Tuesday, October 30, 2007

stay out of trouble.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

The more I think about it, the more and more I realize that the recent global crackdown on music downloading and the subsequent shutdown of Oink hurts the artists the most.

How? Fine. Not the Britney Spears or Ne-Yos of the world, but the indie rock bands that seemed to have been so popular as of late. It will be hard for there to be the next Arcade Fire because the platform in which bands are being discovered is now regressing.

Fine. Say what you will. It's stealing. Record sales are up. But, more than ever, I feel that concert attendance is up and the number of venues are up. There are more bands that people listen to, and this was all facilitated by file sharing services.

I mean, bands love when they sell records, sure, but they make absolute change on the albums. They have to pay the label back for studio time, distribution--it's really hard for these less famous bands to actually make money.

So they go on the road--where merch and ticket sales go into the pockets of the bands. Bands like the Arcade Fire may not sell a ton of records, but they sell out everywhere they go. Same with M.I.A....and the same with LCD Soundsystem.

This is all going to backfire. The big labels won't recoup any more sales or dollars because people just aren't going to know what to buy. Buying an album from a band based on a review? In this day and age? Preposterous.

In the past few days, I tried looking for albums I wanted on iTunes. I couldn't find most of them...and, it's not like I can walk into a record store, because they're all closing down. Even if i did happen upon a record shop, the chances that they would have a release I wanted would be absolutely miniscule.

Sure, I'll buy your records, but I'm not going to go to the bottom of the ocean or out to Neptune to do it, which is what it seems the labels are asking us to do.

What this all really means is that labels can't afford to sign as many bands as they have been doing because it just won't be profitable. I really think the structure of music distribution is about to collapse, and I hope it just all turns into $5 downloads through bands' own websites, circumventing labels altogether.


Sorry for the lack of upates. You know the reasons why, and if you don't--well, you probably don't want to know anyway.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Must Read Article. A Must Read Article.

Jason Whitlock, a nationally syndicated sports columnist with a strong anti-gangerism and anti-black-as-victims voice, wrote a column on October 20 in which he blasts black football players for essentially blowing their chance in the public eye at elevating the perception of African Americans.

To be honest, I find it a delicate, if not straight up uncomfortable, article to comment on in a public domain. What I do know, though, is that Whitlock uses incendiary references to the kinds of things like minstrel shows and 40-yard dash speeds that would make any sociology buff lose their cool.

I see it as a positive thing, this controversial stance. Controversy is good when it makes people talk (see: Socrates). So read it and comment. I’ll gather my thoughts and post again later.


By the way, did anyone watch that video of Rivaldo’s bicycle kick? It’s ridiculous, right? You see, mine was just as cool--I just missed the goal and dislocated my shoulder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


While driving to the soccer tourney at which I dislocated my shoulder (doing this, kind of) this weekend, I was privileged/forced to sit with a bunch of white kids from New Jersey and the DC area sing along with and praise 50 Cent's new album Curtis.

It's a good album, no doubt. But I'd point to the Washington Post's review and their realization that the album is "an empty pleasure now." The kids in the car were going on about raw 50 was but I just couldn't get over the fact that we were listening to a clown. And I'm not afraid of clowns, they just look weird.

I actually managed to piss off the driver--a real 50 lover, knew all the words I swear--by mumbling under my breath during "Fully Loaded Clip," like this:

50: Jay and Beyonce was hmm hmm kissing
I was cookin' one thousand grams in my kitchen

: No you were not.

: Nas just tellin' Kelis I love you boo
I was shinin' my nine, you know how I do

Ben: No you were not.

: I got a fully loaded clip, I be on that s*it
I got, I got a fully loaded clip

Ben: No you do not.

50: I got a fully loaded clip, I be on that s*it (yeah)
I got, I got a fully loaded clip

Ben: Whatever man. (Then, looking around the car) How can you take this guy seriously? (Hangs his head when no one responds.)

I mean I enjoyed listening to the song--it pumped us up before our game--because the beat is good and I'm used to simply ignoring the lyrics of most rap songs anyway (the MUSIC is in the beat), but it fails to entertain me on any other level.

I refuse to support this category of gangsta rap anymore. I refuse because while gangsta rap was originally used as a sociological response to political disenfranchisement, this stuff is sell-your-soul-to-the-business moneymaking. I have no problem with making money, do your thing, but I'm not impressed by the gun toting bs anymore--I'm sorry.

The falseness reflects poorly on the industry and worse, it makes 50 look a damn fool. How does he sleep at night? How does he talk to his family? How can he look himself in the mirror--what's there to see?


Arsenal won today again in convincing fashion. If Lehmann doesn't eff up against Blackburn (can't find a youtube link, sorry) Arsenal is 100% this season. As it is, they haven't lost.

I only wonder how long Lehamnn continues to draw attention to himself--instead of the brilliance of the squad--before Wenger lets him go; what the deal is with Gilberto; when Cesc will collapse of exhaustion; and what happens to the squad against Lpool and Mansuckster.


I've been reading Robert Nozick's famous tome on libertarianism, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia."

Libertarianism bothers me beyond comprehension. I feel like its followers just miss the point of government, of life. Is that a totally unfair accusation? To use LaWa's new favorite phrase: "It all comes down to privilege." I couldn't help but feel lucky this past weekend when I got an x-ray and had insurance to give the ER. Would I have gone to get it checked out if I couldn't afford insurance? (Nozick doesn't believe in redistribution--so no social security and DEFINITELY no universal health care or education--because he finds it unjust to take someone's money that they worked for).

If you agree with me, look up John Rawls. His "Theory of Justice" is more along the liberal lines of wealth distribution.

Nozick and Rawls were the two primary Ethics and Justice philosophers of the 20th century. Both of them debunked Utilitarianism, which is great because we all feel something wrong with that heartless outlook, but few are able to express a potent argument against it.

They each have students disseminating their works all over the place. Rawls especially is known for the tree of backers he as on campuses all over the world--he reminds me of Don Shula. Last year I had a professor who studied with one of Rawls's most famous students and he was such a sycophant it was almost embarrassing. But it worked, I too love Rawls now.

What's really cool to think about is that they both taught at Harvard at the same time. Apparently their offices were on the same floor, leading me to think (1) I wish I was a philosophy major at Harvard in 1974, and (2) it doesn't matter, philosophy is still less useful than epicurean.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Political Problem 2

Lately, a loyal JJ reader has been undergoing some soul searching in regards to her socio-political activism. Working with community organizers this summer instilled in her the primary concentration of effective organizers: focus on an issue. Win the issue. You can’t waste your time with broad contemplation when a hard-line decision is at stake.

It’s the main reason why most community organizers (whether you agree with their causes or not) are ferociously effective movers and shakers. And I remember feeling, at first, that THIS was the best way to impact politics. Forget that Hill-brokering, that sell-your-soul type stuff. This was the real deal—eye contact, punch and cookies, real grassroots, real real.

In early 2006 I attended a recruitment workshop for IAF. I got to meet and chat (and network) with some of the DC area’s most important organizers. Really. One group of them had just finished brokering a deal for construction hands working on the new Nationals stadium; the guy I knew had just come back from London where he negotiated a minimum wage deal for all employees connected to the upcoming Olympics there and done a great deal for school programs in Baltimore; there were organizers there responsible for new libraries in SE; I could go on all day about the work they do.

But at that workshop I realized why I could never work for them. I am totally obsessed with the big picture, the wide angle. I feel claustrophobic when I focus on a single issue. To me, issues are like strands of hair or threads of yarn. They alone are only a piece, while it is the whole head (indeed the whole body) or the whole quilt that really matters.

In our friend’s soul searching, she has discovered newfound contempt for the objectionable actions and beliefs of our government. From education to torture, rarely does she read a newspaper without at least 30 minutes of difficult digestion. She literally gets heartburn from the front page.

