Archive for March, 2009

Final Four Likability

March 31, 2009


Are your favorite teams out of the tournament and your bracket busted to smithereens?

Pat Forde has a likability index that might help you pick a team for which to root.

Since Kansas, Louisville, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Maryland, Gonzaga and Western Kentucky have all been eliminated, I’m going to go with this story line: “first appearance in 24 years and the chance to rekindle memories of a miracle championship performance against a seemingly unbeatable opponent.”

(Hat Tip: Mike Ralph)

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Average Andy

March 31, 2009

It seems likely that Richter’s averageness is the font of both his artistic successes and his commercial failures. Too square to be hip, too well-kempt for slob comedy, and too principled to pander, Richter exudes a normalness that renders him a misfit. But, though as wholesome as Garrison Keillor on the surface, he is as weird as anybody. In the moments that require his zaniest self, he suggests a subtle Chris Farley, with the crucial difference of seeming to prefer malted milkshakes to speedballs.

Troy Patterson

If Atheists Ruled the World

March 31, 2009

This is a dramatic reading of comments from so-called “online Christian fundamentalist forums” – whatever that means. Whether they are actual comments from non-trolls or not, they sum up pretty well the worst of the worst in online forum commentary.

That said, I’m sure an If Christians Ruled the World version of selectively plucked comments from humanistic atheist forums – whatever that means – would be pretty darn amusing as well.

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing)

6-year-old cell phone hater

March 31, 2009

“Get off your f**kin’ cell phone…Get off your f**king cell phone NOW!!!!”

-A 6-year-old girl I encountered walking and talking on my cell phone on Bardstown Road in Louisville yesterday.

Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels

March 30, 2009


Great Lake Swimmers Lost Channels
(Nettwerk – March 31, 2009)
By Matthew Ralph

After releasing three albums that mostly blend together with what has become the signature contemplative snowed in Great Lake Swimmers sound, the Canadian band returns with an album that deserves to garner at least a portion of the hype levied on Bon Iver last year.

Foreshadowed by the single “Pulling On A Line” and its accompanying video, Tony Dekker, Erik Arnesen and their accompanying musicians have taken somewhat of an up-tempo turn on this recording, calling to mind on a couple tracks at least the alternative music of my youth with the jangly guitars and up-tempo beats tossed into the atmospheric country-tinged folk mix.

This is most evident on “She Comes to Me In Dreams,” which I almost mistaked for a Smiths cover when I first heard it – its jangly guitar and toe-tapping beat poppy in a way that Great Lake Swimmers has never really been before. Think the jump Mojave 3 made album to album from songs like “Hard To Miss You” on Spoon and Rafter to “Breaking the Ice” on Puzzles Like You.

“The Chorus in the Underground” follows with a banjo and fiddle-driven barn stomper that has a Sujfan Stevens at the county fair feel to it. “Still” and the album’s opener, “Palmistry,” also take a livelier approach but this is hardly a case of what we used to call a band selling out for radio in the old days (perhaps selling out for mp3 blogs is the modern equivalent?)

Mixed in between the attention grabbers are the songs that will probably still be moving the careful listeners for weeks to come, songs like “Concret Heart,” a smooth operator that is both heartbreaking and hopeful in the same breathe and instant classic “Everything Is Moving So Fast,” a poetic treatise firmly planted in the soil of times when people didn’t seem to mind that life wasn’t moving at such a rapid pace. “What does it feel like to fall, in slow motion, despite it all” Dekker sings with the familiar airy vocals that have made Great Lake Swimmers a heavy rotation regular of mine in recent years.

The album ends with two similarly infectious songs, “River’s Edge” and “unison Falling Into Harmony,” that ultimately rescue the album from being pegged as a move in the wrong direction. I haven’t found anything to top “Moving Pictures Silent Films” from the band’s self-titled debut – the song that almost instantly made them a favorite – but I’m going to hang onto this one long after I’ve stopped annoying my wife with my singing of the album’s catchier fare.

Effortless

March 30, 2009

Cassette tape art

March 29, 2009

Someone on Flickr who goes by iri5 has figured out one way to repurpose old cassette tapes as shown in the above image. 

