Thursday, December 23, 2010

without comment, for now

from the top 100 songs of the year, which i have been left off of, AGAIN:

"One of the dominant sounds of independent music in the past few years has been 60s girl-group pop swathed in a cocoon of distortion."

much to say about this one, but let it soak in first.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

shall i complain?

i propose that pitchfork shrink it's year-end best albums list back down to 20, or maybe even 10. wavvves, gil scott-heron, the national, four tet, sufjan stevens... there's plenty of fluff to choose from.

just to waste a little more of your time, i also think they should go back to a simple 1 to 5 star rating system. in their current system, a 7.4 essentially means the album is 74% good. the absurdity of this system is only magnified when something is deemed 100% good, further so when they don't really bother to write about the music or even relevant context. kanye's record is, of course, The Best Of The Year.

here's just one example of this kind of sloppy writing, in the paragraph about Girls' EP, which I will excerpt in its entirety to pad my own meager sunday post:

"Girls' 2009 debut, Album, was an instant classic, a blast of dizzy, wounded love from a band with an immediate, innate grasp of all things guitar-pop. But frontman Christopher Owens has had a rough life, and people with rough lives have a sad tendency to flame out early. It's easy to imagine Album being Girls' one great statement before the demons that helped Owens write his songs drowned his voice completely. So it's a great relief to hear Broken Dreams Club, a clear indication that this band is in it for the long haul. Broken Dreams Club comes from the same aesthetic universe as Album, but it's relaxed to the point of languor. Old-school Nashville pedal steel and crisp Cotton Club horns find their way in, and a warm oldies-radio vibe pervades. But we're still dealing with despair and hopelessness, and Owens still expresses this stuff in the most simple and direct terms possible: 'When I said that I loved you, honey, I knew it from the very start/ When I said that I loved you, honey, I knew that you would break my heart.' At the center of it all sits 'Carolina', a lazy sprawl that takes the band's own 'Hellhole Ratrace' to a more peaceful place." --Tom Breihan

breihan, you fucking twit, go back and edit this part: "people with rough lives have a sad tendency to flame out early." please, compensated music blogger, tell me more about people with rough lives and their sad tendencies. it is tragic how so many of them die after releasing one guitar-pop record.

but i digress, and i also count one fucking sentence about music in that whole abortion of a blurb. the rest has more of a Behind The Music voice-over feel to it.

The Broken Dreams Club EP has six songs. how the fuck do you write 210 words about six songs, and only find time to mention one of them? as a matter of fact, how the fuck is the teaser EP for this guy's sophomore full-length the 22nd best album of the year?

the list this year has a little player embedded under each album's name, where you can press play to hear a 20-second clip from one some on the record. there's also a link that says "buy mp3". lulz.

finally, i'd like to register how upset i am at the pornification of joanna newsom, shown here doing a harp-tease for a blurry neil patrick harris. give it a rest, assholes.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

o hai blog!

a man is a protagonist. or, at least, he sees himself that way. we watch a lot of television. sometimes we read books, but mostly we just watch tv. either way, nearly all the stories we come across concern male protagonists as they struggle for things.

the sheer volume of these stories with which we have interacted has more or less driven most of us men insane. our lives become an unpleasant symptom of the stories we consume. the protagonist struggles against things and against people, but our struggle is, above all, to be the protagonist -- to become the hero of our own story.

as i said, this is insanity. the world is not a stage. every element of fiction is carefully crafted by people to make the whole thing meaningful. life is, well, not like that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pitchfork and the Perfect 10.0

I'm going to skip a lot of bullshit and just say it: Nowhere in this rambling 12 paragraph essay does Ryan Dombal really talk music.

Yes, he mentions Aphex Twin or Gil-Scott Heron sampling, but that pretty much sums up his exploration of the music portion of the record.

I get it. Hip hop is a difficult beast to critique in any era. In the 90's you had dusty drumbeats that were five or six combined samples of a snare from one record, a ride cymbal from another, all played expertly and rarely quantized. In the 80's it was either the tinny bap of the Linn drum machine or the pure sine wave of an 808.

Hip hop has a tendency to sound homogeneous in a popular context. Today it's the skittering 16th note hi-hat beats, the INCESSANT auto-tuning, and a Southern style of rapping that champions simplicity of hook over actual narrative skill. So tell me why and how Kanye's record has achieved perfection.

Martial drums? Lurking synths? Is that it? Is the music exuberant, sad or angry? Is it in minor or major keys? Is it minimalist or maximalist? How are his recordings different than, say, the work of his contemporaries? Has he gone beyond his contemporaries? If so, how? How is the mix? How is the track order?

Although I understand the need to provide cultural context, I don't want to read an article about his Twitter hijinks. If you give a record a perfect 10, tell me why. You write music reviews for a website that rates them from 0-10. Outside of comparing Kanye to Michael Jackson ad infinitum, I see no actual reason this album receives a 10. It has samples, yes, and drum beats, and clever rhymes, but somehow it is, "...a blast of surreal pop excess that few artists are capable of creating, or even willing to attempt."

Is the rating based on Kanye's sheer braggadocio? Are these reviews even based on music anymore? Does it even matter? Does anyone actually need music reviews when you can preview or steal the music and judge for yourself? Based on this article that crudely places image over content, I would say good riddance.

I like Kanye's music a lot and I enjoy reading about it. I am a nerd. I just can't understand how one writes a biography of an artist's career between records, sticks in some lyrical excerpts that are completely out of context without the music or surrounding lyrics, casts him as a misunderstood genius, and calls it a music review.

Also, I think the true question is thus:

How does Kanye's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" stand up against Pitchfork's last completely insane perfect 10.0, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Death's "Source Tags and Codes?"

Friday, October 22, 2010

phootball phriday: jets bye week edition

my team's on vacation, so the best games this weekend are nebraska @ oklahoma state, and lsu @ auburn.

"stayin' alive" was recorded at 103 beats-per-minute, and it is the tempo that a white audience has the easiest time dancing to.

Friday, October 15, 2010

phootball phriday: be nice to your neighbors edition

ravens @ patriots
can the patriots win without randy moss? they've sort of been doing it for almost a year, so i don't see why not. but the schedule looks tough, and defensively this patriots team is not as good as we've come to expect from belichick. overall, the team is full of young players, and with eight picks in the first four rounds of next year's draft, i fully believe that belichick is building his next super-team, which may take shape a few years down the line. baltimore is an interesting test to see how competitive new england will be this year. the ravens, having already beaten the steelers (without roethlessberger) and the jets (without an offense), could do a lot for their reputation by beating the patriots (without moss). but i wouldn't go putting this team in the super bowl yet: their one loss was in week 2 to the hapless, terrible cincinnati bengals, and this does not look good on a resume. in that game, joe flacco threw four interceptions, and the ravens scored only 10 points for the second time in a row to open the season. since then, they've really picked up their offense, averaging 24 points over the last three games. give ray lewis and that defense three touchdowns and a field goal, and they'll win every time. i like the ravens in this game, as the patriots will probably need a couple weeks to get used to life without moss. but until joe flacco shows more consistency, and convinces me that that four INT performance against cincy was a fluke, i would view any super bowl predictions with a healthy dose of skepticism.

lions @ giants
speaking of healthy doses of skepticism, the giants. as i write this, the giants are number one in the nfl in yards allowed. this is the same team that, all of three weeks ago, gave up almost 70 points in two games. so what happened? well, the bears came to town, and my prediction of mike martz having a field day against a witless giants defense was slightly off the mark. the giants racked up ten sacks in the game, knocking out two quarterbacks. osi umenyora and justin tuck look, once again, like guys who won a super-bowl not all that long ago. but i won't jump off my "giants suck" bandwagon, not at the moment at least. this is a team that gets frustrated when things don't go their way, and when the giants get frustrated, they seem to loose lopsided games. top-flight teams don't loose by three scores to the titans. the giants seem to be ready, at the drop of a hat, to stop trying; if adversity strikes again, i won't expect them to get back up. adversity may come to town in the form of the lions. in spite of the fact that everyone understands how much better today's lions are than the 0-16 team of two years ago, detroit still found themselves with a gnarly losing streak they needed to break. and break it they did, with a 38-point win over the also-up-and-coming rams. shaun hill has been lights out filling in for matthew stafford, and javhid best, much to my whatever-the-opposite-of-surprise is, is an early rookie of the year candidate (but he'll probably loose it to bradford). at 1-4, the lions come into jersey desperate for a win over a contending team. with the nfc north looking all screwy and injured, a win over the giants could put detroit right in the middle of things, so go with the lions, who need it more. on the other hand, if the giants get another ten sacks, then maybe -- just maybe -- they might not totally suck.

oakland @ san francisco
ah, the niners. what a fucking disaster. if a team is widely picked to make the playoffs, and not infrequently picked as a super bowl contender, they probably shouldn't get blown out by seattle and kansas city. san francisco lost those two games by a combined score of 61-16. their other three losses were excruciatingly close, and all to teams that should be playoff-bound (saints, falcons, eagles). each of those three games could have been wins, had it not been for san francisco's multiple devastating mistakes on both sides of the ball. and that's just why the niners suck so far: if you fuck up really bad nine times in a game, you can kiss it goodbye. it seems like you can count on just that many monumental fuck ups every time the niners take the field. i haven't seen their discipline moving in the right direction and i don't expect it to be transformed in the space of a week. the raiders, meanwhile, are enjoying relatively good times. it really says a lot about how awful oakland football has become that a 2-3 start feels like a winning record. the raiders do look a lot more poised than they have been in the recent past. they haven't been out of a game since their season-opening debacle against tennessee, but neither have they notched a convincing win yet. of course, their big city rivals have yet to notch even an unconvincing win, so the raiders should really be heading into this game as favorites. it exhibits the power of preconceptions that they're one touchdown underdogs. there's no doubt that san francisco matches up well against oakland, especially with the injury to bruce gradkowski. with five division games in the second half of the season, a niner resurgence is not impossible; the team that's currently winning their division is starting a late-round rookie at quarterback (a mormon, no less), so the mountain to climb is not terribly steep. i think the niners beat oakland, and rattle off two more wins before their bye, getting them out of the basement. but i'd still go with oakland to cover the spread.

jets @ broncos
are the jets the best team in the afc?
no. the steelers are much better, and the colts still need to be regarded as the class of the nfl.
but. are the jets playing the best football in the afc RIGHT NOW?
absolutely. everything's falling into place. first, sanchez is five games in and hasn't thrown an interception yet (anyone who watched him last year is really struggling to believe this). second, the running back tandem of ladanian tomlinson and shonn greene is the best in the league. third, the jets defense is terrifying. and fourth, they have the best turnover differential in the entire league. add it all up and you get a team that looks pretty tough to beat right now.
the broncos have a lot of injury problems at half-back, and as a result they have the fourth-worst rushing offense in football. if this jets defense doesn't need to worry about the run at all on sunday, pray for kyle orton. barring a collapse by sanchez (which is utterly terrifyingly possible), or some sort of transcendent tim tebow miracle, i don't see any way for the broncos to win this match-up. my call: jets win by eight hundred million billion.


p.s. drew brees and the saints are obviously suffering the madden curse.

p.p.s. colt mccoy will get his teeth smashed in at pittsburgh, but when all is said and done, he and bradford will be the best quarterbacks to have come out of last year's draft.