She called me today to vent on Mukasey, saying she couldn’t believe that he was nominated.

Though I’m also frustrated about the whole process—especially that we’re not getting someone SO much better than Gonzales—I never had an emotional reaction. Even now, thinking about it, I’m not angry.

My friend said that it is unacceptable that Bush nominated this guy and worse that I’m not reacting to it with any passion. But to me, it seems from the administration’s point of view to be a rather good appointment. How can I blame someone from wanting to go after what he wants?

The point is, I don’t think I’m being weak-willed or anything. Nor do I feel anything close to apathetic. I just think that political strategy is so far removed from the sphere of actual truth and justice that I don’t regard these kinds of decisions with any kind of emotional attachment. The fact is we (America, world) messed up by allowing this administration to remain in office in 2004. We can’t blame the President for following his own beliefs just because we disagree with the beliefs.

The best thing we can do at this moment is hope the congressional Democrats muster enough balls to at least make the road to nomination uncomfortable and draw attention to the questionable practices that this administration has put into effect the past six years.

Besides that, the main thing on all our minds should not be anger with this appointment. It should be focus and work on 2008.

Is this a resigned attitude? I don’t think so. I think it’s a wide angle view. True, I’m not going to get up and protest this nomination myself. But that’s because I don’t think it would do anything but add bitterness and partisanship to a position that is only pertinent for a lame duck year anyway.

Instead, if we are going to focus on an issue, let’s focus on 2008. Let’s focus on taking back the government with a statement of power. At this point, 2008 is the big picture.

I may sit back on a privileged pedestal, middle classed and protected, but goddamnit I know that this country can be made better—it’s just a matter of HOW.

but who will cut our hair when we're gone?

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I'd just like to thank Joe Torre for being a man and telling Steinbrenner to "shove his money right back up his keister, meister" (well, not really, but almost). Someone of Torre's stature does not deserve to be belittled during the play-offs and does not deserve to not know his fate for a week and then be told to fly down to Florida, where he was told that his contract was going to be slashed to $5 million dollars a year (+$3 mil for winning the World Series).

Why is Steinbrenner being a stickler on money? I mean, what is $10 mil for a franchise worth a billion dollars that also comes with a television network worth another billion? Simply, he's not being stingy--he just didn't want Torre back but didn't want to be seen as the man who fired Torre. Weak attempt, George.

I'm so proud that he said no to a return--he has pride and knows when to call it quits. Of course, already having millions of dollars makes it easier to walk away from that kind of cheddar, but nonetheless, Torre really "manned up" and he's an incredibly respectable man in my eyes for it.

Who will the Yankees sign? The "in the know" pick is probably Trey Hillman, though the Yanks had better act fast if they want him--the dreadful Royals want him as well. Most Yankee fans probably want Don Mattingly or Joe Girardi. I think Mattingly is the fan favorite, even though he has said himself that he isn't ready to follow Torre (his agent believes differently..paycheck?).

Girardi is my pick of the two--dude led the Marlins to the play-offs in his first year with them last year and was fired after his clashes with management (which makes it seem he's incredibly unlikely to be hired by Steinbrenner, the classic egomaniac).

Tony La Russa would be a smart choice, but he's too Midwest for the Big Sleazy. He is said to be a huge micromanager, which just could NOT work with a team like the Yankees in a city like New York. He may be the irreplaceable coach in St. Louis, but New Yorkers won't give a damn who he is.

Bobby Valentine, anyone? He led the Chiba Lotte Marines to Japan's Baseball title in 2005 and led them to the Pacific League Championship Series the past two (in case you wanted to know, Trey Hillman, mentioned earlier, led the Nippon Ham Fighters-- they are the Fighters, not the Ham Fighters--to last year's Japanese baseball title). He handled the Mets and managed them well--sure, they're not the Yankees, but at least he knows what REAL heat feels like. The only problem is that his contract is huge and so too is the buy-out--he's incredibly well-loved in Japan.

But who can say no to a cat as goofy as this?

My pick? Valentine. Who will get picked? Mattingly.

(I can't believe I'm writing this much about the Yankees)

Lastly, Mariano Rivera will be back. Jorge Posada will be back--like I told Pat M, they only team big enough for them are the Red Sox and the Angels--and neither will leave the Yanks for these teams.

A-Rod, though, WILL be an Angel or a Cub next season. Count on it.


And South Florida lost. Finally. The beautiful thing about it is that it will shake up the BCS standings a lot. UH may not crack the top twelve (there's still 6 weeks and they have to move up six spots), but if they are in the top 18 and top the champ from a BCS conference...guess what? They leapfrog the team for the bid.

So, theoretically, South Florida will drop--hopefully, they will drop below Hawaii. This leaves West Virginia as the ONLY Big East team ahead of Hawaii in the BCS poll.

South Florida and West Virginia just need a loss more each--do it, please.


Oh, the EU is about to let people talk on their cell phones on planes.

How do you feel about this? I think it's a mixed bag--it's gonna turn into the bus, where people are talking and having really loud, obnoxious conversations. We'll also be subjected to really bad ringtones and people will rush to their phones in order to shut off their really bad ringtones.

Do you guys notice that? Why pay all that money for a ringtone when you're going to cover it? I usually let all of the ringtone play out--I love them. I mean, on any given day, I can hear Prefuse 73, Magnanamous, Dead Prez, the Smiths, LCD Soundsystem, Q Tip and Fergie (well, not Fergie so much--Burgwinkle is in Amsterdam and no longer calls me). Why wouldn't I want to hear my ringtones?

The beauty of it? We'll probably be able to play turn on wi-fi. Sure, it'll cost to access an internet network (especially since we're paying for peanuts now), but I just want it so I can play DS against kids. Nothing beats challenging some random kid to Mario--and beating him.

I guess the downer about this is that JAL has had built-in game consoles in every seat for a long time. So, when we flew JAL last year, I played Tetris against some kid sitting a cabin behind me. The kid beat me, of course, but I think I can take him at Mario Kart. Maybe.

(And I'd like to see my brother write really bad words in a Pictochat room, they way he did at the Harry Potter showing this summer. I swear, I never saw a kid leave a room as quickly as they did after my brother drew a naked behind. I mean, potentially, you could be telling high school humor jokes in three or four languages, with everyone getting a kick at being inappropriate and knowing that no one else has any clue with what is being said)

blah blah. Maybe cell phones and wireless are a terrible idea for planes? Plus, they make us all that much more accessible.


(have a nice weekend)

ps-my dad's computer sim baseball team had dante bichette as well. i remember solely because i used to think his name was totally hilariously inappropriate.

youth, i tell you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

England 1, Russia 2

After their loss to Russia yesterday, England is in serious trouble of not qualifying for the Euro Cup next year. What a joke. I love it.

Their media thinks the British game and the British players are the best in the world, and they've clamored for limitations on foreign born players. Yet when it comes down to it, just look at how many World (or Euro) Cups they've won. It's all hype.

The fact is that the EPL might be the best league in the world, but it is not because the British players so much as the foreign players.

Maybe now the FA will realize how their jingoism is so unacceptable, unfounded, and unproductive.

the brits, the world series and the big cat.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

The NFL is considering playing the Super Bowl at Wembley. Why? Yes, it's a huge stadium. Yes, it's a huge city. NFL Europa was a flop--they had to shut it down completely. People don't care much about American football in Europe. And really, what is the Super Bowl about? Exposure, or two teams competing for a championship? It's already next to impossible for fans to follow their teams to the Super Bowl if they do indeed make it--now the NFL wants to make it a complete impossibility? Tickets are already prohibitively expensive, and that's if you can even find them: most go to corporate sponsors. I mean, I know that some people will be able to afford it, but it should be about these team's fans before it's about Europeans who shunned the game enough to force the league to close its doors. Europe doesn't like it's Professional American Football League? Great! Congratulations! Shut it down and let's give them the Super Bowl!

