Thursday, January 31, 2008

(01.31.08) Recommends:


We've always had a sort of willfull ignorance about Middle East politics. We figure that there is so much background information to get straight before any present conflicts can be fully understood. And we feel most of the sources that discuss the issues today either do not put the current issues into any kind of historical context, or they have an agenda that is not explicitly disclosed.

So we meakly throw up our hands and stay out of Discussions About the Middle East Conflict.

But we came across a story yesterday that blew our minds. According to this Salon article, the internet in the Middle East has suffered an outage because a cable carried by a submarine was cut.


Granted, in the U.S., we have awesome politicians like Ted Stevens who sit and lecture us about how the internet is not a dump truck, but rather a series of tubes.

And we sit back and laugh.

But in the Middle East ... they ... what? We do not understand this. Their internet is hooked up by submarine? Do they actually plug their internet cable into the bottom of the ocean, and the submarine just acts as an intermediary? We have no idea what is going on here, but this is as concerete a reason as we've ever seen that the Middle East Issue Will Not, In Fact, Ever Be Solved.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

(01.30.08) Recommends:

The track "Stranger" by Sunny Day Sets Fire (IAMSOUND, 2008).

We've been listening to this track on our way to work all week. We live less than eight miles from where we work. But often times it takes us 45 minutes to travel such a distance. Which normally annoys us to an unhealthy degree. But this week -- we'll we've just put this track on repeat and enjoyed it. It reminds us of The Apples in Stereo. We think the two could easily combine forces to create a psychedelic indie rock super group called Sunny Day Sets Fire to Apples in Stereo.

But anyway. If it can put us at ease in traffic, for the sake of our future children, we would like scientists to take a look at this song and figure out how it does it.

Sunny Day Sets Fire -- Stranger -- mp3.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

(01.29.08) Recommends:

Google Alerts.

It's been a while since we've last blogged. And the absence can probably be blamed on us getting smart through Google Alerts. We like dumping knowledge on your head, but sometimes it takes a while to cultivate our garden, yo. Google is trying to solve this time problem, though. And outside of searching say, the Lexis Nexis news database, Google Alerts are one of the best ways to quickly get up to speed on particular issues of our time (and at any rate, it's certainly much cheaper than Lexis Nexis). Need to learn about ISPs engaged in DNS redirection?[1] Going to a cocktail party where you're expected to be familiar with Collateralized Debt Obligations?[2] Don't know where to turn? Well, You're in luck. Simply go to Google Alerts, type in your search term, and Google will notify you every time there are new Google results on the term. You can have the alerts emailed to you once a day, once a week, or as they happen.

It might sound dorky now. But trust us. You'll try it and soon find yourself making up topics that you're certain you must track minute-by-minute. But use your newfound knowledge wisely. Because on one hand, You'll probably become unbearable on dates and at cocktail parties. On the other hand, You'll be so addicted to getting your Google Alerts that you'll probably never leave the house for dates and cocktail parties.

Keeping you in the house and off the streets away from us normal folks: we deserve no blame and accept no credit.

Both go to Google Alerts.

[2]No really? Who are you? We think you might need a new hobby or something.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

(01.19.08) Recommends:

Replacing Negative Campaigning With Dueling.

So two more caucuses were decided today. Or, one caucus and one primary. There's a difference in there somewhere, but we still haven't figured it out.

Anyway. What happens next is each candidate spins the results; e.g., Barack Obama lost to Hillary Clinton in Nevada, but has announced that he received more national
delegates in Nevada than Mrs. Clinton. Nobody is actually sure whether he's right or not, because nobody actually knows how these primary/caucus things work. We only know they were invented by Al Gore.

Anyway again. What happens after the spinning is the candidates go back to either flat out attacks on the other side, or thinly-veiled attacks on the other side. Sometimes the candidates themselves do the attacking. Sometimes other people do the attacking on behalf of the candidates.