Friday, October 1, 2010

inaugural phootball phriday

redskins @ eagles
for kevin kolb, the combination of sucking for one half and bumping his head real bad proved fatal. michael vick is back and looks prepared to exceed his best seasons in atlanta, where accuracy issues held him back. the new vick is just about perfect. he still has absurd speed for a quarterback, and when evading tackles he looks like a cross between barry sanders and carl lewis. what's most impressive, though, is the fact that he hasn't thrown an interception yet, and seems to have developed the ability to move around in the pocket to extend a play. with the speed weapons the eagles have, this makes vick more or less impossible to gameplan against. but if there's anyone who knows how to stifle andy ried's offense, it's donovan mcnabb, and this would be why you don't trade your all-pro quarterback inside your division. the redskins blew a big lead in week 2 to the texans, and followed that performance up by letting sam bradford get his first win. suddenly, the season-opening triumph over the cowboys feels pretty far away. with green bay and the colts up next, a loss this week could send washington reeling. things would really get interesting if the redskins started 2-0 in the east, but don't count on it. michael vick is the best player in the nfl. eagles by a hefty margin.

niners @ falcons
i'm going to cover two of the teams that i was wrongest about in my preseason round-up. the niners clearly top that list. san francisco was a chic pick to win the west, and i'll admit that i jumped on a bandwagon. week 1 was an embarrassment for san francisco, getting demolished by their much less talented division rival in seattle. apparently, technical difficulties prevented alex smith from getting the plays on time, which meant pete carroll's defense had the drop on them every single snap. a 31-6 final makes that scenario plausible. in week 2, the niners came within a hare's breath of beating the defending super bowl champions. if they had avoided any of three fluke turnovers (a frank gore fumble and two tipped interceptions), they could have won the game. even though they dropped to 0-2, the niners looked like they were ready to turn the season around. but last sunday was deflating, a 31-10 loss to the chiefs, and following the loss, san francisco fired their offensive coordinator.
while i'm sure five days of practice will be more than enough time for the quarterbacks coach to turn things around, the falcons actually beat the saints. with a physical run game, and one of the best receiving tight ends of all time, atlanta will win this game, and ultimately take the nfc south. as for the niners, all's not fucked. if they can beat either the falcons this week, or the eagles next week, there might be eight wins for them in the remainder of the season. oakland, carolina, tampa bay, and denver are all winnable games, and the nfc west is still a division without a single good team. those of us on the bandwagon just have to hope that they can turn their offense around, maybe - i dunno - try giving the ball to crabtree.

ravens @ steelers
every season, this is one of the most fun games of the year. the steelers are off to a 3-0 start WITHOUT A QUARTERBACK! pittsburgh's defense is once again, the best in the nfl. they're giving up 11 points a game! they forced 7 turnovers against tennessee! holy fucking shit! it's a good thing anquan boldin got his touchdowns in last week, because they'll be quite a bit harder to come by on sunday. flacco will get hit hard, and ray rice won't get shit. but baltimore can win without offense as well. they're a top tier defense except for their secondary, and don't expect charlie batch to test that secondary, because charlie batch sucks (hanging 38 on tampa bay is more a sign of a pulse than of talent). this will be a close, low-scoring game, and anyone who thinks they know who's going to win is deluded. it'll come down to which team can make the big play on defense. personally, i believe in troy polamalu, the best defensive player in the league. but if ray lewis or haloti ngata forces a big fumble in the fourth quarter, i wouldn't be surprised.

bears @ giants
here's what i said about the bears just before week 1: "holy shit, the bears suck ass." along with picking the niners to win the west, picking the bears to finish last in their division, behind the lions, is starting to look a little foolish. it certainly didn't look foolish after week 1. as j-temperance said, "i watched megatron win that game," and indeed he did. the serendipitous season-opening win was followed by a win over the cowboys (who may have started slow out of the gate, but are still one of the better teams in the nfc). in that game, jay cutler made mike martz look like a genius, and the bears incorporated all of their best weapons. last monday, helped out by eight thousand green bay penalties, the bears pulled out a last second win. so, 3-0. and their next four games are really fucking soft: giants, panthers, seahawks, redskins. the bears could go into their bye week at 6-1, maybe even 7-0. it'd be quite a feat for a team that pretty much lost to the shaun hill-led lions.
the giants? a soft game? why yes, the giants play like a bunch of foreskins in blue shirts. they've lost their last two game by a combined 43 points. the future looks bleak. detroit, seattle, and jacksonville should still be wins, and you can expect them to eek out a division win or two, but the giants don't stack up against the league's better teams. while i don't think chicago is one of the league's better teams, the giants were in the habit last year of making bad teams look good, and making mediocre teams look invincible. the bears come in confident, and the giants are about to start unraveling. and the jersey turnpike will shed a tear.

bonus pick that doesn't count if i'm wrong: pats will beat the dolphins in miami on monday night.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

phootball phursday

here ya go, fart munchers. just what you wanted from your favorite rarely active music criticism criticism blog: a preview of all 32 nfl fewzbahl teams. i'm gonna go on a little bender now, i'll be back around week three or four. (p.s. spell check is down, so any errors are the fault of my brain).



AFC EAST

buffalo bills
we'll start at the bottom, ironically with the team that's closer to the arctic circle than any other. ah, the bills. it turns out that if you have no defense, no quarterback, and no offensive line, your pro football team's gonna suck. the bills promptly adressed these problems by spending their #9 pick in the draft on C.J. Spiller, a running back out of clemson. to be clear, Spiller is an amazing talent, and if his body holds up, he'll have a strong year. but with trent edwards calling the signals yet again (only this year without terrell owens), don't expect the bills to have much of an offense. as for the defense, they were horrible last season, and improving said defense didn't seem to be too high a priority, so i see no reason to expect more out of that side of the ball. let's face it, it's a good thing that tim russert is dead, primarilly because he was instrumental in launching the iraq war, but also because if he were still alive, this year's bills would almost definitely do his bloated ass in. buffalo, the city that can't catch a fucking break.

miami dolphins/new england patriots
picking the third place team in the AFC east is interesting. the dolphins certainly seem to be rising, though you have to wonder about their extremely so-so defense, and the fact that their offense relies heavily on ronnie brown, a guy who's had terrible leg injuries two of the last three seasons. as for the patriots, everyone still considers them a powerhouse, and as long as wes welker is on the field, they might be one. but the new england defense is no longer the force it was back when bill belicheck was cheating his way to three super bowls (last year ended about as poorly as a year can, a home playoff blowout loss in which the pats gave up over 200 rushing yards to the admittedly decent ravens). nevertheless, i don't think the balance has shifted all that much. the dolphins still have a ways to climb, and the patriots a long way to fall. tom brady is still very good, in spite of his whole "i'm a monumental douchebag" thing, and chad henne, though he has talent, isn't experienced enough to lead the dolphins to the 29 points a game they'll need to win regularly. so yeah, dolphins in third, patriots in second, though both may make the playoffs as wildcards, but it's obviously way early to be talking about that shit.

new york jets
i had this whole thing ready about how the jets were going to perform sans darelle revis, who, last season, was one of the best cornerbacks in history. revis has been holding out for a new contract with more money in it, and for a moment it looked like he was willing to sit out the whole season. it was going to be interesting, actually, to see if or how the jets would recover in his absence. but a contract was signed, and now things might get a little dull, because the jets dream defense is in tact, and even if mark sanchez throws another 20 interceptions this team will win games on the strength of rex ryan's crazy-ass defense alone. at this moment, and unless they get hit with a wave of crucial injuries, the jets look poised to reach the afc championship again, for another duel with peyton manning. have to wait and see if they have improved enough to get to the next level.


NFC EAST

new york giants
there's a lot of talk about the giants' late-season collapse last year, magnified by the fact that they gave up 40 or more points in three of their final four games. but the truth is that the giants didn't suffer a late-season collapse so much as they enjoyed an early-season fluke, starting off 5-0 against mostly very weak competition. the giants went 3-8 over their final eleven games; over the same span, only three teams in the nfl did worse: the redskins, the rams, and the lions (the bucs, seahawks, and broncos also finished the year 3-8). what do these teams have in common? they're widely understood to be the worst teams in the league. just take a look at the horrible squads that finished stronger than the giants: cleveland, oakland, kansas city. yeesh. the giants rushing attack, once seen as a strength, totally sucked: only twice in the entire season did a single giant rusher have a 100-yard game. and the defense, wow. statistically, they were among the worst units in the nfl, surrendering well over three touchdowns per game. yes, the giants may have drafted to a better pass rush, but don't expect jason pierre-paul's six or seven sacks to have too much of an impact. and sure, kevin boss has a cool name, but he's just a tight end. g-men at the bottom of the east, you heard it here first.

washington redskins
as i said above, the redskins were one of three teams to have a worse finish than the giants. the difference is, the redskins fired their head coach and hired mike shannahan, and traded for donovan mcnabb. both dudes are used to reaching the playoffs. huge changes are afoot: a new defensive scheme, and most likely an increased focus on the running game, which will give mcnabb much more time than he's used to on play action and rollout passes. i don't expect too much out of the skins, but i do think they're almost an 8-8 team now, and if they can find a running back to breakout, they could even leap-frog the eagles. still a lot of work to do in washington, but things are looking up.

philadelphia eagles
the eagles traded their all-pro quarterback inside the division. this is generally regarded as stupid, so they really must believe in kevin kolb. kolb is a spread quarterback from the university of houston, and his skills should translate well to andy reid's "no one ever told me you can run the ball" offense. desean jackson and jeremy maclin are still very very good wide outs, plus they've got this back-up qb called michael vick, who may take over if the young kolb doesn't meet expectations. big problem for philly is their defense, which looked really fucking bad down the stretch last year, including two consecutive embarrassing losses to the division rival cowboys. the eagles did draft with an eye on improving their defense, and they certainly have an offense capable of keeping pace if they find themselves in a shootout. new quarterback, same story: philly wins about ten games, and blows it in the post-season.

dallas cowboys
devotees may recall that i hate the cowboys, mostly because i hate watching w. bush celebrate from an owner's box. too bad for me that the cowboys are gonna be nasty. expect rookie wr dez bryant to have an immediate impact. the good-not-great tony romo now has enough talent around him to really excel, and defensively they can hold their own against most of the league (but not favre). the cowboys are the only team in the east that's in a position to build on success, while their opponents are either scrambling to make drastic changes (eagles, redskins) or living in denial of how bad they suck (giants). as a result, the cowboys will cruise to a division title, and our 43rd president will be able to break out the celebratory blow a little sooner than he did last year. fuck texas, but still, cowboys are stacked.