You can check out six other cassette tape celebrity portraits in iri5’s Ghost in the Machine set HERE.

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing)

Online overkill – week of March 23

March 28, 2009

Good, bad, annoying or shady, these were the items that made frequent appearances in my RSS reader this week.

Obama’s Teleprompter. The right-wing teleprompter meme has been played up so much lately, the electronic note card machine has its own blog. The blog is kind of funny, even if making fun of a president for having prepared remarks seems a bit strange.  If the great communicator Ronald Reagan used a teleprompter, why can’t Obama?

Where The Wild Things Are trailer. Part movie tease. Part Arcade Fire music video. Spike Jonze’s worlds colliding, the video was everywhere this week for good reason.

UConn in hot water. A Yahoo! Sports story Jim Calhoun flippantly dismissed as a blog entry couldn’t have hit at a better time – for maximum exposure’s sake. It’s not something you wouldn’t actually want to read in a RSS feed though – way too long for that.

John 3:16 sign snagged.  The original Bannerman, Rollen Stewart is in jail for doing for holding a maid hostage in a hotel room, but his famed John 3:16 sign antics live on. Not if this security guard has anything to say about it though.

The death of Culture11. Culture11 was a short-lived conservative Web site modeled off of Slate Magazine. It received a thoughtful eulogy in the Washington Monthly recently and sparked some interesting conversation about conservative media in places like Patrol Magazine.

Long live gravity

March 27, 2009


By Matthew Ralph

“Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary
some in the wrong direction
Practice resurrection”

When I heard these familiar lines of poetry recited in the opening moments of a play celebrating the farmer, author, poet and activist Wendell Berry on Thursday, I felt a chill come over me like I have seldom experienced watching a stage production.

Practice resurrection. Two words of the 1973 poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” that, repeated while a hammer dulcimer played softly in the background, nearly moved me to tears as I pondered the deep meaning behind a simple, yet insightful turn of a phrase.

The poetry of Wendell Berry is full of moving moments like that, times where a simple phrase, a humorous anecdote or an observation of the natural world triggers the so-called light bulb of our minds to ever so gracefully turn on.

Wild Blessings, a new play based on Berry’s poetic works, is billed as a celebration of a faithful steward, a friendly neighbor, a loving husband and a kind of modern day prophet claimed by environmentalists, literature enthusiasts, Christians and conservatives alike. But the 75-minute play is as much a celebration of the things Berry has inspired readers for decades to appreciate, enjoy and protect. 

Aided by the lurid sounds of a hammer dulcimer and the striking photographic and video images visible through a large wall resembling a bay window in the middle of the stage and an even larger screen behind it, the play features four actors – an older couple and a younger one – dramatically reading Berry’s words. The actors march in circles, dance, play violin, guitar and percussion and sing. The hammer dulcimer player also sings, but the music mostly provides the soothing backdrop for the words that indirectly weave (using only words from Berry’s pen) a narrative of a slightly mad farmer, out of place in the city who falls in love, returns to the fields, raises a family and fights to hold onto the simple, beautiful things in life like family, friends and God’s creation.

Following along, even for someone familiar with many of his works, was somewhat dizzying at times. Unlike reading the words on a page, the combination of stunning visuals, soothing music and dramatic acting gives little time for you to completely digest. Breaks in the action do occur and the topically connected transitions are generally well played (he titles of poems flash on the screen as the images change), but as the play inches intermission-less toward the finish it does make you wish you could hit pause or maybe rewind on a few of the scenes.

An outline in the playbook might have been helpful as a guide, but in the end Wild Blessings succeeds in maintaining a lot of the subtlety, humor and vivid description that make reading Wendell Berry’s poetry such an enriching and life-giving experience. It doesn’t tell you how to think or lecture about why mountain top removal, conspicuous consumption or infidelity should be avoided. It shows you what you are missing when you trade in natural beauty, elegance and grace for artificial comfort, perceived safety and reckless convenience.

In other words, it shows you what it means to practice resurrection.

Wild Blessings is appearing until April 26 at The Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Click HERE for more information.

FNL rumor is true?

March 27, 2009

According to a NY Post blog, that rumor we reported on last week about Friday Night Lights getting renewed for two more seasons is more fact than fiction.