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There’s unlimited supply. And there is no reason why…

January 29, 2010, 16:31 GMT+5 by chris
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Well, I was going to riff on the elegant simplicity of the fisheye lens and mirrored bauble camera-work in the new Hot Chip video, and on trying to come up with cool low- or no-budget video ideas based on brainstorming up and sticking to a clever idea – using one’s imagination and working within limitations, rather than throwing huge production budgets around, or, worse, trying to look ‘big budget’ when you’re not, and ending up looking like a ‘student project’ in the process (out of politeness I’m not going to cite relevant examples of other bands’ videos here).

But it seems that since the major labels bullied a deal with Google in which they now get paid some pennies-or-fractions-thereof when their videos are played on YouTube (and only when they’re played on the actual YouTube.com site), these labels have taken the typically dumber-than-just-shortsighted approach of disabling embedding across the board.

This is true even for bands like OK Go that you’ve only actually ever heard of because of people embedding and reposting their YouTube videos all over the Web. Genius.

And you can just guess that the actual bands likely don’t see any of these pennies-or-fractions-thereof the majors are so desperate to cling to that they’ll actually hamper their own acts’ ability to find an audience.

…which is a whole ‘nother layer of extra-vinegar-y awesome sauce, since songwriters (typically members of the band, if you’re talking about actual ‘rock’) get (or got) a-few-pennies-here-a-few-there-and-if-you’re-lucky-they-start-to-add-up when songs they wrote are played on the radio, on television, or in movies, through “performing rights organizations” that were invented – ASCAP in 1914, BMI in 1939, etc. – when radio stations began playing recordings, instead of hiring musicians to perform live on the air, to screw musicians out of money at the beginning of the last century (and even then, record labels would call themselves the “publisher” and try to convince you to – or require you to as a condition of getting “signed” – sign over the “publishing” half of your royalties to “the label” as well.

I could literally write a book, but suffice it to say that record labels screwing over artists and listeners alike is as old as the Edison cylinder.

Now that MTV is a trainwreck reality-show network instead of “Music (And By Music We Mean Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home On An Endless Loop 24 Hours A Day Seven Days A Week) Television” (paid for, natch, by money the major label takes out of the band’s cut of the never-gonna-recoup-your-advance loan-shark funny-money), you watch your videos on places like YouTube, if you bother turning off your Jersey Shore, X-Box or Wii to watch music videos (or, God forbid, go read a book or something) at all anymore. And if the band is on one of the “big four” (or however many it is this week) major labels, what would have been a broadcast performance royalty to the songwriter / publisher of the actual song back when MTV was still MTV (and radio and going to shows weren’t some sort of incestuous monopoly of Clear Channel Communications, House of Blues, and Ticketmaster) is now, apparently, replaced by some virtual chump change that Google gives directly to the label.

That’s what I was going to post about, but I can’t. So here’s an old YouTube clip that doesn’t have embedding disabled (yet).


Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall

January 25, 2010, 14:56 GMT+5 by chris
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While Vivienne Westwood’s Active Resistance Manifesto, or that of the Stuckists, make for interesting and discussion-provoking reading, I’m of two minds when it comes to their common and absolutist dismissal of non-representational art.

I’m with Westwood, to a point, when it comes to the assertion that every time one chooses to “read a book instead of looking at a magazine, go to the art gallery instead of watching TV, go to the theatre instead of the cinema”, one’s defenses against “propaganda” are strengthened (and that unquestioning acceptance of anything from “you’re either with us or you’re with the terr-ists”, to blithely tuning in to American Idol under the assumption that the only choice you have regarding how to spend your evening is deciding which channel to watch, to actually reading those “what did so-and-so wear to what awards show, and who was seen with George Clooney last week” magazines with a straight face, are all part of an Idiocracy-inducing “propaganda” culture that leaves the future vulnerable to a “mob drool” that could be more dangerous than “mob rule”)…

And I’m with the Stuckists, to a point, that Modernism for its own sake (particularly when it gets to the “this glass of water is an oak tree because I say it is” or “Rocks on Blocks: Number 31 in a series of Rocks on Blocks” extreme of the continuum) is “a school of fragmentation — one aspect of art is isolated and exaggerated to detriment of the whole”.