AFC WEST

oakland raiders
i have a confession to make: i was rooting for jamarcus russell. i still hold out hope that the quasi-literate overweight bust to end all busts will land on some desperate team, earning the chance to prove that it wasn't all his fault: the raiders really suck. and they do. who else would treat a cast-off quarterback from a 4-win team as some sort of savior? yes, rolando mclain and lamarr houston were good draft picks, and the odds of an offense running as poorly as oakland's did last season are slim. the raiders also have a relatively weak schedule which works in their favor. in the end, though, a shit o-line will flummox any offensive adjustments, and a porous secondary will get gouged with regularity. oakland is a city i have a lot of love for, but to my eyes, the raiders remain pure shit.

kansas city chiefs
the chiefs bring on rejected notre dame fat-fuck-head-coach charlie weiss to call the offense, and this will help matt cassell recover from a disappointing '09. also, thomas jones was signed, and though his production will be below last year's level (the line blocking for him is suddenly a lot worse than he's used to), the increased offensive balance will make the chiefs a stronger team. defensively, the chiefs gave up more points last year than any other team in the AFC, and that's a problem. fortunately for my large contingent of readers who are kansas city fans, their draft was tremendous. eric berry and javier arenas will bolster the secondary, dexter mccluster and tony moeaki are both capable of making plays at the next level, and jon asamoah might save cassell from taking a few gnarly hits. unfortunately, the chiefs are still a below-average team, with a below-average quarterback. and an absurdly fat offensive coordinator.

denver broncos
tim. mother. fucking. tebow. do you really think josh mcdaniels and jesus christ are just going to watch kyle orton run the broncos into the ground? fuck that. tim tebow reads the bible. like, every day. denver still needs some work, and a few years to add some better weapons, but i expect the broncos to win between seven and nine games, and in the afc west, that'll give you a commanding hold on second place.

san diego chargers
the chargers will win the west without much trouble (unless tebow really does have the lord behind him). philip rivers is very good, darren sproles and rookie ryan mathews make for a strong running game, and malcolm floyd are very dangerous, and while the defense is a little soft, they're still the best unit in their division. it's too bad that vincent jackson's holdout looks semi-permanent (he and the jets' revis have the same agent), and they will feel the loss of ladanian tomlinson, especially on third downs. all in all, i'd expect them to have a season a lot like last year's: twelve or thirteen wins, followed by a quick playoff exit.


NFC WEST

seattle seahawks
picking the bottom of this division is really challenging. but i think the hawks have the most ground to make up. pete carroll will discover how hard it is to build a dominant program in a league were bribing the best players is the norm. seriously, there's almost nothing to like about this team, from the old-ass quarterback, to the god-awful receiving corps, to the offensive line that is literally made of diarrhea, this is a team that has a really long way to go before they can start winning games regularly. one thing i do expect is an improved defense, because say what you will about carroll, dude can call a defense. that and leon washington might buy them four wins.

st. louis rams
as for the rams, sam bradford, who will apparently be the week 1 starter, only played one full game for oklahoma last season. one can't help but wonder if bradford's body can hold up for a sixteen game season, especially with the rams' o-line in the state that it is. if he can keep his shoulder in one piece, i actually think the rams might be one of this season's surprises. remember how good steven jackson is? yeah. their defense will continue to eat ass for a living, which will prevent them from being a legitimately decent team. but i expect moderately big things from bradford, again barring some horrific career-ending injury.

arizona cardinals
the cardinals have some serious fucking problems. there's no way in hell they'd be a second place team, except for the fact that the nfc west is by far the league's weakest division. kurt warner retired, mostly because tim tebow came into the league, and warner knows better than to confuse god by making him stack the deck for two quarterbacks at once. poor matt leinert, they released his ass, mostly because he's left-handed and everyone hates lefties. also, they let anquan boldin go to baltimore, and they let carlos dansby go to miami. so it's entirely up to beanie wells, tim hightower, and larry fitzgerald to make this team work. good luck with that.

san francisco 49ers
by process of elimination, then, the niners take the west, and they'll deserve it. alex smith seems ready to start playing up to his potential, helped out by michael crabtree stretching the field and vernon davis covering the middle. also helping the niner offense will be their two first-round draft picks, both bruising offensive lineman; the vastly improved line will give their speed receivers time to get down the field, as well as making last year's anemic running game drastically better. head coach mike singletary will have an above-average defense, at least, and an even better one if rookie safety taylor mays can figure out the pro-level game. the addition of ted ginn jr. suddenly gives them one of the best return games in the league. this team is ready to poop all over a terrible division. as for how they'll fare in the playoffs, we need to wait and see how much alex smith can improve in the regular season. even with a bad year from their qb, the niners should be heavily favored.


AFC NORTH

cleveland browns
the browns shocked everyone by winning their last four games in '09. eric mangini actually isn't a terrible coach, he just had his career ruined by brett favre's brief and disappointing stint as a jet. but it doesn't really matter. this division is too good, and neither of their new quarterbacks, jake dellhome and former longhorn colt mccoy, are very good at the moment. josh cribbs can only touch the ball so many times, and mike holmgren, he can't touch the ball at all. don't expect them to loose 11 games again, but don't expect them to win that many either.

cincinnati bengals
this here might be a surprise to some, insofar as last season the bengals went an incredible 6-0 in a very tough division. the addition of terell owens does give them one of the best wide receiver pairs in the nfl, and jordan shipley will be a tremendous slot receiver. the running game will likely stay strong, but defensively there's no denying that the bengals have some issues. ultimately this is a team that won many games last year with fourth-quarter heroics, and i don't trust teams that need a successful two-minute drill so frequently. look for the steelers and ravens to bounce back, and look for cincy to be taken down a peg or two. then look for terell owens to sign a one-year deal with tampa, just to shake things up.

baltimore ravens
the ravens have undergone quite a transformation since defensive coordinator rex ryan left to coach the jets. obviously, any team that has ray lewis is going to be a defensive-minded one, but with joe flacco continuing to mature, and with anquan boldin lining up as the flanker, the ravens have become a pass-heavy shoot-em-up type of offense. with a still incredibly talented defense, and an offense capable of keeping pace in a shootout, you have to like baltimore's chances this year. so why aren't they winning the north? because joe flacco isn't as good as people think he is. if the ravens coaching staff disagreed, they wouldn't have gone as ludicrously run-heavy in the playoffs as they did.

pittsburgh steelers
the steelers dropped a bunch of games last year. some of the losses (bears, chiefs, raiders, browns) were confusing. ben roethlisberger's suspension has been cut to four games, and in our culture of letting rapists go free, this is a relatively harsh punishment. the steelers still have the best linebackers in the nfl, and there is no reason to doubt the strength of their defense overall. the running game remains a question mark, but once roethlisberger returns, you won't notice it as much. up will be up once again, the world will right itself, and the steelers will return to the throne.


NFC NORTH

chicago bears
having just spent a lovely two weeks in chicago, it pains me to say the following: holy shit, the bears suck ass. any defense that can be so adversely affected by a single injury, as the bears were with brian urlacher last year, clearly isn't a very good defense. and any offense that has jay cutler under center clearly isn't a very good offense. pity the poor chicago fans, they'll have to suffer through yet another needlessly cold winter, and they'll have to watch their beloved bears blow chunks for at least one more season.

detroit lions
do you want to know what kind of a horrible state the city of detroit is in? a 2-14 season is a step in the right direction. matthew stafford may one day be a good quarterback, and i expect this year to be better for him than last year was. also, jahvid best was a joke of a steal at the beginning of the second round; look for him to be the top rookie rusher in the nfl. and don't go forgetting ndomikong suh clogging up the middle on defense. it'll take a while to adjust to the lions winning games every now and then. luckily, they'll still be pretty bad overall. maybe they'll get another top-five draft pick, and maybe next year they'll contend. for now, detroit will have to make do with their paltry share of the bailout money, along with their memories of motown and barry sanders.

green bay packers
aaron rogers gets a lot of well-deserved play these days. his performance in last year's wild card game against the cardinals should have been a win, if it hadn't been for green bay's achilles heel: their defense is terrible. seriously, how can a team give up 51 points in the playoffs and still be considered a powerhouse? a lot of people are picking the packers to win the north, and i really think that's insane. i expect rogers to throw for another 4,000 yards, but any defense that has to go against favre twice needs to bring their a-game, and i don't see any reason to think much of their defense's a-game.

minnesota vikings
we all knew favre was coming back. take no more than 20 beat-downs, make no less than $20 million... do you know anyone who would say no? plus, favre really loves slapping grown men on the ass, and he may have realized how unwelcome that is in most settings. all ribbing aside, favre had the best season of his career last year, and if he has anything close to the same production this year, the vikings will repeat as division champs. they return with the same outstanding receivers, and rookie toby gerhardt (who should have gotten more serious consideration for the heisman) actually makes the adrian peterson-anchored running game even stronger. add to that a powerful pass rush and a decent enough secondary and linebacker corps, and the vikings simply have to be one of the favorites to win not just the north, but the entire nfc.


AFC SOUTH

jacksonville jaguars
oh boy.

houston texans
the texans were right on the brink last year, and what this team needs to do is beat the colts once, and they'll be in the playoffs. last season, missed field twice stopped them from beating indy. the texans have an offense that can score a lot of points; andre johnson and matt schaub have terrific chemistry -- good enough to light up plenty of nfl defenses. but the texans aren't good enough on the other side of the ball to stop manning; he'll have to beat himself if the texans are going to get out of the regular season. this could happen, but i wouldn't bet on it.

tennessee titans
now that kerry collins is out of the way, vince young can remind everyone that he's really really good. after taking over last year, the titans were 8-1, with the only loss being to the indy late-season juggernaut. chris johnson is obviously the best running back in the nfl. if he can stay healthy, and if vince young can stay on top of his game, the texans should make the playoffs this year. after an 0-7 start last season, this'll be a very quick turnaround, but i would be surprised if the titans floundered this season.

indianapolis colts
the colts will win 13 or 14 games this year, and most likely march to the afc championship before meeting any resistance. they've already proven that they don't care about going undefeated; once they clinch the division, they'll rest manning and all other indispensable starters. in spite of coming up just short to the saints last year, the colts are still the class of the nfl. only the very best defenses have even a chance against them, and even then, it's not much of one.


