Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My review of the TK Webb and the Visions' latest single is up.
On his radio show Glenn Greenwald interviews Daniel Ellsburg, the former RAND Corporation employee whose release of the infamous "Pentagon Papers" in 1971 exposed the complicity of the U.S. government in continuing the war in Vietnam. As a result, Ellsburg was charged with 12 felony counts and might have served up to 115 years in prison had not the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The leaking of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times so infuriated Nixon that he authorized the creation of a White House unit designed to stop leaks (the infamous "Plumbers"); the burgling of Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel shortly thereafter was the next logical step of an administration obsessed with control.

The full transcript is a good read. Ellsburg and Greenwald reminds us that Americans have no reason to trust Obama and McCain to restore our fallen liberties in the wake of their respective votes and non-votes for the FISA compromise.

DE: I think that in that sense Cheney and Bush have been and are domestic enemies of our actual Constitution, as written. And I don’t say that rhetorically. I’m not saying that they’re traitors or disloyal in their feelings toward this country, or that they don’t want the best for this country. I think they want the best for this country, but what they think is best is something other than our Constitution of the last two hundred years. It is something like an elected dictatorship.

They have a right to believe that. But they don’t have a right to act on that as they have [after taking that oath]. The question here is, as you’re raised, how can we change that if we don’t hold them to account somehow? Well, I think we have to be very creative here in finding ways to repudiate that point of view and roll it back and restore our Constitution. Perhaps some way other than impeachment: which is the straightforward way, but which by every indication the Democrats are simply determined not to give us and are not going to do it now this year, unfortunately.

And Obama has indicated as of now… with his advisor Cass Sunstein, who I think you demolished when you interviewed him the other day--I would have been dizzied, listening to him if I was in your place, and as an advisor to Obama…there were just wild descriptions of what democracy requires--but with that kind of advice, we have to assume that Obama, who also wants to bring people together and to reach across the aisle and to look towards the future, none of those indicate he will be interested in pursuing these issues.
Yet Greenwald doesn't lose his cool. The present looks blurry to commentators, thus more vulnerable to hyperbole about its awfulness:
GG: I think it always seems that hard core indictments of one’s own time and one’s own political system are exaggerated because people only see the extremism of their time retrospectively. I think it strikes people as hyperbole because they just think we don’t have a king, we don’t have an emperor, just instinctively believe that. But if you just look at the very definition of what an empire is, of what a monarchy is, and the sort of defining attributes of what those systems of government are, certainly we’re a lot closer to that in terms of how we now function practice than we are to the constitutional republic that we began as.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The picture tells us how The Witnesses approaches the subject of AIDS in mid eighties France: insouciantly. We know – the characters vaguely know – the threat, but we're having too much fun to take precautions. Although not the subtle psychosexual ballet that director André Téchiné's 1995 masterpiece Wild Reeds was, The Witnesses has the earlier film's democracy of spirit. Téchiné doesn't linger too long on any one character; if the dialogue is at times didactic rather than realistic, the performances and the delicateness with which he sets his characters in motion amidst settings almost too worthy of postcards create their own pleasure. The filigrees of ethnic tension between the Muslim Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), wife Sarah (Emmanuelle Béart), and lover Manu (Johan Libéreau) is handled with an offhanded probity that's a relief from the metaphysical exertions of Caché and, shall we say, the static post-colonialist erotica of Clair Denis' Beau Travail. Nothing is held too long here. The characters behave as people with appetites first; no wonder the film shows Béart typing her novel, the foursome dancing on a sunlit veranda, and enjoying a boat excursion in the first twenty minutes. The exception – Michel Blanc as Manu's older lover, too smart and too generous for his own good – doesn't force others to reckon with his appetites until he's consumed by them.