Fully “conceptual” art (An Oak Tree being a classic and prime example – there’s nothing interesting or noteworthy about an everyday, run-of-the-mill glass of water, and no traditional skill or craft in its creation; everything ‘interesting’ about the ‘work’ is the discussion surrounding the thing, not the thing itself – to the point where the ‘work’ isn’t a ‘work’ without the accompanying ‘semiotic discussion’ text affixed to the wall beneath it, to let you know it’s a conceptual work that should be discussed, and not just a glass of water that a worker forgot whilst painting the gallery wall) is always an interesting conundrum for those of us with the luxury of worrying about more than where our next meal will come from.

And I agree that an artist’s “removing the mask of cleverness” and “allowing uncensored self-expression” can make for more affecting art with greater immediacy, emotional impact, and take-away “meaning”.

That the likes of Sir Nicolas Serota and Damien Hirst are obnoxious, pretentious wankers less than a stone’s throw from a real-life version of The Schoeners skit on Saturday Night Live, sure.

And “art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art”, certainly.

Usually, anyway. If that’s agreed as an absolute truth, “An Oak Tree” isn’t art (either that, or every glass of water that’s set with the table at every restaurant you’ve ever been to in your life is A PRICELESS MAS-TER-PIECE-UH!”).

But where Active Resistance’s and the Stuckists’ manifestos make absolute and finite declarations is where they limit themselves, and ultimately fall short of any “Grand Unifying Theory of Life, The Universe, and Everything”, even if it’s this same tendency toward bold, declarative statement that makes for interesting reading (or, much like “shock jock” radio hosts’ bold, declarative statements for the sake of being bold and declarative, can’t-turn-away-like-watching-a-car-crash listening).

“Artists who don’t paint aren’t artists.” Bullshit. This is no less ridiculous than a bluegrass banjo player declaring that Kraftwerk, DJ Shadow, or Kool Keith aren’t musicians, or a painter insisting that if you don’t paint in oils on canvas you stretched yourself, you’re not a real painter. Your chosen discipline isn’t the only valid one.

“We define culture as: The exploration and cultivation of humanity through art.” That’s one part of culture. But so are food, and clothing. And architecture. If “real” art can only be representational, and only “art” is culture, what of the “set of all things that are part of culture but aren’t representational art”?

I’m sure Ms. Westwood would be more than happy to deem her own clothing “art”, in the same almost-as-self-serving-as-the-Scientologists way that her Manifesto posits that one’s “art” is the only true path to “saving the planet” (and if you’re a struggling painter down to your last pack of Ramen, or Bono, or Tom Cruise, wouldn’t you like to think so?) but my Vivienne Westwood scarf isn’t representational of anything but a scarf, and “representational” food (a pancake topped with a strip of bacon and two fried eggs, made to look like a face, perhaps?) is generally relegated to the childrens’ menu at IHOP or Denny’s. Or Cake Wrecks.

And after declaring that art must be “representational” or at least a “microcosm of a shared and universal-truth human experience” to be worthy of being deemed capital-A “Art”, Westwood goes on to cite JS Bach as an example – which is representational of what, exactly?

Mathematics?

“Named” Bach pieces such as the Coffee Cantata can be said to be representational of something, but is The Well-Tempered Clavier, composed “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study,” any less valid because it’s not “about” something?

Backlash-to-a-backlash arguments such as the Stuckists’ or Active Resistance manifestos seem to ironically be arguing for the visual equivalent of “program music” in the hundreds-of-years-old “progam music” vs. “absolute music” debate, in which the purist stance typically argued for absolute music using many of the same arguments being made for representational art = some sort of purity or honesty today.

I’m utterly fascinated and intrigued by the likes of the Stuckists and Active Resistance, but…

Art doesn’t have to be a painting, and a painting doesn’t have to be of a human face.

That’s, hypocritically, an infinitely bigger crock than any “blank white canvas for a million pounds” such arguments rail against.

As for myself, I think An Oak Tree, Damien Hirst’s Bedazzled skulls and sharks-in-tanks, that one guy’s “Piss Christ”, and “Rocks on Blocks” are still art – they’re just bullshit “art” that I think sucks.

Art that doesn’t represent anything but what it is is still art.

Art that doesn’t exist except to provoke a discussion about what is art is still art.

I might argue that whether I like it or not, or agree with its subjective “worth” in any sense, IS “representative human nature”.

Active Resistance and the Stuckists are unashamedly and deservedly “punk” in their essence – exciting, thought-provoking, reactionary, desirous of “waking people up” or “shaking up a system”, raising more questions than they answer, and perhaps ultimately self-limiting themselves into oblivion through narrowness (or lack) of focus.

