starlady: The Welcome to Night Vale Logo, with clouds over the moon (welcome to night vale)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), dir. Nicolas Roeg
When David Bowie died I went to the movies. He stole the entire film with his turn as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006)--I would have paid so much money to have an entire movie of him as Tesla--and of course I've seen Labyrinth (1986), but I'd never seen this one. What struck me immediately was how similar it was, in terms of effects and directorial philosophy, to The Prisoner. The passage of time has been much kinder to the latter; the film never quite coheres, and it's too long. I was also reminded of Under the Skin; this movie is better. I was very proud of myself for correctly identifying Jim Lovell before the on-screen newscaster introduced him. But as a series of striking sequences, and for Bowie's weird, reserved performance, it's worth seeing at least once.

Purple Rain (1983), dir. Albert Magnoli
When Prince died I wore all purple the next day in mourning for the purple Yoda from Minnesota. The next week I went to see Purple Rain, which is amazing. The story is fine, with perhaps more sexism than I was frankly expecting, but wow, Prince. Prince. Prince. I immediately understood that the people who said on Twitter that Prince in concert was pure sex were right, because the Prince numbers in Purple Rain are also pure sex. Even when people in the theater with me got out real actual lighters and held them up during "Purple Rain" and we all clapped and sang along, I couldn't tear my eyes away from him on that First Avenue stage. (I kept looking for friends of mine among the extras in the concert scenes, but no luck.) People on The Current were saying that the movie will endure for the fashion, and it's true that amazing, but the movie will be immortal because it has Prince in it. Like most of his catalog the soundtrack desperately needs a remaster, but even so, it was one of the more mind-blowing concert experiences I've had, never mind that I wasn't actually at a concert.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
I've seen a lot of people talking about music lately, and how to find new music. This is not the post I am writing about that, but it is a post of three wildly different recs for music with, I think, broad potential appeal.

The NPR Music Austin 100, 2015: 100 songs from SXSW artists, available to download en masse or listen to individually until 2 April 2015. There is, quite literally, something for everyone in here--and since these bands are still at the "playing the cheap SXSW shows" level, their shows will still be relatively affordable. I've already downloaded some albums from this list, and I only shouted "What the fuck is this shit?!" at the computer twice. 

Echo's Children is on Bandcamp! I first heard the music of this classic filk group--they're amazing, seriously--via a Star Trek fanmix from, I believe, [personal profile] melannen. "Acts of Creation" makes me cry ~50% of the time, and their entire catalog is available on Bandcamp, including the albums that have been OOP for years. Jed Hartman has an older post with some more detailed pointers for intros to their music.

Purity Ring, Another Eternity - This one is more specialized; if you're not into indie/electronic-ish music, I can't say whether you'll like it. (True confession: the music scene is so diverse and fragmented these days, it's been eons since I've been able to keep up with the continuing advance of micro genre labels.) What I can say is that I caught The New Hot Show on The Current last week and was writing some emails while listening to it (they played the new Mumford & Sons song. 89.3 HOW COULD YOU BETRAY ME LIKE THIS) and the song "Begin Again" made me sit up, look up the band, and download the album within about five minutes. It's shockingly good.

# Bonus: Musicians You'll Tell Your Friends About in 2015, from NPR - I think a lot of people out there who like Caro Emerald and/or Marina & the Diamonds and/or Kate Tempest would really like The Anchoress.
starlady: (but it does move)
Something everybody loves that you don't (or that you love that nobody else seems to) for [personal profile] the_rck 

I am a day behind--whoops! 

I think the answer I am going to give, to the positive permutation of the question, is the books of Neal Stephenson. I am immediately going to put in the caveat that I've "only" read The Baroque Trilogy (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and Anathem, but when you think about the length of a typical Stephenson novel--and the sad fact that most people don't seem to make it all the way through the Baroque trilogy, sob!--that is still pretty respectable.

The line I most often hear about Stephenson is that he is bad at endings and women, and while I obviously can't speak to his earlier books, I think both books disprove that idea to some extent. The Baroque Trilogy has many awesome female characters, for example, starting with but by no means limited to Eliza, and The System of the World is both an excellent book with a conventional plot structure in its own right as well as one long ending to a thousand-page epic. And the female characters of Anathem at least play active parts, even if the actual protagonist is male.

