Wednesday, December 26, 2007

(12.26.07) Recommends:

The track "Blue Eleanor" by Old Canes.

One of the many reasons that we love our inbox is that, here we sit, the day after Christmas, and it's still giving us little gifts. And one of the many reasons we love blogging is we get people -- friends and strangers alike, and sometimes even strangers who become friends -- who send recommendations our way.

So today, our love of inboxes, and blogs, and friends, and recommendations all came together, and the result, predictably, is pretty effing cool. Today a friend sent us along this track and we've been swimming in it all morning. We know little about the band or the album from which this track comes, but when the holiday season starts calming down a little -- starting tomorrow for us, unfortunately -- we're gonna figure this out. What we know now is that Old Canes come from Lawrence, KS and the album came out in July 2004. If our calculations are correct, this means we had already left the KC metro area for California and therefore can feel a little less bad about not knowing about this sooner.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

(12.25.07) Recommends:

A Survey!

This is our second installment of A Survey! Last time's game is here. Today we're asking: do we like Portfolio, Conde Nast's new business magazine, or does it annoy us?

The Pros:

  1. As we mentioned last time we blogged about the magazine, Michael Lewis is a contributing editor. And today, we gave a family member a Michael Lewis book for Christmas. We've gone this for about 19 Christmas' in a row. If, god forbid, Michael Lewis stops writing books, our family members will likely stop receiving gifts.
  2. The stories are short and are informal.
  3. There is a humor present in the stories -- stories that are more or less about serious subjects -- that you rarely find in other mainstream periodicals.

The Cons:

  1. The shortness and informality seem to almost border on the flippant. This worries us.
  2. The shortness also prevents any in-depth analysis. We know this seems like a preposterous thing to even have to mention -- how could shorts things contain in-depth analysis? Two words: James Surowiecki. His pieces in the New Yorker are never longer than one page (plus, there's also a cartoon in the middle, so it's actually less than one full page). And we always feel like we walk away with a grasp on whatever topic he explores after that one page. We were hoping Portfolio would be a magazine full of Surowiecki-esque pieces. We're not hopeful it's reached such heights.

So, Survey Time, boys and girls. Go out and read the magazine, and let us know what you think. Does this magazine have the chance to be a must-read, always-on-our-coffee-table magazine? Or does it just annoy us?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

(12.23.07) Recommends:

The Megabus.

We don't think we've mentioned the Megabus before, but we would be remiss if we allowed 2007 to fall away into the record books without first shining our light on what surely is one of the Top Three Modes of Transportation in the United States.

The setup: Megabus is a "low cost, daily, express bus service in the US." The system was first described to us was thusly: It could take a rider from St. Louis, MO to Kansas City, MO for $1. This is roughly 300 miles. Even assuming you have a 10-gallon gas tank and get 30 miles a gallon, such a trip would cost $30.

We studied Economics in college and even went on to work professionally in the field. Yet, we have no idea how this Megabus system possibly works. How and why it works escapes us. But works, we know, it does.

Here's how we know: after hearing fanciful tales of such civilized travel from family members in (the Middle of) America, we tried the thing out on the West Coast.

San Jose. To Los Angeles. For $10.

No kidding.

As far as we can tell there are no catches to this system (other than, you know, it might go bankrupt at any second). The buses are new and big and comfortable. The drivers are reasonable. There is one stop, approximately 30 minutes in length (at least this is so for the SJ-->LA leg). The company, if it advertises at all, only advertises online and tickets can only be purchased online, so rather than getting sketchballs like on Greyhound, you get a bunch of people who look like they're being shipped off to Hipster Bandcamp. And we can be down with that.

This seems like a system too good to stay this pure for very long. So, if you live in or near a city served by Megabus, make 2K8 the year you try it.

Note: More background info found here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

(12.19.07) Recommends:

"Movin' to Virginia" by Split Lip Rayfield.

The last time we checked in, we had found ourselves in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For a while there, we were pretty sure we were never getting out of the Old Dominion State. Alas, we finally arrived home this morning, but not until the ungodly hour of 4am. Our time in VA reminded us of one of the first SLR songs we recall hearing.

