a cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ Wheels.

Francis does his due diligence and makes the song his own. Gram Parsons would be pleased.

Beyond Francis, co-producer Eric Drew Feldman proves he has a good set of ears and a unique ability to keep the eclectic Francis mostly on track. Feldman — who’s also worked with Captain Beefheart, PJ Harvey, and the Pixies — is a veteran. He worked with Francis (Frank Black) on a few of his solo albums, including the giddy and aptly named Teenager of the Year. This time, he even played on it.

I think Teenager of the Year is Francis’s best solo release; and it was named for an honor Black Francis (as Thompson, of course) actually received back in his Massachusetts school days. But what about NonStopErotik?

Overall, NonStopErotik is a bit of a risk. It's not a risk because of the sexual overtones. It's a risk for the decidedly lo-fi sound. As a Francis fan, it was easy enough to love half the songs on the first listen. The rest had to grow on me the second and third time around.

If you want something a bit more forceful, go back to Bluefinger. It has many Pixies-like moments while remaining true to his unique solo sound.

You can also find Black Francis on MySpace and also on Facebook if you want to know more about the man. Watch for him on tour in the Northwestern United States (August) after a brief stop in Australia. By September, he'll be on an aggressive coast-to-coast schedule before wrapping up in South America and Mexico.

Black Francis - NonStopErotik Teases 8.3 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

On iTunes, NonStopErotik reviews suggest why hard core fans will remember why they dug Black Francis in the first place, and newbies will be converts.

Amazon listeners are a little less forgiving. Some NonStopErotik reviewers drag down the reviews, obviously for the lo-fi sound I warn about.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Second After Moves Without Being Moving

In Black Mountain, North Carolina, no one heard a sound on the day that America died. Retired Army Colonel John Matherson was busy preparing for a simple barbecue for his youngest daughter, when all power to their picturesque home goes dead. The phone lines too. And almost every car on the nearby highway.

It doesn't take a series of mushroom clouds on the horizon to mark the end. It only takes a few, set off somewhere above the atmosphere of an unprepared nation. The effect, generating an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), kills every electronic device from coast to coast, plunging the entire country backward some 200 years.

This story, told from the perspective of Matherson, sticks close to its North Carolina roots, with only refugee rumors and later, propaganda-laced broadcasts from Voice of America, providing any glimmer of news from the outside world. Not that they would have time to reflect what might be happening elsewhere; the residents of Black Mountain have to plan for survival.

One Second After Is A Haunting Reminder Of Vulnerability.

Three years ago, I had the interesting experience of covering the cancellation of a television show called Jericho. And given that I once described the show as the "story of survival in a small Kansas town that has been mostly cut off from the outside world after a disaster shatters what most of us take for granted in America," it's almost impossible not to see some strong parallels.

Sure, the Jericho story ignites with nuclear explosions and not the eerier threat of an electromagnetic pulse. But the thrust of the two stories after the initial opening are much the same, with Black Mountain being less tame. Before securing some semblance of societal order, most of the stores are well looted. Food becomes a primary focal point, not a conspiracy.

As compelling as the story is, author William R. Forstchen sometimes struggles with the human relationships in the story, relying much too heavily on asking the characters to frame their feelings based on film mentions. He is much more comfortable retelling much of the story with sweeping accounts from the main character, who is partially modeled after him.

Specifically, you won't find rich characterizations like you might in Stephen King's Under The Dome nor will it read as touching as Cormac McCarthy's The Road. However, this point may be forgivable given that unlike the aforementioned books, this is a tale told on the grand scale of truth.

It is a warning without apology. So much so that Forstchen dedicates space on his Website to the government report on the EMP threat and what you can do about it.

What can you do? Not as much as you would like. Neither can Forstchen's characters, who come to the startling realization of just how dependent we are on electronics. Nursing homes cannot be maintained. Medicines quickly become scarce. Anti-depressants run out. And even the smallest of towns like Black Mountain find that they are well over their carrying capacity.

When the book hit the New York Times Bestsellers List last year, the success did come with some push back. There were accusations that the author was attempting to scare people into sales and others who saw it as politically motivated. Personally, I don't see it. Forstchen is the author of more than 40 books, including the New York Times bestselling novels Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor (co-authored with Newt Gingrich). He could have written anything for profit. Instead, he urges...

“... frankly I don’t care about the finances that come from a success (and I know that might sound like a line.) I urge you to read it because it is about US. You, me, my daughter, my friends, your friends ... our country."