Get real. I know it's all about finding new markets. Give me a break, though. Europe doesn't care. Yeah, Wembley is sold out for the Jets/Dolphins game in London later this year--great. Barcelona v. Chivas sold out at the Los Angeles Coliseum last summer...but I don't think anyone is saying that soccer is about to become completely relevant in this nation (sadly) and I don't think UEFA is going to give us the Champions League final any time soon. In a sense, these are of comparable value. Get real, Mr. Goodell. First, you threaten to take the Pro Bowl from Hawaii, and then you tell us all you might move the Super Bowl from the US completely? Give me a break.


Second: I won't talk about the Cleveland Indians being 3-1 up on the Red Sox, because I know that would dampen Pat's time in Amsterdam (Manny doesn't seem to care much...maybe he wants his old Indians to finally win the world series for the first time since..what...'47?). However, I don't get how the Cleveland Indians can keep their mascot when universities like St. Johns and Illinois had to get rid of their "racially insensitive mascots", I don't get how the Indians can still have this epitome of racist archetypes as a mascot. I mean, it's different things to different people, of course, but let's have an equal playing field you know? (Yeah, that probably means that the Redskins will have to change their name too...but they can keep the logo if they become the Washington Native Americans or Washington [name of N. American group that lived on the Potomac]). I'm not calling for an overtly politically correct world, just a fair, even politically correct one.

Suggestions? Well, the Cleveland Plain Dealer had a contest for kids to re-design the Indians unis, and if they're going to keep their name, the kids offered some great suggestions for new logos, using an "I" with a bunch of feathers. Most of the kids' mock-ups are horrendous, but some, including the last set, are really great.

Seriously, though--the Rockies? My dad bought me a computer baseball sim when I was in third grade--you picked your line-up and picked the pitches and how you'd hit (hit-and-run, sac flies), but you never got to actually play (I hated the crap out of this game)--and I remember the only player that I had from the Rockies was Andres Galarraga.

I kid you not. And the team was more like my dad's team, but seriously, we won the World Series three straight years on the hardest setting. No joke. My dad could be a manager, I guess.

My point? That I know nothing about the Rockies. Did they ever make the play-offs before this season(I'm asking you, reader, because I'm tired of googling stuff)?

Seriously. Andres Galarraga. I have no idea how/why my dad picked him up (I usually sat him on the bench--we had Frank Thomas on our team too, and the Big Hurt was far more of a house-hold name to seven year-olds like myself). I can't stop laughing. Andres Galarraga? Dad?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"In Rainbows"--a week later.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Here it is: my review of Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”. Why the wait, considering it came out last week? I don’t know, really—I wanted to give the album a proper listen before sitting down and writing off what would have been primarily hyperbole. I tried staying away from reviews as much as possible (I will list some below, for the enjoyment of you, reader) and from At East (a Radiohead message board). I’m glad I didn’t read At Ease until today—most of the boardies say things that I completely disagree with.

I don’t think it would be right to attempt any sort of review without saying that I consider myself to be a fan of Radiohead. I admit that “Kid A” and “OK Computer” are probably among my favorite albums. Essentially, after purchasing “Kid A” after seeing the band perform on Saturday Night Live in 2001, I threw out all of my other albums (I’m not kidding when I say this—I literally put all of my No Doubt, Lit and Suicide Machines album in the trash) and decided to really start to get familiar with music. I bought “OK Computer” the next week, and before you know it—well, here I am (the hell does that mean?).

I don’t really know how to explain the feeling I get about new Radiohead albums—they’re more than “just albums” to me. I mean, I used to go to the store every three weeks or so in high school and buy albums, and it didn’t really feel special to me beyond the fact that I was listening to new music—it wasn’t the new music that I most wanted to hear. The first thing I’d think was “well, it’s not a new Radiohead album”…and when it was a new Radiohead album, I would be truly excited for months preceding and following the release. I just didn’t see other releases as relevant or pertinent; I didn’t think any band mattered as much as Radiohead. Perhaps that’s unfair—I think I feel that Radiohead matter more than any other band. It’s not really a fair fight to say that no band is a real band because they’re not my favorite band, you know…and that’s what Radiohead are and have been—my favorite band.

I didn’t have that luxury or option to stew in my own excited juices for the new Radiohead release this time—I had all of ten days to get ready. I was let down by the announcement that the band was done recording but that they weren’t putting out until 2008. We’ve all waited for years for a new album—especially because “Hail to the Thief” was so average.

And then, you know—bam! “In Rainbows”. Ten days. And questions—big questions—were going to be answered on this disc…err, album. Where is the band going? “Nude”…really?

I had bootlegs of the new songs that consist a big part of this album since the band’s last tour, but I hadn’t given them much of a listen for whatever reason. I had bad copies; I wanted to be surprised by their new release. Whatever. So, for all intents and purposes, I knew just as much about the album’s songs as the casual, non-rabid Radiohead listener.

My thoughts? “15 Step” starts off with the same sort of drum-machinery as “2+2=5”, but it doesn’t turn into an arena electro-rock bonanza—it turns into a bona fide jam. Jonny and Ed really bring the guitar riffs here, and ultimately, the song is a lot less formulaic than “Hail to the Thief’s” lackluster opener.

“Bodysnatchers” features a beefy, overdriven (to a point of near clipping) riff from the younger Greenwood brother, and the song’s aggressive guitar outro matched with Thom’s “I see them coming” makes for one of the band’s most rewarding outros.

Of course, next up is “Nude”. The fact that this song was put on a real Radiohead album absolutely stuns me—I thought it was going to be a sort of mythical song that would be raved about by fans forever, even though it was not officially put onto tape. That went out the window—and so did all of my old expectations about the song. It sounds almost nothing like the version on “Meeting People is Easy” and assumes an ethereal, angelic tone (it almost sounds like Thom is aping Jonsi from Sigur Ros…who, of course, ripped Thom off first).

Next up is my personal favorite, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, which, for lack of more creative words, is just absolutely amazing. There is a definite nautical feel in the music that is matched with the lyrics (“in the deepest ocean/the bottom of the sea”…” I get eaten by the worms/and weird fishes”), and I just can’t get over how the song almost makes one feel seasick. It swirls and twists and just knocks out any sense of balance. The bells part in the “I get eaten by the worms” bit is so beautiful, but the song’s constant ebb and flow is what gets to me. Previously, they’d let one or two rhythms and feelings carry a song. Not so on “In Rainbows”—this album is full of real twists and turns.

The thing that gets me most about “Nude” and “Weird Fishes” is the fact that they both seem to incorporate elements of “Lift” into their lyrical structure. “Lift” is an unreleased song that we shared with you last week on the countdown, and is probably my favorite unreleased piece by the band. Whether this means that the song is officially never going to see the light of day is up to interpretation and only known by the band, but if we don’t ever hear it, I’m more than happy that it can be heard in those two songs.

“All I Need” reminds me of “Crawling Up the Walls”, except “All I Need” has a great outro, that, again, goes beyond the basic structure of the song. Sure, the beat stays the same, but the tension added just makes for a memorable song. “Faust Arp” has been written off as a rip-off of the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road”, but I can’t really understand why. The two don’t really share anything other than guitars and strings. “Faust Arp” hardly lightens up (whereas “The Long and Winding Road” does) and “Faust Arp” strongly reminds me of Elliott Smith’s work more than anything else. To each his own, I guess, but I really don’t hear the similarities (though, as bsto has pointed out, it does sound a lot like “Julia” by the Beatles).