Slip Lip Rayfield -- Movin' to Virginia -- mp3

Saturday, December 15, 2007

(12.15.07) Recommends:

December in Los Angeles.

We grew up fortified by long Midwestern winters, but our time in California has apparently softened us. We were unexpectedly called away to the East Coast this week and here we sit inside, wrapped in layers, heat on full blast, as the rain slowly turns to sleet out our windows. Oh winter in the 20166 area code, we won't be sad when we leave you behind.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

(12.13.07) Recommends:

Not Misrepresenting Your Capacity To Provide The Masses With Pinball.

Okay, maybe we're not being fair here. Because Power House (1714 N Highland Ave, in case anybody googles this while conducting due diligence on places to play pinball in Los Angeles) never actually directly represented to us that we could play pinball there. But, come on. Please read their citysearch reviews. Using the find function on your web browser search for "pinball." You will come upon this result:

The wise-cracking bartender, stiff cocktails, classic rock-filled jukebox, darts and pinball games will keep you busy, while the rowdy barroom banter will keep you alert.

In reasonable reliance upon such representations you will show up at Power House. Pockets full of quarters. Hearts full of optimism. And you will be: denied. Because: there is no pinball. Anywhere.

Power House, how we love thee for only having PBR on tap. But we hate that you do not have pinball. Please remedy this because we'd really love to come back into your Christmas-light-decorated and Kansas-hoodie-approving bosom.

But we swear to you that it will never happen until we can play pinball.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

(12.12.07) Recommends:


So just the other day we were telling, ahem, a certain someone about how the first thing we did when we moved to Los Angeles was get a library card from our neighborhood library. And then today we get an invitation to join Goodreads.

From the website:

Goodreads is a free website that allows you to see what your friends are reading. You can add and review books that you are currently reading, going to read, or already read. You can also read reviews by people who aren't in your friend network.

A social network for book nerds. Cool, right? We've been busy filling and rating our virtual bookshelf all evening. The drill is, you find a book, then you rate it, and give it a tag. The tags are like "have read," "to read," etc. Right now the tags are limited and we can think of a few that are needed.

1. Book That I Have On My Shelf That Will Never Be Finished. I would give this tag to "Guns, Germs and Steel." At the beginning of every month for the past decade we have told ourselves that this would be the month that we would finally pick up GGS and finish it. Then we get to another chapter that starts with another indigenous tribe coming up with another modification to the sunflower seed that permanently sets civilization on another path from which we will never recover and we realize that we are simply not smart enough to ever finish this book. We did enjoy learning that Zebras have never been tamed, though.

2. Book That I Have On My Bookshelf To Impress People Who Look At My Bookshelf. While "Infinite Jest" isn't actually on our bookshelf -- primarily for the fact that it is too heavy for us to actually lift and place on our bookshelf -- it would certainly be more likely to get this tag from us than either "Have Read" or "To Read." We can actually envision the evening, fueled by one too many Diet Dr. Pepper's -- because it tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper -- when we tag this as "Have Read." We would only give it a marginal rating b/c too high of a rating would probably cause somebody to ask us details about the book. But we used "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" as a test drive for "Infinite Jest" and after the second story -- which is three sentences that go on for a staggering four pages -- we realized that Wallace, whose genius is beyond reproach, exists on a plane that we can never cohabitate.

3. Book That I Have On My Bookshelf That I "Loaned" From a Friend. We have (at least) two right now. The Hip Librarian loaned us two before we skipped town including one by Miranda July, which we were very excited about but upon reading found more or less a big disappointment (query: will we be brave enough to actually admit this on Goodreads?). Technically, these books have moved from the bookshelf to the desk to a bubble mailer on the desk. We move slowly and methodically and with an abundance of caution. No, but really: we are lazy beyond any reasonable measure and for this we apologize profusely.

Those are the three big categories that come to mind now. But we're sure you can come up with more. Let us here 'em.

End note: One thing that we feel is worth mentioning (just so you don't send us email telling us this and somehow blaming us for it). The site has a blog and many posts are written by the founder Otis. And Otis kinda comes off like a blowhard in nearly every blog post. It's a bit remarkable, really. But I guess he is competing with Tom and Mark Zuckerwhateverthefuck. This is Web 2.0, my homeslices. Get used to the view.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

(12.11.07) Recommends:

I'm Not There.

