There Was a Gummo

I was supposed to go as a silent film star this Halloween, but that was far too much work involving makeup. Instead, I went with some friends as the Marx Brothers. To pull off the Bros, all you need is a good Groucho and Harpo and then the rest is just guys in suits. This Halloween I got a free pass - I was Gummo. He's in the lower right hand corner and I really didn't resemble him at all. I ended up looking more like a mobster.


Better Than Your Mom's

Bat Out of Hell has always been an album I wanted to discover. I don't know what took me so long. At first, I thought Meatloaf was a novelty. "I Would Do Anything For Love" was a big hit when I was just starting to listen to music. I remember watching the music video as a kid and just being confused at the sight of this big fat guy in a flowing white shirt singing with the force of God, as though the world was about to end.

While he's always been on my radar, it was only until I read a passage about "Paradise on the Dashboard Light" in Chuck Klosterman's Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs, that I was compelled to investigate. I can't remember exactly how he sold me, but whatever Klosterman said was enough to set my mind. It's strange how that happens.

It was satisfying to actually buy the album instead of downloading it. I find that's the case with a lot of older music. While the new album art feature in iTunes is indeed diggidy-dope, it still doesn't replace the tangible quality of holding something in your hands.

The album itself is amazing, as I'm sure millions and millions of people already know. But god-damn if it isn't rewarding to discover stuff like this with your own exploration. The opening piano chords on the title track are some of the hardest rocking ever. Gotta hand it to Jim Steinman, the man knows how to rock your nuts off. Meat ain't too bad, either.


Vampire Hands at Wizard Island

In high school, everyone had friends in a band. Inherently, there's nothing too special about that. But it's another thing when you have friends in a band that's starting to get noticed. It automaticaly makes you feel cooler.

If you are ever in the Minneapolis area, check out the local music scene by taking in a Vampire Hands show. The following is excerpted from their recent write-up in the City Pages:

The first thing you need to know about Vampire Hands is that their name is awesome, if for no other reason than it forces people to strike their best Nosferatu pose. (No kidding, it's like Pavlov's dog. Try it.) The second is that bassist Chris Bierden sings with an English accent. And while that alone counts as strikes one, two, and three against a band, it's easy to forgive Bierden his linguistic trespasses. That's because he's seriously into the European psychedelic scene of the mid-'60s (as evidenced by Vampire Hands' debut EP, At Wizard Island: Too Punk to Fuck), and frankly there just aren't enough Can fans making music in this town. Second, Bierden's androgynous falsetto is so John-Lennon-creamy that it would be a crime if he didn't soften his Rs and lengthen his vowels. It's hypnotic, and it reminds us why royalty used to chill out to castrati choirs.


Make Yourself at Home

iTunes 7 is now out, and I have to say I am very impressed with the revamped look. Finally, all those hours I spent downloading album art have paid off. The new views are super cool and generally it's an improvement on an already near-perfect product. Nothing else even comes close. Kudos, Apple.


We Have Some Planes...

There is a feature on Slate right now that's quite spectacular - a graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Report that is perfect for illiterates like myself who never took the time to read the original document.*

After the 9/11 Report was published, I remember Barnes and Noble had it featured and stacked all over the place, like a John Grisham book. It got great reviews, was well written, and sold a lot of copies. But it was still a shitload of writing, and at the time I didn't feel like finding out more about the tragedy. It was already hard enough to deal with it everywhere else.

This illustrated take is a great way to take in some of the amazing details the 9/11 Commission amassed in their three year investigation. I don't feel like it's cheating, because this version adds a lot of movement and narrative. It's its own entity, while still paying great respect to the source material. It's not a re-imagining, or a new take; it's just presented in a different format by some very talented artists. I should also note that it's for sale on Amazon.com, even though you can read it online for free. You gotta love that.

Here are some of the panels:

*Spellcheck corrected 'illetirates' when I proofed this post.


This Bird Has Flown

Brad Bird is an animation genius. Just look at him goofily presenting his Oscar as if it's for sale on QVC. He's awesome. And so is his resume. The Simpsons, The Critic, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant... he knows what makes cartoons great and I can't wait for his new one, (The) Ratatoullie. The trailer looks great and the idea is genius - a rat that hates eating garbage and lives in a French restaraunt.


Were You Aware of It?

John Hodgman is hilarious. For proof of this statement, allow me to point you: here.


Moving On Down the Road

Today I moved into a nice Brooklyn apartment that's a step up for me. Overall I am happy with the decision, but the month of September in New York will be absolutely ridiculous. The apartment, which is just big enough for three people, will house 5-6 people for the next thirty days.

It's going to be like bad television around here: three guys, three girls, one apartment, two cats, a pizza place, and a whole 'lotta attitude! But I shouldn't be such a pessimist. Before you know it, we'll all be sitting around the boob tube enjoying syndicated episodes of Friends and everything will be all right. Just looking at this picture of Matt LeBlac already makes me feel better:

Talk about a painkiller. Just take two doses of Joey before you go to bed and you won't remember who you are. If only my living situation reminded me more of this show:

Now we're cooking with gas. The Sheild is one of the best shows on television. The writing is incredible. I blew through the first four seasons on DVD and I am eager to sink my teeth into the fifth. I hear good things. Cheers, FK Network! Jeers, Matt LeBlanc!