“Reckoner” has been completely re-hauled and sounds great, “House of Cards” sits with me as a “HTTT”-era sort of song that probably won’t be regarded as a favorite of mine, while “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is really a rousing number that feels a lot more dense than it really is—it has a “Dollars and Cents” feel.

The closer, “Videotape”, has Thom sitting down at the piano solo for a bit, followed shortly by circular drums that sound like a vinyl record left on far after it has ended—or a VHS tape being played far beyond the actual tape on the video. This has all sorts of implications—do the band feel that they’ve overstayed their welcome? Is this their sign that they’re putting their instruments down for good, leaving us to wear out our Radiohead recordings? Probably not—we’re guaranteed at least one more disc in December, but it is an interesting enough suggestion. With Thom already having success with The Eraser (blah!) and Jonny doing film scores for the BBC, one has to wonder what the future of Radiohead really is.

At the core of it all, “In Rainbows” sits among “Kid A” and “OK Computer” as the band’s best. The album presents a lot of interesting issues, as did those two albums. It has the most consistent feel of any Radiohead album as well as the most constant theme. This album, to me, is Thom’s most personal lyrically—the man said that you just can’t ever write personally on “Meeting People Is Easy” and sang, on “Let Down” “don’t get sentimental/it always ends up drivel”—and is about all the wrong kinds of love. Unrequited love seems to be a constant theme, and this idea of absolute devotion, even to a lover who has long made up his/her mind to leave the narrator behind for good. People speak of “OK Computer” having an anti-technological/Silicon Valley type of theme, but how do you explain “Electioneering”? Then, there are those who feel “Kid A” is strongly anti-globalization and anti-consumerist, but people are mistaking the band’s tour and marketing (or “supposed” lack thereof) for the album for the album’s lyrics themselves. The band have matured a lot musically here--Jonny restrains himself just enough, Colin brings the bass just right, and Phil's drumming is the best it ever is. He really adds so much to the mood of the songs and his consistency is key--he builds upon the jazz drumming at the end of "Optimistic" that, up until now, remained his shining moment. And, as usual, Ed is criminally underrated.

“In Rainbows” is the band’s most consistent work in every possible way—quality, emotionally, thematically—and I just don’t know how I feel about it. I think it, as a result, the band’s most troubling. It feels like a swan song, and this wouldn’t be a particularly bad album to go out on, but I just don’t know how I feel about it in that context yet. It seems too neat and ties up too many loose ends to be anything other than a final album, but it is just too neat and tidy to be a band that the band will go out on. I don’t think this is the band’s last work and it isn’t important for the review of this album, I suppose—but a band’s last album is always viewed in a different way from the rest of its work, especially when it comes to long-lived bands like Radiohead.

This album also seems to be the band’s most straightforward since “The Bends”…maybe even “Pablo Honey”. It’s not that they aren’t innovating here, because they clearly do on every song with a ton of attempts to symbolize with music (the end of “Videotape”)—but it all seems to actually fit. The wild, outlandish impracticality of songs like “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” and “Like Spinning Plates” is nowhere to be found—songs that I always despised because of their seeming attempts to test music for the sake of testing music (the exact reason I hate Dada).

Essentially, this album is Radiohead truly returning to rock. After “OK Computer”, the question was “how do you follow up one of rock’s most hailed albums of all time?” “Kid A”, of course, showed us that you don’t—and that you re-invent your band completely. The boys were never bothered by expectations, and just when they had us think that they couldn’t care less about rock music, they go and release one of the most solid rock albums since... No hyperbole here. This album is solid—and not in a seven-single, “decent” solid way. It is an incredible piece of work. It answers a lot of questions, but it raises a lot more.

I could keep going on, but that would be a disservice to everyone involved. So, to sum it up fittingly, here is Mr. Yorke:

Where do we go from here?
The words are coming out all weird
Where are you now…when I need you?

LA Times
Washington Post

Pitchfork's Review
Pitchfork's Listener Guide (keep clicking the question mark next to the “make your own rating” boxes)
Pitchfork's Fan Reactions

Stylus' Week-long Radiohead blog

Rolling Stone
The Guardian

Alright, now you're ready for the exam.

And, just a quick note. Consider this: TLC said, on their episode of "Behind the Music", that, for every album they sold, they each made 17 cents--and, thus, they went bankrupt (that's still $340,000 for 2 million records sold...really?). Radiohead are not tied to a label and don't have to pay anyone beyond their webmasters, Donwood (for his packaging), their producers (Nigel Godrich and Mark "Spike" Stent...dude "Spike" worked on S Club 7 albums...) and their managers and lawyers.
Considering that they said they're receiving around $5 per download through their site, one would have to say that they are making out quite well--especially considering that they've said that there 1.2 million downloads through their site within one week.

Of course, not every band on earth is Radiohead. In fact, very few (if any) are. I don't think even bands like Coldplay or U2 could pull off this same stunt. And remember, the band are still taking orders for the $80 vinyl LP. Record labels...who needs them?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

great days for the passenger element.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I recently stepped out to catch the 754 and 204 bus to
Fairfax Ave for no particular reason. I had just got out of my accounting midterm, and my curry dinner meeting had been cancelled. I didn’t really have a place to go, but I knew that I didn’t have anything to study for—nothing pressing, anyway. I decided to hop on the bus and ride around LA for awhile--see a bit of the city that I'll be calling home for the next two years

After depositing my ten dimes and five nickels, and asking if I would know when I arrived at Vermont and Beverly (and being told that if I didn’t notice the road signs, I could tell by all the people getting off), I was free to take my seat. I wanted to find a seat as close to the front of the bus as possible. Why? My mother’s voice was echoing in my ears (the way it usually does), telling me not to sit at the back of the bus, because that’s where weirdos and trouble ride.

I sighed and got impatient with every filled seat I passed (one was occupied by a man who resembled Gilberto Silva and another who looked strikingly similar to Clinton Portis). Finally, I spotted a seat—unfortunately, its position would not have made my mother proud. I sat down in one of the shorter legs of the back of the bus “C” seating shape and buried my nose in Franny and Zooey, as recommended by Ira Glass himself a few weeks back.

I flicked on my iPod to some ambient and pretended to be more busy than I really was. The ride was non-eventful, and I did less reading than I would have liked (I kept looking at every stop, wondering if I was about to miss my stop and throw off the entire trip).

Eventually, I got to Vermont and Beverly and got off—along with a horde of other people. I walked into a nearby gas station to break a twenty so that I could have a full fare without having to use combinations of small coins—thinking about how many dimes and nickels made $1.25 felt all too elementary school to me. I bought a beef jerky stick and a cherry coke. The jerky was too salty and the coke was flat—what can you do?

I waited for my connecting bus, and a man asked me if I wanted to buy a bus token.

“Only $1.00,” he said.

“But it costs $1.25 to ride the bus,” I replied.

“Yeah, I’m selling it to you for a discount,” he said.

I almost took the bait, but I decided not to. He was a bit upset, but a few minutes later, he got on the bus—paying with a dollar bill and coins, not his “discount tokens”. They're for a rainy day, perhaps.

A few minutes later, my own bus arrived, and I happened to get on before everyone else—not because I was standing in a line…there was none…but because the bus happened to stop right in front of me and people started lining up behind me. I sat in the middle of the bus, looking earnestly for my stop.

I wasn’t aware that this was not an express bus, and this ride took a lot longer. At first, I panicked—because the automated voiced was calling out stops that I did not see on the route map in the direction that I had decided to travel to. Finally, though, La Brea was called out, and I knew I was on the right bus.

Finally, I got off at my stop. After walking in and out of a few shops, I walked into a kosher diner that I heard people raving about a few days earlier, called Canter’s. I ordered a reuben to go and walked back to the bus stop.

