One Fall Wall

Video Fridays: Dirty Projectors

Embarrassingly, this week’s Video Fridays installment features yet another band that has been around for quite some time (10 years), making REALLY good music, getting noticed, and I’ve been sadly, totally unaware.

But, what a band, and oh, so worth the wait.

The music of Dirty Projectors, from Brooklyn, New York, is gloriously impossible to categorize, you’ll find no simple genre that they clearly belong to, unless you want to cheat and just call them Indie.

Researching them, I came across an interview at A.V. Club from November 2009 that focuses entirely on the challenges of placing the various influences and genres one could try to associate with Dirty Projectors:

It’s critical shorthand that everyone (including we) are guilty of falling back on: saying one band “sounds like” another, rather than attempting to get at what makes it unique. And when a band that’s truly idiosyncratic comes along—like Dirty Projectors, whose “Bitte Orca” has received acres of critical adulation this year—that old music-reviewer standby becomes especially worthless, as everyone scrambles to find a way to describe something that, speaking honestly, sounds like nothing that came before it…

The writer goes on to interview frontman, singer/songwriter, Dave Longstreth, specifically quoting a selection of critics who, combined, named 20 different artists in their attempt to describe Dirty Projectors. The interview is a fun read, so check it out.

I’ll just say that Dirty Projectors’ music is the most unique stuff I’ve heard in a long time. It is music that begs you to listen closely to it, with rich, complex compositions, gorgeous vocal harmonies, wicked beats, and instrumentation that sometimes surprises, but always seems spot-on.

It was impossible to pick just one song, especially since there are some awesome clips on YouTube. So, I’ve chosen two: the first, to me, exemplifies their knack for delicious unpredictability, and the second highlights their amazing vocals.

What’s especially admirable about both of these tracks is that Dirty Projectors are as good live as they are in the studio.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Morning Campus Fog

Eyecatchers: Vimeo

So, I’ve known about Vimeo, that other video website, for a long time, I’ve seen embedded clips all over the place, and I’ve embedded some right here, but it wasn’t until I got an Apple TV, which allows me to watch Vimeo videos on my flat screen TV, that I finally discovered just how great Vimeo is.

Comparing Vimeo to YouTube is really an apples:oranges kinda thing.

YouTube is awesome for it’s universality, it’s accessibility, for how it has inspired millions to post video clips of all shapes and sizes to share on the interwebs, some of it homegrown, some of it simply ripped from existing media.

Vimeo, on the other hand, is purely a content-creators’ site, and there are guidelines for posted videos that have been unusually strictly adhered to, resulting in an average level of quality that is extraordinarily high.

From animated, live-action, and documentary shorts, to timelapse photography, music videos, and more, browsing around Vimeo is a refreshing change of pace, but I’ll go further.

Having spent a few weeks now watching Vimeo content, I find that, over and over again, I’m actually deeply moved by the extent and depth of creativity on display there. Unfortunately, only a relative lucky handful of people are able to make a living with their creative talents, and when I see some of these videos, how beautiful and compelling and thought-provoking they are, I’m, on one hand, saddened that more of these folks don’t have full-time jobs “doing what they love”, but on the other hand the world seems a better place just knowing how many incredibly creative people there are out there.

I’ll be starting to post Vimeo clips more regularly as part of my Eyecatchers series, and I’ll start off with the very first clip that I watched, a stunning piece of animation by Philipp Artus.


Who Says Spending Is Bad?

I’ll tell you who!

In the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s generally right wing, “pro business” (I’ll get to why I put that in quotes in a minute), sycophantic free market deficit hawks who are really only interested in cutting government spending on pretty much anything that doesn’t further enrich them.

They hide their real intentions behind fear mongering about budget deficits — budget deficits that they largely created — while claiming, in the face of indisputable evidence to the contrary, that trickle down economics works.

I thought about this when I read the following, in a seemingly totally unrelated article about Corning, the glass company.

Via Wired:

So strong is this reverence for experimentation that the company regularly invests a healthy 10 percent of its revenue in R&D. And that’s in good times and in bad. When the telecom bubble burst in 2000 and cratering fiber-optic prices sent Corning’s stock from $100 to $1.50 per share by 2002, its CEO at the time reassured scientists that not only was Corning still about research but that R&D would be the path back to prosperity.

Now, this is a company that’s been around since…wait for it…


Obviously, this idea of investing (a fancy word for spending) when economic times are tough makes good business sense.

Yet, we hear over and over again from those sycophantic free market deficit hawks that the private sector does things better and more efficiently than government, and so we should run the government more like we run businesses, only, when economic times get tough, they want to massively cut spending.

Seems these “pro business” people aren’t very good at business at all.

Southern Rock Redux

Back in July, I wrote a post titled My Embarrassing Southern Rock Phase, which prompted one of the best, if brief, discussions in the comments section that I’ve had here at Fish & Bicycles.

What I didn’t realize at the time, however, is that my post would be prophetic.