But what I love about Stephenson most is that he's so smart and so funny. The number of times I laughed out lout while reading the Baroque Trilogy was in the dozens--he has a way with quips, particularly in the first and third books, that is hilarious, though the Star Trek joke in Anathem was hilarious too--and also just a bravura way with words that I think is really great. Some people have said to me that they find Stephenson's prose style boring. I also like Thomas Pynchon and China Miéville, and in the end there's no accounting for taste. And while Stephenson may not be a Virginia Woolf or a Joseph Conrad in terms of prose style, he does have a style, and moreover, he's astonishingly smart and astonishingly good at explaining very complicated ideas very clearly. The part in Quicksilver where they escape Blackbeard with calculus--let me say that again, they escape Blackbeard with calculus, oh excuse me Sir Isaac, I meant fluxions--is a case in point. Anathem, where the characters run around doing all kinds of complicated trigonometry and orbital mechanics with not much more in the way of tools than were available to Euclid, with the crucial exception of their prodigious scholastic tradition and the minds they use it with, is another excellent example.

Anathem is another example of the ways in which Stephenson isn't afraid to channel that intelligence towards speculation--informed speculation, but speculation nonetheless--about science and technology, though I'll say no more about Anathem because it's all major spoilers. [personal profile] spaiku said to me once that The Diamond Age is the only work from the cyberpunk age that got the way we live now right (and I think that's true if you take a mulligan on William Gibson, whose novels came true in pieces and who then stopped writing science fiction), so this isn't precisely a new trick, either.

Talking of The Diamond Age brings up the other reason people tend not to read Stephenson, namely the very questionable racial politics in some of his books. I called The Diamond Age "the masterpiece of techno-Orientalism" in my Ph.D. exam, which is a characterization I stand by, and I'd really rather just pretend the Mongoliad books or whatever the fuck they're called don't exist. In its dealings with the Ottomans Quicksilver in particular suffers from some of this, but in drawing on history and also research Stephenson is insulated from some of the more pernicious effects of unconscious attitudes. It's a shame that such a learned guy can't get past his own privilege or ignorance or whatever, and I certainly can understand why people would avoid Stephenson on this account. But at least these four books, and some of his others about which I've heard good things, are ones on which I want to play the "this author is problematic but I like them anyway" card. I actually heard him speak at my university once, and he struck me as actually quite humble, which might come as a surprise to some people. I would have liked to ask him a question about some of these points, but the Q&A moderation was terrible and so were the moderator's questions. Don't let physicists ask writers about novels, people. Just say no to that.

Anyway, I commend The Baroque Trilogy to anyone interested in the Scientific Revolution, 17thC Europe, or London; I walked around the city this summer with scenes from the books playing through my head like some kind of multimedia installation. And I commend Stephenson to your reconsideration, if you're so inclined.


Oh, if you want the answer to the other half of the question, because they just came up on a playlist: FUCKING MUMFORD AND SONS. ALL THEY DO IS GROAN MELODICALLY. SHUT UP MUMFORD AND SONS. WHY
starlady: Galadriel in Caras Galadhon, with an ornate letter "G" (galadriel is a G)
I drove down with my friend J to see Arcade Fire at the Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View Wednesday night. Arcade Fire were amazing, as usual! They are one of my all-time favorite bands and they never disappoint, of course.

I actually listened to their March 08 concert in Minneapolis while I was studying for orals, and so I was surprised, upon comparing the setlist from that show with the setlist from the show I saw (note: the latter doesn't mention which song they launched into a few bars of New Order's "Temptation") to see that they were quite similar; it felt like our show had fewer songs from Reflektor, but it actually didn't. Compared to the last time I saw them in a comparable venue at the Mann Center in Philly, though (2 August 2010), they did play fewer songs from the new album. But, given that they now have more albums…I don't know. It was awesome all the same, and thanks to the presale code I used we got quite decent seats for less money than might otherwise have been expected. I was glad they did "Normal Person," because that's one of my favorites on the new album, and the split stage with Regine and Win was great on "It's Never Over," and I personally thought the fake band bit with "Tunnel of Love" was hilarious. Win opened "Joan of Arc" by shouting "Dear god, give us a female president," which was also pretty great. The crowd was decent too! The seats were close to sold out, and the lawn was pretty full, and people were, for the Bay Area, pretty into it--they stood up as soon as the band came out and for the most part didn't sit down again, although they did as usual smoke a ton of pot and often stood there like lumps. Sigh. They were better than when I saw Arcade Fire in Berkeley, anyway, though not as good as Philly or Tokyo; I think the band request to come in party clothes or costume helped get people into it.