I looked at the bus schedule I had printed out and muttered aloud “it should be here”, to which I was told by a man that “it should be, but it isn’t”. We waited a few more minutes, and he alerted me that it was coming. A girl asked me if I was riding the bus—I said that I was, and she said that I could use her other bus pass. I thanked her, and we both got on.

All of the seats at the front of the bus looked painfully crowded, but I didn’t really mind. I walked toward the back, and sat across from a young couple and near a group of men. Two men nearby seemed particularly bothered, though I couldn’t figure out why. Finally, the man between the two of them got up and staggered off the bus, taking his tequila soaked breath with him.

“Damn, that dude was rolling all over the place,” said one man, dressed in all black.

“Yeah, I know. He was falling onto me. If you are small like he was, you should know your limits,” said the other man.

“If he fell on me one more time, I would have decked him. I usually don’t care because I used to be a bouncer, but I can only take so much, you know?” he asked, looking towards me.

“For sure. Dude wreaked bad,” I replied. We all laughed…and got quiet when, at the very next stop, the same man got on and sat between the other two men once again. We all shot each other quiet looks of amusement before looking forward.

The man next to me started talking to me. He turned off his iPod, which had been playing Bruce Springsteen and put it into his pants, which were worn not by purchase but by profession.

“I like your Nikes. Where did you get them?” he asked me.

“Thanks. I got them in Japan. I liked the Springsteen you were listening to,” I answered.

“Me too. Hey, is it alright if I practice my English with you? Can we ask each other questions?” he asked.

“Sure. That’d be fun. How long do you have to go before you get home?” I asked.

“My stop is coming up after the next three,” he replied.

“Oh, so you’ll be home soon?” I inquired.

“No. I will be traveling for two more hours. I just have to switch buses there. Where are you going?” he asked.

“Back to USC—I go to school there,” I said.

“I see. Where are you from? Do you like it? Why were you in Japan?” he asked in rapid succession.

“I’m from Hawaii, but my family has roots in Japan, so we go every now and then. I like school a lot—it’s hard, but I enjoy it.” I said.

“That’s great. I wish I could go to school—I work hard so one day, hopefully my kids can go to school. If we’re lucky, they can go to a Cal school, because USC is private and expensive, even if that’s the school we follow,” he added, slowly and thoughtfully.

“I see. I am lucky that I do get to go to school there,” I said.

“Yes, very lucky. My stop is right here. I shall see you again, my friend. God bless you,” said my seat mate. He put is iPod back on and dialed up Springsteen’s “Dancin’ in the Dark” and strummed an invisible Stratocaster for a couple of seconds before putting on his backpack, waving to me and stepping off of the bus into the balmy Los Angeles night.

The former bouncer, dressed all in black, turned towards me and talked a bit about USC. I asked where he was a bouncer at, and he gave me a longer answer than I expected, spread out between his sips from a Starbucks straw in a container obscured by a black plastic bag.

“I’m not a bouncer anymore. I used to be one. I was a bouncer at the Troubadour from ‘94 until ‘98. I was hired as the head of security at the Roxy in ’98. Sunset burned me out though, man. I just picked up the guitar again, got the heavy metal thing going,” he said, contemplatively. Before I could respond, he started up again.

“Yeah man, this time, I’m gonna be a rock star. Really.” He stood up, threw me the horns, and yelled out “this is my stop, dude. You’ll see me around, I promise.”

The short man who had too much tequila had rolled over onto my shoulder. I asked if he was alright, and he said he was.

“My stop is coming up,” I told him, trying to get his head off of my shoulder.

“Ok. Nice talking to you,” he said to me, eyes a bit glazed over.

“Yeah, you too. Take care, man. Get some rest…and some water,” I said, before making my leave.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Countdown to Radiohead's "In Rainbows"

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Sorry for the lack of updates--I was out of town over the weekend and had midterms this week.

Tomorrow (or, within a couple of hours), Radiohead's album, "In Rainbows", will be released. Here are just a couple of tracks that you may not have ever heard by the band that I think you'll find enjoyable.

"Maquiladora" (off of the "High and Dry" single)
This song seems to have nothing to do with the subject matter of Mexican maquiladoras
and everything to do with rocking out--the song was released during the bands "The Bends" period, which was full of straightforward rock songs. The guitar lines in the pre-chorus ("beautiful kids in the beautiful bubbles") are so incredible, and the song just transcends the generic radio rock song because of Thom's powerful voice and the band's strange instrumentation. Jonny really thrashes here.

"Blow Out" (off of Pablo Honey)
Akin to "Permanent Daylight" in that they both seem to be Sonic Youth/My Bloody Valentine homages, "Blow Out" rides along softly for it's first half, with Ed playing the guitar in a way that makes it sound like a bell. Of course, this tranquility doesn't last long, and the band really ratchets up the noise and urgency--and Thom's screaming "I am scared/Just in case I blow out" is incredibly prophetic of his own life later on in life (he "blows out" on the Bends tour, blacking out on stage and having to be pulled off). "Everything I touch...turns to stone" is such an incredibly self-loathing line that is both poetic and putrid. The ending, which sounds like a million bees being unleashed on a city, is absolutely mind-numbing. Yes, this is an album track, but this is the band's "hated" first album, and this track gets glossed over far too often.

"Go to Sleep" (Live at Glastonbury)

This is not one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever per se (and it is off the abysmal "Hail to the Thief"), but it includes what may be Jonny's best solo--ever. On the album version, the solo is pretty non-descript and sounds like any other Telecaster prattling about. However, we all know Jonny loves toying with things, and on this song, he runs his guitar through his computer and has a program set up that mathematically randomizes the delay time and delay feedback of his guitar signal. Of course, he has it set so that there is a range in which the signal is affected, but the solo is always incredibly different, and often uncontrollable. Start listening at 2:35. It just sounds like the most amazing thing ever--I mean, what other mainstream band could artistically and tastefully fit the noise of a computer crashing into one of its songs?

"Meeting in the Aisles" (off of the "No Surprises/Running from Demons" EP)
Much was written about the band's embrace of electronica when it put "Kid A" out. However, the band had been experimenting with synths, glitch and ambiance much earlier, as evidenced by this song. The song features one of Phil Selway's jazzy drum lines and is played over by delayed and tremoloed guitar. Thom is absent here, and rightfully so--he knows when to step back from the mic. I figured that this would be a good "go to sleep" song for all of you--just a few more hours before "In Rainbows" is unleashed upon us all!

Monday, October 8, 2007

let me clear my throat!

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

As much as I hate the Yankees (come on, it's either love them or hate them), I have to admit I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Torre, their manager.

Today, George Steinbrenner, the most outspoken man in the history of the world (and, you know, the owner of the Yankees), said that Torre would probably be fired if they didn't make the ALCS.

That's a pretty tall order, considering this Yankees team was 16 games out not two months ago. Then again, though, they've spent 1.23 billion dollars in the seven years since they last won the World Series.

Yeah, $1,230,000,000.

That much. Since 2000.

Of course, the Yankees won, even though their starter, Roger Clemens, who makes 1 million dollars for every start he makes (once every four days) was pulled after 4. Torre threw wunderkind Joba Chamberlain (who played in Hawaii) even though he probably didn't need to...just to make sure that they would win the game.

A few weeks ago, Torre said that he wanted to coach the team next year. When asked today, he said that it was "another question for another conversation for another day".

I have so much respect for this man. He's made the post-season every year for the past twelve years, and yet he's always on the hot seat. His comments made me like him even more. He knows that every team out there wants him as their manager, yet he's been the manager of the most storied team in all of sports for what seems like forever.

He doesn't ever complain and he always speaks respectfully of Steinbrenner. I have no idea how he does this--any other man would have quit years ago.

Torre? "For a player that never played in the post-season, I'm really enjoying it".


