Posts Tagged ‘Rashida Jones’

friday robots

I think of these guys as cave painting robots. Neolithic robots. When early humans went out to hunt deer, they’d run into these primitive Friday Robots. Then they’d get back home and, over dinner or whatever, they’d say “Hey, that was a pretty cool robot we saw today. We should ask the artist to paint them next time he’s in a cave.”

30,000 years later, here they are online.


Before Superbad was a funny movie about high school, Super Bad was an awesome funky song by James Brown. (Probably not a coincidence, considering the funky score of Superbad the movie.)

I was introduced to Super Bad‘s awesomeness in college. Me and my friend Jason worked out in the gym at our small liberal arts college. Yes, when everyone we knew was getting stoned and reading Sappho, Jason and I spent a little time exercising. There were other students at the gym, most of them in varsity sports. That made us an anomaly – average guys lifting weights. It was a little weird to be perceived as athletic. I’m no jock, but if you stood me up next to a dozen of my History major peers I suddenly looked like the epitome of health.

The majority of people in the gym at any given time were townies, which suited us just fine. Everyone kind of did their own thing. Well, everyone except the Boombox Guy.

The Boombox Guy was an African American fellow who wore a headband and wristbands. His workout clothes stand out in my mind because they came straight out of the Seventies. I only wish he had a goatee or sweet moustache, but my memory has him clean shaven. Of course, he never entered the gym without his Boombox.

The gym didn’t have its own sound system, so normally you’d just hear the sounds of people lifting weights up and setting weights down. When the Boombox Guy was there, you got to hear James Brown.

I’m pretty sure it was a Greatest Hits tape because the same handful of songs played over and over. It was great. Soul, or funk, or whatever you want to call it, was absolutely perfect for the gym. And when Super Bad came on, James was right there, pushing me toward greater feats of strength. “Uplifting” doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. I was Superman. A scrawny, redheaded, nearsighted Superman. Yeah.

For some reason they never play the right music in any gym I’ve been since college. I can’t figure out why. Play Motown. Play Stax. Play James Freaking Brown, for chrissakes. Or go the other way and play AC/DC. It isn’t quantum mechanics, it’s workout music. It should make you feel good.

My thanks go out to that guy in Ohio for bringing his boombox. He’s got the feelin’.

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let it be: the album even phil spector couldn’t mess up

Let it Be was the final Beatles album released. It was not, however, the final album they recorded. Abbey Road, a superior album in almost every way, was the Beatles’ farewell to their fans. The final full song on Abbey Road is even called The End. You can’t get more explicit than that. But for reasons of apathy, the Beatles had recorded but never bothered to release the album that would be called Let it Be.

Since the Beatles didn’t want to do it themselves, and since longtime producer George Martin had never been involved (which, I think, hurt his feelings a little bit), the hours of tape were handed to Phil Spector with the hope that he would make an album out of it.

Spector, known for his Wall of Sound approach to recording, wasn’t the best choice for the album. Let it Be was supposed to be a live album: all songs recorded in one take, with no overdubs or studio trickery. Spector had become famous for doing the exact opposite. He’d record a piano playing a certain part, then have that person play the exact same piano part twenty more times so that it sounded like a piano army. The Wall of Sound was an assault to the senses at a time when records were rarely recorded using more than four tracks. Asking Phil Spector to make a stripped-down Beatles album would be like asking the WTO to please think of the poor countries in their trade agreements. They’re just going to get steamrollered.

Spector did just what he always did when making an album. He hired an orchestra and started adding bits to almost all the songs. He did show some restraint on songs like Two of Us and I’ve Got a Feeling, but on the whole the album would never be mistaken for “live.”

Strangely, he included bits of studio chatter between the songs. Normally this would add to the illusion that you’re listening to a live album, but Spector sabotaged himself with the huge orchestrations and intricate arrangements of the songs themselves. When you’re listening to Dig It, a fun jam, it sounds like the four (or five, with Billy Preston) musicians playing together in a room. Then you are jarred by the sound of dozens of musicians playing The Long and Winding Road. Are we in a studio where an entire orchestra can sneak in and set up completely unnoticed? No. We are in the middle of a Phil Spector record.

