29Oct2015 1800: But a Book Ain't One
Holy criminy I am worn out today. I stayed up late powering through The Three-Body Problem -- not because I was enthralled but because I wanted to reach the end of its death march. It is three hundred pages of short declarative sentences. Somewhere in the last fifty pages it finally begins to ramp up into an interplanetary meditation on civilization and the nature of life and then it farts to a stop without resolving any plot. The most that can be said is that it resolves one character arc. This is the first book in a trilogy but if I had known it couldn't stand without the other books I would never have started it. This read is sandwiched between Cryptonomicon and Anathem, but it's bad even if I wasn't comparing it to Stephenson.
Between Glowforge and the 7th Continent I have successfully deferred all my other hobbies into an indeterminate time in 2016. That leaves me plenty of hours to spend on the Guild Wars 2 expansion right the hell now peace out. Board games, sleep, books, and blogging are all less necessary than hang-gliding around a jungle with my casually racist goblin.
Well, rad. [Milk Teeth - Vitamins] is from my age of rock, a Breeders / Veruca Salt-alike with the standard distorted wall of grunge noise and slightly-annoyed female vocalist. I fell in with the Prissy Clerks for the same reasons. I'll have to check out Milk Teeth.
I don't have a good analogue for [Fine Points - Astral Season]. This slightly indie/slightly psychedelia meandering could be album filler from the Killers. It's four and a half minutes long but I couldn't tell you a thing that happens in here.
Maybe I'm just cranky today. Fine Points and [Expert Alterations - You Can't Always Be Liked] are perfectly inoffensive on their own merits but I just can't find anything to hold on to. This is a driving-on-the-open-road tempo but it still fails to excite. Ric Ocasek's grandkid whimpers into the mic about an optimist he wanted to date once. This would be pretty good as a Neko Case cover song.
Sure, fine, let's close out October with all the autotune. [Elliot Moss - Slip] is a simulacrum of a singer leading a thin R&B synth with his thin entreaty to the prototypical R&B woman.
21Oct2015 1815: Bathed in Light
Last weekend's birthday shenanies went off without a hitch. My siblings are adjusting to life after thirty quite well. In between bonfires and beers I managed to squeeze in an absolutely necessary trip to Cossetta. Om nom nom I am once again in possession of lupini beans. How much do I love lupini beans? Several years ago I turned over control of my nutrition to the robot council, so I have data to back this up: lupini beans are my 17th-most-consumed dinner food. In that timespan, lupini beans have not been available for purchase within 200 miles of my home. And I mean sure, but I don't trust UPS with a glass jar of brine and food (in that order).
After wrapping on Cryptonomicon I started on The Three-Body Problem. It won the Hugo this year but OH MAN is it rough. I can see the skeleton of a good scifi novel in here; all of its problems have to do with being translated from Chinese. The prose is leaden and devoid of idiom. This isn't the lovingly polished translation of a centuries-old classic from a related language. This is the harsh cross-Pacific jump from an imperial tonal syllabary to the missensical glottations at the confluence of Celts, Norse, Romans, and French. Maybe depicting actual character traits is forbidden by the Fatherland Council of Literature. Maybe Chinese derives all of its texture from tone or homonym. Maybe the omniscient narrator is autistic. Whatever the reason, this book reads like a Dick and Jane primer about advanced orbital mechanics and SETI. The Three-Body Problem isn't translated, it's subtitled.
Last but not least, I dropped a load of dosh on next year's Big Selfish Toy: a GlowForge laser cutter. What am I going to do with it? I probably won't figure that out until I first put laser to paper, but now I know what a "living hinge" is. I probably won't receive my laser until the middle of next year. You'll know when I get it because this blog will become my own little Instagram of things I shot with a laser. LASER.
Last week's crop of songs was greatly disappointing, but this week starts with a bang. [Superhumanoids - Anxious in Venice] is a dark bass-synth sex song in the vein of [Goldfrapp - Ooh La La]. Goldfrapp was lost to DRM bullshit in the great iTunes Music Migration, but I finally have a replacement. This song sounds like fishnet stockings look.
[Duckwrth & the Kickdrums - Psycho (Radio Edit)] is also in the slinky mold, a dark rap song about a terrible relationship with a girl who's just so damn sexy but man. You know? It's essentially The Stranger by a black guy. The tempo never pushes past second gear but it avoids the worst rhymes and is playful with the beat.
We shift gears from second directly into reverse with [Astronauts, etc. - I Know]. These astronauts really really like Dan Fogelberg. It must be extremely mellow in space. Just, like...floating and practicing your falsetto.
Nuts to those chumps. [Summer Twins - Demons] puts a couple of nice ladies in front of the poppiest rock and everything is smiles and devils. This is what could happen if Dance Hall Crashers fired all their horns or Camera Obscura figured out how to plug in their guitars.
14Oct2015 1800: Yeah Bois!