I would say that I wish Torre would grow some balls and leave, but he has the biggest balls for staying. Seriously. And as much as I hate the Yankees, I'd take this man to manage my O's in a heartbeat.

As we found out with Chelsea, it takes a special coach to manage an All-Star team every game. Steinbrenner can say he's gonna fire Torre all he wants, but he doesn't have the guts to do it. Maybe he's sensible and knows that no man can control this team the way Torre does. And, more than a few players on the Yankees roster have threatened to leave the team this off-season if Torre isn't the team's manager next year.

I hate the Yankees, but I love Joe Torre and I love the way the players stick up for him and "won one for the skipper" tonight.

As serious as I am about my respect for Torre, I can't believe I just said all of that. I think I feel my dinner coming up into my mouth.

(and my picks for the World Series...the Cubs and the Angels...are already out. That's why ESPN will probably never hire me as a baseball analyst... Buster Olney, your job is safe. Tim Kurkjian, I don't know about yours--stop pausing so often and taking such weird gasps of air...I always feel like you're a fish that has run out of breath in its lungs/gills/whatever and is about to flop around on the ground for the last time)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Prayer for the Cubs...Yeah, right.

Lord, we stand before you here today stripped of our comfort. We are alone. Our dear friends have deserted us in our neediest moments and we find it harder than ever to believe in your great name. Oh Lord.

Lord, Take our hands through this tunnel of darkness and lead us in the general direction of deep left center field where Eric Byrnes and Chris Young might have a collision just bad enough to hurt both of them for the rest of the playoffs but not in any way endanger their careers or general well-being. Lord, your name is great, and you give us hope, precious hope, but we ask in pure humbleness and modesty to put the Cubs ahead by at least three runs as early as the first inning so that we don't have to watch them struggle to score from behind as Soriano, Lee, and Ramirez strike out late in the game with runners on second and third and less than two outs. Oh Lord.

We fill our hearts with prayer for you. With join in song every 7th inning and try our very hardest not to spill any peanuts, hot dog mustard, or Pepsi on the person in front of us. But Lord, we need your help.

Stay with us through the evening, through Craig Sager's terrible jackets (did you know he was Willie the Wildkit when he attended Northwestern University? well of course you did Lord, I just wanted to say thank you once again for blessing us with Wikipedia), through knowing that Steve Stone would announce another team's game, through a day of watching Sportscenter highlights of Cleveland and Boston get clutch hits by their best players and seeing Mike Lowell cracking jokes in the dugout while the Cubs' players peed their pants over and over again...Lord. Please. We need you more than ever.


Edward Hopper at the National Galleries

I rode down to the mall this afternoon to see the just opened Edward Hopper exhibit at the National Galleries. I went in not especially familiar with his works, but did feel like I had a basic understand of his themes, etc., because we spoke about him at some length during my American Urban History class last year.

In that class, my professor put a picture up of Hopper's Chop Suey and we talked about how Chop Suey, that contrived sort of smorgasbord of cheap, quick stuff, related to the growth of cities in the WWI period, and blah blah blah.

In any case, it is possible to gain from Hopper's work a certain sense of the life of an early-20th century urbanite. Whether it's the isolation (like in Automat), or the sense of overwhelming smallness (like in Sunday), Hopper captures some of the characteristics of the dark side of American cities as they really became the center of the country's goings on.

But what I didn't know is Hopper's extensive repertoire of non-urban landscapes that he did. I guess it's basically logical, though, considering so many of his urban themed works are basically landscapes as well.

Well I found some of his landscapes nothing more than plain old landscapes but for many, I felt the same interest and fascination that his urban themed works create. There's something about the sharpness and intention of these landscapes, it's something that separates them and makes you actually interact with the figures on the canvas.

Take Haskell's House for example. It's a simple enough picture, sure, but Hopper manages to create a representation of the house that's grand beyond its already ornamental architecture. It's memorable.

It's sad (as I sit looking at that internet photo of the piece) how hard it is to get a clear internet version of the piece. I find it especially sad because a big part of what I liked in all of Hopper's paintings is the sharpness. I don't mean photo-realism, but sharpness--it's like everything in the work is exactly as it has to be. In Nighthawks, that classic, you get the feeling that Hopper pained over every millimeter of the figures' expressions, dispositions, attitudes, etc. The result is a considerable deeper image of the people: how many times have you found yourself making character judgments of the people in that piece, like, "I bet that guy just wants to get with that girl, but she's not having it. He should just leave her alone, what a jerk." The fact is, you can't help it!

But even though I do see commentary on how we live our lives in Hopper's works--especially the works that take us into the privacy and seclusion of apartment buildings and the like, such as Morning in a City--I don't see anything particularly existential in his work. There's no grandiose T.S. Eliot-type philosophizing going on in his work. There's no "Wasteland." Instead, it's more like William Carlos William's "Red Wheelbarrow", which says, so simply,

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

And that sort of imagism is far more apparent in Hopper. It's refreshingly simple, easy to relate to, and timeless. Hopper's a master at subtle representations of urban life and local architecture, and by not trying to say too much he provides a template I wish more artists would follow.


P.S. Here's a link to my most recent DCist article: "Revisiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial."

Friday, October 5, 2007

Countdown: Five Days Until "In Rainbows"

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Yezzir. Five days left until "In Rainbows" is unleashed upon the world. Here are some more Radiohead tracks that you may not have ever heard to whet your appetite.

"Palo Alto" (No Surprises/Running From Demons EP)

Judging from the title, the song is about the high tech sector in California (duh, Josh). "I'm too busy to see you/you're too busy to wait" and "I'm OK/how are you/I hope you're ok too" is classic Thom Yorke. The song was supposed to feature on "OK Computer" (the lyrics fit right in), but the band eventually scratched it. Interestingly, in the video for the song, Jonny is never seen--though the rest of the band is. But, you know, leave it up to him to make the song totally high-teched out and make it mildly ironic. Silly Jonny.


"Worrywort" (Knives Out single)

This song is so bittersweet, and not because of the lyrics or the music: it's a great electronic pop tune (so out of the band's nature), but it probably singlehandedly led Thom to "creating" "The Eraser", probably the most disappointing anyone associated with the band has ever done...well, other than play at the MTV Beach House in the early '90s...but the '90s are a period of Amnesty for everyone, in my opinion (yes, the Eraser is worse than "Pablo Honey").

I think most electronic bands attempt to find that sort of "game boy synth" sound, and Radiohead did so perfectly on this track. And, the line "It's such a beautiful day" is such a breath of fresh air to hear out of Mr. Yorke's mouth.


"Permanent Daylight" (My Iron Lung EP)
This is one of Radiohead's odes to Sonic Youth--alternate tunings, walls of noise...what more can you ask for? "The easiest way to sleep at night/Is to carry on believing that I don't exist" can only be seen as extremely creepy, yet the song is upbeat and light enough to shake off the weariness, creating a sense of false security. This song illustrates that Radiohead's b-sides are better than the LP work of most other bands, and no, I don't feel like a total fanboy for writing that.


"Fog (Again) [Live]" (Com Lag EP)
This is the way the band says that their songs get written: Thom brings in lyrics and a piano melody, and they all join in and eventually (usually), they phase out the piano part.

This particular song has been floating around since the OK Computer tours, and while it never garnered the love that "Nude" did (I still think that the sky is gonna fall in once "Nude" is played by a fan for the first time), it was still held in high regard. The band finally got it's act together and brought it back on the Hail to the Thief tour, and this gorgeous version was used as an encore.

"Baby alligators/in the sewers/grow up fast" is an allusion to the urban legend that families were bringing back alligators from Florida in the '80s while there on vacation and would flush them down the toilets as they got too big to handle (or, as Thom puts it, "did you go bad?").