Most refreshing, Téchiné doesn't photograph Libéreau's Manu as sun-kissed manflesh, as Denis or François Ozon would have (Ozon's Time To Leave stands as this film's sweet, sickly counterpart). From the first instant he flashes his big-toothed grin we're all goners, and the director has the good sense not to push his luck. Manu's beauty is really an extension of his youth, and as ephemeral. Similarly, we're not asked to gawk at Béart's nudeness in a scene in which Bouajila talks to her while she's showering. These men and women are as comfortable with their bodies as with sport (the scent of sweat and grass is as strong here as in Wild Reeds), which makes the disease's onset more devastating. While not quite its equal, The Witnesses plays like a celluloid adaptation of the Pet Shop Boys' "Being Boring"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Literature's finest schlock

I remember the shock when I read Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One a couple of years after Brideshead Revisited. Imagine listening to the Buzzcock's "Orgasm Addict" after Kansas' "Dust in the Wind." The author of this limp, pallid, honey-hewed paen to English private school class envy and homoerotica wrote really funny novels! Maybe "pallid" is too strong: the depictions of nasty headmasters are worthy of the writer of Scoop and Vile Bodies; but they're unenthusiastic takedowns, as if nostalgia dulled his skewer.

Anyway, Troy Patterson fondly walks us through "literature's finest schlock" and the PBS adaptation that predated the E.M. Forster revival by almost four years, hereby preparing us for a lot of pain.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Good news here and here. In the first link, the House votes to revoke the travel ban on AIDS victims by an overwhelming margin (303-115); it now goes to the President's desk. In the second, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings to discuss the continued efficacy of "don't ask, don't tell." No movement yet, but there was bipartisan unity in the ridicule for one Elaine Donnelly:
"We're talking about real consequences for real people," Donnelly proclaimed. Her written statement added warnings about "inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community," the prospects of "forcible sodomy" and "exotic forms of sexual expression," and the case of "a group of black lesbians who decided to gang-assault" a fellow soldier.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A review of Entertainment Weekly TV critic Gillian Flynn's debut novel Sharp Objects.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Roy Orbison - "Life Fades Away"

One of my favorite songs. "It's Over" for the eighties.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Nought

Far more disturbing than the heat and the sight of women in black Spoon T-shirts during Pitchfork Music Festival was the new Batman flick, The Dark Knight. Because of time constraints, my compulsion to scatter thoughts hither and thither through the Internets, and sheer loss of nerve, I've avoided writing at length, but since I'm reading and hearing very few critical views from my own generation about the Holy Grail of comic book adaptations (David Edelstein published an intelligent demurral last week) I just couldn't fight it anymore.

As a fan of X-2, most of Iron-Man, and the Richard Lester-helmed bits of Superman II, I don't balk at comic book adaptations. But now that it's a genre as respectable as the western once was, directors try to inject sonorities that the material really can't support. It amounts to an unintended condescension towards the material: comic books aren't serious enough on their own, so they must be longer, more violent, and allude to The Secret Sharer for extra thematic heft. As the culmination of this approach, The Dark Knight confuses darkness with seriousness, portent with drama, homilies for soliloquies, tell for show, and sadism for violence. I can't remember the last time a movie shook me so much. Talk to fans, though, and they assume that since a film "disturbed" them then it must be worthy. Some porn is disturbing, but no one would confuse it with art; and make no bones about it -- The Dark Knight is porn.

A large part of the problem is Christian Bale, who can't compensate for writer-director Christopher Nolan's disinterest in his character; it's as if Nolan relied on the audience's collective memories of the Batman they know from the comic to fill this vacuum. Bale's never been so cruelly exposed as an actor. He's best when his chiseled hauteur convinces us that subtext is an indulgence for plebes (think American Psycho). If we don't accept the tension in Bruce Wayne/Batman -- an urge to yield to the evil he fights -- Nolan's ideas crumble. I never read the comic, only gotten a sense that Wayne's an insufferable cad. I totally wish Nolan had had some fun: filmed more scenes of Bruce Wayne boning Playboy cover models and sucking champagne from between their titties. But Michael Keaton suggested some depth: in Bale's hands he's Anakin Skywalker as the dead tree in Dagobah. It should be clear that I don't mind violence in movies, but bad faith offends me, especially as I get older and I lose my tolerance for gin and bloodletting. If you're going to film a scene in which (SPOILER) the Joker slams a punk into a sharpened pencil, you better make damn sure that the context is morally ambiguous enough to mitigate the sadism. But I can't expect a movie whose fight scenes remain as incomprehensible as its predecessor's to understand context. The Dark Knight doesn't realize it simply has to stop, so frantically does it assemble explosions, lacerations, and threats to women and children. For Nolan, motion denotes progress. He isn't resourceful enough as a director or writer to tease the ambiguities without relying on daft speeches.

