Baba Yetu →

If you didn’t think Civilization IV had an embarrassment of riches, last night, Christopher Tin’s ‘Baba Yetu’ – the theme song for Civ IV – became the first ever piece of music written for a videogame to ever win a grammy.

Italian Music

When I moaned about Italian music before, I admitted I hadn’t looked very hard to find something good. And, in my defence, it’s easy to be a little dismayed when you’re bombarded by Michael fuckin' Buble in all the shops. But things are picking up! Here are two songs I like right now.

Tiziano Ferro - E Raffaella è Mia

This guy seems to be like the Italian Robbie Williams, back before Robbie Williams turned into an enormous, pulsating cock. The song is about Raffaella Carrà, an Italian actress and TV host, and its lyrics are really easy to understand (“And Raffaella sings in my house / And Raffaella dances in my house”), so I like that too.

But I’m actually having trouble with the song. Is it catchy in the CSS kind of way, or is it catchy in the Ketchup Song kind of way? Whatever. I’m not ashamed of what I like.

AntiAnti feat. CapaRezza - Picciotti della Benavita

Caparezza (the dude with the giant ‘fro) is an Italian rapper. His solo stuff is kinda like System of a Down, which is no bad thing. We’ve had a hell of a time trying to buy this album on iTunes (which I’m sure I’ll blog about soon). Fuckin’ twenty-first century my arse.

Interesting comparison: ‘Caparezza’ on English Wikipedia (18K) ‘Caparezza’ on Italian Wikipedia (47K)

I’m sure someone with better language skills than me could easily bump their Wikipedia karma by simply translating the Italian page to English.

Something for the Weekend

Here’s some things to make your St. Patrick’s weekend even better.

Listen: Huey Lewis and the News - Fore!

Fuck all these know-nothing assholes who say that “Sport” is better, Fore! is Huey Lewis and the News' best album. It’s olde-time rock n' roll, done by a bunch of guys who knew what rock n' roll was. The perfect antidote to all these insipid girly-men whining about how they’re missing their girlfriends and it’s breaking their hearts, or whining about how they’re sooooo misunderstood and it’s breaking their hearts (hey, fuck you, Chester Bennington). Huey Lewis, on the other hand, wrote about missing his girlfriend and how he was gonna ride the shit out of her when he got home.

_Everybody else is holding hands I'm here lonely, playing around with my microphone stand But i'm coming home one more week The first three days we won't get any sleep_

To get you in the mood, here’s the video for “Stuck with you”, which is definitely going to be the first song at my wedding.

Useless Trivia: Huey Lewis played harmonica on Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous.

Watch: Kickboxer

Kickboxer is a great movie at the best of times, but it’s a masterpiece after a couple of beers (and this being Patrick’s weekend, this is almost a given). After his jackass brother gets his back broken by evil mongoloid Tong Po in a kickboxing match, Jean Claude Van Damme decides to become a master kickboxer himself and get revenge. My favourite thing about this movie is the fact that the people in Thailand keep giving Jean Claude Van Damme shit for being American when he clearly isn’t.

It also features the stupidest, most out-of-place dancing ever put to film. Observe.

I really want to remake this movie. I think it would still work as a low-budget youtube kind of thing, shot around the streets of Dublin.

Useless Trivia: After Kickboxer, Dennis Chan, who played Van Damme’s trainer Xian Chow, went on to star in “Xiang Gang qi an zhi qiang jian”, aka ‘Legal Rape’, aka ‘Naked Killer 2’, aka ‘Raped by an Angel’, aka ‘Super Rape’. (And that sentence is going to fuck my google traffic for months now.)

Death of the Mix Tape?

Inspired by an article in the Observer some weeks ago in which Sean O’Hagan talks about the way our ‘digital lifestyle’ has killed the mix tape, Tom Farrell (who still gets my vote for Ireland’s funniest blogger) recently wrote a post on the subject of mix tapes which reminded me of the response to the Observer article I had drafted but not yet finished. So I finished it.

Reading Sean O’Hagan’s story of the emotions he felt while recently compiling a mix tape is fascinating and I’d encourage everyone to read it as an eloquently-written piece of nostaligia. But I strongly disagree with his article’s suggestion that mp3s have somehow made music less personal and I think he’s just plain wrong to suggest that “mix tapes” are somehow dead. They’re not - they’ve just evolved.