NFC SOUTH

tampa bay bucs
josh freeman has a long way to go before he can be a successful quarterback at the nfl level. he doesn't look in front of his throws, and serves up way too many easy interceptions on patterns over the middle. the bucs are improving, and rookie gerald mccoy is going to start helping out their defensive line immediately. but they don't have the sort of defense that can compensate for all the offensive errors they're certain to make. a bad team last year, and a bad one again.

carolina panthers
the unheralded and mostly unheard of matt moore took over late last year after jake delhomme's season was mercifully cut short, and he actually looked pretty good. steve smith is still a phenomenal ace wide receiver, and d'angelo williams provides the panthers with an above-average running game. it'll be interesting to see if jimmy claussen gets a chance to start at some point in the season, for some reason or another. while matt moore raised some eyebrows last year, he's no john elway. jim fox usually fields one of the better defenses in the nfc, and overall they're talented enough to be a decent team, but they're building to something better than they'll be this year.

new orleans saints
the saints flirted with an undefeated season last year. when things got tough, new orleans had the best clutch play-calling in the league. in easier games, the secondary grew rather fond of taking the ball from other teams and scoring. in the super bowl, both of these strengths came together, culminating with sean payton's famous onside kick to open the second half and the less famous but more important pick 6, late in the fourth quarter as peyton manning seemed to be driving towards a victory. drew brees is great, and the saints have a very powerful big play offense. but they caught a lot of breaks in the regular season last year, and while they're still one of the top teams in the league, and undoubtedly good enough to reach the playoffs again, i think they'll encounter a few more bumps in the road, and be a wild card this year, not the almost-undefeated team from '09.

atlanta falcons
ugh, i've run out of words. falcons because matt ryan.

Friday, June 18, 2010

briefly

at the fork:

"In one sense, things cease to exist when people stop talking about them."

dear marc richardson's brain,

um, no. you do not make things exist simply by talking about them. likewise, real life art does not vaporize when you cease to post about it on the internet.

sincerely,
uticas


P.S. what the fuck does this part even mean?:

"Music that could, from another perspective, seem dead because it's not being shared turns into something intimate that sparkles with a very specific kind of life. Sometimes I listen to 'Love Stepping Out', and it feels like I have the only copy of it in the world, and it ceases to exist whenever I put it back on the shelf."

do the boxer shorts i put in my hamper last night still exist? i better make sure.

Monday, June 14, 2010

the music industry: completely fucked

i'm late to this party, but apparently the second week of may was THE WORST WEEK FOR ALBUM SALES SINCE THEY STARTED COUNTING THEM IN 1991! fucked.

justin bieber's shit sandwich was number one that week, and it was 300 sales away from being the lowest selling number one album ever.

this was reported on may 20, and since then billboard has updated the script on their website, and it's pretty but it also makes it rather impossible to find out how many copies an album were bought.

that week, 5.3 million albums were sold. TOTAL. that's roughly equal to a third of the population of the LA metropolitan area.

if it's not clear to record execs now, it will be very soon, that no super-clever method of digital distribution is going to repair this situation. they keep producing the shit, but no one's fucking buying it. everyone who wants new music has enough money to steal it.

the record industry: kaput, finito, el deado meato. record companies are zombies, wandering the land, hungry for brains. you have to shoot them in the head!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

missing in action

so a few weeks ago, or something, the New York Times Magazine ran what basically ammounted to a smackdown of MIA. the crux of the article is: bitch be phony; bitch be stupid.

pitchfork was right on it, with their standard "i agree, but i don't agree, so whatever you think you can't get mad at me" approach (which the writer most likely picked up from the NY Times). nitsuh abebe (i wonder why tom breihan wasn't tapped for this piece...) takes the position that while being outspokenly political is fine, being supportive of violent resistence to oppression is STUPID!!! in the end, her music is good, but her beliefs are retarded, and abebe thinks you should enjoy the former and ignore the latter. it's a long and winding piece that manages to completely avoid taking a stance (aside from, of course, support for resistence is dumb -- vote obama!).

for a better written version of more or less the same reaction, click over to pandagon, where amanda marcotte has been fighting the good fight for years and years. i like amanda marcotte, i read her blog a lot. i like what she says about authenticity and music in the linked post: "The purity wars, the authenticity cruising, the impossible standards of perfection, the requirement that musicians and artists who have political content in their art be these Jesus-like figures of political perfection---all that kills the music. And ironically distracts from what is pure and authentic about music, which is the feeling it gives you." it's unfortunate that she finds the need to say that MIA's beliefs are "childish and irresponsible and insensitive". she astutely points to the age-old past-time of marginalizing overtly political women by calling them phony and stupid, but she still can't get through the article without participating in it herself.

i don't love MIA's music. to me it sounds like dolled up reggaeton, which is fine, but hardly mind-bending. i DO, however, think it's fantastic that there is a proudly anti-imperial voice in our culture which has reached millions of people. the belief that powerful people are wrong when they kill and oppress weak people is always viewed as naive. it takes moral courage to say what MIA has said (and more courage still not to back down when challenged by some hack at the Times), and we are a society that, broadly speaking, lacks moral courage. so then: fuck governments, fuck police, fuck armies, and up with artists who say as much.

on a slightly related note: i have this cousin? and she writes for the New York Times? like, the business section? and she has this, like, great education? and years of journalism experience? and she still talks, you know, like this? where the two things you can count on from her sentences are the word "like" and an upward inflection?

of course, no one would ever accuse her of having hypocritical deeply held beliefs. in fact, i don't know if anyone would accuse her of having deeply held beliefs at all (hence her success in the corporate world). anyone who gets angry at the mass-murder of the poorest people on the planet (say, afghans or, i dunno... tamils) is quickly shunted aside. if such a person has those beliefs and becomes successful ON HER OWN, then you can bet your ass that she will be bought off (take a grammy!) only to be ridiculed for her hypocrisy by people who wouldn't know a principled human being if they were hired to write a hit-piece on her.

does that make sense?



UPDATE:
i'm never the least bit surprised to find that someone else on the internet has written what i wanted to say in a more coherent style and with vastly superior reasoning, and i tend to avoid linking to them because such writing often makes me feel dumb. anyway, here's andrew potter ripping the times interview to shreds.

Friday, May 21, 2010

what taco bell is kind of like

i have seen in my lifetime tens of thousands of taco bell ads. i will still not eat at taco bell for as long as i live.

thus taco bell, to me, is kind of like a guy at a bar who spends the whole night buying drinks for one lesbian.

bringing it all back home

slightly less than three years ago, i wrote a post about LCD soundsystem, particularly about one fork-head's praise of the (ahem) musician's use of "two chord songs". well, one two chord song in particular, the plodding, barely remarkable "all my friends".

we actually got a comment on that post, meaning either A) people are uniquely excited by pseudonymous blog posts about LCD soundsystem, or B) a few people used to actually read this blog before j-temp got married and i rode into town.

so here's the thing: james murphy is back with another totally insufferable album, full of stupid motherfucking two-chord songs. predictably, pitchfork thinks it's "actually pretty perfect." since each of murphy's previous efforts (entirely derivitive) were vehemently adored by lotsa critics, it's no surprise to see that very little has changed.

the fork review inhabits a world where stealing the same ideas over and over again is "fearless"; where a line like ""Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry" is evidence of lyrical prowess. and maybe murphy has shat out another couple of liberal arts indie/frat anthems. to me, though, making drunk people at a party dance takes about as much ingenuity as keeping a mosquito in the air.

"Murphy's vast perspective and all-knowing mien are invaluable assets to his success." ultimately it's not his ability as a musician that keeps him in such good favor with critics of all stripes. it's his "perspective", his "all-knowing mein." he is loved because he and his critics share an obsession with the same two decades of music (when all parties involved were in their twenties), and this obsession shines through in every song he writes, and in every glowing review written about him.

after all, very little is ever said about the unbelievably dull music that accompanies "murphy's vast perspective". the only time sound is ever mentioned, it's in the context of saying "he's conjuring eno" or "he's conjuring bowie" or "he's conjuring iggy pop" or "HE RIDES THE SAME DICKS I DO!!!!" these critics' lack of concern for what they're hearing is matched only by murphy's.

final line of the review: "At first, Murphy showed how to let loose without losing your cool; now he's figuring out how to break down without cracking up."

so there you have it. LCD soundsystem, athem-maker for the "lose your hair, not your self-esteem" movement. and for some reason the kids like it. this fucking country...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

a tv, the internet, and a bong: live-blogging the fourth round of the NFL draft

round 4, pick 1
st. louis rams
mardy gilliard, WR cincinnati
the rams continue to get a little better in a few areas. gilliard was arguably a second or third round talent, and it's no surprise to see him go first here. bradford needs the help, bad.

round 4, pick 2
minnesotta vikings
everson griffen, DE, USC
this dude probably shouldn't be available. but the vikings snag him up early in the fourth. they have this pick because they helped the lions get jahvid best. griffen? good pass rusher, probably a good addition to an already good team.

round 4, pick 3
tampa bay buccaneers
mike williams, WR, syracuse
one of the top wide receivers in the big east goes to one of the worst teams in the league. he could be a steal for the awful bucs.

round 4, pick 4
kansas city chiefs
darryl sharpton, LB, miami
eight and a half tackles a game down at miami. not too much in the way of sacks. also, matt cassell sucks and charlie weis is a fat fat fat.

round 4, pick 5
washington redskins
perry riley, LB, LSU
this guy is actually very good, i'd have certainly guessed better than darryl sharpton, who goes one pick earlier. are the redskins a good team now? depends how much money they throw at terrell owens.

round 4, pick 6
tennessee titans
alterraun vernere, CB, UCLA
the cornerbacks started flying off the board last night. everyone wants to beat peyton manning. this guy won't really help too much. special teamer.

round 4, pick 7
philadelphia eagles
trevard lindley, CB, kentucky
another guy with great speed, but he's less than six feet tall which means he's a cornerback. like i said, flying off the board. meanwhile the eagles count on kevin kolb to win eight million games.

round 4, pick 8
oakland raiders
bruce campbell, OT, maryland
a lot of people actually had the raiders making this pick in the first round, WITH THE NUMBER EIGHT SELECTION. that was obviously crazy, the raiders waited because there were so many tackles available, and drafted very well in the first few rounds. now they get their tackle to protect the incredibly shitty quarterback.

round 4, pick 9
buffalo bills
marcus easley, WR, connecticut
almost 900 yards receiving last year, 8 touchdowns. not bad. but the bills, who were reportedly riding tim tebow's dick really hard, still are.

round 4, pick 10
oakland raiders (from jax)
jacoby ford, WR, clemson
the main weapon in the passing attack from the offense that brought you c.j. spiller. his numbers and his yards-per-catch are pretty good. oakland made a late trade to get this pick. they continue to seem smart in this draft, but jamarcus be jamarcus.

round 4, pick 11
chicago bears
corey wootton, DE, northwestern
the bears get only their second pick of the whole draft because jay cutler was totally worth it. decent player here, as the bears focus mostly on getting that shit defense a little better.