Now, just a few months later, this news from the Los Angeles Times:

Lynyrd Skynyrd denounces Confederate flag, angering some fans

Lynyrd Skynyrd wasn’t bothered by Watergate, but now they’re sheepish over their use of the Confederate flag.

The Southern rock band has long been known for its ’70s-era hits like “Sweet Home Alabama” and defiant embrace of Old Dixie imagery. But the group’s lone surviving original member, Gary Rossington, recently told CNN that the band, recognizing the stars-and-bars flag’s offensive and racist undertones, will cease using it as a stage decoration at concerts supporting its new album “Last of a Dyin’ Breed.”

“Through the years, people like the KKK and skinheads kinda kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers, that’s what it was about,” Rossington said. “We didn’t want that  to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.”

And, I got all excited!

Maybe they read my post and they finally got it! I thought, kudos to them for this decision, given that, as the article goes on to report, they faced the wrath of some of their fans and fellow southerners. That takes real bravery!

Well, um, unfortunately, just a few days later, it seems they weren’t very brave at all.

Via Salon:

Lynyrd Skynyrd won’t abandon the Confederate flag

Recently, Lynyrd Skynyrd told CNN that it has stopped associating itself with the Confederate flag because “it became such an issue about race.” The flag had been hijacked by the KKK and other hate groups you see. However, after receiving lots of media attention and fan backlash, Skynyrd is sticking with the flag after all.

And, as if it wasn’t bad enough that they’ll continue using the flag, founding member Gary Rossington’s “clarification” of his statement on CNN, which he posted on the band’s Facebook Page, includes an infamous attempt at sanitizing history:

…the Civil War was fought over States rights.

Yeah, and one of those “rights” was the right to own slaves.

What I find most interesting about all this, however, is the cognitive dissonance in the clip from the CNN broadcast referenced in the L.A. Times piece.

Here, you have an African American woman, CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield, enthusiastically introducing the band, with complimentary references to their considerable musical legacy of well-known anthemic radio hits — songs that, chances are, VERY few if any African Americans would EVER voluntarily listen to — she then warmly interviews them, an interview prefaced with this statement:

They remain steeped in tradition, but they’re proud to boast that they have evolved, a lot, in their lyrics, their style, and image.

…and that last form of evolution, the image, is clearly an intentional foreshadowing, because, when Fredricka asks them straight out about the flag, accompanying photos of the band are shown, examples of their longstanding use of the flag as part of their image, so there can be no doubt that their supposed decision to stop using the flag was the main angle for the entire piece.

Anyway, I just can’t help thinking that Fredricka must, almost certainly, feel duped, and I find that incredibly sad.

Out of Office: Fall Term Start-up Edition

Well, it’s that time of year again, when I, an employee of the local university, must set aside the non-essentials, painfully blogging among them, and take on the busiest period on the ever-revolving and repeating calendar:

The start of Fall Quarter and the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year.

My duties find me in the very heart of this annual effort to wake the institution from its summer slumber, to make ready for the arrival of 15,000 students to campus. It’s actually an exciting time, however time-consuming it might be.

And so, things will be quiet here at Fish & Bicycles, with the possibility of no new posts until Sunday at the earliest.

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to browse around here in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.


Autumn Saturation

Warp Drive Coming “Soon”

So, yesterday I read that NASA is actually starting to work on making this happen:

Via Gizmodo: (emphasis added)

“Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility.” These are the words of Dr. Harold “Sonny” White, the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate. Dr. White and his colleagues don’t just believe a real life warp drive is theoretically possible; they’ve already started the work to create one.

And, while I’d like to be terrifically excited about this, the news is so WAY out there, so theoretical, so science fictiony, that I just can’t summon the enthusiasm.

First of all, what the HELL does “skunkworks” mean?! (emphasis added)

Working at NASA Eagleworks—a skunkworks operation deep at NASA’s Johnson Space Center…

Ok, so I found out what it means, and I guess it’s important that skunkworks operations happen “deep” at the space center, because, I don’t know, stuff might blow up?

Next, can anyone read the following and NOT suspect that this Dr. White guy is just stealing lines of dialogue from, Scotty or Geordi:

Dr. White’s team is trying to find proof of those loopholes. They have “initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble” using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer…

By creating one of these warp bubbles, the spaceship’s engine will compress the space ahead and expand the space behind, moving it to another place without actually moving, and carrying none of the adverse effects of other travel methods. According to Dr. White, “by harnessing the physics of cosmic inflation, future spaceships crafted to satisfy the laws of these mathematical equations may actually be able to get somewhere unthinkably fast—and without adverse effects.”…

The Eagleworks team has discovered that the energy requirements are much lower than previously thought. If they optimize the warp bubble thickness and “oscillate its intensity to reduce the stiffness of space time,”

Oh, right! Cosmic inflation! Oscillating the intensity of the warp bubble thickness! Of course!

Really, Dr. White? In our lifetime?

…um, wait a minute, maybe…

Cat Heaven