The Shoreline is decent too; it's pretty comparable to the Mann Center honestly, though with less ease of access to major roads, and frankly, the damn South Bay is just so far away. We missed Dan Deacon entirely because of traffic, which I was a little sad about because he is awesome. In short, I will continue to regard the Shoreline as a venue to go to only if the artist playing there is someone I 200% want to see.

starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
[personal profile] rilina asked about a song or album that I've loved recently.

Well, this is both easy and hard. 2013 wound up being a phenomenal year for the kind of music I like, and so I'm going to take this opportunity to list my favorite albums of 2013, in no particular order.

# Vienna Teng, Aims - I got introduced to Vienna Teng through fandom, essentially, and she is so, so amazing. She's a pianist and songwriter who's from the Bay Area, and since she released a new album this year, I finally got to see her live; she's amazing! The musicianship of her and her trio is really mind-blowing, and I love her music, and her voice. The album, Aims, is phenomenal--it's totally her, and it's also a really interesting evolution of her sound, and I will see her as often as I can until the day I die. My two favorite tracks are "In the 99" and "Never Look Away."

# Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady - I've written before about how much I love Janelle Monáe. I think she may be the single best musician under 50 working right now. (I say that because otherwise I'd have to put her above Bruce Springsteen, and I'm just not emotionally equipped to do that about anyone.) Her music spans genres, but always stays true to her Atlanta and scifi roots. The Electric Lady is her most personal album yet, and though it didn't hook me as immediately as did The ArchAndroid, I saw her live in November and it was one of the best shows of my life--she's gotten even better at owning the stage, and she was already phenomenal. My favorite track is probably "Electric Lady," but there's so many amazing ones, it's hard to choose.

# Fall Out Boy, Save Rock and Roll - I'm always in bandom years late, I think; I didn't even listen to this album until after I'd seen FOB touring for it, but holy shit, it's amazing. Patrick Stump is phenomenal, and the band sounds ridiculously good. My favorite tracks are "The Phoenix," "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark," and "Young Volcanoes," but the whole thing's awesome.

# Fitz and the Tantrums, More Than Just A Dream - I heard "6am" on the Current and went to download the album immediately. They're an LA-based neo-soul group, and though this is by no means normally my thing, this album, their second, is pretty phenomenal.

# Dessa, Parts of Speech - I love all of Dessa's music; her songs are so interesting, and so intelligent, and so knowing. I got to see her in June finally and she's wonderful.

# Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon - This is the follow-up album to Infernal Machines, the soundtrack for a Fritz Lang-esque art installation parable about a steampunk city after the apocalypse and the role of Art and Work in Society. I don't know a ton about jazz, but this album is amazing.

# Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe - Scottish electronica. I saw them live in November and they're still proto-stage performers, really, but the music is more than enough to carry them until they fully grow into their personas.

# Arcade Fire, Reflektor - I love Arcade Fire with all of my heart and soul and I will see them as often as I can until the day I die. When I heard that this album was coming out in October I said, "Well, now I can die happy," and it's true. It's not quite as immediately transcendently obviously wonderful as The Suburbs was, to my mind, but it grows on you after approximately one play; it's another masterpiece. I cannot wait to see them in July.

Honorable mentions go to Beyoncé's self-titled album Beyoncé, which I have not had a chance to listen to all the way through yet. I also just got The Indelicates' new album, Diseases of England--they're another group I heard about through fandom, and I adore their acid wit and their overeducated name-dropping and their deep liberal cynicism and the fact that they are a British guitar pop duo with amazing harmonies. I fully expect to love this album too. The first thing I do when I get a real job is going to be paying them to play a house show at my house, wherever I am. I've seriously thought of doing it on y grad student stipend, which I cannot actually afford to do, but I've seriously thought about it all the same.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
I went with [personal profile] epershand and some people to see Fall Out Boy at the America's Cup Pavilion last night. FALL OUT BOY ARE PRETTY GREAT LIVE. I had only ever seen Patrick Stump before--and that was one of the best shows of my life--I may have been the only person there who cared more about Patrick Stump than about Pete Wentz. I had kind of forgotten how much I liked Patrick Stump? Or rather I had forgotten that he was in Fall Out Boy? I was glad that I have gotten into the habit of just saying "yes" to concerts with E and [twitter.com profile] 15dozentimes, because though I didn't have much concept of FOB, they were awesome and I loved them almost immediately. In the middle of the set they left the stage and did a mini-acoustic set in between the floor and the stands! That was cool.