round 4, pick 12
san diego chargers
darrell stuckey, FS, kansas
chargers need to replace cromartie, who's gone to your host's beloved jets. this guy saw a lot of passes in the big 12, but he didn't get in the way of all that many. good idea, not a great player.

round 4, pick 13
seattle seahawks
walter thurmond, CB, oregon
more secondary help for a team being rebuilt. give pete carroll a year or two before he gets seriously fired.

round 4, pick 14
new york jets
joe mcknight, RB, USC
the jets trade up to get mark sanchez's old running back. jets don't care that they have three running backs already, as they saw two of three get hurt last season. mcknight is a very good player, probably should have gone in the third round at some point. jets see too good a player drop too far and snatch him. nice.

round 4, pick 15
new england patriots
Aaron Hernandez, TE, florida
it's actually scary to think about what the patriots will do with this talent. hernandez is very, very, very good and i have no idea why he's this far down. the patriots already drafted a tight end in the second round, and also got taylor price, another good wide receiver, last night. brady getting some help, scary.

round 4, pick 16
baltimore ravens
dennis pitta, TE, byu
a mormon tight end. led his army in receptions last year. actually had three very productive years. the ravens also pick their second tight end of the draft. weird. nevertheless, the ravens have gotten a lot better this off-season. flacco still doesn't scare me, but this team is very good now.

round 4, pick 17
new york giants
phillip dillard, LB, nebraska
led his team in tackles. a couple sacks. plus one interception against sam bradford's back-up at oklahoma. giants needed defense, and they've gotten defense. but i still don't think much of their running game, which they haven't looked at.

round 4, pick 18
pittsburgh steelers
thaddeus gibson, DE, ohio state
the steelers get the guy the jets probably should've. ten sacks over two years and change, plus twelve tackles for loss last year. the steelers just get better on defense, as long as that safety with the long hair stays in.

round 4, pick 19
atlanta falcons
joe hawley, OG, UNLV
a big fat-ass who can't even crack 300 pounds. fourth-rounder, all the way.

round 4, pick 20
houston texans
garrett graham, TE, wisconsin
productive player, 16 career touchdowns in college. everyone likes the tight-ends this round. confused about this one, though. the texans could use a safety and there are plenty around.

round 4, pick 21
miami dolphins
a.j. edds, LB, iowa
very good coverage linebacker at this stage of the draft. underrated player, good snag by the fins.

round 4, pick 22
cincinnati bengals
geno atkins, DT, georgia
another good player drops a little far. good tackle-for-loss guy. bengals needed the help on the d-line. i still think their offense needs work, as it looked pretty tame while getting run over by the jets last year.

round 4, pick 23
philadelphia eagles
keenan clayton, LB, oklahoma
more of a physical safety than a linebacker. clearly the eagles didn't like getting trounced by dallas in the playoffs, maybe this hard-hitter helps out against the run.

round 4, pick 24
philadelphia eagles
mike kafka, QB, northwestern
this dude looked like a big-time quarterback last year. good threat to run. he doesn't have a huge arm, but man did he play well last year, except for, um, 20 interceptions. eagles get another pretty decent white guy to put on the field before michael vick.

round 4, pick 25
new orleans saints
al woods, DT, LSU
another mammoth defensive lineman from LSU. the saints get deeper against the run.

round 4, pick 26
carolina panthers
eric norwood, LB, south carolina
very productive. 26 sacks in college. with this, the panthers might have two of the biggest "steals" in the draft. unfortunately clausen is a punk. no one likes you, jimmy. norwood, however, could be a good starter this year.

round 4, pick 27
philadelphia eagles
clay harbor, TE, missouri state
ahh, the missouri valley conference. academic powerhouse, sure, but did you know they can also churn out a blocking receiver or two? the eagles wrap up a busy fourth round. up til now, they've added a ton of defense, potentially revamping it over the next few years. then they throw in a couple players on offense to keep people happy. this last guy is very strong and very fast.

round 4, pick 28
dallas cowboys
akwasu owusu-ansah, CB, indiana (PA)
boys need secondary help. this guy isn't bad, but he won't help them. if demarcus ware doesn't get to the quarterback, weak-ass secondary might be a problem. nevertheless, i'm super happy i got to type this guy's name out.

round 4, pick 29
seattle seahawks
e.j. wilson, DE, north carolina
decent producion over a full college career. pretty big for an end. the seahawks have had a very good draft, but it shows the difficulty of being a shitty team. lots of good value picks so far, but they really need help up front on defense, and i'm sure they would've liked more than this guy, who'll probably be a back-up until someone gets hurt.

round 4, pick 30
detroit lions
jason fox, OT, miami
stafford needs to not get squashed quite so much. the lions have actually built a pretty good nucleus over the last two drafts, but stafford needs to stay on his feet. maybe the 6' 7'' fatty from miami helps.

round 4, pick 31
peyton-manningopolis colts
jacques mcclendon, OG, tennessee
i don't know shit about this guy. wasn't supposed to be drafted, but you have to figure the colts make another good pick while nobody's looking.

round 4, pick 32
arizona cardinals
o'brien schofield, DE, wisconsin
too small to be a force on the line, but he might become a decent linebacker. the cardinals, of course, had no defense down the stretch last year, and lost their god-fearing quarterback to retirement. cardinals be fucked.

round 4, pick 33
cincinnati bengals
roddrick muckelroy, LB, texas
leading tackler on an almost-national champion defense. sergio kindle was a better prospect, but this guy was a leading contributor on a defense that made a ton of plays.

and that's it for the fourth. was it worth waking up early? no, it wouldn't have been. but was it worth staying up for? again, no, but here i am. pretty relieved chris berman wasn't on TV today, but have you ever tried waking up a tub of butter before noon?

seriously, though, why do they only get people who reside in tanning beds to talk about football on tv? fuckin tv.

UPDATE: the jets trade leon washington to seattle. weak.

Friday, April 23, 2010

distraction

a few weeks ago, on godspeed you! black emperor's website:
"between now and the live-dates, there'll be rivers of noise and distraction. and the internet is a petty tyrannical monster. please remember that really all that matters is the keep on keeping on. and all that really matters is the shows. and physical engagement in the world."

right on cue, at the forkle:
a river of noise and distraction

Saturday, April 10, 2010

total nudge-fest

everyone needs to understand that behavioral economics is total crap -- a bunch of "writers" who make a lot of waves and a lot of money by finding elaborate and confusing ways to describe perfectly ordinary shit.

take Predictably Irrational, a book that spends about two hundred and fifty pages exploring the idea that people can be tricked into paying more for something than they should. you can find this book and an example of its thesis for $25.95 in the "No Shit" section of border's.

here's a gem: "Relativity is (relatively) easy to understand. But there's one aspect of relativity that consistently trips us up. It's that we not only tend to compare things with one another but also tend to focus on comparing things that are easily comparable -- and avoid comparing things that cannot be compared easily." did you catch that? we tend to compare things that are easily comparable, and we tend to avoid comparing things that are difficult to compare. this trips us up. the quote is from page 8, because tautology is always where these books start. we compare things that are comparable for the same reason we eat "breakfast" in the morning.

from this foundation (that A is A), such a book will reliably proceed to conduct a long series of bizarre experiments (in this book, many of the experiments are conducted on the author's "students"). one gets the feeling that these are all scribbled in one of those jackson pollick looking composition notebooks, frayed at the edges, cocaine residue covering every inch. anyway, check out this doozy (i'm quoting the whole thing, because nobody's reading this shit anyway, and reading the author's own words is the best way to absorb the creepiness):



Imagine that you're taking part in an experiment to test the efficacy of a new painkiller called Veladone-Rx. (The actual experiment involved about 100 adult Bostonians, but for now, we'll let you take their place.)
You arrive at the MIT Media Lab in the morning. Taya Leary, a young woman wearing a crisp business suit (this is in stark contrast to the usual attire of the students and faculty at MIT), greets you warmly, with a hint of a Russian accent. A photo ID identifies Taya as a representative for Vel Pharmaceuticals. She invites you to spend a moment reading a brochure about Veladone-Rx. Glancing around, you note that the room looks like a medical office: stale copies of Time and Newsweek are scattered around; brochures for Veladone Rx are spread out on the table; and nearby is a cup of pens, with the drug's handsome logo. "Veladone is an exciting new medication in the opioid family," you read. "Clinical studies show that over 92 percent of patients receiving Veladone in double-blind controlled studies reported significant pain relief within only 10 minutes, and that pain relief lasted up to eight hours" And how much does it cost? According to the brochure, $2.50 for a single dose.
Once you finish reading the brochure, Taya calls in Rebecca Waber and leaves the room. Rebecca, wearing the white coat of a lab technician, with a stethoscope hanging from her neck, asks you a set of questions about your medical condition and your family's medical history. She listens to your heart and measures your blood pressure. Then she hooks you up to a complicated-looking machine. The electrodes running from the machine, greased with a green electrode gel, encircle your wrists. This is an electrical shock generator, she explains, and it is how we will test your perception and tolerance of pain.
With her hand on the switch, Rebecca sends a series of electrical shocks through the wires and into the electrodes. The initial shocks are merely annoying. Then they become painful, more painful, and finally so painful that your eyes fly open and your heart begins to race. She records your reactions. Now she starts delivering a new set of electrical shocks. This time she administers a set of charges that fluctuate randomly in intensity: some are very painful and some merely irritating. Following each one, you are asked to record, using the computer in front of you, the amount of pain you felt. You use the mouse to click on the line that ranges from "no pain at all" to "the worst pain imaginable" (this is called a "visual pain analog").
When this part of the torture ends, you look up. Rebecca is standing before you with a Veladone capsule in one hand and a cup of water in the other. "It will take about 15 minutes for the drug to reach its maximal effect," she says. You gulp it down, and then move to a chair in the corner, where you look at the old copies of Time and Newsweek until the pill takes effect.
Fifteen minutes later Rebecca, smearing the electrodes with the same green electrode gel, cheerfully asks, "Ready for the next step?" You say nervously, "As ready as I can be." You're hooked up to the machine again, and the shocks begin. As before, you record the intensity of the pain after each shock. But this time it's different. It must be the Veladone-Rx! The pain doesn't feel nearly as bad. You leave with a pretty high opinion of Veladone. In fact, you hope to see it in the neighborhood drugstore before long.
Indeed, that's what most of our participants found. Almost all of them reported less pain when they experienced the electrical shocks under the influence of Veladone. Very interesting -- considering that Veladone was just a capsule of vitamin C.



the experiment is then repeated, only this time the pill's cost is 10 cents per dose; the placebo effect is halved. the conclusion: "When it comes to medicines, then, we learned that you get what you pay for. Price can change the experience."