One Second After Earns A 6.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

One Second After is a compelling what if story that would have performed even better had it not become distracted by the reality of its premise. But with that said, there are probably some readers who will still be engaged throughout much of the book. I say "much of the book" because there does come a point when Forstchen stops showing us a story and Matherson starts telling it.

On Amazon, One Second After retails for about $17. One Second After on Kindle is $9.99.

The audio version of One Second After will bypass well-documented editing misses. Joe Barrett narrates, which is both good and bad for the book. Good in that there are moments he adds additional life to Matherson. Bad in that Matherson's children seem even more sheltered than in the written version.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Honey Amber Earrings With The Warmth of the Sun

At a glance, you might not think twice about these honey amber hook earrings framed in a sterling silver sun. But when you take a second look, these affordably priced earrings have the right combination of depth, appealing design, and vibrant color.

The designer is Ian and Valeri Co., a well-known purveyor of amber jewelry founded in 1991 by Valery Dantchenko and Ian Serjantov. The two formed the company shortly after Dantchenko gave up his acting career and came to the United States.

Dantchenko also owns Valerio 888, which is a wholesale company purported to have been the first to introduce a multicolor amber collection to the world in 1992. Dantchenko knows his gems, including the varied classes and regional distinctions. Amber for these earrings was mined in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia on the Baltic Sea.

The flecks within these earrings are caused by succinic acid, which also helps provide its depth and exotic appeal. According to Dantchenko, these stones were made approximately 60 million years ago.

Although amber is typically catalogued alongside semi-precious stones such as jade and turquoise, these stones are mineralized fossilized plant resin. From the Baltic region, they generally are available in white, butterscotch, lemon, honey, cherry. and green. Honey tends to be the most popular and is the most visually striking.

Like most stones, amber is also said to possess some mystical powers. Specifically, healing properties, good luck, and protection from negativity. Of course, you don't have to be a mystic to appreciate this design. The earrings are distinct, and a matching pendant or ring is easy enough to find (Ian and Valeri Co. makes both).

Earrings By Ian and Valeri Co. Hit A 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

When you consider the affordability, the designer, and the departure from the more common ethnic and Southwestern settings that employ amber, this everyday set of certified amber flaming sun earrings is just right to round out a collection.

As an aside, if you were to add amber to your collection, you can keep it clean with a damp cloth. Avoid heat and chemicals because unlike true gemstones, cleaning solutions and heat can be damaging to amber.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Black Dirt Sessions Is Gold For Deer Tick

"I didn’t really know what I was doing when I was recording War Elephant [2007], and I had a really good idea of what I was doing this time around. I just think recording-wise I had no thoughts or expectations of what I wanted it to sound like. I just kind of let it go." — John McCauley

McCauley might not have known what he was doing when he produced War Elephant, but he certainly did with The Black Dirt Sessions. As the album gets more exposure, you can bank on the Choir of Angels, Mange, Blood Moon, and Christ Jesus to pick up. They are the best picks of the bunch.

Right now, Twenty Miles is catching the most attention as a testament to McCauley's songwriting abilities, combined with his raw and powerful voice. Make sure you listen to the more polished studio version on iTunes, but this clip from a live performance in Houston captures the personality of this underrated band.

Many reviewers don't understand Deer Tick, sometimes scratching their heads in confusion because of the band's genre-defying style. Maybe that's why the hearty folk rock grunge works so well. Since appearing on Letterman in June, a few have come around. Sort of.

Given the band's trek up the charts, some reviewers are attempting to elevate their stature. McCauley's not much like that. The band still posts backyard concerts on their MySpace page, singing covers because they "weren't playing well enough to sing their own music." Much better to mess up Nirvana.

Even the names chosen by the band aren't "revelations." Deer Tick was chosen after McCauley found one on his forehead while hiking in Indiana. The Black Dirt Sessions is named after the recording studio where they cut the album. Nobody could come up with anything better. Their Website is remarkably sparse.

The band has been changed up a few times before settling with Christopher Dale Ryan (bass) and Dennis Ryan (drums) in 2007 and Andrew Tobiassen (guitar) in 2008 [later replaced by Ian O'Neil in early 2010]. McCauley is the principal songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist hailing from Providence, Rhode Island. Bored with some questions reviewers have been asking, he recently interviewed himself to say he is heavily influenced by Tom Petty and Sammy Davis, Jr. (I guess no one else asked or he was tired of reading some off-the-wall guesswork.)

Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions Nails An 8.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Deer Tick originally started as the John McCauley project in 2005. The Black Dirt Sessions on iTunes was released on June 8. Some customers feel there isn't enough variation in the lineup this time around, but it's still holding strong with a 4.5-star rating. I dunno. Most people aren't buying complete albums these days.

The same rating holds true on Amazon, with one reviewer lamenting that he wished more of his friends gravitated to the infectious honesty of the songs. Give it time. The Black Dirt Sessions was on sale there at the time of this review.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Georgian Hotel, A Haunt In Santa Monica

Built in 1933, the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., remains a favorite among celebrities like Oliver Stone, Robert DeNiro and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But even before it changed its name, the hotel was legendary as one of the first speakeasies in Los Angeles and a favorite haunt among people like Bugsy Siegel, "Fatty" Arbuckle, Clark Gable, and Carole Lombard.

Perhaps it still is. While the hotel has downplayed the stories in recent years, there are some guests who have supposedly stayed on indefinitely. One site chronicles some of the unexplained, including loud sighs, gasps, and disembodied voices who greet people with a hushed "good morning." We didn't experience anything so verbose during our stay, but my family says they experienced something.

It wasn't until after we booked our four-day stay at the Georgian Hotel that we found out about the local legend. And since my wife and I both enjoy Ghost Hunters, we were packing just in case: my wife's EMF detector and dowsing rods.

Believe it or not, there were some strange occurrences. Every evening, the dowsing rods would spin frantically by the space at the foot of the bed. During the day, however, we could never duplicate the unexplained oddity. Both my wife and son also claimed to have been touched by someone or something unseen, leaving cool, tingly sensations for several minutes.

What Makes The Georgian Hotel Stand Out In Santa Monica

Whether or not the hotel is haunted, the Georgian stands out in Santa Monica. The striking blue Art Deco boutique hotel (against a wall of white buildings) is a short walk from Downtown and the Third Street Promenade and to the Santa Monica Pier from Ocean Avenue.

Immediately across the street, the palm-lined coastline park also features a pedestrian bridge for direct access to the uncrowded Santa Monica State Beach. The bridge crosses over the Pacific Coast Highway and descends north of more crowded beach parking. There is plenty of space to sit on a small wall separating a small lot and a biking path, just in front of the white sand.

Other than the charming near-original mahogany-paneled elevator, the recent $5 million renovations are noticeable but not intrusively modern at the Georgian. The feel comes across a little more like the 1950s than the 1930s, but the intimacy that made the hotel famous is amazingly preserved. With only 28 suites and 56 guest rooms, hotel staff quickly become personal with guests, anticipating their needs by name and with pleasant smiles.

Since the biggest buzz for the hotel came immediately following renovations in around 2004, the Georgian Hotel feels just off the beaten path. However, do plan ahead. Some summer nights are booked as much as one or two months in advance. Also, if you drive in, be prepared to valet.

With its Ocean Avenue frontage, giving many rooms full ocean views, overnight parking is $21 (plus gratuity, for gracious guests). With the exception of check-in and check-out rushes, the valet is prompt and happy to pull the car around in between your breakfast on the veranda and picking up some essentials from the room before heading out to take in Los Angeles.

Access to the entire city is exceptional from Santa Monica. The less busy Pacific Coast Highway entrance is only two blocks east. The highway then becomes Interstate 10, which crosses Interstate 405 after a short ten-minute drive. Traffic is generally manageable, even if you are returning after a full day from downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Park, or Disneyland.

The Georgian Hotel Hits An 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Georgian Hotel is the kind of place that writers, artists, actors, and free spirits look for to get away for awhile. It is also wired for WiFi, with hotel guests receiving the password upon check in. Another plus is that the lobby bar, which offers spectacular sunset views, is only open to hotel guests. Seriously, I wouldn't stay anywhere else in Santa Monica.

To check for current airfares around Santa Monica, visit Fare Buzz flight pages.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Little Guide To Vintage Shopping

If you think vintage amounts to a 1990s prom dress or immediately think wine, you might need a friend to guide you. The fascinating way of vintage will change the way you see the world.

The guide I found is The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping. It is a compact, elegant little book filled with helpful tips and information. It is not a coffee table book nor is it meant to be (it can, in fact, fit in just about any purse). And that’s what makes this book such a gem.

About The Guide Who Wrote The Book.

Author Melody Fortier (MissTangerine on Twitter) has some vintage credibility. She's been in the vintage business for more than 20 years. She owns her own vintage clothing/accessories store, Tangerine Boutique in Gardner, Mass. The Website is not as hip as the store or the book, but it is enough to discover that she has a passion for all things vintage.

