Best of Blah Blah Blog: Christmas Edition

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Tis the season to provide interesting and funny links courtesy of Blah Blah Blog:

1. Homeless Martians on Mars. The Mars rovers have had their solar panels mysteriously cleaned (which has miraculously increased the amount of power they create and then use) and the scientists at NASA have no clue. “Look, I don’t care what NASA tells us on this one. It is clearly alien intervention, most likely of the homeless squeegee kind.” Click here to read the entire story.

2. How to Kill A Polar Bear Without Using a Rifle. This is great – just great. ‘Nuff said.

3. Farm Sluts is a 17 minute movie starring Chris Parnel (from SNL) as an everyman whose life snowballs after he is caught accidentally looking at porn in the office. Click here to watch it and get ready to laugh.


Long Live The Pixies

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I saw the Pixies on Monday night and they rocked so hard I couldn’t believe it. It was “Death to the Pixies” (their live double album that I burn for you – post a comment if you want it) 20X better. They played all of their old songs, they were laughing and enjoying each other’s company on stage (which was nice to see due to the public infighting that transpired the last decade while they have been broken up) and they simply just rocked the place OUT. The crowd was great, it was really into it and amped up and to top it all off, just when I thought that my voice was too hoarse and my neck was tired from thrashing, they encored with Debaser (my favorite song of theirs) and Gigantic which launched me into the air dancing and jumping like a fool.

Maybe as an homage to Channukah, they have been playing 8 shows in 8 nights. Tonight is the last night and they are so nice they are playing twice – one show is at 5:30 and the other one starts midnight. I may try and get a ticket to the midnight show. If it wasn’t for finals this week, I would have made it to one of the other shows and in fact, I wasn’t planning on going tonight but after reading a few reviews today, I’m so psyched to see them again that I’m probably going to suck it up and hit up the late show.

I would have to say that this was on of the top 10 shows I have ever seen. As Newsday put it, Their repertoire isn’t legendary, but now you see fans go crazy for ‘Bone Machine’ or ‘Gouge Away.’ You see 18-to-22-year-olds singing every single word of every song. What the whole audience wants is what was obscure. Because of the way the band broke up, most of these people never thought they would ever get the chance to see The Pixies. So now, if you care about credible music from the underground, you have to see The Pixies. You have to get that notch on your bedpost.”

If you have the time and you respect alt-rock, this is a show you have to see. The Pixies are dead! Long Live the Pixies!

Keep reading to read the NY Times and Newsday reviews of the Sunday, 12/12 show…


Once Upon a Time, There Was This Really Loud Band\By KELEFA SANNEH. Published: December 13, 2004

It’s not hard to envy the Pixies. After more than 10 years apart, the members reunite, only to find that fans (and, if anyone cares, pop critics) love them more than ever. There are sold-out shows, glowing profiles, ecstatic fans. By now you’ve probably read at least one article about how the Pixies helped inspire a generation of bands, about how much Kurt Cobain loved them, about how water tasted different before they came along, about how the sky used to be a slightly different shade of blue.
But despite all that build-up – or maybe because of it – Saturday’s Pixies concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom was a rude, often exhilarating shock. It had been all too easy to forget about the Pixies’ ugliness: how fast they played, how loud they were, how nasty they sounded. Compared with the old-timers, the appealing postpunk act that opened the show, TV on the Radio, seemed positively quaint, even polite.

The concert was the opening night of a weeklong, eight-concert engagement, a tribute not only to the continuing popularity of the Pixies but also to the ticket-buying power of the many 30-something fans who remember the band from their college years. (It would be interesting to know how many devotees end up seeing more than one of the eight concerts.) The opening acts are different every night, ranging from pre-Pixies veterans (the reunited Mission of Burma tonight, the pioneering punk bassist Mike Watt next Saturday) to post-Pixies alt-rock bands (the shaggy Canadian collective Broken Social Scene on Tuesday, the feminist new-wave trio Le Tigre on Wednesday). Don’t be surprised if the Pixies out-clamor them all.

In 1986, when the Pixies were formed, it made sense that an underground rock band would want to make lots of noise. Shrieked lyrics and guitar tantrums were two signs that you weren’t angling to become radio fodder, two signs that you were part of the American postpunk movement – waving the flag, even if you weren’t quite marching in step.

But sometime in the 1990’s, things changed. The success of Nirvana helped introduce Pixiesish chaos to mainstream listeners who decided that screaming singers and screaminger guitars weren’t so hard on the ears after all. From Nine Inch Nails to Korn, shriekers earned a place in overground rock ‘n’ roll, and the tradition continues today. Turn on your local modern-rock station and wait a few minutes; you’ll probably hear the kind of racket that once kept bands off commercial radio.