Wait. Let's back up. The "attacking" is only verbal, metaphorical. And that, we believe, is just lazy. As such, we propose: dueling. Seriously, think about this. The candidates do all this huffing and puffing, they express outrage! at the attacks and indignation! at the attacks. They say attacks ruin! politics and the people! are ready for change! Sometimes they even start press conferences denouncing negative ads by playing a negative ad that they say will never be shown.

It's really all ridiculous and high school. Therefore, if the candidates want us to believe that they actually believe in what they're saying, they can prove it to us by agreeing to pick up a gun, walking in opposite directions between five and ten paces, and then turning around and firing! The one left standing, we'll back up and vote for. The other one: s/he's dead and therefore ineligible for office [1].

If it was good enough for Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, it should be good enough for this year's crops of candidates.

[1] Of course, this technically isn't true. John Ashcroft lost the 2000 U.S. Senate election in Missouri to Mel Carnahan, who was dead at the time. We're willing to overlook technicalities if it will make political dueling fashionable again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

(01.18.08) Recommends:

Oliver Future.

So, other than Season Four of Project Runway, we've been pretty bored with popular culture lately. But this week we came across something that made us feel hopeful again. They're Oliver Future and they're another LA-based band. We know we've been way too LA-centric lately, but this is different. They don't come off as a band trying to capture a Silver Lake sound or anything. It's more like a mixture of Elefant and, we dunno, maybe the keyboards of The Unicorns. So maybe a slightly more earnest version of the Deadly Syndrome. Is that what we're saying? We're not really sure at this point.

But anyway. They're playing at blah blah blah bar in Los Angeles on blah blah blah. It'll be blah blah blah. Yet, you'll be blah blah blah that you went!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

(01.15.08) Recommends:

Slate's Explainer.

It has been years since we've been a regular reader of Slate. But on the advice of a Fellow Blogger we started reading it again. And the thing that has kept our attention all week (we know it's only Tuesday, but stay with us) is the Explainer feature. One problem we have with modern media coverage is the amount of assumed knowledge present in so many stories. The value of the Explainer, then, is to take a current event and explain some part of it that is glossed over in other coverage. The stories are all over the map, from the strange Roger Clemens saga (explanation of types and purposes of immunity) to the New Hampshire primaries (explanation of why Obama and Clinton walked away with the same number of delegates even though Clinton won the primary).

We love the premise of this feature and are hopeful that the internet and its vast space (combined with bloggers and the competition they offer for readership) will encourage tradional media outlets to cut down on assumed knowledge and start giving edible background on stories.

Friday, January 11, 2008

(01.11.08) Recommends:

Intrade is the prediction market that nobody can stop talking about, and during this election season it will become the place to watch. It called Obama's Iowa victory, and it became clear Obama was going to lose NH very early (although, in the interest of full disclosure, it had Obama at 95% chance of winning NH at the start of the day; but by the first precinct reporting, it dropped him to under 30% -- presumably because people with exit polls began trading). Intrade is really great. It's like working on Wall Street, what with all the fancy charts and graphs, but it predicts things that seem much more interesting to us than the price of stocks. Our main beef with the site is that it has no market on predicting the winner of Project Runway Season 4. Inexplicably -- and perhaps against our better judgment -- we've become obsessed with PRS4. And equally inexplicably, you cannot (yet!) trade the winner on intrade.

Friday, January 04, 2008

(01.04.08) Recommends:

Music Business Friday.

Today we're presenting three articles that have been bandied about this week by Young Hollywood's Emerging, Influential &/or Intoxicated [But Mainly Intoxicated (Or, At Least Post-Holidays Hungover)]. Actually, we just presume these links have been bandied about between these people, as we technically cannot get any of these groups to return our phone calls, text messages, or emails.

First up is David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars from Wired Magazine. If you've seen David Byrne in the last several years there's a chance you've seen him work a Power Point presentation. We're not kidding about this; dude has mad .ppt skillz. This article isn't a power point, but it's still got that graphic-designer-gone-boardroom look that only people like David Byrne can pull off: cool charts, bulleted lists, numbered lists, embedded interviews. Particularly recommended is listening to the interview with Mac McCaughan of Merge Records. The music business seems to be in good hands when you hear people like Mcaughan speak.