Let it Be manages to be neither a live album or a completely finished one. In spite of that, there are moments of greatness. No one, not even the Terrorists, will deny Let it Be is a great song. George’s guitar solo on that version of the song (different, I don’t know why, than the single version you hear on the radio) is his greatest solo ever. In I’ve Got a Feeling, hearing John singing his part in the right speaker while Paul’s in the left is just really cool. Two of Us and Get Back are a couple of Paul’s fantastic songs. (I still like Get Back even though it gets played to death on Tucson radio.) Across the Universe is John’s best work here, and I always enjoy George’s Blues pastiche For You Blue.

Taken as a series of singles, Let it Be works. But as an album, it suffers from lack of organization, probably because the people making it never really cared about putting it together right. Throw in one nutjob to produce it, and you’ve got a very good Beatles album instead of one of their best.

It just goes to show how good the Beatles were: even Phil Spector couldn’t totally ruin a Beatles album.

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batman vs superman

It is ironic that the battles comic book aficionados want to see most are between friends. Batman hates the Joker: this is a given. Superman hates Nazis: duh. But what would happen if Batman fought Superman? What would be the outcome of this nerdy battle royale?

I’m not interested. What does interest me is how differently these superheroes approach their gigs. Although they have the same mission (fightin’ evil), that is where the similarity ends.

It is well known that Batman and Superman are, at best, frenemies. Batman thinks Superman is a lousy showoff (think: Kanye West), and Superman thinks of Batman as an outlaw (think: Jesse James). They also have the exact opposite taste in fashion. Superman prefers loud, bright colors while Batman steps out into the Gotham night in muted blues and grays. It’s perhaps inevitable, then, that when these titans meet, there will be blood.

Metropolis. This bright Los Angeles of comic book cities plays host to alien Kal-El. By day he pretends to be dorky Clark Kent, newspaper reporter. Also by day he is Superman, the Man of Steel, who saves the city from all manner of villainy.
Superman inflicts countless millions of dollars in property damage in his never-ending battle to rid the universe of evil. Metropolis cannot lure a single pro sports team due to the fear that a giant robot, searching for Superman, will destroy every player on the field. This is more frustrating to Metropolans than having the Cleveland Indians as your home team.

Gotham, a rat-infested hellhole (Phoenix? Detroit?), can’t really be hurt by a man dressing up as a giant bat. Any building Batman enters is condemned or abandoned, so he really can’t do anything to make the value go down. Also, Batman doesn’t attract the kind of world-domination villains Superman does. Batman attracts the psychopaths, the lunatics. Do you want to dress up as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and play out your weird sexual fantasies? Go to Gotham. Are you a 500-foot-tall squid monster who eats babies by the truckload? Go to Metropolis.

Batman is Bruce Wayne by day. The millionaire playboy has to be an easy part to play, since Batman runs on about 30 minutes of sleep per night. He literally couldn’t function as a character who required specialized skills or social graces. Bruce Wayne basically shows up at a board meeting, bottle of Jameson in hand, and proceeds to burp his way through the presentation. Then Alfred picks him up so he can make a fool of himself in public (a fancy hotel or a political fundraiser), then back to Wayne Manor. Then the real work can begin.
As a regular human being, Batman stretches himself to the limit. Superman, on the other hand, is an almost indestructible alien who gets his power from the sun. Batman needs to stop and eat at least twice a day.

Superman fights crime for the joy of it. He doesn’t really need to do it, he just feels the moral imperative. Batman, on the other hand, witnessed his parents murdered at gunpoint when he was a child. Batman hates guns and criminals; it’s personal.

Batman has had to learn how to fight so as not to get himself seriously injured. He also has to be a cop, a detective and a scientist to solve crimes. Superman just looks for the fire and flies over to put it out.