And that’s what she shares in this book. Even for people like me who love vintage, we generally know about what we like but never give much thought to the true tenets of vintage. The biggest mistake made? Not all "antique" items are "vintage."

joieThis is how Fortier starts her story, explaining that the terms “antique” and “vintage” are often incorrectly used interchangeably. The worst abuses tend to be on eBay. There, you'll find items made five years ago described as vintage. The 1980s prom dress might be described as antique. Not even close.

What Makes An Antique Anyway?

Antique clothing and textiles usually date back to the 1920s and are more suited to being collector’s items. That means you wouldn't want to wear them.

Vintage clothing, on the other hand, covers that last 100 years or so (starting in the 1930s). It includes both high-end and low-end clothing, and everything that falls somewhere in the middle. This includes haute couture as well as the budget designer. Fortier does a fine job covering these details in her book, of course.

But better than a broad brush of vintage, Fortier also covers topics that aren't on the "what you like" menu. She details what you might find in the marketplace, what might be a good value, and when to walk away from the sale.

She also provides real insight that only a store owner would know: labels and pricing, spot removal, sizing (which is critical since a size 6 in 1960 isn’t a size 6 in 2010). She also covers shoes and accessories, and provides a glossary for anyone hoping to make better decisions when you want to make a purchase.

Take a long look at these pink leather slide slippers (circa 1960s) that are nice enough to wear as shoes (available at Fortier's store). Fortier covers all the details in her description, right down to the pale pink grossgrain ribbon. If you always wanted some assurance that nobody could possibly own a pair of shoes like this, these All-abouts are it.

And that's what it is all about, isn't it? Smart shopping so we shop some more and find something no one else can possibly own.

The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping Scores An 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

No, this little book might not be hip on its own. But the knowledge you gain can help you discover the unseen side of vintage shopping. Mostly, it helps makes those of use who are curious about fiction become a bit more knowledgeable so we're not as dangerous.

The choice is yours. I'm a passionate participant in the world vintage. And from that perspective, it seems to me that someone hoping to become a serious collector needs to start somewhere. This book is one of the places I started. Other people seem to agree. The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping: Insider Tips, Helpful Hints, Hip Shops retains a solid four stars on Amazon.

Why not five-star ratings elsewhere? Some people fancy themselves smarter than the insiders. And a few people hoped for more pictures, never realizing a "little" guide isn't for the coffee table.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Zap-Kapow! Puts A Comics Guide In Your Pocket

The first issue of the Amazing Spider-Man, story by Stan Lee and art by Steve Ditko, trades for around $44,000. The Uncanny X-Men for $11,500. The Fantastic Four for $48,000. Batman for a cool $215,000. Superman for $440,000.

Those five comics also represent the top five trading titles, easily tracked from an iPhone app called Zap-Kapow! A Guide To Comic Books In Your Pocket. It puts popular titles and plenty of obscure ones in your pocket at all times. Even better, Zap-Kapow! allows you to add your own collection to a "have" list or "wish" list, making it easy to reference your collection if you collect more than a few dozens titles.

Each listing includes publisher, writer, price guide, and cover art. For the most part, obscurity is not a problem. Do you own the first edition of Trencher, which followed the zombie-like anti-hero named Gideon? How about the four issue mini-series "The Last American" by Alan Grant and Michael McMahon? Or maybe the gold foil cover edition of Supreme by Image Comics when they seemed to be pumping out new heroes every week? They are all there, cataloged and collected with cover art.

In fact, after looking over our editor's modest comic collection, Zap-Kapow seems to have an inclusion rate of 98 percent. Some are missing, but the developers admit to being human. App owners are welcome to let them know when there are problems.

Everything Isn't Perfect, But Zap-Kapow! Shows Promise.

Zap-Kapow! does have some setbacks. Sometimes it's slow to load, and inputting 100 comics in a single sitting will require you to shut down the application to refresh the app and give the server a rest. It's a by-product of everything being managed online. There are several other annoyances we hope will be resolved over time.

• The "have" list doesn't alphabetize the titles.
• The "have" list doesn't allow you to record multiple copies.
• The search feature doesn't include issue numbers.
• There is no desktop program to help you organize.
• You can't import, export, or back up your listing.

Phone Cases and Art PrintsAssuming the recent lapse in Zap-Kapow! Twitter updates doesn't indicate some terminal problems, some of the challenges are expected to be resolved with version 2.0. The mission is very much to make a move toward full collection management, which means toggling back and forth between the iPhone and any OSX Mac.