The first thing to know is that we are not sophisticated viewers of movies. When we think of movies, we think of being home for the holidays and seeing one or two with the family. Think big, holiday-season, Hollywood blockbusters. So, with movies we're like a music fan who pretty much only listens to very mainstream major label releases. Now that we have properly raised our insufficiencies as a movie critic, here are some thoughts:
  1. We liked this movie. It was non-linear and the director was obviously playing with the form and these are things that we appreciate. Since our experience with movies are the very conventional types, a movie like this gets us excited because we get proud of ourself for stretching our movie-consuming boundaries. People who are sophisticated movie goers, we have no idea how they are reacting to this movie. But we thought it was cool in that abstract style of many Bob Dylan songs.
  2. Despite our constrained knowledge of good cinema, even we could recognize that Cate Blanchett put on an incredible performance -- it deserves the phrase "tour de force" an absurd title seemingly only used to describe movie performances -- as jittery-drug-era Dylan. I'll try to frame her performance with a music analogy. You know how some band will cover another band's song, and the cover verison casts the original in a new light, and shows us something new about the old song? Usually it shows you -- or reminds you -- just how brilliant the original song and band were, because the antecedent song was universal, could be taken and adapted to a different style and still be so strong. Think Yo La Tengo covering the Beach Boys' "Little Honda." Or Matthew Ward covering Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home." This was Blanchett's performance. You can go to youtube and watch these interviews of Dylan in that era. And when we watch we seem him seething with anger and mockery and disdain. But Blanchett adds this layer of feminine emotion and vulnerability that you don't think of watching the interviews, but now realize simply had to have been present in the original Dylan. Blanchett, at the least, will be nominated for major awards for this.
  3. We feel more comfortable discussing music rather than movies. Someday, perhaps, there will be a Rhapsody of movies. But until then. We thought the two stars of the soundtrack (aside from the Dylan originals that were used; those are the stars of any soundtrack they'd ever be in) were Stephen Malkmus and Mason Jennings. It seems more or less implausible that this is a coincidence since they both share characteristics with Dylan: Malkmus the absurdly talented wordsmith (also note that one of the versions of Dylan was from Stockton, CA home of Malkmus/Pavement); Jennings, the thoughtful Minnesota songwriter.
So there you have it. We've seen lots of interesting movies with interesting soundtracks lately and if we're lucky this trend will continue until at least Wednesday

Monday, December 10, 2007

(12.10.07) Recommends:

The Soundtrack to Juno.

So we saw Juno last night. According to Wikipedia -- and if it's on Wikipedia, my goodness, that's good enough for us -- Juno is the story of "a teenager who discovers she's pregnant by her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). She then tries to give the child to a promising, suburban couple, Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), but everything goes wrong." It opened in limited release Dec. 05 and opens nationwide Dec. 25. Most likely it will take the country by storm.

Two things that readers of this blog will notice immediately about the movie:
  1. It name-drops McSweeney's. Really.
  2. It has a killer soundtrack. Some will even go so far as to call it "quirky."
If it's quirky, you're thinking to yourself, than the Moldy Peaches must be involved somehow. And you'd be correct. The soundtrack relies heavily on ex-MPer Kimya Dawson. Additionally, you're looking at tracks by, among others, Belle + Sebastian, Cat Power and the Velvet Underground. Good stuff.

We imagine Anyone Else But You will be the song most closely associated with the movie.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

(12.09.07) Recommends:

Great Northern, "Trading Twilight for Daylight" (Eenie Meenie, 2007).

After a brief separation, we finally have Rhapsody up and running again. And since the reunion, we've been listening to this album pretty much non-stop. We've been slightly obsessed with LA-based Eenie Meenie Records since we stumbled upon Irving last year at Bottom of the Hill, one of this blog's all time favorite music venues.

To the extent that there is an "Eenie Meenie sound," this record perfectly captures it. And a perfect example of the perfect capturing of that sound is Low Is A Height. Listen. Learn. Love.