The Dark Knight uses violence for kicks and thrills, as if the You Complete Me stuff between Harvey Dent, the Joker, and Batman provided a moral carapace for Nolan's dick-pulling. I don't like how in scenes with the two ferries the movie teeters on nihilism, then timidly pulls back. Then, in a scene whose racial politics -- hell, its politics, period -- are inscrutable, a dangerous black felon does the good deed that his white pussy counterpart can't find the courage to perform. Nolan's point is clear: it takes a man acquainted with evil to understand what's at stake. He wants it both ways: he mourns the loss of man's capacity for goodness, yet can't give goodness the space it deserves without cooking up a way for the good man to soil his hands -- all the while making the metaphorical soil on those hands kinky and thrilling. It reminds me of what Pauline Kael once said about Flashdance: Nolan is like a sleazo putting the make on you.

As for Heath Ledger...what can I add? He's as good as you heard, and a pity that Nolan left him performing this Stalin-esque scourge by himself, without an antagonist worthy of him (the Joker's Tati-esque sashay in a nurse's gown while a hospital disintegrates behind him is one of the movie's few imaginative bits of poetry). While it's possible a character like Edmund haunted Shakespeare's sleep -- how couldn't he? -- the playwright also created three-dimensional portraits of decency (Cordelia) and tortured consciences (Gloucester). If you think King Lear allusions are pretentious, keep in mind that it's as high art that The Dark Knight has been received by fans. Nolan is frightened of his own creation, though, and this can't be right.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'll remember Pitchfork Music Festival this year for the great times with friends I too rarely see and the heat (as a South Floridian I thought I could deal with humidity in every state in the Union) more than the performances, although most of them were serviceable.

Surprises: the Dirty Projectors, an act which sounded tinny and altogether too comfortable with ethereality on record, created a compelling mix of the Raincoats meets Cocteau Twins.

Disappointments: Jarvis Cocker, running through songs from a solo album which was at best Not Bad; the frantic Caribou need to learn that sex isn't all climax, especially if the foreplay isn't particularly memorable; it wasn't too difficult for Dinosaur Jr's music to get tangled in J. Mascis' hair.

Highlights: No other act reveled in its newfound celebrity like the Hold Steady. After stellar reviews and their biggest sales to date, Craig Finn acted like the born frontman he was. What a relief to see a child of indie who makes no bones about converting the biggest audiences he can find. "Sequestered in Memphis" sounded like I'd been hearing it since 1983; Vampire Weekend played mesmerizing versions of "I Stand Corrected" and a new track that outdid Animal Collective in Mupppets-style animal grunts; King Khan and the Shrines' unabashed fun and embrace of histrionics shone through the mud and grime; No Age didn't waste a note; neither did Ghostface and Raekwon, who were models of professionalism in a set that incorporated everything from "C.R.E.A.M." to "We Celebrate."

