Friday, February 8, 2013

12 O'Clock Track: "The best [Fleetwood Mac] song that never made it to a record album"

Posted By on 02.08.13 at 12:00 PM

Thunder only happens when its raining.
  • Thunder only happens when it's raining.
Today I'm going to Los Angeles for a six-day vacation. People associate cities with all sorts of things—memories, dreams, or pieces of art. For whatever reason, I think of Fleetwood Mac when I think of LA. The sound of the music and my impression of LA are inseparable.

Like LA, Fleetwood Mac initially gives off a tacky and artificial impression. Their music has glossy surfaces and breezy instrumentation—cleanly recorded acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and silky keyboard parts—it's the kind of music you expect to play in stores where you buy candles and bath products. But those surfaces are deceptive: pay attention to Fleetwood Mac's music and you'll find that it's often quite sophisticated and nuanced; and sometimes, as on 1979's postpunk double album Tusk, (their best album), it can be bizarre. While I'd imagine most people hear FM rock, soft pop, and pop-country, I often hear power-pop, dub, and the art-rock of Brian Eno in a lot of their music (and all those other ostensibly less interesting genres as well).

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Outkast isn't reuniting—deal with it

Posted By on 01.16.13 at 01:10 PM

Its a remix
  • It's a remix
Last weekend Atlanta rapper and Outkast member Big Boi posted a remix of Frank Ocean's "Pink Matter" on his Soundcloud page. The track first appeared on the R&B crooner's excellent Channel Orange, and the original includes a contribution from Big Boi's beloved old rap buddy, Andre 3000; the two haven't made a proper Outkast album since 2006's Idlewild soundtrack. And because both members of Outkast appear on Big Boi's "Pink Matter" remix, many folks cast it as a kinda-sorta Outkast reunion, much to Andre's chagrin.

Yesterday Andre took a break from doing his "Gillette shit" to talk with Spin magazine and clear the air about the "Pink Matter" remix as well as his involvement in a reworked version of a recent T.I. track that Andre appears on called "Sorry." As he told Spin, his contributions to those tracks were as a solo artist and there was no talk of them being part of some Outkast project:

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Kanye West and the perils of cool-dad syndrome

Posted By on 01.02.13 at 11:33 AM

rap dad Jay-Z and rap dad to-be Kanye in the video for Otis
  • Rap dad Jay-Z and rap-dad-to-be Kanye in the video for "Otis"
On Sunday night Kanye West announced that his uber-celeb beau, Kim Kardashian, is pregnant. The tide of responses made it feel as if no one before Kanye and Kim had ever conceived a human child, which mirrors some reactions people have about anything West does these days. The headline to Alexandra Petri's Washington Post blog post sums everything up: "Kanye West and Kim Kardashian having a baby, so the 'fiscal cliff' can wait."

Kanye obviously isn't even close to being the first hip-hop artist to prepare for fatherhood, but I have to wonder what he'll do to change the rap-dad game. It's been nearly a year since Jay-Z dropped "Glory," a song dedicated to his daughter Blue Ivy Carter (who was born just a couple days prior to the release of "Glory") and also features the newborn, or rather a recording of her crying. Will Ye try and top it? Should we expect an album-length ode to the bundle of joy he's expecting?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where else can you see Pablo Picasso and Yul Brynner in the same movie?

Posted By on 11.14.12 at 03:21 PM

Cocteau, wearing false eyes and standing next to a statue
  • Cocteau, wearing false eyes and standing next to a statue
When writing about Leos Carax, Reader emeritus film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has often compared the director to Jean Cocteau, another French artist who approached filmmaking as a vehicle for autobiographical poetry. Cocteau, of course, did much more than make movies: he wrote poems, novels, essays, and plays, choreographed ballets, and worked in a variety of visual arts. In all of these forms, he advanced a symbolist aesthetic that drew from classical mythology as well as his own dreams. His films, like Carax's current release Holy Motors, can be narcissistic and stubbornly inscrutable, though they're seldom ever boring. (It's worth noting that some of his straightforward melodramas, like The Eagle With Two Heads and Les Parents Terribles, are masterpieces of the form.) No Cocteau film proves this better than his last, The Testament of Orpheus (1960), which the artist describes at the start as "a striptease act, [which] gradually peel[s] away my body to reveal my naked soul."

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The week I learned about hot chicken

Posted By on 11.14.12 at 10:43 AM

Hot chicken, served right
  • Paul Lowry
  • Hot chicken, served right
I don't remember what I was doing, or reading. Just those words, "hot chicken," somewhere—somewhere on the page. On the Internet. (Am I writing like Peggy Noonan on Mitt Romney? That's just how I feel. About spice, about chicken.) "Hot chicken" is the kind of phrase that will force a wandering, preprandial mind to attention—so concise, so beguiling. So eight hours away, it turns out. Hot chicken is a Nashville specialty, lodged in the gastronomic lore of the place like goat barbecue is in Owensboro, Kentucky. Hot chicken, served most famously at a Nashville vendor called Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, is famously hot. Michael Stern declared it "h-o-t": the full disarticulated-letter treatment. Spice is applied to the bird before it's cooked (cf buffalo wings, which are sauced afterward). Then the hot chicken is presented on a slice of white bread. With a piece of pickle on top. So simple it's elemental: spice, starch, pickle. The American bird.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Things to do with semicolons

Posted By on 09.20.12 at 06:40 AM

1) Abuse them.