so the perceived effect of a placebo is anchored to the price of the drug. this is something that drug dealers, for one, have known for decades: your heroin can be 90 percent baking soda, and as long as you charge heroin prices the addicts still want it. people have been pulling this stunt forever: you have something you don't want; you give it a high price and a flashy pitch; people pay you for it.

the intricate torture scenario is not necessary to prove a banal and widely accepted hypothesis. obviously people are not perfectly rational economic actors. just as obviously, this irrationality can be manipulated. it's called being a con-man. throwing in a "complicated-looking machine" that causes great pain, however, is called being an economist, an academic.

there's a lot of this sort of thing going around these days. from the widely-read Freakenomics series (and blog), to malcolm gladwell's annual inside look into how stuff happens, to Nudge by obama cabinet member cass sunstein. Predictably Irrational is an especially odious example of this trend, as it's sole focus throughout seems to be on how to trick people into giving you their money (holding a man upside down and shaking him apparently being out of style).

but there is a little more depth to this "discipline". it isn't all creepy, sadistic marketing experiments. what behavioral economists like to focus on is social policy, how to shift government policy toward more rational aims. sunstein in particular has recently been demonized by some on the right wing, which is returning to its modern roots of scouring the land, trying to ruin the careers of any "marxists" it can find.

that marx is tied to this fad of fusing state-capitalism and modern behavioral psychology is yet another sign of our resounding national ignorance. the mandate of marxism is global economic justice; the mandate of behavioral economics, by contrast, is efficiency (ever an urgent concern for capital). these guys are about as marxist as ayn rand.

of course, a lot of communists have been super-crazy, plus the berlin wall fell. when in rome, and all that.

so how does this affect the commodity nearest to my heart, music? pitchfork is there to fill the gap. after spending a breezy two paragraphs on how just-plain-creepy behavioral economics is, tom ewing hits us with this: "[I]n a low-trust and low-money environment, behavioral economics is politically irresistible: It's simple, it's barely noticeable, and it's cheap. More, it promises a kind of psychological judo. We could batter ourselves senseless and penniless against people's irrationality and selfishness while trying to change their behavior. Or we could use those very traits to 'nudge' them in a desired direction. No wonder business people, as well as politicians, like it so much-- it seems to offer solutions to all kinds of sticky behavioral problems." how quickly this shit always turns into tiny fascism, obsessed with "solving" all sorts of "sticky behavioral problems". (problems such as, "why don't people give me more money?")

seriously, though, the issue ewing addresses is: is there any way to trick people into paying for music even though they don't like to. he cites the example of mflow, an internet community that has come up with an elaborate system to re-attach a cash transmission to the distribution of music. the method employed by mflow reads like something cribbed from one of those cocaine-smudged composition books i talked about before: "You share 'flows'-- songs or albums-- with [your followers], and they do the same for you. When you see one you like, you can buy it, and 20% of what you pay goes to whoever shared it with you in the first place." kind of clever, no? can such an idea succeed? probably, for a little while. but success in this environment is not only hard to come by, it's usually short-lived. remember, the napster kid once made a lot of money selling his shit to BMG, and now it's swallowed up in rhapsody, which no one on earth uses.

of course, the success or failure of any one venture capitalist start-up isn't really important. at all. to anyone, really. what sucks is that all the ideas thrown out in the article are inexorably tied to "social networking". now i'll admit that people are communicating through their electronic dealies in droves these days. but the notion that, like the steam engine and the automobile, social networks will define human interaction for the foreseeable future? well, sure it's plausible. but it's also depressing as hell.

people who consume creativity primarily through their computers are abstracted from the vast amount of work that goes into the creation of every single piece of art. the audience has always been necessarily removed from the labors of creativity to some degree, but the fact that music now comes wirelessly from the air around us has vastly increased that distance. as long as the works lack context (beyond categorization), consumers by and large will not want to pay for them. mixing in the trivialities of social networking, replete with "friends", "badges", and "groups", doesn't accomplish much besides making the whole thing seem even more repulsive.

remarkably, tom ewing ends up agreeing. "Real life games are attractive to marketers because they impose objectives onto behavior, which makes it easier to change and to predict. But like most social media, they also bring people's networks out into the open and turn them into something you can make money off when you can't make it out out of fans themselves so easily. In this case, I can't help feeling that the social relations we form around music and fandom are better off uncommoditized." so that's his argument against. do you notice something missing here? i sure do. where the hell are the musicians?!

and, to go back to the fake opioid experiment from before, this is the problem with behavioral economics: it encourages you to see things from the perspective of capital ("marketers") and of consumers ("fans themselves"), while completely ignoring the needs of labor. in each of the solutions that tom ewing presents (or those offered up by almost anyone else when they address this issue), the role of the musician is similar to the role of the test subjects in the Veladone-Rx experiment: he goes through excruciating pain repeatedly, but the last time he's tricked into thinking it doesn't hurt.

music is something people make with their hands and listen to with their ears. (we began with tautology and we'll end there, damnit!) the best way to move forward is to throw out the complicated-looking machines and be done with the byzantine petty fascism of behavioral economics.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

phutball sunday: draft edition

i don't wanna write about music.

sam bradford is ridiculously good. his accuracy is insane. unfortunately, early last season the mormon army of BYU smashed his part-native american shoulder. about a month and a half later, he came back and promptly fell on the same shoulder, and missed the rest of the season. if he goes to a team with a shit offensive line like the rams, he might not last. if he does, he's golden. but the hit that caused that second injury really wasn't much of a hit.

jimmy claussen -- i guess he's okay. but just look at what he did to the irish: they lost to crap teams like syracuse and navy all the time, and the only thing everyone ever talked about was how good claussen was. charlie weiss turned that whole team into an extended pro day for his adopted, substantially less chubby son, and claussen ate it up. what a douche. brady quin, anyone?

dez bryant is an absurdly talented player who's receiving a crash course in The Man and How To Get Fucked by Him. last year the NCAA suspended him for eating dinner at deion sanders' house without a permission slip. they suspended him FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON! and now if anyone talks about him, it's only to mention his "off-the-field issues" and "character problems". dez bryant is from poor-as-fuck lufkin, texas; 18.8% of lufkiners live below the poverty line, including 26.4% of those under 18. apparently, in his adolescence, no one took time out from grooming him for the NFL to tell him that you can't just say yes when primetime calls and invites you to dinner (who was most likely telling him: "you're six months away from becoming the richest motherfucker to ever come out of lufkin. don't fuck it up."). Now he might drop out of the top ten picks, and maybe even out of the top twenty, costing him tens of millions of dollars. what a crock. for a good time, watch this sweet youtube of him demolishing his competition in high school. whoever ends up "taking a chance" on this "character-issue" laden superman will be very lucky.

sean witherspoon, the linebacker from missouri is very good. also dexter mccluster, who seems to be destined from the third round in spite of stuff like this. toby gerhardt is truly the great white hope (let's go, white hope). terrence cody, nose tackle from alabama, he weighs 350 pounds; fuckin awesome. tim tebow will be great because jesus, and jordan shipley is the next wes welker. i'm out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

one word that music critics use way too much

ethereal.

the word isn't being used wrong; on the contrary, it's usually all too appropriate: delicate, airy, pertaining to the upper regions of space...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gawker.com Provides the Most Ill-Informed Article Concerning Capitalism and Rap EVER

Why Hamilton Nolan, why? You write for Gawker, which is a liberal semi-trashy gossip/NYC update website. Why would you out of the blue write an article telling people how to feel about Jay Z? Why is it important that people not look up to Jay Z?

"Yes, Jay-Z is a cool black guy who has nice flows and a famous, pretty wife and knows CEOs and other fun things, and white internet people have embraced him orgasmically just like they bizarrely embraced janky coke rap a couple years ago. But Jay-Z represents one thing: money. And you, cool kids, always aspire to be about more than that. Let's have good idols instead of empty ones that are all shiny."

Hmmm...let's talk about hip hop and money, shall we? What was one of the first hits of the mid-1980's? Erik B. and Rakim's "Paid in Full." And album cover that features the artists holding money with one hundred dollar bills as the backdrop. Run D.M.C. created a fantastic track entitled "My Adidas." That track helped sell a LOT of shoes, even to this day.

Now let's flash forward to the early nineties. The Wu Tang Clan help sell Tommy Hilfiger clothing, Gucci products and write a track entitled "C.R.E.a.M." What is the hook to that track?

"Cash Rules Everything Around Me
C.R.E.A.M.
Get the money
Dollar, dollar bill y'all"

Any track from 2pac or Biggie. Nas raps, "I'm out for Dead Presidents to represent me," on his track "Dead Presidents."

Oh, what's that Hamilton Nolan? You have thoughts concerning Nas as well?

"GOD DAMN KIDS TODAY DON'T EVEN APPRECIATE Illmatic. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest."

Nas is good but Jay Z is bad. And the basis is that Nas doesn't rap about money or capitalism? Nas, who writes a track called "Money is my Bitch" is somehow above Jigga because he's above capitalism? Consider this point rendered wholly moot.

And that's the problem. The basis of the entire article relies on the flawed argument that because Jay Z raps about money, he should not be treated as talented artist.

Hamilton Nolan, you have revealed yourself as not fit to write about hip hop. At all. The end. But you went to a Dead Prez concert and talked to them backstage?

"But I just got back from the Harvest of Hope Festival, a huge three-day music festival in Florida, where I got the chance to interview Dead Prez, the single most non-hypocritical rap group in America, the closest thing to a modern-day Public Enemy."

They told you that Jay Z represents all that is wrong in the business and that is that? You see, Hamilton, you've played right into their hands. You think they're not businessmen too? AND HOW CAN YOU CALL THEM THE MOST NON-HYPOCRITICAL RAP GROUP?!? On what basis are you judging hip hop artists? What makes a group more non-hypocritical than the next? You don't know, BECAUSE YOU'RE COMPLETELY BIASED.

Fact: Dead Prez rely on capitalism as much as the next group. Do you know who the biggest fans of Dead Prez are? WHITE PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY ARE COOL! These white people spend their discretionary income on Dead Prez records. Oh, you have something to say to cool white people too?

"So, yea. Hey cool kids, you can't idolize Jay-Z and Dead Prez at the same time."

Now I assume this is a joke at this point. Mr. Nolan has written an article meant to stir up as many page hits and nasty feedback as possible. Mission accomplished. However, I don't think this opinion piece belongs anywhere on Gawker. Just because you go see your favorite hip hop group and interview them does not make you a cultural critic of hip hop.

Jay Z is not my favorite rapper. Not by a long shot. I find it necessary to defend him from a moronic writer who sees the fault of an entire genre of music in only one artist. Hamilton Nolan, please go back to writing about anything other than music. Thanks.