Coitus interruptus: Cut Copy, who thanks to an airport delay and a curfew only played about 20 minutes. Although I didn't catch them, the excitement for their aborted set eclipsed Spoon's (perfectly fine) performance.
I've been Pitchforking for the last four days: at the music festival and hanging out with friends. See you on Monday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yes, yes, I know "Caught Up In You" is the kitschklassic, but I can't resist "Second Chance," .38 Special's only other Top Ten single and probably disowned by everyone involved. Guess I'm a sucker for "Every Breath You Take" rhythm guitar chugs and a sweet, warm unpretentious vocal (especially in the quasi-acapella part in the last third) that yoga never taught Sting.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Remember Imani Coppola? She's back, and, boy, is she mad at a certain female British Grammy winner.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I made the appalling mistake of relistening to my tape copy of Ultravox's The Collection. My fourteen-year-old self sure had a weakness for anything vaguely resembling Roxy Music. But Bryan Ferry ignored his adenoids.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The best non-fiction book I've read this year is Rick Perlstein's Nixonland. George Will's right: Perlstein loves the melodramatic apercu, and he doesn't have show much respect for conservatism besides acknowledging the masterly way in which it exploited a cultural moment; but reading Nixonland a few weeks after Sean Willentz's Age of Reagan -- another book by a liberal scion assessing the conservative ascendancy of the last 30 years -- I'm not sure how else conservatives could have, to use the jargon of the day, "positioned" themselves otherwise. As repugnant as most of the language and attitudes struck by organizers of the so-called New Politics and New Left were, as blinkered as they were to how badly Nixon's Silent Majority received their hopes for racial/social harmony, the demagogues of the right surpassed them in deviousness and stridency, creating a world in which the smiling face of Ronald Reagan could render Nixonism obsolete while consolidating its strategies (liberals AND conservatives forget how defiant then-Governor Reagan of California looked in the face of student revolt; he struck an almost Maoist pose of adamantine resistance: authority incarnate.

Regardless, Nixonland reads like the best novel Norman Mailer or Gore Vidal never wrote. It begins with an unexpected juxtaposition: Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act -- buttressed by the knowledge that he's just won one of the greatest popular landslides in American history -- five days before the first series of Watts riots begins. His ludicrous claim that these were "the most hopeful times since Christ was born in Bethlehem" was the most politically obtuse statement made by this most brutally effective of post-New Deal politicians. Smelling blood, two-time loser and former vice president Richard Nixon began the latest, most personally demeaning, and, ultimately, greatest demonstration of what Garry Wills once called his talent for mobilizing resentment towards those in power. From Perlstein's own afterword:
I have written of the rise, between the years 1965 and 1972, of a nation that had had believed itself to be at consensus instead becoming one of incommensurate visions of apocalypse: two loosely defined congeries of Americans, each convinced that should the other triumph, everything decent and true and worth preserving would end.
A bit pretentious, this, especially if we remember that sneaky old Thomas Jefferson undermined his two presidential predecessors by paying surrogates in the press to run smears. But Jefferson never attended conventions as riotous as the '68 and '72 ones hosted by the Democrats. We're all a little more conservative now, so the incendiary language and Dada stunts pulled on the floor of the '72 convention strikes me as submission, as playing to the GOP's worst suspicions. Perlstein's point is that, as residents of Nixonland, we accept the cynicism of modern politics without blinking -- a dubious development to say the least. Let's just say that Tricky Dick might have approved of Obama's FISA bill reversal.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I'm not sure what's worse: Barack Obama voting like Bill Clinton never existed in the FISA "compromise" bill, or his ceding ground to John McCain. I defer to Glenn Greenwald, who's mercilessly followed this story:
Will Democrats ever learn that the reason they are so easily depicted as "weak" isn't because they don't copy the Republican policies on national security enough, but rather, because they do so too much, and thus appear (accurately) to stand for nothing? Of course, many Democrats vote for these policies because they believe in them, not because they are "surrendering." Still, terms such as "bowing," "surrendering," "capitulating," and "losing" aren't exactly Verbs of Strength. They're verbs of extreme weakness --- yet, bizarrely, Democrats believe that if they "bow" and "surrender," then they will avoid appearing "weak." Somehow, at some point, someone somewhere convinced them that the best way to avoid appearing weak is to be as weak as possible.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I loathe these tasks I assign myself. Idolator asks us to list the albums we love most from each year that I've been alive. This list makes me loathe being alive so many years.