2) On a long car ride—if you're not insane, this works best with another player—amuse each other by only speaking in sentences that involve two clauses, independent but related, that could conceivably be fused with a semicolon. Try it; this game is harder than, and as personally embarrassing as, it sounds.

3) Eschew the em dash.

4) Missionary style.

5) Use the semicolon to ingratiate yourself with a future employer by inking it onto your forearm, if you happen to work in the media industry. I did not actually get the semicolon tattoo with a job in mind, though my then future (now former) boss has joked that it was the reason she hired me. I actually didn't get the semicolon with much in mind at all, plus I was sober, so there's really no good story behind it: a friend of mine was learning to draw tattoos and offered to do simple designs for the cost of materials; I liked semicolons, so I thought I'd ask him to put one on my arm.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Beasts of the southern weird

Posted By on 08.09.12 at 03:06 PM

A few weeks ago Marc Smirnoff was fired as the editor of (one of my favorite magazines!) the Oxford American, which he founded in 1992. His longtime girlfriend, Carol Ann Fitzgerald, got the ax too. Things got strange pretty quickly—the two were locked out of the office, there was a mysterious "investigation" into them, and many people were saying many unkind things on Internet comment boards about Smirnoff's reputation. Then things got stranger: the other day Smirnoff (with some nominal help from Fitzgerald, apparently, though it looks to be mostly his project) launched a website that's called—my hand to god—, with which he intends to exonerate himself.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

What's destroying our productivity this week?

Posted By on 08.02.12 at 03:40 PM

  • Evelyn Saenz
I'll tell you what: this fucking Writer's Diet website, which was linked to in a recent New York Times blog post about "zombie nouns," adjectives or verbs or whatever that become nouns with the addition of suffixes ("-ism," "-ation," etc). The author, Helen Sword, mentions that academics love this practice especially, and I was reminded of the time I attempted to read, for recreation, Jose Esteban Munoz's book Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (nouns can become zombie nouns too, Sword notes, with the addition of a stupid suffix) but did not actually make it past the first paragraph. Here's why: "Queerness is an ideality . . . We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality." And so on—normal, intelligible, human-being words rendered not changed a bit, just with more annoyingality.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Gchat about sexuality, gender, and how they're relevant to our writing

Posted By on 07.12.12 at 02:26 PM

The Reader copy desk
  • ercwttmn
  • The Reader copy desk
What happens when two staff writers with backgrounds in copyediting have a discussion about gender, sexuality, and privacy? For one thing, they spend some time laying down ground rules about how things will be capitalized (don't worry, we cut that part out of the transcript). For another—well, they talk about some stuff. The chat below started with the much-discussed Atlantic article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" but quickly moved on due to the fact that one of us hadn't actually read the article.

Sam: I thought [the Atlantic article] was totally underwhelming. I read it once and thought it was sort of blandly inoffensive and then I reread it on the train this morning and started scribbling angry notes in the margins.

Julia: In reaction to what?

Sam: Maybe I need an adult to talk me down. But it was so singularly focused on not just, like, run-of-the-mill upper-class women, but actually basically two types of people—diplomats and CEOs, or "C-level jobs," as the author put it—that the advice it offered would seem to be extremely limited.

Like at a certain point she's talking about her work in the State Department, where she's obviously got an insane schedule, and she says something about "the minute I found myself in a job that is typical of the vast majority of working women" to illustrate a point about "working long hours on someone else's schedule," but it's like, man, the vast majority of working women don't report to Hillary Clinton.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sin gle in Ch i ca go: an erasure poem

Posted By on 07.10.12 at 09:32 AM

Whats missing from Stephanie Rosenbloom's article Single in Chicago?
  • Matt Ephraim / Flickr
  • The marquee of Chicago's stately HICAG theater
Are we still talking about "Single in Chicago," the New York Times's "breathy prose" poem to River North and its denim-and-flannel-clad suburb, Wicker Park?

Fair enough.

While I think we might be better advised to turn our collective cold shoulder on Stephanie Rosenbloom's travelogue of Sex and the Second City, so as to starve it of clicks and discourage her editors from assigning any future travel travesties, I think there's a way to uncover what's missing from the piece, and without sending any more traffic its way. I cut up "Single in Chicago," removing 90 percent of the words while distilling the story's meaning. (If only every article on Brooklyn in the Styles section could get the Humument treatment as well.) Read the poem after the jump.

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