The America's Cup Pavilion is the open-air concert venue that has been erected at Pier 23 as part of the interminable America's Cup folderol, which thankfully should come to an end today when New Zealand finally kicks Larry Ellison's Team Oracle's ass. (There have been wind and rain delays, and the Kiwis are stuck at 8-1. They need nine races to win.) The America's Cup Pavilion, as a concert venue, is one of the strangest I've been to. There were no toilets, only port-a-potties, and the "floor" section of the "arena" had…AstroTurf laid down. Which was weird, but certainly helped my knees not be totally shot by the end of the night. And it was pretty cool, in the end! We were right below Coit Tower and the moon rose over the stands in the middle of the FOB set and the fact that it was open air kept the pot smoke from being too thick and it was also more than a little magical. The lighting in particular was pretty great, and also the crew were some of the most efficient I've ever seen. The concert started with Twenty-One PIlots (whatever) at 18:58 on my watch, and they changed from the opener to Panic! at the Disco in literally ten minutes flat (WHAT). (Also, the exclamation point is definitely back.) The Fall Out Boy transition took a bit longer, but was still pretty speedy. We got into the habit of blaming Larry Ellison for any and everything: "Larry Ellison, bring out Fall Out Boy! Larry Ellison, why is there no toilet paper! Damn it, Larry!" (Yes, like all right-thinking people in the Bay area, we basically loathe Larry Ellison, for so many reasons.)

I took a ton of photos--probably more than 300 on two cameras--for a class assignment, which was interesting as a way to interact with the show; I found myself way more interested in the reactions of other people than I normally am, when I'm trying to concentrate on the music. (I took 300+ photos to get five.) And then I went home and downloaded the new FOB album (yes, I know), and as usual I have the post-concert sadness that the album cuts aren't as good as they were when performed live. Come back to San Francisco, Fall Out Boy! 

(Also: it would be pretty cool if there were a venue like the America's Cup Pavilion on the waterfront permanently, I think. It's an amazing location and San Francisco could use more large-scale concert venues. No, I'm not really a fan of the Greek Theater in Berkeley, why do you ask?)
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
[personal profile] epershand and I went to Outside Lands 2012 last Sunday. It was really awesome! My standards for music festivals are low (i.e., have fun and don't get assaulted), but I think Outside Lands may be an asymptotically perfect music fest. It's certainly the most San Francisco music fest possible, that's for sure.

We got there at 12:35, after some hilarity with transportation, and went straight to the main stage to wait for fun., who we saw live in March at a sold-out venue with lots of drunken obnoxious sorority girls and who are one of those rare bands who are so much better live than the recordings that the recordings are an active disappointment even though they're great. We were able to get up really close to the stage and their set was awesome, awesome, awesome.

In general, the Jumbotron camera work was really good, and so we were able to get a really good experience of the Franz Ferdinand set that was next, even though we spent the first third of it chowing down on food because we were starving. (The food in general was pretty darn good.) Franz Ferdinand were also really good live! I have never seen them before and they played some new songs as well as old material and they are really dynamic, too.

Regina Spektor was next, and [personal profile] epershand and I speculated that she was actually scheduled on the main stage to clear out the crowds. Although both of us like Regina Spektor, we were sort of nonplussed by her set choices. It just wasn't a festival set, and we wound up wandering around during it, since the odds that she was going to play "Us" were slim. (And, in fact, she didn't.)

Bloc Party were one of the draws of the festival for me, because they are probably one of my favorite bands whom I've never seen, and indeed, until last year they were broken up and I thought I would never get to see them. But they have a new album and they played some songs from it and we got to the stage really, really, early, early enough to get up pretty darn close, and they were awesome! I was so happy.

Stevie Wonder was the last performer on the main stage - we arrived back there in time to hear him covering Michael Jackson, and we never even got close enough to the front to see the people crowd-surfing. Stevie Wonder is great, and all of his hits that he played were great, although it got a little awkward when it became obvious that he'd forgotten that he was supposed to go until 9:30. We wound up cutting out a little bit before then, and left to the strains of him covering The Beatles. It was, all in all, a fantastic day.
starlady: Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter (alternate history)
My dad and I went to the National Constitution Center to see the exhibit From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen. I have mixed feelings about the NCC; I have none about Bruce Springsteen, or about the exhibit, which was pretty damn awesome, and for Springsteen fans, well worth the trip.