1974 Roxy Music - Country Life
1975 Neil Young - Zuma
1976 Joni Mitchell - Hejira
1977 David Bowie - Low
1978 Talking Heads - More Songs...
1979 Michael Jackson - Off The Wall
1980 Pretenders - s/t
1981 X - Wild Gift
1982 King Sunny Ade - Juju Music
1983 Go-Betweens - Before Hollywood
1984 Replacements - Let It Be
1985 Scritti Politti - Cupid & Psyche '85
1986 Prince & The Revolution - Parade
1987 Rosanne Cash - King's Record Shop
1988 Pet Shop Boys - Introspective
1989 New Order - Technique
1990 LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out
1991 A Tribe Called Quest - Low-End Theory
1992 Madonna - Erotica
1993 U2 - Zooropa
1994 Hole - Live Through This
1995 Tricky - Maxinquaye
1996 Sleater Kinney - Call The Doctor
1997 Pavement - Brighten The Corners
1998 Outkast - Aquemini
1999 Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs
2000 PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
2001 Bob Dylan - "Love & Theft"
2002 DJ Shadow - The Private Press
2003 Dizzee Rascal - Boy in Da Corner
2004 Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse
2005 The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
2006 Ghostface - Fishscale
2007 Robert Wyatt - Comicopera

Monday, July 7, 2008

Andrew Sullivan posts this not terribly surprising bit of news about the mood in the John McCain camp:
“While the Old Guard are now calmly re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the younger staffers involved in the RNC/John McCain campaign are just collecting a paycheck and going through the motions. The McCain campaign is merely a resume-builder for them. None of these young staffers really believes in John McCain and none really expects him to win, and the honest ones don't mind saying so -- privately. Most importantly, none of the Beltway conservatives, young or old, can give you a conservative argument in favor of McCain's election other than (a) "Obama would be worse" and (b) "What about judges? ... The GOP is already psychologically defeated. John McCain's campaign is a symptom, not a cause, of this mindset.”
This confirms that the election is Obama's to lose. So why do Democrats act like it's 2002 and they need to hurry and meet the GOP in the center? As I noted once, a potentially historic realignment may occur in Congress yet Obama's worried about looking too leftist? Over drinks this Saturday my clever friend Andy would not answer the question, only stooping to mutter that Obama's compromise on, say, the FISA bill was "morally" reprehensible but "politically" brilliant, which is, I suppose, shorthand for "necessary."

Another try

After almost a year of residence in the slough of despond, Thomas' superb eighties R&B blog returns...with a review whose wrongheadedness just flattens me (I'll get my revenge: he loves the execrable "Praying For Time").
If you want a see a film in which Short Circuit's No. 5 falls in love with a fellow robot who resembles the Vibrating Egg of Alvy Singer's dreams, go see WALL-E. If you miss Ally Sheedy, you may not like WALL-E (the ship's auto-pilot evokes the computer in Flight of the Navigator, another mid eighties kid favorite). If you suspect that Pixar's writer-director stable gets too much credit for self-consciously bright, clever banter, blame the state of American screenwriting, and marvel at the faith writer-director Andrew Stanton places in his visuals (whose depth of color and adherence to simple geometric design reminded me of Jacques Tati's Playtime) and his unemphatic didacticism, if that makes any sense: junk food and technology may render us obese and immobile, but according to Stanton this is not without its charms.

Still, I wasn't as knocked out by this as so many people were. The nearly silent first third drags in places -- I nodded off once -- and I found EVE's voice a major irritant; the timbre in which she'd call out for WALL-E was the girlish equivalent of the kid's screech in "Lassie." Also: maybe I'm a jerk for insisting on a dour ending in a Pixar picture, but the enormous popularity of the Harry Potter series tells me that kids are more than up to the challenge of accepting death, especially when it's coupled with the usual no-brainer theme of self-sacrifice. Producers need to stop underestimating the intelligence of the average child.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Apotheosis of Liberty"

From Thomas Jefferson's last letter:

...May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Momentarily setting aside tepid defenses of the likes of Douglas Feith, Christopher Hitchens submits to a simulation of waterboarding and produces a damn fine bit of autobiographical narrative that avoids exploitation and hubris. Best bit:
And so then I said, with slightly more bravado than was justified, that I’d like to try it one more time. There was a paramedic present who checked my racing pulse and warned me about adrenaline rush. An interval was ordered, and then I felt the mask come down again. Steeling myself to remember what it had been like last time, and to learn from the previous panic attack, I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it. Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the bed covers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.
I'd like to see Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh (who praises him in an upcoming New York Times Magazine cover story as one of his favorite writers) cite this on their radio shows.


