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by Sachyn Mital

4 Dec 2009

Just Tuesday, I received a brief email from the Sigur-Ros.co.uk website with a simple block of text, indicating the website, www.jonsi.com.

Over the last couple of days, and for the next two presumably, each letter in Jón þor (Jónsi) Birgisson’s name has come alive. Simply clicking on a character produces some delicately drawn earthly designs that link thematically to a snippet of music.

The J becomes entangled in leafy vines, O fits inside a contorted tree branch with an raven fluttering in at the end, and N has growing stalks which lead into a final burst of small colored leaves.

I dont wan’t to spoil the surprise of hearing the music, so you should see the animations and judge yourself. So from here, go forth and listen and bookmark it for the next two letters. 

Otherwise [spoiler alert], I must say N is a surprisingly wonderful celebration that I am eagerly waiting to hear the entirety of.

by AJ Ramirez

4 Dec 2009

In 1994, alternative rock ruled rock music.  At the time, some in the music press occasionally remarked that punk rock had finally “won” due to the mainstream breakthrough of alternative bands like Nirvana, but that ignored the fact that as a genre alt-rock had long ago become a distinct form from its progenitor. Sure, alt-rock retained punk’s do-it-yourself ethos and its disdain for the iconography and excesses of mainstream music, but anyone who was familiar with the sound of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols (a sound that continued to breed and develop in places throughout the world such as Berkeley, California’s Gilman Street scene) sure wasn’t going to find it replicated by Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, or Nine Inch Nails. While some called 1991 “the year punk broke” (a term based on a widely misinterpreted reading of the title to a Sonic Youth concert video), the music press quickly had to shift the headlines a bit when in 1994 punk truly claimed a victory on the pop charts after over a decade of hiding underground. Green Day’s Dookie was primarily responsible for this turn of events, and it all started with the album’s first single, “Longview”.

Like many compositions on Dookie, “Longview” features a character that’s unsatisfied with his life. While Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has at various points indicated an affinity for crafting characters to inhabit in his lyrics, the jaded slacker at the center of this song is undeniably a distorted version of Armstrong himself. Explaining the inspiration for the track during a 2002 interview with Guitar World, Armstrong said, “I guess it was just living in the suburbs in a sort of shit town where you can’t even pull in a good radio station. I was living in Rodeo, California, about 20 minutes outside of Oakland. There was nothing to do there, and it was a real boring place.” Armstrong stated that feelings of “loneliness and isolation” form the core of the tune. He commented, “I think everyone has felt those things, either right at this moment or at some point in the past.”

What sets the narrator of “Longview” apart from the other characters that populate Dookie is the utter disgust he harbors for his situation. Reflecting on the period that inspired the song, Armstrong told Rolling Stone, “I really didn’t care—for a time I was wallowing in my own misery and liking it. The lyrics wrote themselves.” However, the final product doesn’t contain any sense of contentment.  In “Longview”, Armstrong is plainly sick of sitting around all day doing nothing but watching television, smoking pot, and playing with himself, but can’t be bothered to do anything about it, which in turn bugs him even more. It’s a cycle he can’t escape, and his self-loathing is palpable with every emphasized curse word and lyrics like “I’m sick of all the same old shit / In a house with unlocked doors / And I’m fucking lazy”. Even the baser pleasures have lost their appeal, as he explains in the classic line “When masturbation’s lost its fun / You’re fucking breaking.”

by Sarah Zupko

4 Dec 2009

If you’ve already done the standard European or American trip and are hungering for a bit of adventure and something different, or if you fret about the carbon footprint that your jet-setting ways enlarge, then Clean Breaks is right up your alley. British journalists Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith wander the world in search of 500 environmentally-responsible and off-the-beaten path holiday ideas designed for the mentally and physically active traveler. Learn about how you can bike from Prague to Vienna with cozy overnight stops along the way, or camp in a comfy Mongolian yurt in Andalucia, or go on an eco-tour of Iran or Rwanda. The book offers many options for bikers, hikers, nature lovers and those who want to go completely off the grid and take that real clean break.

by Jer Fairall

4 Dec 2009

Rand Peltzer has one special gift for his son Billy this Christmas, an adorable exotic pet Mogwai named Gizmo that comes with three ominous stipulations:  keep it out of the sunlight, keep it away from water and do not feed it after midnight.  As arbitrary movie rules were made to be broken, though, soon an ever-multiplying army of mischievous little green monsters is terrorizing the film’s Norman Rockwell-esque small town. 

Underrated B-movie auteur Joe Dante’s 1984 hit lands on Blu-ray just in time for both its 25th Anniversary and for the holidays, when its sneakily subversive anti-consumerist satire (note the final showdown in a labyrinthine department store, complete with an isle full of E.T. dolls, a wink and a nudge in the direction of executive producer Steven Spielberg) has an added sting.  A kid-friendly tongue-in-cheek horror flick that still manages to be scary and quite hilariously disgusting (its death-by-microwave remains a gross-out masterpiece).

Gremlins makes for ideal late-Christmas viewing—for just that time when you are ready for something still festive, yet nasty enough to wash away some of the holiday-special treacle.

by Bill Gibron

4 Dec 2009

Even 70 years after the fact, Gone with the Wind remains the stuff of legend both on and off the screen. Over the decades, a dedicated scholarship has surrounded the film, the kind of in-depth discussion and analysis reserved for only the finest works of cultural significance. In the case of Wind, what Producer David O. Selznick went through to realize his vision of Mitchell’s best-selling tome is indeed filmic folklore made even more mythic. We see it scattered throughout the amazing 70th Anniversary Edition box-set—from commentary tracks that explain the lengthy development process to documentaries which dig deep into every facet of the film. Perhaps the most crucial was the casting, a literal free-for-all that saw many of the modern Tinseltown luminaries (Errol Flynn, Bette Davis) vie for roles that would eventually go to others—and then become iconic. For all its ballyhoo and cleverly marketed merchandising, it’s the characters from Gone with the Wind that continue to stir our imagination. That’s why Gone with the Wind remains a certified cinematic gem.

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