The [Ninja Turtles] henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady have hijacked the musical genres for us just like the Lone Ranger hijacked the William Tell Overture for our parents.

- xkcd

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


The Milk of Human Kindness

1) Yeti
It starts off with a nifty little keyboard line and sems to walk that fine line between pop and electronica. It reminds me of The Postal Service for the simple reason that I find them extrordinarily good at the same type of thing. Not a ton of musical inventiveness but it's a nice intro and puts me in a nice mood as I start out the album.

2) Subotnick
A distinct change of pace. Slow everything way down, sound a little out-of-tune and more of that. Feels kind of like someone noodling on an organ but just repeating some chords over and over again. Builds to a little brass fanfare. onwards into...

3) A Final Warning
This one starts out with some darker sounds and some twittering and then provides a, to my taste, little too high-pitched background noise. I've listened to this song three times in a row and can't stay focused on it. It's alright but not my favorite and it is kind of disappointing nicec "Subotnick" even provides a lead in to it.

4) Lord Leopard
Synthesized trumpets and some shouts of "hya!" open it up into a nice little not-quite-dancing counterpoint. All of the electronic parts quickly coalesce, however, making it into a nice little neo-lounge (can I say that?) song.

5) Bees
And here we have the anthem for the album. This song is quite nice. It starts out smoothly and with a little harmonica and then manages to almost be electro-country(?). Yes, I am inventing new genre's on the fly because I like to combine nusual words. It picks up the tempo and brings it back down a few times. It makes me curioous about where he's going next. It provides me with horn sounds and cool beats. In short, it's an excellent song.

6)Hands First
In the grand tradition of artistes, make a nice song and then follow it a brief deluge of noise. Here's about 10 seconds of noise (drums + brass + feedback all in one giant tussle that resolve to a nice harmony) to separate Bees from #7. It serves it's purpose nicely. Think of it as the ginger between different flavors of sushi. Now your mind is cleared for the next song (note to self: this could be a useful trick for next mix CD)

7) Hello Hammerheads
This song is much more laid back. As with the rest of the album, it keeps a minimal electronic beat underneath and thewn he is sort of singing/chanting some stuff that I have't ever bothered to make out. All in all a sort of blah son for me.

8) Brahminy Kite
Here he picks it back up again. There are some different musical and cultural aspects clashing against each other. A laid back organ placed against a thrumming sond and some pulsing high-hat. It's a nice kaleidescope of noise. I don't really know what to do with the song but it is alright and one of those pleasant little suprises that make an album more than a collection of singles.

It starts off with some kind of off-kilter stuff (not too suprising for the album) that I'm out of euphamisms for. Then it adds a few layers of complexity, revisiting the original theme and fades in maybe 20-30sec

10) Pelican Narrows
Piano to keyboard and some synth sound that is just "not quite right" and I find interesting. It was my pick as a "cool down" song on my May CD because it provides a lot of soothing piano sounds over some more interesting beats and percussion without dragging itself out enough that you get tired of it. It seems like a good way to rewind as some long piano runs down the scale say "hey, we're all done here."

11) Barnowl
Soft, soothing vocals over a muted palette of electronic drone. It's all so cliche but I like the song. Well, maybe it's just my writing that is. Too many Pitchfork reviews or something. Onto phase two, where the song picks up the tempo and adds a little backbone. Still not too threatening but we're not going out on a whimper. Building...building...and we're back to the chorus which feels a little more energized now but still the soft vocals. Then we fade out...and oh look, it's a fake we've got one more burst of energy with some drumming and then we're finished, left with a faintly ringing cymbal.


So there's my track-by-track review of the latest Caribou CD. I would've gone to see them live last month but they were paired against Architecture in Helsinki one of my new even more favoriter bands. And thus, even with the openers of The Russian Futuists I spurned their show (though not without moments of teeth gnashing and hair pulling).

As always coments appreciated. I don't really know what the point of this was. I wrote this as I listened to the appropriate track. This wasn't the first time I listened to the CD but it is the most focused listen I think I've really given it. Overall impression was positive but I thought that if he got rid of the beat on a song or two that would seem to give him a little more variety and free him from whatever musical box all of the descriptions get trapped into. Maybe that's just me and my guitar driven heritage, not sure.

Trying to stay interesting

Today is one of those days where I've just been reading and don't really have a whole lot more to say myself.

There is a whole new suite of China info courtesy of NYT columnist Krugman writing on China (here; registration, see bug-me-not) which resulted in a some response posts at Crooked Timber and other places. Plus, I just started reading aa new book on China so now I need to digest a little bit of that.