Shotgun Stories (2008). Low-key, almost too low-key, examination of a trio of brothers in rural Arkansas whose contempt for the father they barely knew sparks a Hatfield-McCoy war between them and their half-brother counterparts. To speak of how well writer-director Jeff Nichols does "atmosphere" is redundant; every film influenced by David Gordon Green's George Washington this decade summons the heat, dead-moths-in-the-screen, and inertia of small town life (Green produced this one) as routinely as John Ford films used sagebrush. The film could use more juice, though: the uneven cast treats the few jokes with kid gloves. In its poky way, Shotgun Stories' fatalism – "tragedy" is the wrong word for characters this lacking in self-awareness – seems felt, and the brothers' inarticulateness dovetails with our knowledge of how events can spiral so quickly beyond anyone's ability to stop it.

The Furies (1950). As a rancher who's like Lear with a sense of humor, Walter Huston cackles, lunges, and curses through his last role; it's a fitting epitaph. He's lucky to have Barbara Stanwyck, who plays his defiant daughter, as an antagonist. After a string of post-Double Indemnity stinkers which employed her for little more than a snarl and remembrance of evil past, it's a relief to see her in a role in which she demonstrates how singularly she blends self-righteousness and compassion. She's ruthless because she's gotta be, and contrite when her loins demand it, especially whenever Wendell Corey walks into the room (this is one of the few movies from the period in which the filmmakers don't even pretend that the sexual connection between the two characters is subtextual). As for Corey, whom you might remember as Jimmy Stewart's cop buddy in Rear Window, he's as underrated as Huston is underrated; his self-mocking swagger cools some of Stanwyck's ardor (it helps that he's shaved and coiffed to resemble a young Abe Lincoln). Available in a sparkling new Criterion print, The Furies is the last of Anthony Mann's taut Westerns to see release; now that most of them are available, watch them in sequence.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mid-year report: singles/tracks

Nothing's really blown me away this year quite like the Frankie Knuckles remix of the only Antony vocal I can imagine championing five years from now.

In (rough) descending order:

Hercules & Love Affair - "Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)"
Cut Copy - "So Haunted"
The-Dream feat. Rihanna - "Livin' A Lie"
The Juan MacLean - "Happy House"
Mary J. Blige - "Fade Away"
The Hold Steady - "Sequestered in Memphis"
Lil Wayne - "Shoot Me Down"
Ashlee Simpson - "Little Miss Obsessive"
My Morning Jacket - "Touch Me I'm Going To Screan Part 2"
No Age - "Here Should Be My Home"
The B-52's - "Eyes Wide Open"
Donna Summer - "Stamp Your Feet"
Wale - "The Artistic Integrity"
Al Green - "Stay With Me (By The Sea)"
Portishead - "Machine Gun"
The album I've played most this year is the new Steinski comp What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective, by which I mean I've played it about 16 times since acquiring it yesterday. Speaking as a guy who's held DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... in his pantheon for the last nine years, I have no doubts that, in this case at least, ground zero represents the apotheosis of mixing and sampling; it really wouldn't get better than what Steve Stein and Douglas DiFranco accomplished on "The Payoff Mix," "Lesson 3 (History of Hip-Hop)," and "It's Up To You (Television Mix)." Humor (bawdy and subtle), rhythm, flow, and beats – imagine Flavor-Flav and Chuck D in one aorta spewing the detritus of pop and political culture of the last 40 years. Finally, as someone with no use for Camelot, I couldn't believe I was more moved by the JFK assassination sound collage than the 9-11 one. Credit the way Stein and DiFranco scratch Walter Cronkite saying "time" at a key moment.

It's July


Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

– George Herbert