The National Constitution Center is part of the post-2001 reshaping of the heart of the "Historic Philadelphia" area in Old City, and as someone who has very fond memories of the old mall and the old Liberty Bell pavilion, I really just am not a fan of the NCC. It is big, it is ugly, the new parking garage put a hump in the mall that obscures the sightlines to Independence Hall from a block away, and it is fundamentally weird to have an entire museum dedicated to a document that is…in Washington, D.C. That said, I have gone through the NCC's permanent exhibit, "Freedom Rising," which despite the idiotic name is an interesting take on the history of the United States in that it is framed through the prism of the Constitution and the idea that the history of the United States is the history of the extension of that document's privileges to successive groups of formerly disenfranchised people. Which, yes, is a task that is not yet done and is also a particular romantically progressive delusion, but on the other hand narratives make history and our sense of the future and I don't think it's a bad story to tell people, although the exhibit does not, I think, completely hit its mark. Well, as Benny F would have agreed, the great work is still unfinished.

It occurred to me as my dad and I were leaving that the NCC should have the Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage video in its collections. It doesn't, of course, and it won't. Video embedded below )

The Bruce Springsteen exhibit is on one level an odd choice for the NCC, and on the other, if you've ever half paid attention to any Bruce lyrics, a perfect fit. The exhibit collects a lot of archival memorabilia (I have seen the guitar and the leather jacket from the Born to Run cover, the guitar that Bruce has played in hundreds of shows, in person!) and in particular dozens of pages from Bruce's notebooks, showing his obsessive rewritings of some of his most famous and most obscure songs. For me, the insight into his creative process alone was worth the price of admission, and it also sharpened my appreciation for his genius: just where does he get these words? Who the hell talks like this, let alone writes songs like this? Where did Springsteen come from? From New Jersey, from the US of A, from the spirit of the times that summoned him up and has animated him and his career ever since, from the heart of rock and roll. You would never think, listening to a masterpiece like "Born to Run," that the lyrics--which seem so natural, so inevitable--had been rewritten nearly fifty times before he ever cut the demo track. But they were.

Baby we were born to run... ) So it goes, I guess.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
Back in the day I started pre-writing posts to save time, but these days I have the feeling that pre-writing posts is actually holding me back from posting. So, this post is coming to you live, as it were - I type in the box and press post and we'll get what we get. 

I drove down to the shark tank in San Jose on Wednesday evening to see Radiohead live. I've loved them since Kid A came out and I walked down the street and bought it in Borders with my very first paycheck on the strength of a review that said it was amazing. On my first listen-through I hated that album, but I kept listening and then I loved it and in a lot of ways that was my springboard into liking music and having actual taste in music. I have never managed to see them live until now, and this time I jumped at the chance to go with my friend P and her roommate T from Norway, since last year there were all those rumors that they'd broken up and I didn't want to miss out. 

Well, it was awesome. Thom Yorke dances very awkwardly and the band are phenomenal and nothing sounds like it does on the albums, since they dial up the bass and scramble the beats and throw in a pretty amazing light show - for example, I am listening to the album cut of "Planet Telex" right now, which they played for the first time since 2009, and it is totally different, and it was just a great experience, even with the arena being full of Silicon Valley hipster millionaires smoking up and dancing awkwardly. Also, when Thom Yorke plays up his accent I can only half understand him. 

Radiohead's music was so relevant to me; when Hail to the Thief came out it felt like the only possible soundtrack for the Bush years. I appreciated seeing them live because they made the songs sound more au courant, in some ways, though it was also interesting to listen to the reworked tracks and hearing within them the ghosts of the past. Yeah. So that was an interesting aspect to it. I'm so glad I got the chance to see them, it was pretty thoroughly wonderful. (And they played nearly two hours of music! That is real value for money in today's concert world.)
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

Links: [profile] helpsomalia | FAQ | Snail Mail | Arts & Crafts | Miscellaneous | Words | Audio | Graphics | Requests

Description: "You've probably heard by now, twelve million people are facing a hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, and they are in desperate need of help. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went on record saying is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today and the worst that East Africa has seen in several decades. The United Nations declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, calling for a widespread international response to end the suffering.

Thousands of Somalis have been fleeing the country each week in search of food, water and shelter. The lucky may find their way to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. However, even with these refugee camps nearly half a million children are at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease.

[profile] helpsomalia hopes to raise funds to help provide relief organizations with funds via a fandom charity auction, much like [community profile] help_japan, [community profile] helpthesouth, and other similar communities."

Auctions close on Saturday, 8 October 2011 at approximately 17:00 (5pm) GMT.


[personal profile] boundbooks has a post on why you shouldn't earmark your charity donations. I'd agree; the best way to make sure that your money will go to help people is to do some research beforehand and pick an organization with a proven track record of using money effectively, rather than trying to dictate how an organization should use your donation.