More on China again Friday probably.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Everybody Loves China

Alright, I'm going to keep on the China love because it is interesting and it is something that I have, at least, experienced and so I figure I can talk about it without looking like a complete fool/tool. To badly paraphrase Plato, everybody thinks they can be a politician and I'm no different.

Without further ado, more China talk.

I'm continuing in my attempts to understand Pundita's take on China. It is a rather pointless quest, by and large, but it provides me some level of focus and so I'll stick with it. Plus, it got me a comment and they're still novel enough that I'll pander to anything that might get me more responses. But I said I was going to get to substance...

Her latest post is a reference to another speech and both make some interesting points. Plus, there's a post about rural democracy and technology and I'd really like to go on about that.

The speech by Eric T Miller (bio; scroll halfway down, sorry) presents a number of facts about China and concludes that China and India are major players. One somewhat arbitrary point he proposes is that China will be undercutting US and Japanese automakers within the next 10 years. That seems pretty reasonable to me. In fact, at this point, I wouldn't put any money in any auto industry until they get themselves sorted out. Another point he makes is that China still has not sorted out their power supply problems. Between the large population and exponentially increasing use of electricity it is hard for China to keep up. The need for electricity has resulted in projects like the Three Gorges Dam. Talking about it the other day at work, I compared it to the TVA work during the depression. While the analogy is flawed, I think there are some important comparisons:
1) Trying to bootstrap up a significant portion of the country/population
2) Demonstrating that the prosperity/growth of the country is intended for all, not just the elite
3) Questionable decisions along the energy/environmental balance are exacerbated through sheer scale
4) Providing jobs for people that otherwise don't have any

China has a very public campaign to "improve the West" part of China. Some of this is vital to any long-term hope of retaining Xinjiang and Tibet. Some of it is to reinforce support throughout the country and prevent wholesale abandonment of these key rural areas.

The other point from the speech is the question of protectionism and currency valuations. Here, I'll agree that there are important decisions to be made but admit I'm not the best person to make them. How this plays out seems terribly important to any chance of the American economy staying afloat. However, the byzantine connections between China and US economically will hopefully manage to preserve some shred of sanity.

Seeing as how Pundita apparently agrees with most of Mr. Miller's points, this again causes me to wonder about her views of China as some intense dragon. China knows it has enough problems of its own to sort out for the moment. Everyone I've ever met in China seems to agree upon that. Opposed to that, China does consider itself the elder brother of all of Asia (at least Confucianist Asia) and does believe it should get the respect that + its monster economy deserve. The Chinese have historically been a terrifically introverted people. From its name of "Middle Kingdom" to actually going to a trouble of building a 2000mi (that's a bald guess) wall, they have never rarely gone looking to conquer the world and instead prefer to just be the center of attention. This is a crucial difference. I don't think it can be overlooked. It plays out is a strong desire by the Chinese to be viewed as #1 but I don't know that it leads to this desire to spread tyranny across the globe. I just don't know that they think like that. After all, Mao was still busily trying to make himself the next emperor and prove his calligraphy was impressive.

Alas, I am cut short by real life and the need to leave work. I will try and continue this tomorrow. Maybe it's a start. At least it is some words on the screen.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

More Pundita

Pundita has more to say about China and here I tend to think she shows that while she is interested in China she surely doesn't grasp the whole picture. After all, China sits on some of the biggest deposits of natural resources. They have gobs of coal, some offshore oil, and really lack the means to access their resources more than a actual lack of supplies. Or, more negatively, that they have the foresight to burn through everyone else's stuff first.

She's clearly much more of an optimist on the Bush front and the idea that our actions are, in fact, supporting democracy all over the world. I won't contradict her because , well, I don't know the truth and I would love to find out Bush really is a great guy (well, some part of me would; I expect my conceptions are pretty set at this point).

Aside from all that, she says:

When one thinks about it, there is no way to have anything but a 'stage show' national democratic government in many regions of the world. This is because rural peoples (often the vast majority of the population) don't have access to the means that allow democratic peoples in developed nations to participate in the voting/campaign process.

I think that is a dangerous statement to make about anything. Poll s have shown that in the US over 50% of people think politicians are for ideas they have explicitly rejected. I'd guess the basis for that is people assume the politician they support must be for the other ideas that they support. I don't see how democracy is ever more than a 'stage show.' Well, any modern, representative democracy. I'm losing track of my main points here.