We're hopeful that will resolve the the lack of alphabetization function and the ability to toggle by title, artist, or publisher. Likewise, a more intuitive search function would be nice to avoid thumbing through the sometimes endless deaths and resurrections of various superheroes.

Zap-Kapow! Scores A 6.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

We'd love to give Zap-Kapow! a higher score. Maybe once version 2.0 is flushed out, we'll feel the earth move. Until then, even comic book collectors can expect only minor tremors after the initial excitement that someone finally did something worthwhile.

What does that mean? Compared to the rest of the mobile guide field, Zap-Kapow! is the best mobile guide out there. The only negative feedback among casual comic app buyers seems to be that the $2.99 app also costs 99 cents with every monthly update. (Initial purchases always include every update.)

When you consider how many comic listings have to be added every month and an advertising-free zone, we think the update rate is worth it. However, for anyone still interested in penny pinching, there is one cost-savings tip from app developers themselves: don't update monthly. Even if you update every three months, one update includes any month you missed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

One Photo A Day, Every Day

The SX-70 is a folding single lens reflex Land Camera, which was produced by Polaroid from 1972-1981, but it's not the subject of this post. It's only a throwback with an impressive history. The talent comes from the person behind it.

Two years ago, Chris Higgins came across the site of one such photographer. It hasn't been covered as much since then. People tend to discard bookmarks as they become less fresh, much like they discard people who cross their paths almost daily.

This Website, however, isn't one you'll want to discard so easily (which is why I kept the link). Photo of the Day, spanning 1979 to 1997, is an online memorial taken by and preserved for the photographer who resides there. It's both incredibly happy and quietly haunting, especially for those who know how the story ends.

In professional circles, Jamie Livingston was known as the film editor for Se La, which was resurrected in 2003 as part of the Lionel Richie Collection, directed by Michael Bay. Livingston also worked on American Dreamers, Letters Not About Love, and Destination Everywhere.

Pay careful attention to the dates if you visit the links to the Internet Movie Database. What seems especially striking is that those professional projects were completed toward the end of his remarkable and exuberant record of daily life.

mental_floss store“Jamie can be remembered for precisely the things he himself wanted to capture and remember: daily ordinary joy,” said Risa Mickenberg in a release ten years after her friend's death. “Photo of the Day is a work of light, color, laughter, pain, travel, beauty, wonton soup, afternoons, coffee, hanging out, love, life in its entirety. It’s the masterpiece we all create. It’s just that Jamie thought to take its picture.”

The "Photo of the Day" Project Is A Perfect 10 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

It is the work of an extraordinary gentlemen's focus on the more ordinary aspects of his life that makes it an extraordinary piece of work. It begs how we all might be remembered. For many people, Livingston will be remembered as an inspiration. For similar works, visit The Adaption to My Generation.

The Polaroid SX-70 Alpha Instant Folding Camera is still around. The replacement film can be found at the Impossible Shop, which is another amazing Website. But we don't know for how long.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Pretty Reckless Remakes Momsen

The Pretty Reckless
One night several years ago, Taylor Momsen’s father took her to a White Stripes show.

“Before that, the only concert I’d been to was Britney Spears,” says the singer, songwriter, and guitarist. “But once I saw Jack White onstage, that was it. I grew up as a dancer and I thought you had to dance to be a girl in the music industry. Then I saw the White Stripes and I was like, ‘No, you don’t. I can do that.’”

And so opens the bio on The Pretty Reckless Website, where 16-year-old Momsen now fronts (and plays rhythm guitar) for a powerhouse influenced by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, and Nirvana. "Make Me Wanna Die," released in March earlier this year as part of the the Kick-Ass soundtrack, is the band's debut single that soared to number one in the United Kingdom and broke the top 20 in the United States.

But no matter where the song ends up, The Pretty Reckless are pretty smart. Almost immediately after the song was released, the band debuted a promotional video on YouTube featuring the live performances and backstage footage of the band. As people get to know them, connect, and help them charge forward, The Pretty Reckless is here to say. Some of their videos are just shy of one million views.

Naturally, Momsen isn't just a fresh face. She has some buzz value from "Gossip Girl." However, that's not why Liquid [Hip] accepted my pitch to post about them. All Momsen's songs — "Make Me Wanna Die," "My Medicine," and "Goin' Down" make you quickly forget those ties.