This is one the band's most heartbreaking songs, along with "True Love Waits" (the "I Might Be Wrong" live version of "True Love Waits" does the song no justice...if you can find an early live version with Jonny playing keyboars, consider yourself blessed...and send it on to me, as I've lost it in one of my computer crashes).

I think this song shows that Thom writes really simple, emotional songs that sometimes get misconstrued among the monster music pieces that the band builds around him. The themes of disappointment and failing to hide past wrongs are very clear and show so many different emotions--be it disappointment in oneself and in others. This is an absolutely essential track by the band to have.


Lastly, we'll do a comparison of another non-album track well-loved by fans: Lift. The first version, "Lift (live at Landgraaf)" is a fairly straightforward rock song and was played on the Bends tour. This song is particularly interesting, as it is the only Radiohead song in which Thom addresses himself in, singing "You've been stuck in a lift/we've been trying to reach you, Thom". I believe that the song has to do with Thom coming to grips with his celebrity status, especially the line "you've been stuck in a lift/in the belly of a whale/at the bottom of the ocean"--clearly, he's at the lowest of points, yet he tells himself that it's "time to come home" (The bends, of course, is a dangerous result of coming up for air too quickly from deep under the ocean).

The newest version of the song was played on the tour that preceded Hail to the Thief. This particular version was committed to tape in Lisbon. It is much slower and has a completely different feel to it, but I believe it is much more akin to floating along the sea listlessly.

Of course, which version is better is relative. However, the Landgraaf version may have the best closing quote to a Radiohead song ever. Thom sings:

"Today is the first day/of the rest of your life/So lighten up, squirt"

have a nice weekend (it's true, you know).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Countdown to "In Rainbows"

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I've been told that we actually have a few readers for the Radiohead countdown. Well, then, sorry for letting you all down yesterday, eh?

Since the people who actually care about the countdown probably have all of the Radiohead albums already, I've decided to make this a more of a live/b-sides affair from here on it. I think that a great deal of Radiohead's best songs come in these two formats, and I'm going to share them with you.

"Talk Show Host" (Live at Glastonbury 2003)

This song was originally put on the soundtrack to "Romeo and Juliet" (along with "Exit Music") and features what may be Radiohead's most simplistic lead guitar line ever.

"Talk Show Host" is said to be one of the two songs about the Hungerford Massacre, and I don't doubt it. Thom really comes off as a serial killer here, and that's the point, if you read the story.

"You want me/fu*king well come on and find me" is one of the most absolute bad-ass things Thom has ever sung...and he follows it with "I'll be waiting/With a gun and a pack of sandwiches"--lyrically, he is at his most believable insane ("Climbing Up the Walls" has always felt too absurd to feel like the narrator was a real person) ever.

And I picked the live version of the song because you can hear just how complex they are live--all of the guitar and keyboard interplay and the swaths of noise. At 2:46 the band exhibit just why they are the best band on the planet: they unleash all hell on the crowd while Thom retains his composure. And, the noisy outro is just sublime, recapping all of the madness going on in the narrator's deranged mind.

This is one of my favorite five Radiohead tracks ever.

"Exit Music (for a Film)" (Live)
Before I say anything mushy, yes, this song is from a radio broadcast, and that is made incredibly clear at the end, with that cheesy radio DJ doing his bit (the venue is in Georgia, by the way...how do they get a Radiohead gig in Georgia and not in Honolulu?)

Regardless, this song was written by Thom after reminiscing about seeing the original Romeo and Juliet film back when he was a child.

Colin's bass solo breaks up the acoustic sentiments of the early half of the song and remind us of the torment that Romeo and Juliet faced...and you really cannot overlook Jonny's playing. All that seagull noise you're hearing? That's Jonny, fretting the guitar with a coin and strumming and picking with a coin. The sounds that the band get out of their instruments are otherworldly and surreal--and this song illustrates that.

This song is simultaneously sinister and gorgeous. It always fell a bit out of place on "OK Computer" to me, as it has a mood that none of the other songs on that record seem to have. It is not just melancholic--it is absolutely evil.

I really hate that the radio dj cuts in...what an ass.

"Gagging Order" (B-side, off of the "Go to Sleep" single)

Radiohead at the most basic of all forms--Thom and a guitar. This seems to be the most lovelorn song that the band has ever written (Thom has said that he does not ever write personal songs because it just totally destroys you and the people that it's about...and he sang, in "Let Down"..."Don't get sentimental/It always ends up drivel")

The actual arrangement of the song is quite reminiscent of Neil Young, whose songs the band often covers live ("After the Gold Rush", "Cinnamon Girl"). I can just imagine the scene that the song paints: the narrator telling an old lover "I know what you're thinking/But I'm not your property/No matter what you say" while telling bystanders watching the fight "move along/there's nothing left to see", and the "body/nothing left to see" is the ex-lover, hunched over, crying about the loss of a love.

This song is stunningly gorgeous and it proves a number of things: that Radiohead are capable of writing non-depressing songs (this seems to be the most common criticism of the band, even though it is not true) and that they ARE a great band. Most of their detractors write them off because of their "reliance" on gadgets, but when a band can write a beautiful song that consists of nothing more than guitar and vocals, you know they have actual talent (and many of Radiohead's best songs are stripped down:"Exit Music", "Pyramid Song", "Fake Plastic Trees", "Motion Picture Soundtrack").

All three of these songs are essential listens, especially for you diehard fans who are unfamiliar with their non-album canon--they are all among my favorite Radiohead songs ever. And, "Exit Music" may not be a non-album track, but I hope this live interpretation finds you well.


And, if you're free from 6-8 PM tomorrow night (9-11 EST), listen to kscr.org. Sarah and my radio show, Your Arsenal, will be on.


Be sure to check back tomorrow as well--I have yet another great bunch of Radiohead songs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

you forgot it in people.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I know I'm supposed to be doing the Radiohead countdown, but I felt compelled to do something else musically. Don't worry, this involves songs as well. I'll pick up theradiohead countdown tomorrow.

I like to listen to music pretty much wherever I go. Some people say that this prevents people from actively taking part in what is going on around them, but I think it changes experiences entirely, and makes things really surreal (try "Macquarie Ridge" by Boards of Canada or "Guilty Cubicles" by Broken Social Scene for this effect). Here are the songs that I followed around town on Tuesday night--and the thoughts that accompanied them. These are my exact thoughts, and not my critiques of the songs.

Jose Gonzalez "Heartbeats"

Ahhhhhhhh. This song just comes on, and it seems like the perfect song to listen to while you're in a supermarket, like I am as I listen to it. It seems perfectly cinematically mundane, and in the movie, the protagonist probably sees a montage of important scenes in his life.

And that same thing happened to me. This song has always reminded me of falling in love with Sarah. I argued with Patrick over which version of this song is better, and though the original version by the Knife has grown on me, I still believe that this version is superior because it's not about they keyboard flair but about the raw emotion of the lyrics, which get lost in the Knife's version.

Like I've said, this song will always remind me of Sarah and falling in love with her. There were so many days that I'd be walking to class last year and would listen to this song and tear up and just be happy, even though, you know, the song is actually pretty downbeat. It has that sort of reflective tone.

"we had a promise babe...we were in love"

I guess love is always happy, even when it's incredibly sad, because it's such a pure emotion. You still feel Jose Gonzalez' narrator being in love with the woman who he is no longer actually with, and that's what love is. It doesn't just go away.

And the differences between the Knife's version (also included in MP3 form here) and Jose's version illustrate the dichotomies of love--the Knife's loud version shows that love is often upset and overstated and overpowering...and that the actual love between people get lost during these periods, even though the feelings are all there....they're just buried.

In Jose's version, we only have the honesty...it's all right there, staring us in the face, because there aren't any distractions. Both are variations of the same thing, and I think we all forget that.