Not surprisingly, some underground bands responded by getting quieter and sweeter. Those looking for an alternative to the high-decibel ennui of, say, Linkin Park can throw on a CD by the Postal Service or Interpol (to name just two big-name alternative acts), losing themselves in something quieter and more restrained. Emo bands and Ozzfest perennials still scream their lungs out, but lots of bands following in the Pixies’ wake have decided to pipe down.

So where does that leave the Pixies? Exactly where they started: alone. On Saturday night, it was a relief to hear that they still sounded utterly and gloriously like themselves, barreling through songs full of elements that might once have seemed disparate but now seem inseparable: the ruthless, sometimes deadpan drumming of David Lovering (in “Bone Machine,” he makes it almost impossible to find the downbeat); the precise disruptions of Joey Santiago’s electric guitar; Kim Deal’s warm slow-motion bass lines; the frantic strumming and gorgeous yelping of Black Francis, a k a Frank Black.

Most startling of all is how little the band’s live show has changed over the years. The Pixies’ old record label, 4AD, recently released a great retrospective DVD (it’s called simply “Pixies”) that includes a performance from 1988: Mr. Santiago and Mr. Lovering have hair, Black Francis looks a bit more streamlined, and Ms. Deal looks less like someone you might trust with your car keys, but the furious, off-kilter energy is exactly the same.

Age hasn’t affected all of these songs the same way. When Black Francis sang “Where Is My Mind?” it was hard to remember that the phrase had once sounded vague and bitterly evocative; these days, it sounds more like someone making fun of the slacker-chic 1990’s. But most of the songs sounded as mysterious and elusive as they always have, from the gently swaying “Caribou” to Ms. Deal’s unsettling (and beautiful) sex song “Gigantic,” which might be the best thing the Pixies ever did.
If you had to pick a concert for the inevitable live reunion DVD, it probably wouldn’t be this one: the members sometimes seemed to be battling one another to establish the right tempo, and a few songs sounded even more ragged than they were supposed to. The band members didn’t look as if they were having the time of their lives. They looked like four people working hard to create a marvelous racket; even after watching them do it for 90 minutes, you weren’t quite sure how they did it. And as the fans filed out, ears ringing, no doubt some of them were already getting ready to return for another noisy night.


Pixies: enchanting after all these years

BY GLENN GAMBOA. December 13, 2004

There they were, The Pixies – a band that, for nearly a generation of alt-rock fans, had become mythic and almost as elusive as their name suggests – standing on a stage fittingly built to look like a post-industrial forest.

Before embarking on their current sold-out tour, singer Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis), guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering had not played together in 12 years. The Boston band called it quits in 1992, just as the alternative-to-mainstream rock they helped build was about to take over the world thanks to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song Kurt Cobain said was his attempt at “ripping off The Pixies.”

It’s hard to compete with legend, especially when the audience is filled with folks waiting to see if the myth is true, if you are as great as nostalgia-clouded minds remember. But as soon as The Pixies launched into “Lady in the Radiator Song (In Heaven)” with Deal’s cooing promise, “In heaven, everything is fine,” it became clear: The Pixies were going to outperform their legend. Ripping through 29 songs in 90 minutes, that’s exactly what they did.

They started off slowly, with a restrained, downtempo version of “Wave of Mutilation” followed by a gorgeous cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” that showed how well Thompson and Deal’s voices still fit together. But like a rock-and-roll freight train, The Pixies started picking up speed with the raucous “Bone Machine” and an extra-prickly “Cactus,” where the combination of Thompson’s excitable vocals and Santiago’s stylish, elegant guitar riffs started to build momentum.

By the time they reached the meat of the set – the scorching-but-sweet “Debaser,” the anthemic “U-Mass,” where Thompson ended each line with a little extra snarl, the swooning “Levitate Me” and the off-kilter pop “Gouge Away,” where Deal’s bass lines eloquently explain why bassists are necessary in rock bands – The Pixies had made it clear that this was no greatest-hits cash-in. They were still emotionally invested in these songs and it showed.

The powerful version of “Tame” offered the proof of their influence on Nirvana, especially after stand-out versions of “Broken Face” and “Isla de Encanta” nicely displayed their hardcore roots, taking Husker Du’s speed and shrieks and adding their own twists. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” was equally passionate, as Thompson laid out the spiritual world view – “man is 5,” “the devil is 6” and “God is 7” – that hipsters have shrieked along with in countless dive bars around the world.

Pairing “Here Comes Your Man,” one of the poppiest moments of the evening, where The Pixies seem to channel Hamburg-era Beatles, with “Nimrod’s Son,” one of their most experimental songs, with wailing, feedback-driven guitars, showed how they have managed to build their following throughout their years of dormancy – equal parts of comfort and challenge.