Helping Momsen break the image that some boring critics still cling to (yawn) is Ben Phillips (guitar), Mark Damon (bass), and Jamie Perkins (drums). Since they write their own music, the band has a fresh sound that hits the spot in 2010. You'll see it listed as anything and everything from post-grunge to power pop, but only by those who never understood alternative rock.

“I’m not just writing something because I think people might like it,” Momsen says. “I hope they do, but I’m writing it because I have something to say."
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The real test for success has really taken place across the pond. The Gossip Girls stigma seems to have less impact. Sure, it originally was the reason that crowds turned out, but after even one song that is not why they will tune in. This isn't a child star turned rocker in the off-shot season. It was the real deal in the United Kingdom.

While most of the attention seems to be centered on one single, the punchy blues sound that accompanies "My Medicine" will be the next to be noticed. "Going Down" has a more mainstream sound, but fits well enough with the mix on the album. It's the alto that brings it all together.

The Pretty Reckless Debut Earns A 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Pretty Reckless first appeared on iTunes on June 21. Customer reviewers there all claim to have been waiting for the day that the first hit single arrived. Based on the abundance of 5-star ratings, the three-song line up there is easily well-received.

There doesn't seem to be as much excitement on Amazon, but you can still find the three-song taste there as a digital download. It could be the compression rate; you never know. The Pretty Reckless EP pre-teases the LP.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Child 44 Is As Relevant Now As 2008

Child 44
Two years after its initial debut, Child 44 reads as an even more relevant reminder that Aldous Huxley was right: "Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it is walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too."

As the United States continues to struggle with the concept of whether its people need to be compelled to do good for the good of the state, Child 44 gives readers a glimpse of the future by sharing the past of another country that once held such a pursuit in high regard. And it does so with frightening clarity.

Set in 1953 under the backdrop of Stalin's Soviet Union, Child 44 is frequently described as a serial killer thriller, mystery, or historical fiction since the murders are based on real Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, also known as the Rostov Ripper. However, those quick descriptors sometimes put off readers who don't appreciate those genres. It's a real mistake to miss this book for lack of an accurate moniker.

Why Child 44 Still Makes The Cut After Two Years.

It's not the serial killer story that keeps readers turning the page or thumbing the screen; it's the tenuous suspense created by following Leo Stepanovich Demidov, an MGB officer who eventually comes to terms with the knowledge that he has spent his entire life protecting the illusion of a perfect society.

Alibris: Books, Music, & MoviesAfter all, in a country where everyone is provided health care, food, shelter, security; with everyone working for the good of the state; with everyone assigned jobs that they are the most capable to perform; there can be no crime. Even the mere suspicion of believing anything contrary to the idea of utopia — including a murder by anyone other than someone mentally deficient — can cost you, your friends, and your family their lives.

The rules are simple enough. The only crime worth pursuing is espionage. And if you are suspected, a case file will be opened. If there is a case file open, you are guilty. And if you are guilty, anyone associated with you is a possible suspect.

For Leo Demidov, this is how he vested his life with the power to denounce, torture, and execute thousands of people who are unwilling or unable to maintain the charade. Their crimes are disgraceful. The veterinarian who treats the dog of a Western embassy employee. The woman who accepts an unsanctioned gift of literature. The family who suspects their son was murdered.

They must all be guilty against the infallibility of the state. If not, there is little left to conclude other than that people being protected by the state are thugs, villains, and killers who everyone pretends do not exist, despite the worst of them being entitled and empowered by the state.

Written by Tom Rob Smith, a 2001 Cambridge graduate and working screenwriter, Child 44 continues to earn awards and has already captured the attention of visionary filmmaker Ridley Scott. It was optioned before the book even hit the shelves.

Originally, Child 44 was anticipated to be complete and released in 2010 with Scott directing. But given his long list of projects "in development," it is anybody's guess where Child 44 might fit. Sooner would possibly provide a lift for the sequel, which is frequently described as less suspenseful.

Child 44 Earns A 9.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Overall, Child 44 is near flawless. And while some readers might be taken aback by the plot twist toward the end, the minor distraction does little to curb the haunting power of how easily tyranny can denounce anyone for what they say. And what makes that especially chilling in the United States nowadays is that denouncements seem to be occurring with steady regularity.

The book was recently discounted Child 44 on Amazon. The audio version of Child 44 is read by Dennis Boutsikaris, who does the story outstanding justice by enhancing every line with engaging inflections. You can also find Tom Rob Smith on Facebook. You can find it for iBooks too.