Dept. of Frivolity
It's no secret that I think that Alex Ross is one of the best writers on music today, bar none. I was terribly amused by his recent review of Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom.
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
# Björk has a new album/multimedia project, Biophilia, coming out next month. I am excited. I think Björk is one of the best, most fearless, and most interesting musicians out there, bar none.

# With her commissioning the creation of a new instrument, the gameleste, for the album, the history of the gamelan outside Indonesia has entered a new chapter.

# This Michel Gondry-directed video for one of the album's tracks, "Crystalline," that features the gameleste, is pretty amazing: 

And it makes me want to rewatch Charmax's vid Space Girl, so I did, I did, I did. )
Originally posted at Dreamwidth Studios; you can comment there using OpenID or a DW account.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
Some almost completely random music and vid recs featuring music I liked.

Six vids/vid recs below the cut )
starlady: (obligatory japan icon)
1. What's the best but least-known (to Westerners, to Japanese people in other parts of the country, whichever) thing about Kyoto you've discovered?
Hmm, this is tough! Kyoto never ceases to throw new things into my path, but on the other hand, I've grown to know the city fairly well (partly, yes, because I had a lot of time and money and few responsibilities the last time I was here).

So, let's see. One of the things you can find in Kyoto that I love, and that even people from Kansai don't often know about, is hiyashi ame, cold ginger juice. It is SO GOOD. I've found it two places in Kyoto (actually near Kyoto technically, but close enough): at Mii-dera, across the mountains in Shiga, and at Mimuroto-ji in Uji, during the hydrangea season. I also found it at the Tenjin matsuri in Osaka last month, which was awesome.

As for places…I love just about all of the major Kyoto sites, which is good because I inevitably wind up making a circuit of them when I show people around, but some of my really favorite places are slightly more out of the way. Mimuroto-ji in Uji above, Ishiyama-dera a bit further east, Kajû-ji in Yamashina, Myôshin-ji up in the northwest (it's so cool to wander around there, just so cool; it's like a little town made up entirely of temples). I also really love the Garden of Fine Arts up on Kitayama, which bills itself as the world's first outdoor art garden and is a cheerfully bizarre little place, with architecture by Andô Tadao, who is one of my all-time favorites and luckily for me a Kansai native, so there's lots of his buildings around to explore. The Garden of Fine Arts is quirky and awesome.

It's really hard to choose, actually. I just love Kyoto, period.

2. What's your favorite thing about A:TLA (a character, a trope, an episode, etc.)?
Well, I think my favorite trope is actually the willingness of the show's creators to remix so many things from actual history and Asian cultures with such wild, though respectful, abandon. The most obvious example is the fauna (turtleducks! they are awesome!), but you see it everywhere (how awesome is the lion turtle? How awesome?).

Also, I really just unreservedly love Toph. TOPH I LOVE YOU.

And also, 3x17, "The Ember Island Players," is just golden, golden, golden.

3. Are there other quintessentially Jersey musicians you dig as much as Bruce Springsteen (like, dare I ask your feelings about Bon Jovi)?
Hmm, there aren't that many musicians that I think of as being quintessentially New Jersey! Really the only ones I can think of are The Gaslight Anthem, Titus Andronicus, and My Chemical Romance. The Gaslight Anthem really only have a few songs that I like, but I do like "High Lonesome" a lot. As for MCR, I really love their newest album Danger Days, which is ironically the least obviously Jersey-ish of their albums because it's (not) a concept album, but their older, more Jersey-ish music is less of a surefire win for me. But I really like Titus Andronicus a lot (their album The Monitor is really quite good, if you like alternative/indie rock-ish music exploring what the hell is with the States now via the Civil War), though I've been told that they don't perform live well. There's just something about their music--it's not even completely my experience of New Jersey, because just from their music I can tell that they are so, so North Jersey, and honestly the album that probably best reflects my experience of growing up in (the northern portion of) South Jersey is Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, which tells you a lot right there, but even so, Titus Andronicus have managed to tap into the core of New Jersey somehow, not just place but people. And, yeah. It doesn't have to be my experience of home to remind me of home.

I actually enjoy Bon Jovi, but only on a song-by-song basis, and usually only at parties or when driving around in a car singing along with the blasting stereo.

4. What do you want to be doing this time next year?
Well, I'm hoping to either spend the summer in China doing language study, or to get a summer fellowship at the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco. Hopefully either or both of those will actually be possible…the real question is whether I should be trying to be in the Beijing or the Shanghai area. Opinions on that question welcome!