The “Mix CD” is the most basic 21st Century representation of the “Mix Tape”. Sure, it might not be as difficult to compile these as it was to compile a mix tape, but this doesn’t mean they’re any less important or meaningful. I would even suggest that these are more important, more meaningful. With the actual creation of the CDs mostly taken care of by software like iTunes which allows the user to just click and burn a CD, more time can be spent putting thought into the content of these mixes. This means that the medium is no longer the message. The message is the message.

One of the traditions of the thumped.com Christmas bash is the ‘mix exchange’. Everyone who comes is encouraged to bring a mix tape/cd, put it into a box and in return, this entitles them to take someone else’s mix from the box. I’ve gotten some great stuff from this, and in recent years, have seen this taken to the next level: Mix DVD featuring some of the year’s best movies (it’s not like this is any more or less legal than a mix tape).

And what about when we outgrow CDs too? Well, we’re already seeing the next stage in the evolution of the mix tape. Sites like Out of Five offer weekly themed collaborative mixes. Collaborative! Can you imagine the logistics of trying to do a collaborative mix tape?!

Personally, I think the whole thing has less to do with the death of the mix tape or music being less personal and more to do with the fact that the writer has reached the stage in his life where mix tapes are somehow ‘immature’ and music isn’t the most important thing in his life. He and his friends have become old farts: grown up and settled into a rather rigid existence; less willing to try new things.

And After all, It’s hard to put thought and effort into a mix when you don’t have anyone to give it to.

Speaking of Mike Patton... →

People often come up to me and say “So John, what’s the deal with Mike Patton?” and after I get done smacking the mouth off them for asking stupid questions, I’ll tell them to check youtube for Mike Patton videos. Specifically the one of Tomahawk playing ‘God Hates a Coward’.

To save you a couple of clicks, here’s that video:

And as an extra video treat, an interview with Mike Patton Dyke Faggon

We are gathered here today to get through this thing called "life" →

When I was younger, I had such a major crush on Wendy Melvoin, Prince’s guitarist in The Revolution. And depending on when you catch me, Purple Rain could be my favourite album and movie of all time, but never anything less than “incredible” to me. Watching the Brit awards, on comes Prince to perform some songs. Random snippets of our conversation here. “Do you think Prince should reinvent himself? He’s been playing the same music for years.” “He’s probably had a ton of work done.” “This song is okay. I could do without the Pan Pipes though.” “Hey, isn’t that his guitarist from Purple Rain?” Wendy and Lisa were back! Looking a little older, sure. Minus their bad-ass hugh hairstyles, sure. But my crush kicked right back in immediately. Oh boy.

Oh, and after the Purple Rain medley: “No. Prince shouldn’t change his music. He should just keep playing this forever.”

ps - fuck the Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabien and Hard-Fi in their stupid fucking asses.

JCB Song made it to Number 1 →

You know, it might be a bit hokey, but I’m so glad that the JCB song from Nizlopi is number one in the UK charts the weekend before Christmas. It really shows the power of viral marketing - so many people have sent me the link to the video over the past few months - and now it’s finally made it to the top of the charts. I don’t know if it was the well-deserved success, the amazingly touching song or the fact that I’m a complete pussy, or some combination of these, but I genuinely got teary when I saw them on Top of the Pops.

And it’s keeping the Crazy Frog off the top, so that’s another reason to celebrate.

Retrospective: Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi has no plot. Nor does it have any characters or dialogue. Apart from the credits and a translation of the Hopi prophecies from which the film takes its name, it includes no text nor attempts at explanation. By all accounts, it’s not a movie at all.

But it’s the most extraordinary movie I’ve ever seen.

My first experience with Koyaanisqatsi came when I was about 14. My art teacher in school – a lovely guy whose heart was in the right place, but just could not control a bunch of teenagers – spent an entire class raving about this movie, and eventually brought in a book of stills to ‘inspire’ us, but these didn’t do any justice to the movie so my imagination remained unsparked. But when I began to see its name used as an adjective, I knew it was something I had to check out.

I never did. In days before DVD, it was just too hard to get a hold of. I could have imported it with no small amount of trouble, but it was so costly and the quality of my VCR was so awful from years of abuse, it never seemed worth it. So when I got my first DVD player (first generation, baby!), this was the first thing I imported. When it arrived, I called up a friend of mine who was also interested in seeing it and we made an evening of it.

We giggled at the beginning. Uncomfortable giggles: Is this it? Pictures and music? What’s the big deal? But the film just starts off slow; fifteen minutes in, it started building up to an acceptable pace, and our jaws started inching towards the floor.