First, she seems to be implying rather more aggressive foreign posture to China than I have typically seen. Most of the time, China seems somewhat tentative in those big, international forums; Perhaps they are more comfortable with the backroom bickering. (insert bad Chinese stereotype here)

Second, I'll agree that, at least on the weapons market, China was pretty much a cash'n'carry kind of place. I don't know what anybody was thinking to give them those kinds of toys. Reagan, Bush I, Clinton. bah.

Third, is her claim "[China] claims that their dictatorship is compatible with democratic capitalism, and that autocratic government is a key to success in many developing countries." I'd really like to see some evidence to support that. Have they really argued against democracy? After all, within China, the CCP tries to pretend it is a little bit of a democracy and eventually they'll get there. So I just really don't quite buy the thrust of that quote.

The unfortunate thing for me, however, is I don't have any real evidence to back up my ideas either. I will point out this post that seems to, at least, agree with me that China is not quite the arch-rival it could be. Pundita seems determined that the US really still is the glowing beacon of freedom in an otherwise dark world. I know we play a unique role, by virtue of our willingness to break out the "big stick," but I think, for me, this seems so aggressive.

I hate to back away from a strong conclusion but I know there are gaping holes in my knowledge. I did want to put something out there and I am considering trying to write Pundita something and this is a first step towards getting my thoughts organized. So, hopefully, a conclusion will follow but for now the answer seems to mostly be, I disagree.

limits of logic

So I just had one of those conversations last night. It was one of those conversations you can't quite believe or understand why you're having sober. It was a conversation on the place of logic and reason in human motivations and actions.

I am currently going through a Hume phase. I once took a Scottish Philosophy seminar (don't ask) and I had this quote drummed into my head repeatedly, "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions." From this, I make the argument that you can make a logical framework to look at and understand things but you can't apply any motivation, any motive force, until you have some values to apply o this structure. These values are innate/environmental/whatever but they cannot be determined logically. Because how can you define love, compassion, respect, or justice logically?

Last night, that was pretty convincing. My conversational combatant was never able to work himself out from behind those initial premises. Of course, this morning it doesn't look quite so clean cut. I'd say it doesn't seem impossible to, logically deduce some kind of self-interest. Perhaps from that you can manage to argue for other values; utilititarian bases for all this is what pops into my mind but I'm sure there are other ways to go about this. Most famously, Kant tried to establish his categorical imperitive, although I don't really buy that myself. I know there is Wittgenstein but I don't know enough about him (add it to the list).

So that's my current intellectual noodle: Can you logically motivate yourself? Or, to try an alternate phrasing, does logic ever provide necessity?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Latest stuff

My head is all in a whirl. This last month I have just been absorbing all kinds of random information and have been reading all sorts of, mostly, unrelated things. This ranges from: history of California's Gold Rush, Antarctic exploration, Mieville's Perdito Street Station, lots of blogs, Gunther Grass's Crabwalk, Hornsby's How to be Good, and Gao Xingjian's Soul Mountain.

I think I have gotten into the "too much information" mode. I need to try and start doing analyses and that's only going to happen if I start writing. So I am giving myself this week to finish these up and then I will try and start writing some stuff. Not that it will be anything great but that I will at least fill up some screen space with sprawling text of many kinds.

I will probably start sooner because, well, because I'm not really very patient. I think I might have a candidate for another contributor too. We shall see. I think that would help vastly because me spouting off about stuff, well, that's not even what *I* had intended for this thing much less something I imagine anyone else would be interested in reading. Ahh well, such is life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


I think I'm going to have to add an explicit China section to the blogroll. But here's a few things to check out that have caught my eye recently

1) Pundita -- foriegn policy from someone who sems to support the idea of a "bush Doctrine" (shudder) but seems quite intelligent and I have to respect anyone who can say

Yet economic development and free market capitalism are not fundamental to a strong society; the input of the people in the society is the fundamental factor. The Bush Doctrine implicitly recognizes this.

In typical Yankee tinkering fashion, the Bush administration has said in effect, "Whoops! Back to the drawing board! It's democracy, not economics."

I mean to say THAT about Bush who is generally someone I look at with the implicit understanding that decisions are made based on terror, economics, and finally common good. Not quite sure how to digest all of this just yet.

2) this one's for Ben (well, and I'd like to hope for me too someday) -- Chinese internet lingo

3) In-depth reporting on the village revolt story from the Washington Post. It's an eye-opener, I think.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Liveblogging my reading habits

OK, so not really but I have been wanting to post about my reading (because I've been doing that pretty heavily this last month) and I just started Shackleton's The Heart of the Antartic. Towards the beginning, he provides brief biographies of his crew members. It is then that I realize Earnest Shackleton, leader of the voyage to the Antartic in 1907 was 33. He has, among the 15 of the shore crew, two that are 21, and several others in their twenties. I never really thouhgt about their ages and, while presuming they weren't too old, I never really thought about it. One of the crewmembers dropped out of Bristol University College to tag along to Antartica. Can you imagine his parents reaction (at least nowadays)? Our son dropped out of college to go wandering around a frozen wasteland.