That they’re essentially “punk” arguments for classicism is a fascinating paradox, but then “punk rock” was a bit of a Moebius-strip argument for a return to classicism in rock music as a backlash against what is now ‘classic rock’, wasn’t it?


Podcast feed is back up…

January 21, 2010, 16:32 GMT+5 by chris
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Not sure why it was down, but after getting an email from Apple that “your podcast has been removed from our listings in iTunes because your feed doesn’t work anymore”, and giving up on trying to “fix” the “error establishing a database connection” excitement, ended up deleting the entire directory and rebuilding / reuploading from scratch (not that it took long, with a whopping two ‘episodes’ so far). So it’s back up and running and re-submitted to iTunes and Feedburner and the like, and eventually we’ll even post some new installments.

Hopefully the “pod” hasn’t starved to death without its “feed”.

Ha. I kill me.


Dog food is so good for you…

January 15, 2010, 21:19 GMT+5 by chris
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dogsinspaceWait, Dogs in Space is finally out on DVD?

And nobody told me?

Yeah, I already ordered it.

Not sure why, but it was always my favorite of the ever-popular “obliviously self-destructive band dude gets smacked upside the head with an ironic life lesson when his girlfriend, rather than him, overdoses on heroin first” genre, even though the Jane’s Addiction “Gift” movie is stiff (no pun intended) competition, to say nothing of Sid and Nancy, Trainspotting, and other lighthearted, fun-for-the-whole-family favorites.

All of which is a bit odd, because I have such an irrational fear of needles that I’ve passed out at the doctor’s getting a blood draw, and from just having someone tell me about donating plasma, and typically have to close my eyes and have someone “tell me when it’s safe to look” anytime there’s a movie scene involving sharps.

It probably has something to do with the keyboard player character that’s always trying to fix his half-functional homemade synthesizer seeming really cool to me at the time, rather than the comic relief it was probably intended to be, along with young, skinny Nick Cave crooning “Shivers” for an all-too-brief moment, and the background of the same “who needs an apocalypse when we’ve got a recession on” bonfires-in-oil-barrels-on-trash-strewn-streets version of Australia as the “Listen Like Thieves” video, Mad Max, and all the rest.

Or maybe it’s because I haven’t actually seen it since before DVD players were invented.

Nah.


Please remember to mention me / in tapes you leave behind…

January 11, 2010, 18:33 GMT+5 by chris
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The ‘holiday season’ officially over, it’s time to put away the decorations (a week or two late), turn the ‘guest room’ back into the ‘home studio’, put the extra dishes back in the attic, test out the latest additions to the microphone locker (sort-of vintage-esque-ish C414B-ULS and new el-cheapo CAD ribbon mic), do some tests and perhaps modifications (at least bypass caps and maybe experiment with resistors to make the outputs ‘see’ the specified 600-ohm output, while waiting for the ‘could replace every component in the signal path if need be’ order to show up from Mouser) on a pair of cool-sounding-transformers but that-noise-floor-just-can’t-be-within-spec mic preamps, dust and vacuum, and get back to work on some actual music, finally.

Saw friend Jorge’s Americana / alt-country / honky-tonk band Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers over New Years’ weekend. Fun was had.

Holding down the fort in “the 206” while most folks I know are heading down to NAMM. Can’t say I’m sad about it.

Still haven’t had time to get out to see Avatar (Pocahontas Dances With FernGully in Space), Sherlock Holmes (plus exploding fireballs and glistening pectoral muscles, minus pipe-smoking and deerstalker hats), or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (aka thin and predictable plot but I’ll see it anyway for the visuals), hoping “Inception” will live up to its own previews once that’s out.

…and managed to sneak in some time for a few quick electric violin overdubs, re-recorded a better take of a was-good-but-a-little-too-peaky-sounding-on-that-one-chord guitar track (I was going for a ‘cutting’ Telecaster / LP-junior / AC30 / Twin tone, but it ended up going way too far to the “icepick to the temples” end of the continuum – lesson learned…), and some string-machine-with-phaser-cause-the-Gary-Numan-kick-still-isn’t-letting-up parts on that song we’re working on that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of right now, because the title isn’t in the lyrics (unless it is), which is making me feel, temporarily at least, like a doddering old fool.


Still not Y2K compliant

January 1, 2010, 01:48 GMT+5 by chris
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Happy New Year!