I’ve since noticed how much of Koyaanisqatsi’s images and visual techniques have been repeated by other movie makers, but none have managed to achieve such amazing results. The visuals are, at worst, stunning. At best, they are absolutely breathtaking. Filmed by some of the best cinematographers in the world, everything is in such a way to add extra gravitas or a new layer of meaning to the subject matter. For example, a long panning shot of a waterfall gives you an extremely effective sense of the scale involved - likewise, a time-lapse shot of people getting on and off an escalator demands that you view this everyday activity in a completely new way.

Likewise, Philip Glass' score is equally incredible. It is easily the best and most accessible of all his works, and stands apart from the visuals as a beautiful piece of music in its own right. The story goes that director Godfrey Reggio presented the movie to Glass for scoring. Glass composed a score to fit the movie, and sent it back to Reggio. Then Reggio re-cut the movie to fit the score a little better. Then Glass changed his score slightly to fit this new cut of the movie. And so on. I can’t think of another movie where this has happened on such a grand scale

By the time the film finished, myself and my buddy looked at each other and realised our jaws were still on the floor. We’d experienced something completely new to us: a movie as art. Art as a movie, beyond the casual lip-service thrown thrown about for ‘experimental’ movies like Warhol’s 8-hour film about the outside of the Empire State Building.

I fell in love with Koyaanisqatsi that day. I think I watched it three times that week, never once getting bored and each time discovering something new. I still come back to it every few months, especially when I’m drunk - there’s something especially fascinating about this movie when my brain isn’t going at full speed. I remember saying that I don’t take hard drugs, but Koyaanisqatsi made me want to start, just so I could take advantage of a fucked-up view of the world to see this movie in a whole new light. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey’s “Stargate” sequence on a whole bunch of new drugs, and you’re in the right ballpark.

The comparison to 2001: A Space Odyssey is useful because besides both movies presenting a really strong case for recreational drug use, there is a message at the core of both movies. Both are, essentially, social allegories. Koyaanisqatsi has a very deep message telling us about our past, our present and our future. On one of the DVD extras, Reggio explains that he didn’t want to hit people over the head with his message - he dislikes movies that attempt to force a particular message or opinion on its viewers, so he doesn’t mind that, sometimes, people miss Koyaanisqatsi’s central message completely.

And that’s okay, because they’ll still have experienced one of the most beautiful films ever made.

The Fine Art of Sampling

I still say that the bottom dropping out of advertising revenues at the end of the dot-com ‘bubble’ was the best thing to ever happen to Wired Magazine. It gave them a kick up the ass and forced them to go back to producing material that was both relevant and interesting to their readers.

For example, before christmas they gave away a CD with every copy of their magazine. The CD was filled with tracks from artists like David Byrne, the Beastie Boys and Le Tigre. Nothing unusual there - magazines give away CDs of music all the time. The major difference being that this was all music licensed under a Creative Commons license. Titled “The Wired CD – Rip. Mix. Sample. Mash. Share.”, they (the artists and Wired) not only allowed people to do whatever they wanted with these tunes, they positively encouraged it. As part of this encouragement, Wired ran a competition where people would send in their mixes of the songs on this CD and the best ones would be put on another Wired cover CD, which they are going to title “The Wired CD – Ripped. Mixed. Sampled. Mashed. Shared.” (which is such a fantastic idea, it actually sends shivers down my spine).

Well, the winners were announced, and some of them are really good. I’ve got the original CD in my pc in work (although it barely touched, what with the amount of Philip Glass I end up playing during work) and it’s impressive to listen to the amount of variation, epsecially when you consider that they’re all coming from the same set of source tracks.

A remarkable response to the “sampling is not creating” argument.

Happy 10th Birthday! →

Yahoo is 10 years old this year, and is celebrating with a Netrospective - 100 moments from the past 10 years on the internet. For shits and giggles, they also put up their front page from 10 years ago. Like everyone else, I’m sure, this is making me feel very, very old. I can remember when I first saw Yahoo like that. And yet, at the same time, it feels like it must have been very, very long ago - surely things weren’t that shitty in 1995? Surely we’ve always had flash and animated gifs, and Jakob Nielsen telling us these things were bad?

But this isn’t the only 10-year birthday we’ve got this year. Public Enemy’s ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ is 10 years old in July. And it still sounds fantastic.

Happy Birthday, Fear of a Black Planet (and Yahoo).