Another NFL season is upon us, and although beset by disaster from head to toe it's still possible to extract some entertainment from them. I would never recommend actually watching a football game, but a new season of football means a new Madden game and a new season of Breaking Madden. I maintain that Jon Bois is one of the funniest columnists I've ever seen on the Internet. Something about his word choices and the perfectly interspersed GIFs (that don't autoplay!) make each article read like a honed and smoothed standup routine. He is an amazing writer on an amazing series of subjects making fun of a video game that really deserves it. Breaking Madden can't miss.
There's an ongoing feud between a Giant Bomb personality and an ex-Giant Bomb personality that has completely taken over the latter's daily Mario Maker stream. If you've never seen a Super Mario World level constructed specifically to erode a single person's psyche -- platforms and red herrings aimed at one human being out of all the human beings on the planet -- now's your chance (part 2 of 3). Mario Maker doesn't allow for the kind of satanic hacks that typified the old Kaizo Mario, but when your enervating payload can be custom-tailored like a virus for a single genome you can achieve much the same results.
I know I harp on about 80s music a lot in this section, and my knowledge of 80s music is mostly limited to the pop singles that got crammed down our ears. But the opening minute of [Hibou - Dissolve] once again sounds like The Cure to me, with the particular guitar tones and slight synth backup that you might find in Just Like Heaven. Hibou doesn't try to ape the distinctive vocals, opting instead for something fuzzy and distant, but nothing about the song distinguishes itself until three minutes in when they jam for a minute and the synth is unleashed into the foreground. And then suddenly the song is over.
[Royal Headache - Carolina] starts with even more of that lead guitar and I should really look up if there's a term for it. Other than that odd riff slapped on top this is a band trying to be Bruce Springsteen and landing somewhere in Hootie+Blowfish.
[Shopping - Why Wait] is minimalist oy punk that doesn't actually say "oy". That subsubgenre was always hanging around the edges of my skanciousness but I never explored it. I'm hopeful this is yet another sign of a 90s music revival.
[Destruction Unit - The Upper Hand] reminds me of all the counter-culture fuck-your-parents punk/metal that I hated in Tony Hawk. It's six minutes long, which doesn't fit into a classic Tony Hawk level; the tempo creeps slightly upward during the bridge until crashing into a feedbacky breakdown; and at no point does it exhort you to wash yourself.
07Oct2015 1800: Autumn Breeze
Everybody loves The Martian! What a coincidence, I liked the Martian! Believe it or not, moviegoers, but they actually cut out about half of the tribulations of Mark Watney. There's only so much triumph that will fit into 2.5 hours I guess? It's nice to have some breezy sci-fi to pick me up as I wade my way through the multi-generational encryption textbook and morphine memoir that is Cryptonomicon.
Speaking of breezy sci-fi, TV shows are back again. Agents of SHIELD and Flash both landed running and seem to know what their plan is. But also: remember Heroes? The promising comic homage that was crib-murdered by the writer's strike? That happened two years before any of the Marvel movie madness and well before the current shocking array of TV options. Well that's back too and the first two episodes were surprisingly not-bad. I'm not sure I'm seeing this objectively; the sheer surprise that NBC actually made more is coloring my perception. Also I "watched" the episodes while playing Metal Gear Solid V. Half the characters could be wearing giant red clown noses. Heroes: *shrug*.
I spent all three point five minutes of [The Ghost Ease - Gemini Rise] tracking down the song it resembles. "October Conspiracy"? No, I don't care about political trickery. "October Days Conpiracy"? Same results. "October Cancer"? For once Google failed to read my mind and I had to dive into Amazon's MP3 store to get a specific search. It's actually [The Cancer Conspiracy - October Days Club], which is a six-minute instrumental that I hated. Hated so much that it's years later and a new song can still evoke the memory perfectly. Ghost Ease at least brings a female vocalist along but I can't judge it on its own merits. The over-distorted guitars, the funky time signature, the ethereal singing; on their own they should all be things I like, but put together they are the spitting image of a song that wasted my time once.
[Anik Khan - Mantra] edges his Dirty South rap beat towards an R&B crooner and he's got reggae inflection and he's autotuning. I may yet circle around and keep the Ghost Ease track; it sounds better now that I've been abraded by this aggravating alloy of genres I avoid.
Here's our weekly dose of squeaky-clean 80s synth pop: [Rey Pila - Surveillance Camera]. After all this time I should have built up a resistance to their effects. Maybe it's maddening because all these songs are almost covers of songs I've already heard, but I can't track down the antecedants.
[Donovan Wolfington - Ollie North] reads like a crappy 90s werewolf sitcom on the WB, and the punchline of a joke in its pilot episode, respectively. It's actually a 90s pop-punk jangler, an uptempo Weezerlike from the era when you could still sorta believe that a CD with nationwide distribution was recorded in somebody's basement.