Like I've said, the Jose Gonzalez version reminds me of falling in love with Sarah and it always will. I don't know if it's because it's a song that played a lot during the early stages or...well, there could be a million reasons. But it's like every other album and song for me--I associate a lot of them with colors (primarily different shades of red and blue). This is one of the few that is actually associated with a specific person and always will be.

Guillemots "Trains to Brazil"
Every band has a singer like Thom Yorke these days, don't they? This band, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Muse...the list goes on forever.

This song is about the Brazilian man killed in London a few years back, after the train bombings, because he was another suspect in the bombings. They mistook the Brazilian man for one of the actual suspects and, when he didn't respond to the police yelling at him, they shot him.

This song reminds me of freshman year at GW, when I'd be up until the wee hours of Friday, finishing up work for my IR discussions on Friday and playing Civ, as nerdy as it sounds.

Highlights from today's Champions League games are showing on a flat screen television in the discount supermarket, and I wonder why a discount supermarket needs a flat screen or a digital cable. I mean, it's baffling, really...the television is locate in a little niche that can barely be seen by anyone. I'm thankful it's there, though, so that I can catch up with all of today's games.

Oh, it's the trumpet bit. This really reminds me of the movie Billy Elliot, which, in turn, reminds me of Pat Burgwinkle. Whenever there's an absolutely absurd part of a song, I think of Pat's goofy face mimicking the song and laugh (his face is not always goofy, of course--just when he's mimicking certain parts of songs).

Broken Social Scene "Pacific Theme"
Walking to my bike, I see that there's something in my bike basket. I hate how they always put these flyers for bad Thai restaurants in my basket--I really do feel that it's both a waste of paper and very assuming of the companies. I know, business is business, but it's such a waste.
Upon closer inspection, it's a leaf in the basket. This is oddly reassuring. I don't ever mind when a leaf, one of the few reminders of nature in our cities, finds it's way into my basket.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Radiohead Countdown--Nine Days Until "In Rainbows"

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Yesterday, we talked about Radiohead's upcoming album. Some of you may be unfamilar with the band, so we're going to have a mini-countdown: at least one Radiohead song a day until October 10th. I guess I'll be curating this countdown, but if you've got any suggestions, have at it! I think I'll do a lot of my favorite tracks as well as b-sides and live versions in order to keep it fresh.

"Dollars and Cents" (Live version on "I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings")

Originally, this song was on "Amnesiac", the band's follow-up to "Kid A" (which remains my favorite). In my opinion, "Amnesiac" feels less cohesive than "Kid A", but it does contain many of the band's strongest songs (in fact, "Pyramid Song" may be the band's crowning achievement).
"Dollars and Cents" was a live fan favorite and debuted years before it was ever released on an actual record. I cannot seem to find my favorite live version of the song (from Copenhagen), but this version more than suffices. The song features a hypnotic bass line and sounds as if it is a subway train making its way under a metropolis at night--it just has that fast, whining feel.

"Pyramid Song" (on "Amnesiac")

This song made its debut at a Free Tibet festival back in the late '90s--then, it just featured Thom singing and playing piano. It takes its inspiration from the Egyptian Book of the Dead--clearly evidenced by the "black eyed angels" and "jumping into the river".

When pressed to name my favorite Radiohead tracks of all time, I usually struggle for a bit, but "Pyramid Song" immediately comes to mind. Though largely piano-based, Colin's upright bass playing is understated yet perfect, Phil's drum kick into the song is incredibly timely, Jonny's ondes martenot playing is, once again, superb and Ed's general guitar wankery folds in nicely.

"all my friends were there with me/and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt" is really a perfect line, especially regarding death. Thom's writing is spot-on on this track, and I do believe it is Radiohead's most accomplished piece.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Political Problem 1

Even though I stop reading Bill Simmons during football season because he’s not so good at picking games (last season the Sports Gal’s total beat his) and because all of his articles turn into Patriot groveling--which isn’t so different from all the other sports serving his Boston obsession except that this Boston franchise is actually good so it’s pretty much unbearable.

One thing I like that Simmons does, however, is provide theories. What’s more fun is that they are well thought out and immediately applicable—in other words, they manage to avoid the annoying academic red tape that anyone who’s ever written a paper in college or high school dreads, that red tape that prohibits anyone from actually writing how they want to, in the tone they want to.

I hope, despite the lack of footnotes and established voices in the following theory, that my theory will nevertheless be accepted—or at least ingested, digested, and commented upon so that I can improve it.


Here’s what I think is one eternal issue with politics. Maybe this is the definitive, fundamental problem with American politics today. Maybe it’s logically fallacious and poorly articulated. You decide.

In any case, those who read the Collective will recognize it immediately. I’ve applied it to numerous contemporary political situations but haven’t devoted an entire post to it just yet.

Well here goes: there is a balance that must be achieved between gaining votes and implementing what we want in our society that often outweighs anyone’s ability or desire to get anything done.

Again. We have on the one hand justice, peace, truth. The things that every human values and would sacrifice to achieve. The key thing to remember is that these things to do not just simply appear in societies. They require sacrifice and commitment and perseverance and trouble.

You show me a perfect society, I’ll show you a graveyard.

On the other hand we have what allows the people who are in a position to implement justice, peace, truth, etc. to do what we want them to (which is, of course, implementing justice, peace, truth, etc.). This manna of power is often portrayed in such personality traits as charisma, such innate traits as creativity, and such traits that we can all work hard to achieve like rhetorical skill. However, the main source of these people’s power is the nation’s vote and the nation’s opinion. It’s their vote and monetary support that puts that him office, in position to influence official discourse.

In order to get our support, these people do the right thing: they remind us what it is that we want to implement in our society (notice that I am not getting into what formulations of justice, peace, truth, etc. it is that we all want, only that we all want some form of them). Then they tell us how, assuming we do give them our support (and thus give them power), they will be able to implement these things that we want to see.

(A side note: do not forget that the politicians also have issues in mind that they want personally, things that include a job, a legacy, and in most cases a wish to change the world for the better).

The trouble occurs as soon as they reach office, when they realize that there are hundreds of other people just like them, representing other people’s wants, and those wants often stand in the way of the wants that our politician had in mind.

In order to achieve the best possible balance of achieved wants, the politicians make compromises and deals, often through perfectly reasonable discussion and compassionate concern for each others’ constituencies’ wants.

But sometimes we have something we want so bad that we are willing to sacrifice other wants to achieve it. Sometimes we want something so bad that we are even willing to sacrifice our morals for it. So we begin to make deals and compromises that begin to overshadow some of the other wants of our constituencies, as well as our own personal wants. So now, speaking on behalf of politicians, we lose track of the original purpose of our vocations (which was originally to implement what it is that the people desire to see in their society).

We lose sight of that purpose for the sake of a single issue or a single group of issues, OR, perhaps, as we so often see, we lose sight of that original purpose for the sake of their own careers—we have to put the wants of the people on hold so that we can get reelected. This is not a malicious thought.

If I was a beneficent politician, who had made many improvements to society and the world as a whole, and my term was coming to an end, I would probably want to do my best to get reelected so that I could continue to help serving my society and the world, even if it meant putting a certain issue on hold.

The problem is when the politicians continually put what we want—what we voted them into office to achieve—on hold in favor of the methods needed to keep them in office. This is a huge problem with representatives, who have such a short term in office they have to begin canvassing for reelection almost immediately.


Politicians’ job is to implement what it is we the constituencies want to see changed in our society. They also have certain personal agendas to look after, many of which are completely acceptable and no different from a business person working to get promoted.

The problem occurs when constituencies’ desires butt heads and the politicians have to juggle their constituencies’ desires with their own agendas. It is easy for a politician to get lost in this mix, and the truly memorable ones are those that are able to get what they want without making dubious compromises.

Some day soon, I’ll try and show how exactly they do it.