Friday, March 5, 2010

i know why the nicolas cage bird sings

it's been almost thirty years since "fast times at ridgemont high", but major hollywood's love affair with nicolas cage is showing no signs of slowing down. they took out my wisdom teeth yesterday morning and i decided to pass the night watching, among other things, last year's flop "knowing" (which is what you get when no one is willing to call out m. night shyamalan). pseudo-religious, pseudo-sci-fi apocalypse crap. i won't get into specifics aside from saying that vicodin works.

anyway, i got to thinking, "man that nick cage fellow has made some odd career choices recently." let's have a look at the last few years. a pretty bad remake of "bad lieutenant", the above mentioned "knowing", a really horrible remake of "bangkok dangerous", "national treasure 2: national treasurer", "next", and "ghost rider". i've omitted his voice acting in "g-force" and "astro boy" along with his cameo in "grindhouse". every movie i listed above is really really really shitty.

but you know what's good about starring in crappy big-budget movies that no one with a drop of reputation would go anywhere near? they'll put your name in super big letters on the poster, every single time. they'll probably even put your face on the DVD jacket, too.

so let's all raise a glass to oscar winner nicolas cage. his golden days have surely passed (the rock, con air, and face/off were released in succession), but he's still out there getting paid millions of dollars to fight the good fight. hey, someone has to star in "ghost rider 2".

back to the future

here's a little peek at the freakish dystopia that exists in tom ewing's head (he's one of my favorite fork-compensated retards). what tom is imagining is the year 2021, when CD-Rs make a comeback. it's historical fiction that takes place in the future, which is terra firma for The Onion, but quite the adventure for the fork.

i've tried several times now to write something in depth about how stupid this is, but it kind of felt like writing an extensive essay on the blueness of the sky. i'll try to boil my reaction down to the essentials.

nevermind that CD's represent the motherfucking inception of digital culture. nevermind that every major music-seller has already vanished (in ewing's imagination, "Britain's high street stores stopped stocking CDs five years ago"). and nevermind that a guy who writes many thousands of words elaborating on a made-up future for hipsters has clearly run out of shit to say.

instead, ignore the glaring idiocy, and embrace this style as the logical next step for pitchfork writers: having exhausted the past, they can now go on to writing about tomorrow's nostalgia today.



one short post-script: if hipsters really wanted to rebel against digital culture, they'd stop being dilettante collectors, and they'd start actually supporting musicians by paying to watch them perform.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

good reviews/bad reviews

good review

derisive review

both reviews mention that the new effort from LA hipsters and professional bandwagon riders Local Natives bears a striking resemblance to recent efforts from Fleet Foxes. the pitchfork review even mentions several other recent indie stalwarts that Local Natives sound exactly like ("sort of a West Coast Grizzly Bear"). faint praise? soft bigotry of low expectations?

pitchfork says something else curious about this band, which is especially curious if you've clicked through the second link. "Local Natives have already gained a foothold in parts of Europe-- their album has received attention in the UK." would you care to know what the guardian UK has to say about this band?

"[T]he unsuspecting could be forgiven for thinking they are hearing demos for the Foxes' second record. As such, it's almost impossible to listen to without making comparisons, and Local Natives are not the beneficiaries of the process. It's like listening to the ­Vibrators after the Clash: decent enough on its own terms, but lesser and later – pop's cardinal sin." so, yeah, they're big in europe.

how does pitchfork address the issue of this band being grossly unoriginal and hacktacular? "In short, the Silver Lake quintet have followed indie rock's major players in recent years-- they knew how to dress for success in 2010. Great for them-- now, what's in it for you? Plenty as it turns out."

wow! so they sound exactly like a band that hit it big about one year ago. to the british writer, this is "pop's cardinal sin" to the american writer, "great for them!"

at the end of the final paragraph of p-fork's thumb on the scale: "True, we tend to bow at novelty and innovation, but Gorilla Manor proves to be a refreshing reminder of the pleasures of synthesis."

jesus fucking christ!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

an open letter to the sound technicians of brooklyn

dear technicians,

i know life isn't working out the way you had planned. you moved to brooklyn with dreams of being a more "plugged in" basquiat, or the next david sedaris, or maybe your big brother told you that warriors was a cool movie while you were young and the impression just stuck. your dreams have not come true yet; instead, some bartender (sympathetic from having once suffered through the same delusions) gave you a regular paying gig doing sound.

in brooklyn, no one complains if something is inaudible. no one complains if there are ungodly levels of reverb. your only responsibility is to avoid feedback.

it may not be something you write about on facebook, it probably wouldn't make for a thrilling reality show, and your big brother still thinks you're a nerd.

but guess what? it's your fucking job. it pays for your pbr's, without which you would be generally less surly which would in turn force you to adjust your entire persona. your arrogant grumpiness is a lifestyle which you could not afford without this gig.

when the band ten feet in front of your face starts feeding back wildly: 1) it's because you fucked up; 2) you make more money than the performers on any given night, so; 3) pull your face away from the fucking iphone and do your fucking job.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

racist/not racist little wayne review

from today's review of "rebirth" which i have yet to hear:
"Considering Wayne is a man whose artistic aims apparently involve 1) Collecting oil-tycoon cash, 2) Having sex with several women at once, and 3) Concocting the world's finest excrement-related rhymes, Rebirth is most definitely a flop, terribly unsexy, and contains surprisingly few shit jokes. Wayne is playing against type here. "When I play sick, I'm Jordan with the flu," he boasts on the album, referring to Jordan's classic game against the Jazz. And in general, that's true; but here Wayne is like Mike with pneumonia and a broken leg... playing baseball."

ryan dombal (seriously, that's his fucking name) is trying to be endearing and funny here, but what he accomplishes is shitting all over one of the most prolific musicians of our moment, exhibiting a totally gay sense of humor along the way. your jordan joke vs. wayne's jordan joke: guess who sells millions of albums and guess who writes about them on a blog!

further, the three comedic "artistic aims" mentioned are, in fact, time-tested ways to belittle black men: obsessed with money, oversexed, and vulgar.

at the very start of the review: "'Everybody say they just do it, well, I just don't,' claims Lil Wayne on Rebirth, his unlikely, unqualified, and quite unbelievable rock album." i stared at that word "unqualified" for quite some time. can it be true that rock has reached this point, where there are qualifications one must acquire before making it? i suppose that's what makes wavvves more qualified to release a rock album than a guy who's been putting out music for almost a decade.

a little later: "In the mid 1980s, Run-D.M.C. used distorted guitars and stadium-rock drums to help break hip-hop into the mainstream. Now, one of the world's biggest rappers is using the same tools to make a niche record only a diehard could truly love. That flip says as much about hip-hop's current state of evolution (shaky) as it does about Lil Wayne's current commercial predicament. [T]he idea that he'll never top the million-in-a-week phenomenon that was Tha Carter III is naturally weighing on Wayne. He may never have a single as big as 'Lollipop' or reach the level of universal relevancy to warrant another prime time interview with Katie Couric. He seems to realize this on Rebirth." oh dear. you know you've made it when katie couric is talkin to you on the TV! wondering how he's going to top that masterpiece is surely a "commercial predicament" that keeps wayne up nights.

more importantly, though, "hip-hop's current state of evolution" is "shaky". if anyone wants to defend the phrase "shaky state of evolution" from accusations of utter meaninglessness, now's your chance.

i think what mr. dombal is trying to say is that he thinks hip-hop is in trouble. of course he doesn't bother presenting any external evidence for this; the remark is parenthetical, almost as if he's reminding us of a known fact.

throughout the review, there's a distinct tone of, "what the fuck is this nigger thinking?" the music "would serve as an incredible exaggerated parody of Linkin Park angst if the song wasn't dead serious." according to this douchebag, "According to Wayne, rock music combines the coked-out idiocy of Sunset Strip hair metal with the processed rage of Bizkit-ed headbanging. Understandably, the combination can be abhorrent." in other words, wayne, you should have checked with this mostly-literate pitchfork minion before deciding on your influences; he would have steered you in a better direction.

from tha carter III's "don't get it":
"Um, mr sharpton, and anyone like you
You don't know me so if your not gonna try to
Then what you say or think about me or what I do
Is totally casper the friendly ghost to me
And it doesnt make you a good person to criticize before you improvise
Doesnt necessarily make you a bad person either but
The characteristics fall heavenly into bad's way
But since I am human, I am good and bad as well
But I try my hardest to stay good
And some of the things I do and say may be bad or just not too good
But I do try"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

stop - grammy time

i think we all knew beyonce was destined for greatness the first time she asked us "charlie, how your angels get down like that?"

in other news, lady gaga has taken a job as the creative director for polaroid, a company which has no factories left in the united states. this is actually true.

apparently this year's grammys had 25.8 million viewers, a 35% increase over last year, and the highest ratings since 2004. the new york times says of the ratings boost that it "affirms the appeal of pop glitz at a time of plummeting record sales," so that's okay then. (i remember popping a glitz once and it actually sounded kind of like "pokerface".)

related joke: someone should do a song about blowjobs, under the alias "lady gag", called "poke her face".

whew all over the place today, time to break out the topper, a dancing butt.

and that's what i was watching instead of the grammys.

(butt dance, via Spinster aunt

)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Scooped by Salon.com

You know that really annoying article I wrote about Paul Shirley that cherry-picked his quasi-racist quotes about MLK day and his hatred/love of rap?

Well, three days later Salon.com skewered the same article.


I've been pwnd and it hurts. Like utter sadness. Like the most over-wrought and DRAMAtic break-up record ever.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Paul Shirley: Racist/Not-Racist Music Reviewer

Paul Shirley is not a smart person. He's an ex-basketball player who turned diary-writing into a post-sport career. Recently he wrote one of the more embarrassing, history-ignoring, borderline racist pieces about Haiti yet committed to paper.

In it, he essentially blames Haiti's problem on its general populace. Here is his Twitter feed. Here is the piece. He also writes for ESPN. Flame away, dear reader(s). He is to be publicly disemboweled.

He also writes MUSIC REVIEWS(!?!?) for ESPN. And they are...well, amazingly terrible. I'm not sure how I missed them. I will take the next couple weeks having fun with his shittiness. Here is his piece on Gucci Mane (who Paul Shirley detests) and Kid Cudi (Shirley loves). You can imagine just how wonderfully curmudgeonly this is going to get. I will not keep this brief. This will be long and drawn out.


If nothing else, I've learned this about the world of music: Like small business owners and Hollywood agents, bands don't work during the holidays. As such, by the time my family had finished tiding its collective yule, my cache of music was as depleted as a UN rice truck after six hours in a Sudanese refugee camp.


Hmm...in light of the recent statements, I'd love to give him a free pass on the UN rice truck...nope. He wrote this two weeks ago. And now the Haiti piece. I'm no in no way P.C., but perhaps Mr. Shirley needs some sensitivity training?