No matter what the villain, Superman uses the same tactic to defeat it. Cyborg? Punch it in the face. Squid monster? Punch it in the face. Woman who thinks The Shawshank Redemption is better than Citizen Kane? Punch her in the face. Yes, Superman will hit a girl.
This post will do nothing to put the Batman/Superman debate to rest. What I do hope is that it has shed some light onto why this blogger thinks Batman is, like, a billion times cooler than Superman. Batman, if you’re out there, Falling Rock has your back.

friday robots

Today’s Friday Robot was drawn during a conversation with my brother about moonshine whiskey. Background added later. Dinobot thrown in for good measure.

top 40 radio killed my life

There’s been a lot of talk about commercial radio going the way of the dinosaur, and I honestly couldn’t care less. Unlike newspapers, a media that is still vital and hosts some great comics, radio has been completely out of touch ever since I can remember. I don’t see how it could ever hope to reclaim any sort of relevance.

As a kid, I listened to Oldies. This was fine for a few years until I learned every song they played. You see, Oldies are no longer being made. They stopped being made in the early 1960’s. You’d think that, even given that limitation, there would be more than enough material to keep listeners surprised. Thousands of singles were produced from 1950-1965, maybe even millions. Yet all I heard was a shuffle of Pretty Woman, Twist and Shout, and Stop! In the Name of Love. There comes a time in a young man’s life when he cannot hear Pretty Woman any longer without projectile vomiting, and for me that time came around age 13.

Fortunately my friend Andy turned me on to the Beatles around that time. The Beatles, as you know, made lots of good songs that they never play on the radio. It took a while to work my way through all their albums, and by the time I was pretty familiar I had another friend who saved me by making a Bob Dylan mix tape. Bob Dylan has even more songs that are played even less than the Beatles, which is kind of strange because whenever you see a documentary about the 60’s you hear either a Beatles song or a Dylan song played in the background. Go figure.

Tucson had a couple fairly decent radio stations over the years, but they always ended in tragedy. In high school, when I wasn’t listening to tapes or my parents’ record collection, I tuned in to The Hog, a Classic Rock station. It wasn’t always great, and they did commit the cardinal sin of having a morning show with two annoying DJs, but it did play Stairway to Heaven at least once a week so I guess I can’t complain.

The Hog met its fate one afternoon my senior year. I drove to school in the morning with my dial set to Hog. In the afternoon, driving home, I had the strangest feeling that something was amiss. Alternative Rock (or Alt Rock, or Green Day, however you want to classify it) was blaring from the tiny speakers in my dashboard. Then the station identification came on. It was no longer The Hog. Apparently this is how radio stations switch formats: no warning, mid-day. I made a fruitless call in to the station manager. I even took time from my Government/Current Events class to implore my classmates to call in as well, to bring back a radio station I felt ambivalent about but at least didn’t actively hate.

The truth is, none of the music I listen to was discovered on commercial radio. In college, I listened to the student-run radio station. You’ve got to sit through a lot of garbage but occasionally you’ll hear something that really moves you. Also, there were a few really cute girls who had radio shows so I listened and tried to like the music they were playing. It didn’t take much convincing.

National Public Radio is, strangely, the best station to hear new music. They have a couple shows dedicated to playing stuff you’d never hear unless you are one of those people who are “cool” and just know about new bands as they are formed.

Having friends who play music also helps. They share their music with you, and you get to hear music you’d never hear on the radio. Twofer.

Even now I’m listening to my ipod while I write this post. I have a meticulously maintained itunes library which has more music than any commercial radio playlist. When I hear a song on the radio, I either like it but already have it on itunes, don’t like it and don’t have it on itunes, or haven’t heard it but don’t like it. This isn’t snobbery; I really wish it wasn’t this way. Would you rather listen to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction for the billionth time or Exile on Main Street with no commercial interruptions?

I’d love to hear free, new music every time I get in my car. But radio stations (most of them owned by one evil company) will never work this way. Don’t ask me why. Ask capitalism.

Meanwhile, it turns out Roy Orbison sang hundreds of songs that aren’t Pretty Woman. Many of them are fantastic. They don’t get played on the radio.

friday robots: chuck close edition

My Chuck Close imitation. I don’t think he has anything to worry about…except evil art-critic robots. They’ll destroy your career and before you know it you’ll be designing coupons.

The top image is the final, what follows is permutations. Just FYI, dudes.