Daily Candy’s Lexicon X

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Now that I’m on the Daily Candy email list again (I don’t know why, I delete without reading 9 out of 10 emails because they are about boutiques that only the trendiest girls will like), I received these words and definitions in my inbox this morning courtesy of Daily Candy. Like the last time, I thought I’d share:

Violent night, troll-y night
n. The aftermath of the holiday party where a certain elf swills too much vodka.

n. Someone who hangs around under the mistletoe, waiting to get kissed. (“Eve was being such a mistleho at the company party that no one else could get any play from the cute tech guys.”)

n. A makeout session that takes place under the influence of eggnog.

n. The outrageous marketing push that begins two months before each holiday (Halloween decorations in July, Christmas decorations in October).

Round yon virgin
n. Severely overweight child relative who hogs all the dessert. (“I never even got to try Aunt Martha’s cranberry squares – the round yon virgins charged the dessert table.”)

Santa fraud
n. Poorly costumed Santa Claus impersonator. (“Avoid department stores at all costs. They’re overrun with Santa frauds this year.”)

Dreidel robber
n. Someone who cheats young children at dreidel.

n. Someone who goes way too overboard with the Christmas decorations (usually Mom).

Mrs. Claws
n. Work buddy’s wife whose steely gaze keeps her husband’s female colleagues on the other side of the office-party dance floor.


Future of Advertising?

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George Masters, a high-school teacher and iPod fan, created an ad for the iPod that may signal the future of advertising (big words indeed). From Wired Magazine’s article about this ad:

To some experts, Masters’ ad heralds the future of advertising. Homemade ads will play a big part in marketing, just like blogging is shaking up the news.

On the right nav of the article you can launch the ad itself. I advise you doing so because, well, its just pretty damn cool.

Thanks Chuck.


Don’t Fuck With Kremlin

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Medical experts have confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s opposition leader, was poisoned with dioxin in an attempt on his life during election campaigning. See the before and after pics below:

His face changed that much in 5 MONTHS

For specifics on how the rest of his body (and not just his face) is just plain old messed up, I got this bit from the Times Online:

Mr Yushchenko fell ill on September 6 and was rushed to Rudolfinerhaus four days later with severe abdominal pain and lesions on his face and trunk. His liver, pancreas and intestines were swollen and his digestive tract covered in ulcers, but doctors could not explain the symptoms. Against their advice he went back on the campaign trail after a week, but returned to the clinic two weeks later with back pain.
Again he returned to campaigning, with his face half paralysed and a catheter inserted in his back so that doctors – still baffled – could inject painkillers into his spinal column.

Note to self: don’t fuck with the Kremlin. About anything. When you need a catheter in your spinal column, you know its bad, regardless of what you look like.


Learning To Love The Creative Mind

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“A writer should be in a cold room because the chill quickens the brain, should be hungry as an incentive to earn, and should dress only in underwear so as to place an obstacle in the way of chucking the job at hand in favor of heading for the neighborhood bar.” – Bill Jayme


Hey – It’s the Holidays

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Outcast’s “Hey Ya” has not surprisingly been chosen as the song to feature on two good holiday related flash movies that I’ve seen recently.

The first movie splices up the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (which I missed this year, something that I’m actually sad about) so that the children are singing and dancing to “Hey Ya.” It is very well done.

The second movie is a low-budget flash movie that features a “Hannukah” song sung to the tune of, yes, you guessed it, “Hey Ya.” It is kind of well done because the animation is pretty poor but the music is snappy.


Thanks KT and Phyl


Sneaky Yahoo Might Be Tracking You Around The ‘Net

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Yahoo is now using something called “Web Beacons” to track Yahoo users around the net to see what you’re doing and where you are going – similar to cookies. Yahoo might be recording every website and every group you visit. They say that, “Yahoo! uses web beacons to access Yahoo! cookies inside and outside our network of web sites and in connection with Yahoo! products and services.” I’m not happy about that and have opted out. You can too. Here’s how:

1) Log into your Yahoo account and take a look at their updated privacy statement

2) About half-way down the page, in the section that refers to cookies, you will see a link that says web beacons. Click on the phrase web beacons.

3) That will bring you to a paragraph entitled “Outside the Yahoo Network.” In this section you’ll see a little “click here to opt out” link that will let you “opt-out” of their new method of snooping. Once you have clicked that link, you are exempted. Notice the “Success” message on the top of the next page. Be careful because on that page there is a “Cancel Opt-out” button that, if clicked, will *undo* the opt-out.

Thanks Chris for calling this to my attention