All I can say is that I am so jealous. I love explorers. I have yet to figure out how exactly to be one myself but it is what I desperately want. The idea of seeking out someplace new is thrilling. At the same time, the whole idea is quite terrifying and the fact that I haven't actually done any probably shows I really haven't tried to hard to fulfill this "life amibition." Also, to this point, he's described the work of outfitting the expedition and again I am impresed at the fact that they do this but that they do it with such basics. Reindeer fur sleeping bags, leather shoes, and some canvas jackets are adequate supplies (not to mention tons of beef and soup).

So far, that's all I've read but I am intrigued. After all, how many people can get to with in 100 miles of the South Pole and have the presence of mind to say we can't make it the last little bit and get back in time. That takes some restraint and self-control.

In contrast, I live in San Francisco and have been to Yosemite once, Muir Woods once, Point Reyes once, and that's about it. I miss BenBen (and seeing as how he's about to get married, we probably will never do anything quite as crazy again) and the chance to galavant acros the world. Oh, the pipe dreams we had and the faith I had that we wold be able to live them. Now he's getting married and in the legal profession and I'm avoiding grad school rather diligently. It's times like these that make me wish I could get off my butt and figure out how to travel the world -- and do something useful at the same time.

Enough about me, I better try and act on this spirit while it is present.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Three reasons I love the internet

People making real life Mario "?" blocks and putting them up randomly.

This blog for providingridiculously funny stuff all too infrequently. It is still hil-frickin'-larious though.

And here for random, quasi-indie comics featuring birds (and some guest hosting llamas).

Quick little rant

Of all the summers to leave Chicago!

This year it has not one but two one shot music festivals that I'm dying to atend. I am going to attend Lollapalooza (courtesy of a fair amount of peer pressure from the Fearsome Foursome and a fair amount of boredom with my life right now) but I really wish I could get to the Intonation Festival as well. I'm so jealous. If I had more vacation available, I think I'd go despite the drain on finances.

Ok, I'm really done now.

Player Hater

I mentioned a while back that somebody hit me up about their music. Well it was the man/band Player Hater. The music is fairly lo-fi with a nice sound to it. While recorded non-professionally it sounds clean. I haven't figured out what review system to apply but right now, the old letter grades come to mind and I'd probably give him a B-. The positives are that everything sems to be in about the right place. The problem is that place never really changes. I thought most of the songs ran on and they ended up sounding fairly similiar. I guess I'm not a great reviewer because I can't really figure out a whole lot more to say about it. Maybe because I came away from it without really feeling like it was something I enjoyed. I didn't dislike it; I just didn't really get excited about it.

I still find it somewhat flattering to get the e-mail (even though he seems to have been pretty widespread with his flattery) so yeah, me and my readership of, well, two, assuming my IP readings are valid, appreciate it. That's it for now.

Closure on the music front

Below is the tracklist and I will probably take a breather from music for the next few weeks. However, I have been reading up a storm and so I will try to talk about that some.

1 Chase – Open Up Wide

2 The Magnificents – The Apollo Creed

3 Jill Scott – A Long Walk (A Touch of Jazz remix)

4 the evens - shelter two

5 The wrens – this boy is exhausted

6 Eels – Mother Mary

7 The Zutons – You Will You Won’t

8 Of Montreal – Art Music Snob

9 Canasta – Slow Down Chicago

10 The Neins – The Astoria Hotel

11 Architecture in Helsinki – It’5

12 The Russian Futurists – Our Pen’s Out of Ink

13 Herbie Hancock – The Eye of the Hurricane

14 Jazzanova – Dance the Dance (Atjazz remix)

15 Caribou – Pelican Narrows

16 Comets on Fire – Wild Whiskey

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

CD finished

The CD is burned, the cover art is made and I head out to the post office in twenty minutes. huzzah. I'll post tracklisting next week (so no peeking). Ther were a few (three) songs that didn't make it on the CD because I couldn't find the actual CD, only the mp3.

The Sames - In Liberty Lights
C Average - Buckler
Seven Foot Four - Last Days of Summer

So have at those. Also, I got my first e-mail from an artist trying to push his CD on almost any music-ish blog. I'll try and comment/review that this week. Alright, just trying to keep this thing from getting horribly out of date.