Federer as Scrutinous Experience

A few days ago, I read a piece in the New York Times Sunday Magazine by David Foster Wallace entitled "Federer as Religious Experience" - an homage to Roger Federer's artistry in the game of tennis.

In the piece, Wallace goes into detail several times about what it's like to have a 'Federer Moment', the first of which appears in a long sentence in the second paragraph of the piece, detailing events early in the 4th set of the Agassi/Federer match last year at the 2005 U.S. Open. It seems this sentence, has inspired some criticism of Wallace's propensity for extensive verbosity. Being a tennis player(a rank amateur I assure you), I ate it up and had to see the Moment for myself.

Like most things these days, I found it on YouTube and hunted around in the clip for what best resembled his words. I located something similar at around 8:10 in the video - a point where Federer is serving down 15-30, and wins it with "a forehand out of his backhand corner".

The point is vaguely similar to Wallace's description, but it was lacking a few key details found in Wallace's description, the most striking of which is Agassi's position on the court at the time of Federer's passing forehand - at the net in the text, on the baseline in the video.

The last thing I want to do is detract from Wallace's stellar work. His body of work is most impressive, and I thought this piece was beautifully written. But this warrants an e-mail to the Times Magazine editors to let them know of this fact-checking error.

8/27/06 UPDATE: Looks like something came of my e-mail. A correction has been appended on the NY Times website. Unfortunately, the article is now part of Times Select, but I have rerouted the first link in this post to an archived version, so you can still read it.


Hungry Like the Wolfmother

me why shitty bands like Nickleback and Evanescence are some of the top downloads on the iTunes, I could probably give a poor explanation involving niche marketing, distribution, and the sham that is the Grammys. But in the end, I'd still be baffled.

The Australian band Wolfmother is worth listening to. They mix the White Stripes with Led Zeppelin in a relevant combination of modern and classic rock that makes them sound like they are playing in a garage that seats 50,000. In other words, they should be huge.

Yet, like the mighty dinosaur, giant bands are dying out. Or to be more accurate, they all vanished instantly after a cataclysmic meteor crash. The cataclysmic meteor being, in this sense, the release of NSync's No Strings Attached in 2000. Revelations, indeed. Rather than going into detail, I'll simply point out an interesting piece in Wired about this very phenomenon.

At least some bands are still going for it. Best of luck, Wolfmother. You can count on me to rock out.


Take Me Out to the Ballpark?

I don't understand losing baseball teams. It's hard to fathom the incompetence behind organizations like the Devil Rays, Royals, and especially the Pirates. These are all great areas for baseball, but the teams just blow.

The Pirates are ancient, have a great history, and a beautiful new stadium - haven't had a winning season since 1992. The Royals won a World Series and had players like George Brett and Bo Jackson - they're gonna lose over 100 games for the third straight season. All of Florida seems to be a breeding ground for young talent these days - now have a look at all the people packed in for a D-Rays game: This brings me to The Tigers. They played the Rangers on ESPN tonight and Comerica Park was packed. This is a team that lost 119 games in 2003. To me, it's a pretty simple formula. Put together a decent club and the seats will be full. Or, rather: "If you win it, they will come". Easy enough, right? Yet many of baseball's owners refuse to spend money on their team. There's nothing holding you back, you rich bastards! You gotta spend money to make money.

As much as I think George Steinbrenner is a steaming bag of douche, I have to respect how much he wants his team to win. Carl Pohlad, the beloved owner of the Minnesota Twins, probably thinks Johan Santana is some kind of expensive Venezuelan cigar. This guy is one of the richest owners in baseball, yet the Twins were threatened with contraction. My ass. But perhaps it's not just about money.

My Twinkies are still one of the best teams in baseball despite a payroll that's 19th out of 30 teams. Great personnel can do wonders. Whatever a team is lacking, it doesn't take a genius to notice your team stinking it up in the morning paper. Way to go, owners of baseball. You suck.


Secrets of the Magus

I came across Ricky Jay for the first time in the pages of the New Yorker in 1993. My mom had a subscription and the magazine arrived every week for as long as I could remember. At the tender age of eleven, each issue was a swirling puzzle of complicated (byzantine, even) words in-between the only thing I could really grasp, the cat cartoons.

One day, I picked up an issue and
in it, was an amazing profile written by Mark Singer entitled "Secrets of the Magus". Jay's intense, bearded stare beckoned me into the unknown - the magician working his magic through a simple black and white photograph. I may have understood about half of the words, but my aesthetic fascination with cards and gambling had begun. More importantly, it was my introduction to Jay, who is now one of my heroes.

As my pop culture landscape broadened, I began to appreciate
and love movies like The Sting, Maverick, Rounders, and the X-Men character Gambit - pretty much anything that involved the culture of cons, cards, and gambling. In my widening horizon, I also noticed Jay, arriving out of no-where in a puff of smoke. An ongoing theme here at The Revue will be promoting his body of work so that more people can discover what a treasure he is.

David Mamet, one of Jay's good friends, put it best when he called him "one of the world's great people". Way to use that knife, Dave.