5. What's your favorite outfit for daily wear & for fancy occasions?
Hmm. It depends on where/when I am! Here in Kyoto I have basically fallen back into what I think of as the gaijin uniform, namely Bermuda shorts, a shirt, and sandals or sneakers, though my bucket hat and umbrella-repurposed-as-parasol, and geta (wooden sandals) when I wear them, are adaptations of Japanese fashion that I couldn't live without. On the days when I actually wear a skirt or a sundress I feel much more in step with the people around me, though I just don't have the wardrobe to layer in the summer months, unlike people here.

In California my sartorial skills have also backslid; I tend to wear jeans, a shirt, and sneakers or sandals, with a scarf and a blazer or hoodie as appropriate. Given that I'll be teaching starting this year, though, I'm going to be making the effort to dress a little more professionally, again. This is basically in direct conflict with a) the campus ethos and b) the fact that I really love T-shirts, but clothes are a quick route to being taken more seriously, so there it is. When I make the effort to wear a skirt or a blazer I usually wear heels, though I also sometimes wear heels with jeans, just because I can.

For fancy occasions…I have several dresses that I wear frequently, depending on the weather, and several pairs of higher-heeled shoes that I enjoy wearing for short stretches of time, but one thing about grad school so far is that there's a dearth of fancy occasions in general, and half the time I just throw on my suit for the academic ones. Mind you, I love that suit (three-piece), and it looks good, so that's okay, but I will need another one eventually. I'd like something slightly less classic; we'll see.

I also need to get a good hat, like a straw trilby, before I come back to Japan again.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
The peerless saxophonist and key member of The E Street Band, Clarence Clemons, has died at the age of 69.

Fuck. Just, fuck. I grew up on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to the extent that I tried to deny it and only realized just how awesome they were and how much I loved them when I moved out of Jersey to college in Minnesota. Clarence Clemons is an irreplacable talent, and we're all poorer without him.

ETA: Appreciations from The NY Times and The New Yorker. The New Yorker's is better. /eta

His last performance is probably in Lady Gaga's newest video, "The Edge of Glory," which I embed below.

starlady: (revisionist historian)
Low, C'mon (2011)
I really like Low a lot (I'm going to see them in September, I hope, finally!)--they're usually a three-piece from Duluth, and their music, which gets typecast as slowcore but doesn't, I think, quite fit that mold, really appeals to me. That said, it took me a couple of listens to realize that this album is unusual both for being shorter than most and for having most of its songs in a major key. My favorites are still Drums and Guns and The Great Destroyer, but this album's pretty great too.

The Decemberists, Live at Bull Moose (2011)
A live EP released for National Record Store Day, it's mostly songs off the new album The King Is Dead, but if you like The Decemberists live, you'll like this.

Patrick Stump, Truant Wave (2011)
This is a six-track EP of outtakes from his upcoming album Soul Punk, and if it is a trifle overproduced, it's still completely awesome. I'm still blown away by the man's sheer musicianship, and talent.

Sunset Rubdown, Shut Up I Am Dreaming (2006)
I love Sunset Rubdown and their art rock, and if this record isn't quite as good as Dragonslayer, which was amazing, it's still pretty darn good. Indeed, it's interesting to listen to this album and hear at least one song off Dragonslayer in embryonic form.

Daft Punk, Tron Legacy: Reconfigured (2011)
The original soundtrack to the movie was great, but holy shit, this one is a hundred times better. If you liked the movie music, go out and get this album now.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
So [personal profile] epershand dragged me to see Patrick Stump play at The Utah Saloon on Friday night, and damn if it wasn't the best concert I've been to in a long, long time. I should clarify, E had to explain to me who Patrick Stump is, and when we walked in the door of the bar I had heard precisely nothing of his music--but there was a CCTV in the bar playing live feed from the show that he was doing in the stage-portion of the bar (we were seeing his second show of the night, the last show of the tour), and holy crap, the energy of his and his band's performance was amazing.

They're all phenomenal, phenomenal musicians, and they were really good together, which isn't the same thing but is just as important, but first and foremost, Patrick Stump is a mind-blowing performer. The venue was tiny and it looked like the first sold-out crowd was a bit more high-energy than ours (I'm always complaining about the crowds out here, I know), but it was totally an amazing experience all the same--we were literally five feet from the farthest guy in the band, two feet from the bassist, and the intensity of the experience is something I fear will not be matched in live music for me for a long time, if ever. I had read [personal profile] jjtaylor's review of an earlier show, and our show totally lived up to its billing.