Next, we've got U.S. Album Sales Fell 9.5% in 2007 from the NY Times via the AP. This article is probably going to be reported as another sign the music industry is on its death bed, but frankly, it doesn't have enough analysis to tell us much. Album sales are down 9.5% from '06. Sales of digital tracks are up 45% from '06. Apparently, sales of albums in "traditional format" are actually down 15%, but the way the numbers are tracked, every ten digital tracks sold equates to one "album" sold which brings us to the 9.5% number. But then, overall music purchases, including albums, singles, digital tracks and music videos, are up 14% from '06. So we think this article actually says the music industry is far from dead. It's just trying to figure out its future. And isn't that what we're all trying to do?

Finally, we've got a rumor about Jay Z starting a record label with Apple. Our gut tells us that there is no way this rumor is true. We can't imagine the Justice Department going for it, or other labels going for it, or even Jay Z going for it, really (it's our understanding that he pulled his latest album from iTunes because he felt it should be experienced as a full album and not as single tracks. Whether this is true or not, we think it's a fair enough point. Books aren't available by the chapter, right?). But it's out there. And we're only spreading it because we love the theory behind the rumor -- the merger of people who understand technology and people who understand music. It's the natural way forward, but it increasingly seems that neither side wants to listen to the other.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

(01.03.08) Recommends:

Radio Free Silver Lake 2008 Mix.

Since we made our Southern California plunge, we've been heavily dependent on the internet to help us get our bearings. There are many local blogs that purport to have their finger to the pulse of some part of LA. But there is only one we believe: Radio Free Silver Lake. If you live in LA and want to know about the best up and coming bands: Radio Free Silver Lake. If you live in LA and want to know about the best places to see live music: Radio Free Silver Lake. If you live outside of LA but are interested in where music will be in six to eighteen months: Radio Free Silver Lake.

It's a blog that does the dirty work so the rest of us can walk around like we know what we're talking about. And they're giving us a jump start on 2008 with their Radio Free Silver Lake 2008 Mix, a collection of 25 local bands. Download this. Burn this. People will think you, too, know what you're talking about.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

(01.02.08) Recommends:

First Fridays at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Okay, probably every city in the country has some version of First Fridays. Standard protocol is to take the first Friday of the month, throw in some booze, throw in some kind of art or other cultural offering, and boom, First Fridays.

We're fans of First Fridays, though we've seen certain cities misplay them enough times to be somewhat cautious about the label. However. This Friday LA's Natural History Museum has put together a First Fridays event with a few twists -- and this thing promises to be something really cool.

First of all, it takes place at the Natural History Museum, and anybody in LA who has talked to us over the past several weeks will tell you we've been itching to go to this museum. The theme of the evening is "Discovery in the Age of Mammals: Building Brains and Making Minds." Such a topic brings with it guided tours by Anthropology PhDs and lectures from Neuroscience professors. Readers will recall that we really like Neuroscientists around here.

After getting your learn on, the museum hands the keys off to various bands and DJs, the highlight of which is Seawolf (he used to be in Irving, another blog favorite.

Here's Seawolf's video for "The Garden You Planted." It's our favorite track off of the 2007 EP "Get to the River Before it Runs to Low."

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

(01.01.08) Recommends:

Seven Songs Released in 2007 That 2008 Will Have A Difficult Time Topping (Listed Alphabetically, By Artist Name).
  1. Arcade Fire: Intervention (from "Neon Bible").
  2. Beirut: Elephant Gun (from the "Lon Gisland" EP).
  3. Andrew Bird: Fiery Crash (from "Armchair Apocrypha").
  4. Of Montreal: The Past Is A Grotesque Animal (from "Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?").
  5. Okkervil River: Unless It's Kicks (from "The Stage Names").
  6. The Shins: Sleeping Lessons (from "Wincing The Night Away").
  7. Sunset Rubdown: Up On Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days (from "Random Spirit Lover").