Instead of forcing my way into a discussion of bands I haven't yet fully digested (hello, Neon Indian), I took a different tack. On various recommendations, I procured some of what the kids are calling "rap music," turned up my receiver, and sat back in an effort to appreciate the latest efforts from Kid Cudi and Gucci Mane.

My nuanced, thoughtful and stately analysis of the latter:

As an album, Gucci Mane's "The State vs. Radric Davis" is trash.

If it meant that Gucci Mane weren't allowed to release music ever again, I would go as far as allowing the older brother I never had to administer to my person 12 Indian Rope Burns, 17 Dutch Rubs, and maybe, just maybe, an Atomic Wedgie.


Hey, so you don't like the prevalent sound of mainstream hip-hop? Is that what you're trying to say? I can't tell, only because it was lost in your horrible attempt at humor. Perhaps try another refugee joke. It worked so well for you last time.

My dislike for the "The State" can be traced to the album's predictability. Mane employs every trick that has made me come to hate rap music over the past 20 years.

Twenty years? When did rap music germinate? 1979? Somewhere around there? THIRTY YEARS. THIRTY YEARS of rap music. Also, YOU HATE RAP MUSIC? Shouldn't the article end here? How could you enjoy the rap music of Kid Cudi if you hate rap music?

Misogyny? Check.

"I pimped that white girl like a m------------ hooker."

(As a bonus, it appears that there might have been some latent racism available as well.)

Clumsy descriptions of sexual methods and locations? Check.

"I'll take you to Six Flags and [edited] you on a roller coaster."

False bravado? Done. Over and over and over again.

(See every song.)

Ubiquitous references to marijuana? Obviously.

(There's even a song called "Kush Is My Cologne.")

References to self in the third person? Available.

(Is every other line sufficient?)

Dumb skits, interludes and meaningless conversations meant to show how "street" everyone is, even though the album was released by a major label (Warner Bros.)? Of course.

(There are three.)


Major label albums released on major labels that aren't somehow street: Any Wu Tang joint. Dr. Dre. Nas. Snoop. The Clipse. Jay Z. Biggie. Indie/Major label cred is dead in this modern era, Shirley. That isn't your problem. Your problem is that kids like Soulja Boy, who grew up in a nice neighborhoods with well-to-do parents who buy them music studios, become financial successes bragging about street cred when they seemingly have zero.

Also, YOU THINK THREE SKITS ARE A LOT FOR A RAP ALBUM?!? How about De La Soul's classic "3 Feet High and Rising?" That album is half fucking skits. Skits have been a part of rap music for decades. But you already stated you hate rap, so you thusly hate skits. It's your opinion. That's fine.

"The State vs. Radric Davis" sounds like an album made by a 13-year-old who's been addled by daily hits from a pipe since he was 2. And I'm not referring to smoking -- whether of tobacco or of other substances. I mean that it sounds like someone has been hitting the person who made this album with a pipe for 11 years.

That said, I could imagine listening to a song or two en route to a bar. Once every six months or so.

But high art it is not.


It's trash, it's garbage...but hey, I'll listen to it on the way to a bar. You see what you did there Paul Shirley? You revealed the essence of Gucci Mane's music; it is party music, it drowns in its own irreverence. It is NOT HIGH ART. Gucci knows this, and most people who have an iota of intelligence recognize this very fact. You should take that "hit in the head with a pipe" joke and apply it to yourself. Many times.

Now that I've gotten all that vitriol out of my system, I can move on to the good news:

Kid Cudi's "Man on the Moon: The End of Day" is one of the best albums, of any genre, I've heard in months.

I don't want to dwell on the negative, because my objective as a music writer is to bring to light music that I think people will enjoy, not to point out the flaws in other pieces. But because Gucci Mane is so bad, the contrast between him and Kid Cudi becomes all the more evident. The lesson learned from Kid Cudi's debut is that rap music doesn't have to be childish, ignorant and potentially harmful to the health of young brains. Assuming, of course, that Kid Cudi is a rapper, which is a question to which I'd like to return in a few paragraphs.

But first, let us bathe in the sweet waters of positivity.

On "Man on the Moon," Kid Cudi (real name Scott Mescudi) presents the narrative arc of a man trying to understand himself -- his purpose, his past, and who, exactly, he is. Mescudi's is a lofty goal but, because he approaches the project with a level of humanity not often found on records of any sort -- let alone on hip-hop records -- he succeeds.

Kid Cudi isn't just a rapper, he's a singer-songwriter.

One of my problems with most rap/hip-hop albums is their inability to hold my attention for their breadth. (Breadths?) The aforementioned skits, interludes and crappy guest stars take me out of the, well, flow, and I never recover.

My attention span, or lack thereof, is not a problem on "Man on the Moon," even though the album is 15 songs long. There is no filler. Even the tracks that could be interpreted to be interludes, portrayed as they are as "Nightmares" in the protagonist's journey, work. In fact, they're some of the best songs on the record.


THE 'NIGHTMARES' ARE SKITS. THEY ARE SKITS AND YOU DETEST SKITS. Just state an opinion and stick to it. Your head. A pipe. Please hit.

All this effusion was bubbling to my brain's surface even before Mescudi dropped a guest-star bomb on me. I was listening along, thinking, I'm so happy that I like this because if I bashed two rap artists in the same column, everyone would call me a racist for sure … Then I heard the unmistakable strains of RATATAT.

So if you don't like rap music...you're racist? Conclusions, you have been jumped to. This is terrible. No wonder he wrote that piece on Haiti. The old "I'm just a poor white boy stuck in a P.C. world" shtick. You aren't. Grow up and think like an adult. Just because I hate modern jazz music doesn't make me a bigot. It just means that I have an opinion. The end.

Kid Cudi works with RATATAT!

You see, I really like RATATAT. As if the exclamation point didn't make that clear. And if Kid Cudi has the taste and intelligence to secure the participation of RATATAT on his album, I like him even more.


This is about to get really, really awful. As bad as listening to him gush about RATATAT? Worse.

When I finished listening to "Man on the Moon" for the fourth time, I was jubilant. I had, once again, found rap music that I liked.

But something was eating at the edge of my consciousness. That something was this:

I'm not entirely sure Kid Cudi purveys rap music. I know he's black (ish?) and that his music is relatively monotonal. But as I listened to "Man On the Moon," over and over, I couldn't help but be struck with how much Mescudi sounds like …

A singer-songwriter.


First of all..."black (ish?)"...I literally want to punch Paul Shirley in the face. This is not honesty, nor is it contrarian. He is a lazy writer, hoping to catch your attention through the use of manipulatively rabble-rousing rhetoric. I'VE GOTTAN OPINION BRO, IT'S SO TWISTED, CZECH IT OUT. Secondly, his music is monotonal therefore it's rap music? FTW? Have you heard J Dilla? Deltron? El-P? Pete Rock? Large Professor? Prince Paul? The list goes on and on. I know this is an opinion piece, but it stinks up to the rafters. If I'm interested in something, I do a little...RESEARCH. And then I can back up my interest with facts, which in turn creates my opinion.

Monotonal is not a word. Spell check should tell you that. Monaural? Is that what you meant? Because Monotonal means there is only one tone, and that would mean rap music is the sound of one note. You are not intelligent.

I know what you're thinking, depending on who you are. If you were Kid Cudi, you'd say, "Oh brother, just when I was starting to get some credibility, some white dude calls me a singer-songwriter."

If you're a militant hip-hop fan who happens to love Kid Cudi, you're thinking, "Shirley, you're just trying to fit Kid Cudi into your tastes, instead of adapting your tastes to embrace music that you thought didn't exist."

To Mr. Mescudi, I would say … Don't worry about my judgment; no one actually reads these columns. They're a write-off for ESPN.

To Mr. Militant, I would say … No, I'm really not. I have no problem writing that I like rap music. I haven't done so very often of late because there hasn't been any worth writing about since 1993.

I kid. I had to write that just to see how many people would stop reading immediately after the "1993" to fire off an angry e-mail that contained epithets and suggestions that I listen to Common, Saul Williams and Atmosphere before I start shooting off at the keyboard.


Very quickly: More fun contrarianism, he says he like rap music when he earlier said he did not like rap music, and the three rappers he comes up with are too hip to be square Common, Saul Williams and Atmosphere? Amazing.

My toe-dip into the tepid waters of classification is not meant to imply that Kid Cudi is a singer-songwriter in the vein of Jack Johnson. But plotted on a spectrum that runs from Pete Yorn to Mystikal, he's probably closer to Yorn than most would realize.

In case you don't believe me, check out "Sky Might Fall" here.

As I listened to "Man on the Moon," I couldn't help but compare Cudi to my favorite rapwriter/songrapper: Jamie T. Singsong delivery. Intelligent lyrics. Occasional admissions of weakness. The only difference being that Cudi is decidedly not from England.

In the end, I suppose, it doesn't matter …

Oh no. Here it comes: the part where I wrap things up and say that it doesn't matter how we classify Kid Cudi because good music is good music … [sound of me snoring as my head hits the fancy backlit keys on my laptop]

As I've finished this column, it has occurred to me that this will be posted the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I hate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I think it's a divisive holiday. Instead of celebrating an intelligent man who happened to be black, there are those (and they are many) who would have us celebrate MLK because he's a black man who happened to be intelligent.

I'm no great spokesman for race relations; many of the black men around whom I've spent time shared a seething dislike for me that had me checking my pockets to make sure I hadn't stolen something from them. As a result, I have my own built-in prejudices and idiosyncrasies.


Yes Paul Shirley, I'm sure this is true. You are victim of reverse racism. Incredible. This piece has gone from asinine to Dada in less than a page of awkwardly structured prose.

I have learned this, however: The more time we spend trying to divide people up, the less progress is made.

So when I write that Kid Cudi isn't purely a rapper, don't think it's because I'm trying to co-opt him into a white world. Instead, listen to his album. Pay attention to the journey he takes the listener on: through his protagonist's confusion, despair, hope and insecurity; and finally, on the last song on the album, to an appropriately tenuous sense of 21st century self-actualization. That the song in question is probably about marijuana is not important, at least to me. What's important is that the album succeeds mightily, where others might have failed.


Hey, would you fancy that. He actually talks a little about the music. Astonishing.

Give it a listen. Whether you're young, old, black, white, a fan of country or a fan of post-electronica jungle house dubstep, I think you'll find a way to relate to Kid Cudi. And a way for him to relate to you.

Then, when you're done, throw away all your Gucci Mane CDs. Because those shouldn't relate to anyone, white or black.


Do you know what's better than anything? Acting like a closet-racist throughout an article and then attempting a colon-cleanse of sorts by using the final sentence as a "get out of jail free card."

In light of your recent incredibly narrow-minded statements, I'm afraid I can't let you out of jail, Mr. Shirley. You see, you've written a wealth of "music reviews" for ESPN that are all prime Writemare material. Unlike Gucci Mane, we will welcome you with open arms.