Up Is Amazing

The opening sequence, if split off on its own, would probably be the best Pixar short ever.

The rest of the movie's pretty damn good too.

This Is Getting Difficult

If Obama keeps pumping out great speeches every few months or so it's going to become impossible to determine which one is the best.

Al Giordano summed it up well, I think. The America Obama describes in his speeches is almost a Platonic Ideal.

The best side of America appeared today in Cairo. And it feels like it has been so long since it has materialized that one’s windpipes must share the gasp of shock with the exhale of great relief. Is that really us? Oh my, it is. Or it still can be.
But he can only point the way. It's up to us to do all the heavy lifting to make that Ideal into some kind of reality.

Sex With Ducks

Thank God I'm not the only one.

May's Travesties

Here's the full list of songs (37 in total) that I sang at karaoke in the month of May:

Always Something There To Remind Me - Naked Eyes
Bad Case of Loving You - Robert Palmer
Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
Carefree Highway - Gordon Lightfoot
Creep - Radiohead (w/live band)
Creepy Doll - Jonathan Coulton
Cry Little Sister - Gerard McMann
Feelin' Alright - Joe Cocker
Fly By Night - Chilliwack
Footloose - Kenny Loggins
Freeze-Frame - J. Geils Band
Friday On My Mind - Easybeats
Get Down On It - Kool & the Gang
Heroes - David Bowie
Hey Ya - Outkast
I Would Die 4 U - Prince
I'm a Man - Spencer Davis Group
Iron Lion Zion - Bob Marley
Jump Around - House of Pain (duet w/Carson T Foster)
Life During Wartime - Talking Heads
Little Bones - Tragically Hip
Move On Up - Curtis Mayfield
Policy of Truth - Depeche Mode
Private Eyes - Hall and Oates
Radio Ga Ga - Queen
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
Slow Hands - Interpol
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - Platters
(You're a) Strange Animal - Gowan
Sunday Morning Coming Down - Johnny Cash
Superfly - Curtis Mayfield
Sweet Emotion - Aerosmith
The Bends - Radiohead
Toxic - Britney Spears
True Faith - New Order
Veronica - Elvis Costello
Your Song - Elton John

Number Four

I'll wait while you all finish your chorus of "What the hell???"

There are two big reasons why Flood makes this list. The first is that it's a damn good album. Not "good for They Might Be Giants", not "good in a weird sort of way", but just damn good. Forget the 'hits' for a moment; tracks like Lucky Ball & Chain and Twisting expertly dance along the line between catchy pop awesomeness and too-clever-by-half lyrics that not only define TMBG but a distressingly large chunk of my personality. And Minimum Wage is still the ultimate anthem for anyone who's ever worked retail.

The other reason Flood makes the list is that it was the album that made me realize professional reviewers are usually full of shit. Way back in 1990, when Flood came out, I worked in (you'll be shocked to hear this, I'm sure) a record store and actually read Rolling Stone, and considered it a valuable guide for making my way through the musical wilderness. When they reviewed Flood, however, they gave it two stars and the reviewer spent the entire thing alternately trashing the band for not doing what he wanted them to do, and doing the very things he was criticizing them for (at one point he derided their riffing on pop culture references after he'd described their "Letterman-like smugness", or something like that.*) The upshot was that I decided I just had to hear any album that would piss off someone so obliviously self-centred, and Flood became one of the three pillars** of my theory that most professional entertainment journalists are just in it for the free food and swag.

So, to sum up: Flood made me realize that it's OK to be a freak in sheep's clothing, and that the supposed experts don't know their ass from a hole in the ground half the time. How could it not be in my top five?

* - In the interest of fairness, I dug up that Rolling Stone review online. My hazy memory wasn't that far off. I wonder what David Browne does for a living these days, anyway?

** - The other two are, ironically enough, Little Earthquakes (thanks to Peter Howell's full page glowing review of it in the Toronto Star that made it perfectly obvious he had no freakin' idea why he was supposed to be giving it a glowing review, but she had all that industry buzz behind her so who was he to say any different?) and O Brother Where Art Thou? (which Owen Glieberman in Entertainment Weekly gave an 'F' grade and called misanthropic. What a fucking tool.)

Number Five

OK, here we go.

Much as Little Earthquakes makes me smile and cry and want to hug somebody, hoping the hug gets paid forward to Tori, and Black Monk Time is the single greatest FTW album EVAH, there was simply no way I could get away from Astral Weeks.

I could rehash all the usual criticese Celtic mystic blah blah blah that you'd find in most reviews of Van's triumph, but I think what gets overlooked in most of those is how this album is so purely the sound of True Rebellion. Think about what led Van to this point in his life. He'd fronted a rather successful British Invasion blues rock band, and then fought tooth and nail with a producer in his first solo session (the one that coughed up Brown Eyed Girl) and still come out the other side with a huge hit. The pressure to conform, to adapt to the Business That Is Show and become a good little star, must have been immense.

Instead he buggers off and creates a work of ruthlessly uncommercial art that exists completely inside itself. Astral Weeks is the negation of pop. It doesn't attack pop the way punk does, it simply denies pop's very existence. It isn't possible to listen to something like Cyprus Avenue and comprehend that it shares anything at all with the Dave Clark Five. There's just no room in its wild bloody heart for the dead noise of pop commodification.

Calling Astral Weeks brave is an understatement. If it weren't so perfect, you'd almost have to call its creation an act of self-destructive behavior. But maybe that 'almost' misses the point. Being self-destructive isn't necessarily a negative if the self you're tearing down is not to your liking, and if you raise up something better on the freshly cleared ground.

And oh Goddess, is that thing he built beautiful.

Astral Weeks is the album I turn to when I need to be reminded of the universe's incandescence.