Like I said, I'd never heard the music before, but it was all great, both the original songs and the covers--they covered "All of the Lights" as part of the encore for both shows, and it was amazing. Patrick also played drums, piano and piccolo trumpet as well as guitar and doing the vocals; I'm told he played all of the instruments on his Truant Wave EP himself, which I can totally believe. But as good as the EP is--I downloaded it as soon as I got home (though it is slightly overproduced)--the live set was so, so, so much better, which is the Catch-22 of all great live performers. My solution is YouTube, and making plans to see him whenever he goes on tour again.

Also, Patrick Stump looks a lot like the Doctor (Eleven), if Eleven wore fingerless gloves and white go-go boots with his suits.

Anyway. There don't appear to be any videos from the SF shows online yet, but have these two. The first is the live version of his best-known song, "Spotlight", from New York.




The second is the medley of covers and original songs with which they closed the sets.



starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
I went to see The Decemberists in Oakland on Valentine's Day. It's my fourth time seeing them (and my first time seeing them without my sister ;_; ), but I always enjoy seeing them a lot--they put on a really good, really fun show every time, and every time the music sounds different, even when they play some of the same songs.

As befitted a show on Valentine's Day in California, they opened with "California One" and played a lot of their more romantic(-ish) songs, including "We Both Go Down Together" and some of my absolute favorites, including the complete "The Crane Wife" (what's the word for a little epic within a larger epic?). Since they're touring for The King Is Dead, their new album, they played a fair few songs off of there, though fewer than I was expecting in all honesty. Just as excitingly, the violinist they hired for the tour--Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek--played violin parts on every song, and she sang backup on "The Mariner's Revenge Song" and took the lead on "Won't Want for Love" from The Hazards of Love, which was really cool. Also really cool was doing "The Mariner's Revenge Song" at the end of the first encore; this is the first time they've not done "Sons and Daughters" either as the last song of the set or the final encore, which was cool. Also cool was that they made us all scream and wail and groan like we were being swallowed alive by a whale.

But the best thing of all was that during "The Chimbley Sweep" the drummer married a couple on stage, and then they pretended to be a crappy wedding band. Yup. It was awesome. My complaints about concert-goers out here still stand, but by the end just about everyone was into it; it was great.
starlady: (xmas penguins)
So I went on an adventure down in the South Bay with [personal profile] damned_colonial and [personal profile] epershand to see a bunch of bands last night, and in the way of adventures, it was fun and only slightly hairy (I would just like to note, I can still find my way through places I have never been with no map. It's actually easier out here because everything's more or less built to a grid). This involved driving through the suburban wasteland on both sides of the Bay; oh, I'm so happy to be out of there, you have no idea. 

# Broken Bells were up first - I saw The Shins on the last date of their last world tour, in Osaka, and even though they were basically going crazy on stage, it was still only a notch or two up from staring at their picture while listening to their music. Broken Bells has the same lead singer and the same essential problem, which is that he is a block of wood on stage. Also their music, which I actually like, is deeply unsuited to the arena setting. 

# The Black Keys - I'd never seen them before, and only vaguely heard their music,  but they put on a pretty good set, way more dynamic than Broken Bells, though their music is a little too close to roots-ish for me to really get into wholeheartedly. I want the lead singer's leather jacket. 

# Phoenix! - OMG, I love Phoenix, and I was quite glad that they are just as awesome live as they are on their albums, though their shows are definitely not for the seizure-prone. Apparently Daft Punk have been showing up at their shows randomly of late, to promote their new album (i.e. the Tron: Legacy soundtrack), but there was no Daft Punk tonight. I don't care, Phoenix are awesome all by themselves. 

# My Chemical Romance! - The real reason we trekked down to the South Bay, and even though I am a fairly casual fan, they did not disappoint. I teared up a bit when Gerard sang "Cancer," which I expected, but they put on a great, dynamic show, and the crowd thankfully, finally got into it, and it was great. It occurred to me in the car on the way back that their music shares a certain something with Holly Black's books--I'm not sure it ever rises above the level of atmospherics, but they both definitely have a kind of North Jersey Gothic sensibility. 

We were hungry, so we skipped The Smashing Pumpkins and headed back up north. Along the way we stopped at an In 'n' Out Burger, which is a California Experience, and now I have had it. My verdict: Five Guys is better at the "burgers and fries made from actual meat and actual potatoes" thing, but quite tasty, and damn cheap. 

P.S. Dear California: Your highways suck. No love, Me. (Let me just say, if I ever talk about getting a car out here, somebody please slap me back into my senses.) I'm not even talking about the traffic, which was horrific, as I entirely expected. But having expected it, it was never an actual annoyance. 

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